Monday, October 10, 2011

Learning From Art History: The Beginning of Self-Expression as an Artist

"Living with Faith",  Triptych, 72 x 108 inches, Oil on Wood.
©2004 Mary A. Gravelle. Original is available.

Art is not separate from our lives. We can learn a lot from what has gone before us. As artists it is important that we learn from art history. We owe a lot to the artists that went before us. 

Throughout history artists have been creating, painting, sculpting, drawing, etc. But, it was not until the 1800s when artists really came into their own right. That is to say, it was when the art patron ceased to give commissions that the artist found their own voice and means of expression. Of course, this has caused economic hardship for the artist as well.

It was in France when this shift began. The beginning of this shift happened with the philosophical writings of John Locke in 1690. He wrote "Concerning Human Understanding" and believed that ideas were innately our own. Ideas were personal property. Along with this idea came the thinking that property and wealth was something that should be shared with everyone. This was a radical thought. At the time it was believed that ideas came from God and that property ownership came through bloodlines. In 1762, Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote "Social Contract" outlining the “General Will” of the people with ideas on democracy. These writings of Locke in 1690 and Rousseau in 1762 along with revolutions along the way, helped free mankind from the monarchy and the rule of aristocracy.

The art during these times were neo-classism and rococo and a third style which straddled both of these. Napoleon declared Neo-classism the official style of the revolution. It was photographical realism in style and showed heroism and stability as the main theme. Whereas, Rococo art was the art of the aristocracy. Artists were commissioned to paint lovely and delightful scenes. Rococo art was an art of denial of the times. It depicted romantic and fantasy ideals. When the aristocracy fell, the artist lost their job. This began the artistic quest for self-expression.

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