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Introduction to the world Art

 

 

 

What is art?

In actual fact there is nothing that responds to the name art.  There are only artists: men who once took coloured earth to trace as they were able the  shape of a bison on the walls of a cave – and who today  buy colours and design advertisements for the subway stations, and over the centuries did many other things.  There is no wrong in calling all these activities art, providing we bear in mind that this word can have many different meanings according to the time and place and that we realise that there is no Art with a capital “A” that today becomes ridiculous or frightful.

 The pleasure of art

 I don’t really believe that there are wrong ways to enjoy a picture or a statue.  One person will like a landscape because  it reminds him(her) of his or her home; another admires a portrait because it reminds him/her of a friend – there  is nothing wrong with this. All of us, when we look at a picture tend to remember many things that can  influence our reactions. As long as these memories help us to enjoy what we are looking at, why worry. But if these memories of little importance become a prejudice, we should search in our mind to find out why we have this aversion that can deprive us of a pleasure  which we could have otherwise enjoyed.  There are mistaken reasons for not enjoying a work of art.

 Photographic art

 Many people want to see in pictures the things that they really love. This is a natural preference.  We all admire the beauties of nature, and appreciate the artists, who with their works, have saved them for us. Very often people want to admire the ability of the artist in a representation of things as they are.  They prefer pictures which are “real”. I don’t deny that this important : patience and ability directed to give a faithful representation of the world are certainly to be admired. Great artists of the past have dedicated much effort in works  that accurately reproduce  every tiny detail; now if an artist draws in his own fashion, he will be considered as slipshod, unable to do any better. When it seems to us that a picture is lacking in precision in details, we must always first ask ourselves whether the artist had his reasons for changing the appearance of what he saw; and secondly we should never condemn a work of art because it is drawn incorrectly. We are all inclined to accept only the exact colours and conventional shapes.

 The originality of painters

 Now painters feel as if on a discovery trip, they want a fresh view of the world, different to every acknowledged notion, every prejudice regarding pink skin, yellow and green apples. It is not easy to free oneself from these preconceived ideas, but the artists who succeed in doing so often create the most interesting works. It is they who  teach us how to see new beauty in nature, which we would never have dreamt of. If we continue to learn from them, even to look out of the window can become an exciting adventure. There is no greater impediment to enjoying artistic masterpieces than our reluctance to overcome habits and prejudices. A painting that represents a familiar subject in an unconventional manner is often condemned  using the futile pretext  that it doesn’t seem “exact”.  The more often we see  something represented in art, the more firmly we are persuaded that it must always be represented in this way.

 

 
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Introduction to the world Art :  E.H.Gombrich

 

Caravaggio for example ….
Regarding biblical subjects, it is easy to raise a hornet’s nest: although there is no description of the physical appearance of Jesus, although God cannot be imagined under human form and although it is known that the artists of the past were the first to create the images to which we have become accustomed , many people still believe that to diverge form these traditional forms is a blasphemy. In actual fact, it was generally the artists immersed in the Holy Scriptures with the greatest devotion and attention that attempted to create a completely new vision of the episodes of the sacred writings. A typical “scandal” arose around Caravaggio, a daring revolutionary Italian artist who lived around 1600. He was commissioned to paint a picture of St. Matthew for the altar of a Roman church : the saint was to be shown writing the Gospel , and to demonstrate that the Gospels are the word of God, an inspiring angel was to be placed near him. Caravaggio, who was a serious and uncompromising young artist, tried to imagine the scene from the point of view of an old, poor workman, a simple tax collector suddenly taken up with writing a book. As a result he painted St. Matthew bald , with bare and dusty feet, who clumsily grabs the enormous book and anxiously knits his brow in the unaccustomed effort of writing. At his side the artist painted an adolescent angel, who seems to have just arrived from above and who gently guides his hand as a teacher would do with a child.
When Caravaggio handed over the picture to the church where it was to be hung over the altar, this presumed lack of respect gave rise to scandal. The picture was not accepted and Caravaggio had to start again. However, not wanting to run further risks, he attained scrupulously to the most conventional ideas regarding the appearance of an angel and a saint. The result is certainly a good picture, because Caravaggio made every effort to make it live and interesting, but we feel it less spontaneous and consistent than the former one.
Perfection of the artist
It is fascinating to follow the artist in his effort to obtain perfect balance. For example, one of the most famous Madonnas painted by Raphael : “Madonna del Prato” (Madonna in the meadow) , is most certainly beautiful and fascinating, the figures are admirably drawn and the expression of the Virgin looking at the two children is unforgettable. But if we examine the first drafts that Raphael made, we can understand the difficulty he had in obtaining the exact relationship that would determine the maximum harmony of the whole ensemble. To begin with he thought of depicting Jesus moving away from his mother, with His gaze turned back toward her. Raphael tried putting the head of the Virgin in several different positions to adjust it to the movement of the child; then  he decided to show the child in perspective looking toward his mother. He then attempted another way, introducing a young John the Baptist, but with the Child Jesus instead of looking at him, looks toward a point outside the picture. He tried yet another solution, but in the end seems to have lost patience after trying to turn the head in many directions. In his sketch album there are several of these sheets where he tried and tried again to give the best balance to the three figures. But if we return again to the final version we note that in the end he succeeded in his intent; everything now seems in the correct position, and the equilibrium and harmony that Raphael obtained at the price of much fatigue results so natural and spontaneous to pass almost unobserved; yet is this harmony that makes the Madonna even more beautiful and the children so delightful.
The “missing ” presence of rules in Art
In some periods artists and critics have tried to formulate the rules of their art, but the result has always been that second-rate artists did not gain anything when attempting to apply these rules, and the great masters were able to break them and, in spite of this obtain an unimaginable harmony. When the famous English painter Joshua Reynolds explained to the students of the Royal Academy that light blue should never appear in the foreground of a picture, but should be used for backgrounds and hills that merge with the horizon, his rival Gainsborough, so it is said, wanting to demonstrate that these academical rules are practically senseless , painted the famous “Boy in blue”, whose clothes in the centre and in the foreground form a perfect silhouette against the warm brown of the background. The truth is, it is impossible to establish rules of this kind, because it is never possible to know beforehand the effect that the artist wants to achieve. Perhaps he will also use a jarring and discordant note , if he finds it “right”. Since there are no rules to establish when a statue or a painting is “right”, it is usually impossible to explain in words the exact reason why we feel that we are in the presence of a masterpiece. But this does not mean that one work is worth more than another, or that there may not be difference in tastes. Difference of opinion and discussions, if nothing else,  invite us to look at the pictures, and the more we look, the more details we find that first escaped our eye. Lets start by developing our ability to capture this sense of harmony that every generation of artists has striven to reach. The more we feel this harmony, the more we shall have pleasure, and this is the most important thing.
The pleasure of admiring Art
There is no end to learning regarding art. There is always something new to discover, every time we behold it before us. Masterpieces look different, they seem to be inexhaustible and unpredictable just like human beings, they form a moving world apart, with its strange laws and events. Nobody can presume to know everything, because nobody ever will. Nothing is more important than a clear mind to enjoy these works, to be able to gather every hint and perceive every hidden harmony, a mind that above all is not filled with high sounding words and hackneyed clichés. It is much better to know nothing of art rather than that pseudo-culture that sprouts from snobbery. It is a real danger: there are people, for example, who after learning the simple basics of art and how great works can exist that are devoid of the obvious requirements of beauty, expression or precision in design, become so pig-headed to pride themselves that they only appreciate works which are not pleasing to the eye and with inaccurate design.
These are people are plagued by the fear of being considered ignorant if they confess that they like a work that is too nice or pathetic. This is how snobbery is created, which wipes out the pure ability to enjoy art and defines as “very interesting” that which they really find horrible. I don’t want to cause a misunderstanding on this point, and rather than be interpreted in such an uncritical way, I would prefer not to be believed.
A hint …
Force yourselves to look at a work of art with an open mind and take the plunge into it in exploration It will certainly be an arduous task, but much richer in satisfaction; and nobody can tell, after such a journey, what they will take home with them!

 

 

 

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