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Lecture One

CH 1: Why We Study Art History?

Brian Wallace

on 25 January 2013

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Transcript of Lecture One

THE ARTISTIC IMPULSE Art is a vital aspect of human experience, all forms of art demonstrate an innate impulse to build and create. One motive for creating art is the desire to leave something behind for the future, or to represent something that is considered important by the artist or patron.

Weather we are talking about Children's drawings, masterful sculptures and paintings or religious temples; all artistic produciton is an attempt to make order out of disorder, form from formlessness. "painting makes absent men present and dead men alive" - Leon Battista Alberti One reason people have historically made art, is to preserve someone's likeness after death. The term portraiture refers to a painting (or photograph) of a specific person, usually focused on the head and face A work of art symbolically represents the artist's existence, it is proof that that person existed.

Some art lasts longer than other art, extending the symbolic existence of the artist, or artists. and extending the power of any intentional symbolic references intended by the artist(s) How and Why Do We Value Art? Throughout history art has been valued for different reasons. Not only by individual artists and patrons, but by entire cultures and societies.

The value of art today is often determined by institutions, like museums and by private collectors and galleries.

In ancient times, the value of art was primarily associated with religious and political significance
in certain cases, this is still true today. Material Value Works of art may be valued because they are made of precious materials. Gold, for example was used in Egyptian art to represent divinity.

The value of certain metals as materials for making art has changed over time. Although certain precious materials continue to retain their value, the value of art objects can sometimes be a confusing concept. Constantin Brancusi's "Bird in Space" is a good example of the uncertainty of art and value:

When a collector purchased the bronze abstract sculpture and attempted to import it from France to the United States, customs officals looked at the piece and were confused about how to declare its value as "art". Because it does not actually look much like a bird, the piece was classified under "Kitchen Utensils and Hospital Supplies" and the collector paid a $600 import duty, a fee not usually applied to identifiable works of art Intrinsic Value
Intrinsic basically means "inner". Intrinsic value depends on the general assessment of an artist and the aesthetic character of his or her work. If a work of art is made of relatively inexpensive materials, but is considered valuable based on its importance as a
piece of art, then we can say we are considering its
"intrinsic", or inner value. The term "priceless" for example, refers to a work of art that has such high intrinsic value, that it cannot be given a monetary value.

Michelangelo's "David" is an example of a priceless work of art, while Paul Cezanne's "The Card Players" recently sold at auction for $250 Million.
Religious Value One of the earliest ways that art has been valued is for its religious significance. Much of early art was made solely for spiritual purposes and thus, the function of art in worship or as representation of spiritual beliefs determined its value.

Temples, churches and tombs, statues of deities
and religious paintings for example, all serve an educational or symbolic purpose as artworks with religious value. Historically, temples and churches have served as dwellings of the gods and as places of worship.

Medieval art was largely educational, communicating biblical stories and legends in a time when most people were illiterate.

"Dogs Playing Poker" by C.M Coolidge is for sale on Amazon.com for $6.47 "Lamentation" Giotto di Bondone 500 C.E The Great Ziggurat at Uruk c.3500-3000 B.C Mecca during Haj, circumambulating
around the Kaaba The religious, or spiritual value of art can often become so profound that huge groups of people identify with the powerful symbolism of works of art or architecture. Nationalistic Value Works of art that are said to have nationalistic value often express the accomplishments of of a nation or a culture. Statues of national heroes, and memorials commemorating significant events or people.

Elgin or Parthenon Marbles at the Brittish Museum The nationalistic value of art has often been a point of controversy throughout the history of Europe and the United States. Many major Colonial powers have "acquired" priceless works of art that actually belong to the governments of the countries they were found in. One classic example of this problem are the Elgin Marbles and the relationship between modern day Greece and England. Psychological Value of Art
Perhaps the most mysterious and most significant aspect of the value of art. The way art can affect the way we think and feel has always been a part of the human experience. The psychological value of art crosses paths with other ways of assigning value, for example, religious and nationalisitc value systems often intersect with psychology, particularly when dealing with religious governments or organizations In 2001 the Muslim Fundamentalist Taliban regime destroyed two ancient statues of Buddah in Afghanistan bcause they were seen as an affront to Islam. "The Buddahs of Bamiyan" symbol of the role of Buddhist philosophy in the development of the ancient middle east, a reminder that stirred up a powerful and violent reaction by the Taliban. The psychological value of art is a good starting point for a conversation about how important Art History can be to understanding cultures, both ancient and contemporary.
This principle extends to all ascpects of culture, art, music, film, television and increasingly web based methods of production and communication, internet art and social media.

How do you perceive the significance of these images? what do they represent to you? to society?

What does this tell you about the power of art ?
How can Art History help us to better understand our world? Art can affect huge groups of people, and move them to feel real emotions. This is obvious in terms of religious symbolism that unites people in a common belief, but think about how you react to the following images. Art and Illusion
Western art was mostly representational until the 20th century. This means that to some degree, a naturalistic style of art (true to life) was the most commonly encountered type of image. Representational or figurative depictions of people animals and objects were pretty much the only show in town.

An illusionistic depiction is usually a painting or a sculpture that is so accurate that it can be mistaken for the real thing.
The French even have a term for art that is intended to fool the viewer, trompe l'oeil means "deceive the eye"
Full transcript