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At the same time that Leonardo was working in Florence, another artist, Michelangelo di Buonarotti, was atwork on the piece that would establish his reputation as a sculptor. The city held a competition to have a statue created from a massive piece of marble that it had acquired, only to discover that the marble was flawed. Taking this difficult piece, which had a large crack in the middle, Michelangelo turned it into his vision of David (1504). The statue is larger than life-sized, as it was originally meant to be placed high on the façade of the cathedral in Florence and would have been viewed from far below. The beautiful carving, the smooth texture of the finished marble, and the striking pose were seen as the very embodiment of the spirit of Florence as a republic. Throughout his stormy career, Michelangelo created a large number of other important sculptures, but it is a painting that often comes to mind when people hear his name. In 1505, Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to design his tomb. Michelangelo began sculpting great statues such as Moses (c. 1513-15), The Dying Slave (1513-16), and The Bound Slave (1513-16) to be included in the Pope's colossal tomb. However, in the midst of this commission, the Pope canceled the project for uncertain reasons. The cancellation of his work on the Pope's tomb was one of the greatest disappointments of Michelangelo's career, and he was bitter and hesitant when Pope Julius II gave him another commission. This time, the artist was asked to decorate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It took Michelangelo four years, from 1508 to 1512, to cover the seven hundred square yards of the ceiling, but the result was an astonishing tour de force. The great masterpiece of the Sistine Ceiling has received renewed attention in recent decades, as restorers set about cleaning the great frescoes. The cleaning removed the collection of oil, wax, and grime that had accumulated over the centuries, and the colors have returned to their original brightness. Not everyone was happy with the results of the cleaning, however, and a
controversy about this restoration, as well as the restoration of artworks in general, continues within the art world.
Impressionism largely grew out of dissatisfaction with the rigid rules that had come to dominate the Salons held to recognize selected artists each year. Édouard Manet
(1832-83) is sometimes referred to as the first Impressionist. Although he refused to consider himself as one of the Impressionists, Manet's work, which showed light by juxtaposing bright, contrasting colors, nonetheless greatly inspired and influenced the generation of artists following him. Manet's painting Le Dejéuner sur L'herbe (Luncheon on the Grass) (1863)—included in the Salon des Refusés in 1863, an exhibit of works rejected by the "official" Salon—was singled out for ridicule. The scandal surrounding this work resulted from its violation of the unwritten rule that the only appropriate nudes in contemporary art were classical figures or women in suitably exotic settings. In Luncheon on the Grass, Manet based his work on an engraving with a classical subject matter, but he showed contemporary clothed men with a nude woman as part of the group. This caused an uproar. While Manet continued to submit his work to the Salon, other artists who disagreed with the rigid artistic standards espoused by the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris and favored by the Salon set about establishing Impressionism as a new style. A work by Claude Monet (1840-1926) was the source of the movement's name. Monet showed a work that he called Impression, Sunrise (1872), and the critics seized on this mere "impression" as a means by which to ridicule the movement. It was Monet who urged his fellow artists to work outdoors, and these endeavors were aided by technical advances in paint and brush production that made the medium more portable. Impressionist artists put their colors directly on the canvas with rapid strokes to capture the rapidly changing light. Scientific studies of vision and color led to the discovery that shadows were not merely gray but that they reflected the complementary color of the object casting them. Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) and Alfred Sisley (1839-99) were two other Impressionists of note.
One intriguing development in the contemporary art world since the 1970s is that art is no longer limited to gallery or museum spaces, and many important works of art are departures from traditional formats. Some artists have taken their work to a new scale and have developed their artworks in new venues, often out of doors. In this way, artists also challenge conventional ideas about art and its function. An artist known by the single name Christo (1935- ), working together with his partner Jeanne-Claude (1935-2009), is responsible for creating much interest in these kinds of Earthworks. Beginning in Europe, Christo startled the world with the idea that landscape or architecture is something that can be packaged. He wrapped several well-known monuments in fabric, built a twenty-four-mile-long cloth fence in California, surrounded eleven Florida islands with pink plastic, and set up orange fabric gates on pathways throughout Central Park. These works, which require years and even decades of preparation, are as much about the process as they are about the finished product, and it is for this reason that Christo's partner, Jeanne-Claude, played such an important role. While Christo designs the projects, Jeanne-Claude handled many of the logistical details that must be addressed to carry out the work. Their partnership raises important questions about the concept of the individual genius of the artist and how he or she works. Other artists associated with Earthworks are Michael Heizer (1944- ) and Robert Smithson (1938-73).
Civilization and art have been present in China for thousands of years, and some archaeological finds in China rival those in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Remains of painted wares have been found that date back to the fourth millennium bce. Perhaps the most famous work of ancient Chinese art is the two-thousand-mile-long Great Wall, constructed over the course of centuries. Of course this wall, now considered an enduring work of art and admired both for its engineering and aesthetic appeal, originally had a utilitarian function. This is an example of how meaning and function can change over time. In fact, many of the works we will examine here were created for a specific purpose but are now seen as works of art in a different context. The dynasties or kingdoms that ruled for long periods of time had an impact on the history of art in China. In many cases, these rulers left elaborate tombs that contained many objects that have become great treasures of art. One of the most amazing works from the early period of Chinese art history is the monument to the first emperor to unite the kingdom—the Emperor of Qin (c. 210 bce). He had a full army of soldiers and their equipment, including their horses, created life-size in clay and buried as part of his tomb. The technical ability demonstrated in these sculptures and the life-like detail of the soldiers and their horses are quite astonishing. The dynasties succeeding Qin built grand walled cities with huge palaces and tombs. These dynasties are noted for bronze statues and ceremonial vessels. These vessels are covered with intricate designs, and the methods of casting are still not completely understood. The introduction of Buddhism from India had a profound effect on Chinese arts and culture. During the reign of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 ce), often referred to as China's Golden Age, artists produced some of the greatest works of ceramic sculpture ever made. Traditional Chinese art also placed great value on ink drawings. Many scrolls are meant for contemplation, and this contemplative aspect is a feature often associated with Asian art. Chinese traditions in writing, painting, and sculpture were maintained over the centuries. With the communist revolution that established the People's Republic of China in 1949, art became suffused with political ideas and was often an instrument of propaganda. However, since the late 1970s, Chinese art has gradually become less political.
The island kingdom of Japan, though tiny in size, has had a great influence on the international art world. Japan was closed to the West for the majority of its history, and this allowed Japanese art to remain relatively consistent and traditional. As with China, the history of Japan is one of succeeding dynasties, with each one leaving its mark in a series of succeeding styles. Also, as with China, Buddhism was imported to Japan and became an important focus in the traditional arts. The strength of Japan's artistic traditions remained even when the country became more open to Western cultures. During the rise of the Impressionist movement in Europe, Japan sent a group of artists to study in France. These artists returned to Japan and introduced the ideas they had encountered in the West, and so, for a short time at the end of the nineteenth century, there was a group of artists in Japan who used linear perspective and the colors and subjects of Impressionism. However, what is noteworthy is that the Japanese soon rejected these ideas and returned to the isometric perspective and flat areas of color favored by Japanese traditions. Although Japanese artists created excellent works in painting, architecture, crafts, and sculpture, it is for their printmaking that Japanese artists are best known in the Western world. Japanese prints
had a profound influence on Western art, as French artists began to imitate the prints that they began to collect in the late nineteenth century. The flat colors and overhead viewpoint of these prints were adopted by many French artists during this period.
For many years art historians classified much of the art of North and South America as products of simple craftsmanship. These artifacts were not truly considered works of art and therefore were kept solely in archeological and anthropological museums. However, renewed interest and new studies of these works have added considerably to our understanding and appreciation of the art of the first Americans, and objects from these cultures are becoming more and more common in the collections of art museums. Great civilizations grew and flourished in the Americas, including the Olmec, Toltec, Maya, Inca, and Aztec. Great pyramids, rivaling those of Egypt, rose as the central features of large cities, of which the Pyramid of the Sun in Mexico is one of the best known. The decorative carvings on the Mayan ruins continue to amaze us, and in addition to architectural marvels, statues in clay and stone, as well as fine textiles and jewelry, remain as reminders of the glories of these civilizations. While there is evidence of early people in many areas of present-day Canada and the United States dating back nearly 12,000 years, several of the conditions that we identified earlier as being necessary for preservation were not present. As a result, the majority of artifacts from these cultures are only from the last two thousand years. During the later centuries of the prehistoric period, the Native Americans of the Southwest demonstrated remarkable architectural skills in the building of pueblo complexes. These dwellings often consisted of well over a hundred rooms laid out in multiple stories.
Shape and form are two elements of art that are closely related to one another. Shape is what defines the two-
dimensional area of an object, whereas forms are objects that are three-dimensional, having length, width, and depth. For example, a square is a shape, but a cube is a form. A triangle is a shape; a pyramid or a cone is a form. When one draws an apple that in nature is a form, one draws a shape that represents the apple. If one creates an apple out of clay, that clay apple is a form. In a two-dimensional artwork, an artist may try to create the illusion of form through the use of shading, foreshortening, perspective, and other techniques. Shapes and forms may be geometric, such as circles/spheres and squares/cubes. These geometric shapes and forms can be defined mathematically and are precise and regular. Some shapes and forms are described as being
"organic" since living things tend to be freeform and irregular in shape or form. A geometric shape or form can convey a sense of order and stability, while organic shapes and forms tend to express movement and rhythm. Space is an element of art related to the organization of objects and the areas around them. The objects, shapes, or forms in an artwork occupy what is termed positive space. Sometimes these objects, shapes, or forms may be called the figure. The area around these objects, shapes, or forms represents negative space. In three-dimensional forms, negative space may surround the forms or may be created as a result of open spaces within the forms. Three-dimensional artworks include, among other forms, architecture, ceramic objects, and sculpture. The two primary types of sculpture are freestanding, or fully in the round, and relief, meaning that the sculpture projects from a surface or background of which it is a part. Such sculptures may be in high relief—projecting boldly from the surface—or bas (low) relief—projecting only slightly from the surface of the sculpture.
The creation of perspective or the illusion of depth is another important use of space in two-dimensional artworks. There are many effective techniques that artists can use to create an illusion of three-dimensionality. They may use shading and highlighting on the contours—the visible borders—of objects to replicate the manner in which light shining on objects lends those objects a sense of volume and space. An artist can also create a sense of depth in an artwork by placing objects or figures lower on the picture plane to make them appear closer to the viewer. Or, one can do the reverse and place objects and figures higher on the plane to make them appear farther away from the viewer. Artists can also manipulate the size of objects to create a sense of perspective—larger objects will appear closer to the viewer than smaller objects. An artist can also have closer objects overlap objects that are farther away to indicate depth and distance. Moreover, the artist can make objects appear closer to the viewer by giving them greater detail than objects that are farther away—replicating the manner in which our eyes are able to perceive more detail in objects that are nearer to us. Frequently, when we think of perspective, we think of the mathematical techniques that were developed during the Renaissance which can be used to create the illusion of space. Such techniques create what is called linear perspective because this perspective is founded on the visual phenomenon that as lines recede into the distance, they appear to converge and eventually vanish at a point on the horizon. We may, for example, notice this effect when viewing highways, railroads, or fence posts as they stretch into the distance. In employing linear perspective, the artist establishes one or more vanishing points on the real or imagined horizon of the artwork. Then, lines are carefully drawn to ensure a precise and extremely realistic depiction of interior and exterior scenes. Thus, in drawing a black and white checkerboard floor (a frequent feature in Renaissance interior paintings), the horizontal lines of the tiles are drawn as parallel, but the vertical lines—which we know are also parallel in reality—appear to converge or come together in a systematic way as they recede toward the back wall of the interior.
Color surrounds us wherever we go and is a compelling element in art. Hue is simply the name of the color. There are three primary colors—red, blue, and yellow—from which all other colors are produced. Secondary colors are formed from the mixture of two primary colors: red and yellow make orange; yellow and blue make green; blue and red make violet. There are six tertiary colors, made by combining a primary and an adjacent secondary color: red and violet make red-violet; violet and blue make violet-blue; blue and green make blue-green; green and yellow make yellow-green; yellow and orange make yellow-orange; orange and red make red-orange. The organization of these hues into a visual scheme, known as the color wheel, dates from the eighteenth century, though the underlying concepts were developed by Sir Isaac Newton in the seventeenth century. The color wheel is a useful tool for predicting the results of mixing hues. Two important variables affecting color are the amount of light that is reflected and the purity of the color. The term "value" is often used when discussing the lightness or darkness of a color or of gray. Values in an artwork may be primarily dark or primarily light or may be contrasting from dark to light. The artist's use of value contributes to the expressive quality of the artwork. In mixing colors, artists create a lighter hue by adding white to the color. Adding white to red, for example, makes a lighter red or pink. Artists create darker hues by adding black to the color. Adding black to red, for example, makes a dark red. A few words about black and white are necessary at this point. Black and white are not hues; they are called neutrals. When mixing black and white, artists can create a continuum of grays. Intensity refers to the brightness or purity of a color. The unmixed primary colors, being pure in color, are generally considered to be the most intense colors. If pure colors are mixed, they become less intense. Adding black or gray to a color will reduce its intensity. Adding a color to its complement lowers the intensity of the color, making it more dull or neutral in tone. Equal parts of two complements, such as red and green, will produce a
dull, muddy brown tone. Artists often use specific color schemes to produce particular visual or emotional effects. In the nineteenth century, scientists discovered the relativity of color; they determined that a given shade of red will look brighter or darker, more or less intense, depending on what other (similar or contrasting) colors are placed next to it. Thus, colors do not have a fixed or immutable character
or value. In discussing art and color, we often speak of warm colors and cool colors. These color associations are culturally constructed and are not absolute. In the context of Western art, warm colors include red, orange, and yellow and are referred to as such because we associate them with the warmth of the sun, the heat of a roaring fire, or the dry grass of a late summer day. Cool colors— green, blue, and violet—remind us of cool forests, mountain lakes, and snow. Artists often use warm and cool colors to create space in artworks. Warm colors seem to advance toward the viewer while cool colors appear to recede. By employing contrasts of warm and cool colors, artists can create a sense of movement as the viewer's eyes move over the surface of the artwork. Color may be local, arbitrary, or optical. Local color refers to the "true" color of an object or area as seen in normal daylight, irrespective of the effects of distance or reflections from other objects. For instance, in a work using local color, a grassy field would be green despite the fact that it may, in reality, appear bluish from a distance. Optical color refers to the effect that special lighting has on the color of objects. Consider how colors change in moonlight, at daybreak, in candlelight, or in artificial lighting. Artists who use arbitrary color choose colors for their emotional or aesthetic impact. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, artists have come to use arbitrary color schemes more and more often.
Texture refers to how things feel or how we think they would feel if touched. From a young age we explore the
surfaces of things and store away these tactile experiences in our memory. When we see new objects or artworks, we call upon our previous experiences to determine the quality of the surface texture. In the context of art, we make reference to two kinds of texture: actual and visual. Some artists use actual textures in their art. For example, a ceramic artist may create an actual texture on the surface of a pot or plate. In collages, assemblages, or masks, artists may use yarn, rope, shiny paper, shells, and other natural or manufactured materials to create actual textural effects. Artists who work in three-dimensional media exploit the textural qualities of their chosen material whether it is stone, wood, metal, or some other substance. Artists who work in two-dimensional media create visual texture—an illusion of a textured surface—in their artwork. For example, an artist may wish to simulate the actual texture of a straw hat, a glass vase, or an orange. Textures may be created by using patterns of lines or shapes that suggest texture. An artist can use the contrast of light and dark on a surface to create a texture that appears rough. Conversely, the absence of such a contrast will evoke a smooth texture. Shiny surfaces appear to reflect light while matte surfaces appear soft and dull. In addition to using the aforementioned techniques to create visual texture, painters can create actual texture with their brushstrokes.
We must always be mindful of the important distinctions between the arts of Africa and the West. For example, the Western tradition emphasizes evolution and progress in artistic practice—think of the development of the Renaissance from the Early period, through the High, and to the Late and Mannerist phases. African art, on the other hand, is generally more focused on continuity. Change, innovation, and adaptation are present, certainly, but essential cultural aspects endure through that evolution.
Additionally, African art has not been understood
as privileging authorship in the way Western art generally has. While we are very focused on the name, life, and production of individual artists in histories of Western art, these concerns are not as clear in studies of African art. This is no doubt a function of the way that many African objects were
collected—simply pulled out of context without
concern for understanding who had actually made
them—but it is an issue to consider nonetheless. Finally, many African objects are functional in
nature. From a Western perspective that has historically celebrated the concept of "high" art, or "art for art's sake," the "craft" nature of much African art may be a challenge. To see drums, textiles, and stools, for example, as art objects (even if they are used in ritual practice), is to stretch the traditional Western concept of art with a capital A. Indeed, in all of these ways, a Western viewpoint may inherently diminish the perceived value and importance of African objects. We must be constantly vigilant to these potential obstacles to our understanding and appreciation of the works we will examine here
While we have been at pains thus far to emphasize the wide variety of work produced under the "African art" label, many scholars have also considered and numerated what are often described as "Trans-African" aesthetics and characteristics. Such elements may be seen as somewhat consistent across the history of African art. Such aesthetic and conceptual issues are of interest in a study of historical objects, but have also proven to be central to contemporary discussions of art of the African diaspora. Some trans-African issues already mentioned include an emphasis on continuity, a lack of concern about individual authorship, and the stress on functionality. In addition, a central aspect of much African art that we will see repeatedly in this Resource Guide is the centrality of the human figure. Human representations, as well as objects used to adorn the human body, are extremely prevalent. Another central theme is a focus on visual abstraction. This does not necessarily express itself in the total abstraction seen in twentieth-century art in the West, but rather involves the distortion, stylization, and exaggeration of figures and imagery in African art. This abstraction lends a visual boldness to much of the work produced in Africa. Other visual and conceptual concerns that may be seen as fairly consistent in African art include an emphasis on sculptural forms—much African art is carved, molded, or constructed into three-dimensional forms. Finally, an emphasis on performance is immediately apparent in even a cursory study of African art. African ritual practices related to masquerade are most important in this context, as we will see
Our example presents a giraffe as well as a number of other animal forms. The giraffe is the largest figure, placed to the left of our illustration. To the right of the giraffe we see a series of other animals, of varying types and sizes. Most obvious are the small rhinoceros and medium-sized lion, standing on the same basic ground line as the giraffe. Other smaller hoofed animals are scattered above this major grouping, filling the rest of the rock face "canvas." The animals all appear to be oriented to the right. They are in strict profile, which provides us with the basic identification information we need to recognize many of them. Most of the animals are visible in flat silhouette form, such as the horse-like figure positioned directly to the right of the giraffe's head. Others, like those positioned below this horse-like form, are delineated primarily through outline. Finally, we see that some animals are illustrated through a subtler shading technique. For example, the horned animal positioned to the immediate left of the giraffe's head is outlined, but also has a de- gree of shading across its body. Overall, the animals appear to be presented in a fairly naturalistic, if simplified, way. The fascinating exception to the naturalistic renditions of these animals is the presentation of the lion, seen in the lower center area of our illustration. The lion is predominantly seen as a profile silhouette, though the area of its upper back and shoulder has a bit of shading. What is striking about the animal is the depiction of its feet and tail. The paws are seen not in profile, but as prints. These prints are further distorted as we see five digits, rather than the four of all feline species. The lion's tail is greatly elongated and extends straight away from the cat's body before angling sharply at a ninety-degree angle. The tail ends, not with a tuft of fur, but with yet another print. These details help us to understand that the artist's goal was not a strict presentation of reality, and they lend great visual charm and interest to the engraving