Thank you for Assignment 3. This submission demonstrates relevant knowledge and understanding of the subject, and you are improving your ability to look closely at works of art. Just make sure that you systematically include further interpretation and critical analysis so as to make more substantiated judgments.
Try to consistently position your chosen artworks within their appropriate social, cultural, political, and religious contexts.
Continue to develop your bibliographic material – read widely, referring to both primary and secondary sources. Compare and contrast information and evaluate others’ arguments.
Further to my pointers on note-taking (see my feedback on Assignment 2), remember that it is important to avoid making masses of notes that you may not actually use, so be selective. Ask yourself ‘What questions do I want to answer with this information?’. As well as making notes of what others have said, you will have your own ideas as you read. It can be useful, therefore, to build some space into your note-making template, where you can jot down your own reactions as you read.
Aim to incorporate more of your reflections on your own learning.
Feedback on assignment
Overall, your notes were methodical and detailed, and contained references to the suggested headings (although always making two sets of notes will be extremely time-consuming!).
At this stage in the course, it would be good to see you showing more evidence of your critical thinking skills in your reading summaries. E.g. try to develop (perhaps via a separate blog post) short sections of analysis (examine how key components in each chapter fit together and relate to each other), comparison (explore the similarities and differences between the ideas you are reading about), and synthesis (bring together references to different sources or viewpoints).
The main themes: the revival of classical styles and ideas (specifically humanism); the return to the naturalistic style (3D objects and space); the rising status of the individual (both artist and patron).
Other primary reading for this period includes excerpts from Cennino Cennini’s The Craftsman’s Handbook: http://www.noteaccess.com/Texts/Cennini/ You referred to key figures such as Brunelleschi (ref. the development of several innovative architectural techniques, the significance of classical ideals such as symmetry and harmonious proportions) and Masaccio. (Vasari claimed that the former taught the latter the technique of perspective, and evidence of this collaboration is found when comparing Brunelleschi’s architecture to Masaccio’s Holy Trinity fresco.)
Your note on the Northern Renaissance (the style might be described as the very singular result of a blending of Late Gothic art, contemporary ideas about observation, and Reformation ideology) and painters such as Van Eyck (using oil paint to build up shimmering tones) was good.
Sixteenth-century: As you indicated, the early sixteenth century was dominated by the naturalism and idealism of the so-called Old Masters (Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo), but over the course of the century, artists experimented with new styles and subjects. It was good to see you hint at the way in which these fluctuating artistic styles could be considered reflections of the tumultuous social landscape (ref. intense political and religious unrest [the Reformation, Luther etc.] and economic shifts).
For more on the Counter Reformation and the Council of Trent’s discussions on the potential of art to help the Catholic church’s cause and instruct the laity, consult a primary source such as the following (the actual decrees): https://history.hanover.edu/texts/trent/ct25.html
As you mentioned, some constants remained – the status of the artist continued to rise to new heights, at times even to the point of challenging powerful patrons as well as artistic norms.
Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo: You talked about Leonardo’s approach to atmospheric perspective (achieved via sfumato and chiaroscuro), and looked at the aspects of Raphael’s work that are characteristic of the High Renaissance (exemplified in the School of Athens), because they signal a shift towards a more humanistic subject matter, and indicate that the artistic centre has moved to Rome. (As you noted, Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling is a commission which demonstrates the rising status of the artist through the idea of artistic license.)
Try to expand your material on the following:
o Venetian art: In connection with Tintoretto and Veronese, observe the modelling of colours and exquisite rendering of fabrics. (Veronese’s depiction of rich fabrics and jewels is thought to reflect a Venetian preoccupation with material goods and commercialism).
Think about how Titian’s figures provide a nice contrast with Michelangelo’s and illustrate the ways Venetian Renaissance artists capitalized on the medium of oil paint.
o The Mannerist style: Mannerism has been defined as the antithesis of naturalism, an ‘un-naturalism’ of sorts, and some art historians have interpreted this strange new style as an intentional deviation from the previous generation. I.e. Artists in the generation after Raphael needed to find new modes of expression after the height of classicism had been reached.
Other explanations focus on the audience’s reception. By this time, patrons and art collectors had become savvy connoisseurs and looked to collect new artworks that demonstrated their erudite taste, artistic knowledge, and religious understanding. Another theory contextualizes the artistic changes within this period’s social turmoil, finding correlation between social and artistic upheaval. It would be worth briefly debating the various approaches to this issue – use it as an opportunity to introduce different methodologies to your research.
Seventeenth-century: Try to outline the context of seventeenth-century art by answering either of the following questions: ‘How is Baroque painting distinct from that of the Renaissance?’ or ‘How is Baroque art related to that of the Renaissance?’ This should enable you to review concepts and elements (i.e. chiaroscuro, gestures, etc.) that you have already learned and help you to understand variants of them in the art of the Baroque (i.e. tenebrism, extreme emotion, etc.).
As you noted, the term Baroque is problematic (it is too generic in describing the complex global events and diverse artistic traditions of the era).
You covered a number of significant artists including Caravaggio and Bernini (whose art is full of drama, dynamism, expression and grandiloquence and contrasts with the classicizing, rational style of artists like Carracci). You also mentioned Borromini, Velázquez and Rembrandt.
Building on your earlier material on the Counter Reformation, can you say a bit more about how the religious art of this period is associated with the notion of persuasion?
In order to show that you understand the relevance of Baroque art to contemporary practice, you might like to view examples that offer compelling reinterpretations or re-appropriations of the Baroque. E.g. look at Bill Viola’s The Quintet of the Astonished (2000).
*Try to use a wide range of resources.
When approaching an annotation exercise, keep in mind what the Australian art historian and critic Terry Smith has called the ‘Four Ways of Looking at Art’. Smith’s four simple questions ask of art the “what”, “how”, “when”, and “why”:
1. What can I see just by looking at this art work?
2. How was this art work actually made?
3. When was it made, and what was happening in art and broader history at that time?
4. Why did the artist create this work and what is its meaning to them, and to us now?
Each of these questions will reveal something more of the context, which will provide much of the meaning of the art work.
Van Eyck – Arnolfini Portrait:
You included comments on selected details and symbols in the painting such as the cast-aside clogs, and you referred to the richly dressed figures. The man (Giovanni Arnolfini) is clearly a highly individualised portrait, the woman on the other hand, is not. You briefly expanded on how the work brashly shows off the trophies of mercantile success – the husband’s straw hat is a fashionable Italian import, expensively dyed black, his tabard is lined with fur, the wife’s extraordinary garment is lavish in terms of the sheer quantity of cloth etc.
It was good to see you record the general tendency among those who view the picture for the first time to assume the lady in it is pregnant, and why those who know Van Eyck’s whole oeuvre well tend to believe otherwise. (As you mentioned, it was simply fashion to wear this style of clothing and the woman’s attire should not preclude her from being seen as a virgin bride. Van Eyck’s St Catherine [right wing of the Dresden Triptych, 1437] comes to our aid here, since she betrays the same bulge around her belly.)
As you remarked, oil paints allowed Van Eyck to create textures in extraordinary detail (the polished brass of the chandelier, the skin of an orange), and to depict the effects of light with great subtlety. You touched on how the artist produces an almost reflective surface by applying layer after layer of translucent thin glazes/blending colours by painting wet-in-wet to heighten the illusion of three-dimensional forms.
Think a bit more about the way in which the perspective contributes to the mesmerising realism of the picture. (Note the use of several vanishing points creating depth and drawing the eye to key sites in the painting.) Did the artist use a camera obscura?
There have been many classic interpretations of the work including an analysis by Panofsky arguing that it was painted as a legal document witnessing a marriage (ref. Van Eyck’s signature above the mirror in flourishing legal script.) You could briefly record a couple of different theories and link them to the relevant scholars – Hall, Carroll, Harbison, and Campbell.
Have a look at the National Gallery’s Technical Bulletin: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/upload/pdf/billinge_campbell1995.pdf This demonstrates how reflectograms can reveal the extent to which Van Eyck modified his original underdrawing or chose to ignore it altogether as work progressed. (E.g. the artist’s changes to the faces and to the positions of hands and feet.)
Titian – Diana and Actaeon:
You demonstrated understanding of the subject as a poesia (ref. Ovid’s Metamorphoses) but I would like to have seen more evidence of your interpretative skills and greater use of more varied source materials.
Try to expand on your scrutiny of the arrangement and use of multiple design elements (autumnal light, vivid colour, texture and breadth of summary brushwork). Look at how Titian celebrates the palpable physicality of sensuous, lustrous flesh (i.e. it is not bound by the contours of the figures, but imperceptibly blends into the surrounding air and landscape), which is made all the more tactile by comparison to the textures of flowing water, the transparent glass vessel by the fountain, and the swag of rose-red drapery.
You touched on the way in which Titian has chosen to focus upon the suddenness of the moment, contrasting Diana and Actaeon in their expressions of surprise. Consider the artist’s orchestration of Actaeon’s action through the treatment of draperies. (I.e. Actaeon has arrived in a hurry – a cloth attached to his quiver flies and his own tunic continues to move towards the right when he himself has already come to a sudden stop.)
You mentioned the daring liberties Titian has taken with Diana’s twisting anatomy to convey the intensity of her recoil and rage, but could you say a bit more about this? (Titian took immense trouble with the figure of Diana, first painting her realistically from the side, and only at the end deciding on the anatomically impossible pose that shows the breast in profile as well as nearly the whole of the back.)
Your note on Titian’s Diana and Callisto was good. Think about an oddity of perspective that appears in both Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto. In the latter, Titian uses two scales for his figures. The group of Diana is larger than that of Callisto, and the effect of an extended perspective distance between them results. Actaeon is also on a larger scale than the other figures of the scene in which he appears. (In addition, around the theme of bathing, both pictures are about the revealing of what has been hidden.)
Your section comparing one annotation with the other was interesting. In addition to your remarks on the techniques and use of light and colour, I particularly liked your personal responses and observations.
Read through the set criteria. Your text should have concentrated on two seventeenth-century painters. I would therefore encourage you to have another look at this task.
Although your references to the historical context were good (e.g. the Catholic/Protestant divide of the Reformation, the spread of Lutheranism, the Counter Reformation and the Council of Trent), you need to check that you have selected the evidence that best supports or is essential to your comments on artistic style.
Also, try to eliminate significant repetitions or overlaps between your analysis and reading notes. Proofread your material and check that your response is logically ordered.
One option might be to examine Caravaggio in relation to an artist such as Vermeer, so that you could think about the religious context of Dutch Golden Age painting, and reflect on the restrained, austere nature of Vermeer’s later ‘genre’ work and his scenes of quiet internalised drama (i.e. women engaged in domestic pursuits), in contrast to the more theatrical, emotional exuberance of Caravaggio’s pictures. (Consider the compelling naturalism of Caravaggio’s works, his figures, and his use of dramatic chiaroscuro and perspective.)
Concentrate on a couple of illustrative examples for each artist to keep your analysis relevant.
[Tips for writing a comparative analysis: Comparisons of two works of art provide an opportunity to combine formal analysis with knowledge of the artists, the subjects, and relevant background information needed to make inferences about the relationship between the two works.
Begin by asking yourself what aspects of the two works stand out as particularly notable and whether or not these attributes are shared. A comparison typically starts with similarities; if the two works share a stylistic background, have the same/relative period, or depict the same subject, mention the commonality as grounds for establishing a comparison. Then, move on to the ways in which the two works differ, beginning with the obvious and moving on to the more subtle and specific. Conclude each point by analysing what this difference might reveal.]
Proposal for illustrated review (Assignment 5) – Artemisia Gentileschi
Obviously, the work of Artemisia Gentileschi is a big topic, so it will be important to decide on your emphasis! Do not be over-ambitious in scope – selecting a key theme or image will allow for more detailed research.
You have mentioned looking at Artemisia’s Judith Slaying Holofernes of 1620, and given that the art should be at the forefront of your essay, I think this is a good subject to focus on. You could use this painting to explore any of the following:
o feminist responses and discrepancies in opinion/areas of debate in art historical writings
o biographic readings of Artemisia’s paintings (i.e. is there a connection between her choice of subject matter and her life experiences?)
o assumptions and stereotypes about women artists
o Artemisia’s artistic training, techniques or influences
o Artemisia’s intended audience and patrons
Building on the reading you have already done (e.g. Garrard’s Artemisia Gentileschi: The Image of the Female Hero in Baroque Art), you should be able to hone in on one aspect that you would like to investigate further.
There are different kinds of art history essays, ranging from simple formal analysis to critical reviews (discussing context, purpose, methods and themes) and essays driven by a question/problem (which have the terms ‘how’ or ‘why’ in the title, or imply them). The format you opt for is up to you, but I would recommend presenting your material as a clear, coherent and continuous argument, which develops throughout the essay. (It is taken as read that you are capable of producing summaries of the information contained in books – it is what you then do with that information that counts!)
Make sure your essay is analytical and not overly descriptive, and pose questions (e.g. relating to intention, function, representation and perception) and offer possible answers.
Learning Logs or Blogs
It was helpful to read your personal assessment of your skills development, in which you identified some of your strengths and the areas you could improve on. You mentioned that time management continues to be an issue, but by spacing study periods, dividing your work into small, short-range goals, and approaching submissions in a more flexible way, you should find this aspect of the course easier.
Continue to ensure that you have covered the components of contextual understanding, wide reading, and the synthesis of information to develop your interpretations. (E.g. have you demonstrated engagement with bodies of ideas/theoretical frameworks?) When building on your communication skills, note that this includes using the appropriate referencing conventions and clearly articulating and organising your responses.
Remember, reflection (reviewing and standing back from your work) is one of the main functions of the blog. It is also an important way of demonstrating to your assessors your critical and evaluation skills, so jot down whether you have: 1. Taken stock of existing knowledge (What do I know?) 2. Identified the gaps in learning (What do I need to know?) 3. Responded to feedback (How does what I now know contribute to what I already knew?) 4. Evaluated the integration of new knowledge into existing knowledge (How well and how much do I now understand?)
For your blog to have any real value as a learning tool, your material should not be limited to set projects or exercises. Assessors look for the breadth of the research (exhibitions, reviews etc.) and development.
That said, your section on your visit to Pickford’s House was good, and offered a detailed account of the decorative objects/furnishings on display that demonstrated an awareness of the role of setting in determining how works of art are viewed and understood. You thought about how the style of the rooms/artworks reflected the tastes, personal desires, cultural experiences, interests and mentalité of its owners. Similarly, your research on the Derby Blackfriars was thorough.
Although Judith and Holofernes is termed a biblical rather than a mythological subject, your discussion of both Allori’s and Cranach’s paintings was solid. (In terms of mythological figures, look at depictions of Venus, Mars, Hercules, Bacchus, Apollo etc.)
I look forward to seeing your planned posts on topics such as the Medici, and hope that you manage to both rework some of your earlier material and complete the remaining activities.
Bowron, E.P. et al. (2010) Titian and the Golden Age of Venetian Painting. New Haven: Yale University Press
Hicks, C. (2011) Girl in a Green Gown: The History and Mystery of the Arnolfini Portrait. London: Chatto & Windus
Langdon, H. (1999) Caravaggio: A Life. London: Pimlico
Sutherland Harris, A. (2008) Seventeenth-Century Art and Architecture. London: Laurence King
Looking ahead to Assignment 4:
Bomford, D. et al. (1990) Art in the Making: Impressionism. New Haven: Yale University Press
Pointers for the next assignment
Keep exploring matters of individual preference (personal response) vs. aesthetic principle (formal aspects/theory).
Ensure all your material is systematically developed.
Carefully read through the requirements for each task.
Include further evidence of perceptive reflection on your learning.
In case you missed it, here is the link to a helpful We Are OCA blog article on how to use tutor reports: http://weareoca.com/fine_art/how-to-use-your-tutorreports/
I will look forward to receiving your next assignment on the 19th of July.
I am doing this response towards the end of Part 4 and it is interesting now to look back and read and reflect on Part 3. I understand all the comments in the initial ‘overall comments’ in particular and realise now that clearly this feedback made an impression as I have been starting to really react to what I read and see. My problem with note taking is still long winded but that is the style I have always done as I am trying to absorb the information I read in order to fully understand what I have read.
Reading notes: I understand the suggestion of perhaps a separate blog suggestion with short sections of analysis and the point I am at now will be including this very much in Part 5 and as I add extra blogs for Part 4 as there are some ideas I wish to make notes of as I move towards completion of this course -particularly with regard to comparing ideas and analyzing different components. Regarding the feed back on the 15th and 16th Century feedback again I understand what has been said and I will add in short foot notes to my reading notes – these are periods that I have seriously become interested in.
As I move towards completion of the course I will be referring back to the section which suggests where I expand my material on particularly with regards Venetian Art and the Mannerist style and have added notes accordingly. The Venetian Art is just something that I feel will remain a long term interest and the colours as well as rendering of fabrics is a good focus for me.
Regarding the 17th Century I understand again the questions suggested I ask and again this now makes more sense – for me I feel I have had to move on somewhat to enable myself to further understand the differences. I freely admit to having disliked Baroque art previously but Artemisia Gentileschi has been instrumental in changing my mind a little and my honest answer to how it differs to Renaissance could be answered simply – one is too elaborate and ‘over the top’ and the other is elegant and beautiful even if the answer is not exactly academic but very personal! The stylistic differences for me relate to almost an over exuberance of decoration in many ways – I feel the same way now about Rococo too! I feel I should pose both questions to myself and answer both particularly as my chosen artist for my final essay is of that period.
The Counter Reformation notes again I understand and have answered in my response to this feedback at the end of the reading notes.
The last suggestion of demonstrating the relevance of Baroque art to contemporary practice I have answered at the end of my reading notes having researched the work of Bill Viola and the Quintet of the Astonished. I am not entirely sure what I feel about the video Bill Viola created but understand what he was trying to portray with the incredibly expressive emotions and how this can be linked to Baroque art.
Annotated Images: my surprise was the fact that I seemed to get to grips with the Anolfini Portrait much better than I did the Titian as it was the latter I preferred personally! All the points mentioned I totally understand and am happy to agree with what I got correct – I am appreciating my ability to look very closely at art is improving steadily but surely. I have corrected both annotations in accordance with this feedback.
Analysis: ok I admit I totally for some reason misunderstood this criteria and misread it as two ‘paintings’ not ‘painters’ so lesson learnt! I have amended and re-worked this analysis in accordance with this feedback and taking into account all suggestions.
Learning Logs or Blogs: the notes suggested for reviewing and reflecting have been photocopied and pinned near my desk. Since I received this feedback I was very ill throughout June and this has meant my plans for time management went out of the window somewhat but have now been reviewed and are being adhered too and happily they are working. I do have some additional research which will show the depth of reading and and exhibitions I have been too and this will be done over the coming weeks.
Proposal for Illustrated Review: as I type this is something I am my final choice on over the next couple of days but what is certainly interesting me and I am reasonably settled on is the suggestion of the biographic readings of Artemisia’s paintings and her life as I am very interested in how life affects an artists in their choice of subject or affects the colours they use.
Overall I had struggled somewhat with this part of the course as I found the periods quite hard going but now a few weeks on I am understand the period better perhaps because I am understanding how the artistic styles fit in to the history and how they affected the future artists. I know I have some blogs to catch up on as I work through Part 5 (as said I am nearing the end of Part 4 as I type) but this will further reinforce what I have been reading over the past few months and will enable me to reflect and absorb a period of art that I now realise I am very passionate about.