Caravaggio’s influence has been felt within many different pieces of art. Caravaggio implemented the idea that idealized beauty was not essential to making interesting or popular art. Caravaggio moved away from traditional styles, making even religious subjects look like common people. Dramatic lighting and high contrast were also important aspects of his art work. Caravaggio’s use of naturalism created a new movement away from idealized beauty. Caravaggio’s style typically had less complicated iconography and a more straight forward naturalistic approach to telling stories.
Caravaggio certainly took a different approach to the painting of religious scenes when be painted “Doubting Thomas”. The scene depicts Christ and three apostles. However what is unique about this piece is that Caravaggio has used none of the idealistic beauty associated with the traditions of religious painting. All three apostles appear as normal as an everyday person with their aged, blemished appearance. Even the posing of these figures is highly naturalistic. The figures are closely grouped around Christ; one even venturing to poke at Christ’s wound. This style of realistic painting gave common people something they could closely identify with. The natural, life like scenes appear to be happing right in front of our eyes. Everyday people could better identify with religious figure who appeared much like themselves, not with the glowing, unearthly beauty that many artists favored.
In Artemesia Gentileschi’s painting “Judith and her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes”. Strong side lighting is used to highlight the faces of the subjects. The harsh lighting brings out the imperfections of the ladies and reflects a naturalistic appearance. The addition of the maidservant in the picture also reflects Caravaggio’s influence by bringing in commoners to interact with a more upper class subject. Typically art before was primarily of the wealthy, a common servant would never be painted into a picture. The women are moving and are not posed, the servant appearing to be assisting her employer. The painting has a sense of danger, based on the tense postures of both figures.
In Jacques Louis David’s “The Oath of the Horati”, history and storytelling was also an important aspect. David uses classical elements but with an innovative way of storytelling. David uses movement and action to create a story, much like Caravaggio typically did. The lighting is centered on the soldiers as they prepare for a battle. Women huddle and weep on the sidelines fearing the coming battle. The women represent the naturalistic aspect as they are not shown in their most idealized form. The raised sword indicated movement and a sense of brotherhood. The emphasis on color and light is evident.
Rembrandt van Rijn, used Caravaggio’s influence regarding light and movement in his painting “The Night Watch”. The painting depicts a group portrait of a militia company done in the style of a historical scene instead of a stiffly posed portrait. The dramatic lighting and contrast is used as emphasis in the painting. The light is focused on the central figures in the painting, presumably the captain of the guard. The captain is gesturing towards his militia, readying them to respond to the call of duty. This sets forth a wave of movement within the painting, keeping the viewer’s eye moving across the subjects. Movement was a very important aspect of Caravaggio’s works as well. Movement allowed artists to break away from stiff, formal posing of subjects and allowed for a more naturalistic approach.
Social or political concerns can often greatly influence art. For example, Francisco de Goya’s “The Third of May” depicts a dark moment in history, showing the horrors of war. After the conquering of Spain by Napoleon, Spanish citizens revolted against a corrupt monarchy (Kleiner). Goya’s subjects in “The Third of May” are the rebel fighters who lost their lives as a result of Spanish execution. His goal was to show the dark nature of the Napoleonic conquest as a form of social protest.
The scene depicts a somewhat spontaneous action, clearly illustrating the fear on the faces of the rebels. The soldiers remain faceless, perhaps to present a cold, emotionless façade. The rebels’ faces in contrast are full of emotion. Those being executed are shown within the only lighted area of the painting; the rest is shrouded in darkness, leaving no doubt that Goya intended for the rebels to be the focal point of the piece. The dark background and lighter focal point it indicative of Caravaggio’s style.
The painting as a whole is a bit blurred and loosely painted, and speaks of a dream like quality. This is a slight deviation from Caravaggio’s style. Caravaggio typically went for a more realistic and anatomically correct style. This quality adds some softness to the intensity of the list. The colors within the painting are vivid and warm in tone suggesting energy. Romanticism can be seen as a move away from order and balance. This work personifies this trait with the chaotic subject matter ("Lecture: The enlightenment,”). The injustice related in the painting provokes an emotional response. The viewer can almost feel the emotional turmoil as they view it. Stylistically Romanticism art typically has bold, expressive strokes. Vivid, often unnatural colors may be incorporated to enhance the mood. The composition is usually composed so as to make the greatest visual impact. In Realism art the style is usually more carefully controlled. Often highly detailed, this artwork is meant to chronicle what is in front of the artist even if it is not aesthetically pleasing. Nothing is posed or embellished. Romanticism art takes a metaphorical approach to art while Realism takes a literal one.
Overall, the influence of Caravaggio is still felt in many works of art, however it has also be expanded on and new techniques explored. Caravaggio focused on make subjects more naturalistic and relatable to everyday people. He moved away from idealized beauty and stiff poses. The strong use of light and contrast was also evident in his work. All of these painting show these influence. Each artist has a unique style but they incorporated these elements to help tell an important story within their works.
Gentileschi’s painting tells a story through the use of movement, poses, and lighting. The suspenseful mood is created through these elements. It is also unique because of its use as a maidservant as a main subject. Her figure as much importance to the story as her mistress does. Like Caravaggio’s paintings the figures are rather plain looking with modest dress. Rembrandt’s painting shows influence of Caravaggio’s style through its use of lighting and pose. The strong contrast creates emphasis on the main figure and accents the main elements of the story. David’s painting “The Oath of the Horati” places a strong emphasis on storytelling through a direct approach much like Caravaggio. The story is told through the actions and emotions of the subjects and doesn’t need iconography for explanation of the story. De Goya’s piece differs from Caravaggio’s style the most because it has a less realistic approach. However despite this deviation the use of emotion is very prevalent as is the need to tell a story through the poses of figures and the expressions on their face. The highly contrasting lighting is also indicative of Caravaggio’s style.
In the eighteenth century, a new movement took place in regards to landscapes. Influenced by Baroque style, painters created ideas of what they thought nature should look like. This idealized type of landscapes are often ornate and overly decorative.
In Antoine Watteau’s painting “Pilgrimage to Cythera”, the artist uses color and brushstrokes to create an idealistic environment for his figures. The landscape it were ornate, the entire painting filled with lush trees and mountains. The foliage is a pleasing yet rather uniform green tone. The sky is a calming blue creating an idealistic setting. There are not any of the less visually pleasing aspects such as bare branches, weeds, or dead grass. The mountains in the background create a sense of majesty and grandeur. All look to be happy and having a good time together. The colors within the piece are primarily pastel in tone, creating a soft, relaxing environment that reflects the relaxed poses of the figures. The warm tones of the foreground contrast with the cool tones of the sky. The yellowish tones indicate an idealistic sunny day.
The brush strokes appear quick and visible (not blended). This leaves out a lot of extra detail in the landscape focusing on the more detailed human figures. The river helps lead the eye of the viewer to the main figures. It also creates a pleasant flow of eye movement over the entire piece. The figures are small in scale but are clearly the focal point. The figures themselves are also idealized. Based on their dress, they appear to be upper class. The landscape is rather ornate with many figures and even cherubs flying from the sky. Their outfits are elaborate and many drapes and soft curving lines are visible typical of Baroque style. . His radical style often depicted un-idealized landscapes, whose colors where unrealistic, moving away from the traditional earth tones. The main relationship between him and his art focused on the sensation of viewing nature
In Ruisdale’s painting, “Bleaching Grounds Near Haarlem”, landscape painting is shown in a different style. The painter takes on a much more realistic style. The painting shows a Dutch farm and with all its natural flaws and detail. The colors are much more realistic than the uniform sage green of “Pilgrimage To Cynthera” with multi tones of greens, yellows, and browns within the foliage. The painting has a more natural light instead of the more uniform lighting of “Pilgrimage to Cynthera” with ample areas of light and shadow. The colors are more earth toned and less pristine green. The sky is still a lovely blue but not as brilliant indicating a partly cloudy day instead of full sun like the other painting. The pool of water also helps redirect the eye to the barn in the background. The mood is less joyous and reflects more an everyday lifestyle. The buildings look old and worn and the property has bare spots with little grass. The ground appears as if it has been disturbed for farming, not the prettiest landscape but one that would be easily recognizable as a scene of everyday life in that time period. The horizon line is very straight in contrast to the mountainous one of the other painting. Everything is much more detailed in this landscape one can even seem to make out some of the leaves on the foliage and the reflections within the waters. A combination of political, social, economic, religious, and cultural factors all affected changes occurring in art during the Renaissance (Kleiner). During this time social, economic, and religious discord, came a new interest in humanity and the natural world. There was a particular interest in religious study this time period leading to the development of Renaissance style. Painting also began to change the medieval style where compositions were stiff and posed. Most paintings were still for religious purposes but began to have less posed more realistic forms. This landscape show a change in traditional subject matter and move towards the depiction of daily life as opposed to an idealized one. The artist uses most all of the space in the painting. It is very busy, even the negative space is lost between the chaoses. There is more in the bottom half of the painting than the top. The figures is located in the center of the piece as if common with focal points. The tone varies across the piece for most part is a medium tone, slightly lighter at the top and darker at the bottom.
The realism art period began at the during the 1848 French Revolution in an attempt to bring a more realistic quality to art (Kleiner). Like Rococo, Realism also often related a moral or social message (Kleiner). The goal of truth is paramount to realism. However, unlike Rococo, realism paintings give a straightforward depiction of life. Usually realism depicts spontaneous events or scenes from life. The goal is to make art that is accurate and moving, whether it is a positive or negative reaction. Artists also often embrace the darker side of reality by exploring natural life processes (Kleiner). The measurement of accuracy and truth with as few distortions as possible is key to proper technique; nothing is staged, edited, or composed for the work (Witcombe). Art has been developed mainly for a medium of imagination; however this does not necessarily apply to realism (Gombrich). Instead the artist uses emotional responses to the artwork can impact how we view “truth”. The realism period has made a contribution to the world by recording cultural tradition, events, people, and places these memories can be preserved and studied for future generations. The subject can be anything as long it is of interest and is meaningful to the artist or the viewer. Typically this is an emotionally touching image or something of historical/social importance (Gombrich). In Realism art the artist endeavors to surround the viewer by images so that they feel that the images are “true” to them, so that they feel a part of the experience. Art often has two opposing conflicts, scientific and aesthetic, in this period artist put them together to bring order to an experience. The use of shape also differentiates from the lower half to the upper half. The shapes made on the upper half are most organic and flowing in nature. The shapes made on the lower half are much more busy. The vertical and horizontal lines and also create interesting shapes within the negative areas of the piece creating an almost abstract representation.
Overall the differences between these landscapes lie in the fact that one is idealized and one is realistic. One presents a dreamlike environment while the other presents a scene that might be seen in everyday life.
Theatricality and Illusion
In Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s sculpture “The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa” the sculpture has religious theme. The vertical lines of the chapel surrounding it creates to the sense of drama almost looking as if the figure came there from heaven. The emotion shown in the face of the figure contributes to the drama more than anything else. The woman appears to be in anguish her face tilted towards heaven. When analyzing critical concepts of ideology, myth, discourse and interpellation there are many different ways to interpret its societal influence. Often we think that society should be based upon factual knowledge about why an ideology or myth was made and the context it was created. We may also think that the role of these is to discover meaning within life and explore how we respond emotionally to them (Gombrich). Form and content should contain a message. However, there is no true way to measure the immense influence they have on society. When critiquing one of these subjects one must be careful not to enter into the area of subjectivity. The best interpretations are a combination of what you can see and what you know. It is inappropriate to base idea entirely on a subjective response. All descriptions should be backed up by observation. Aesthetic beauty is not always applicable when critique these factors. Some feel that the reflection of “ugliness” often art relates to the “ugliness” of life. For example, this is another integral characteristic of contemporary thought, as opposed to that of the past; beauty is of little concern instead endeavoring to focus on harsh realities of social discord. Throwing away all rules of aesthetics is a step towards breaking down cultural negativity towards appearance. “The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa” shows this woman at one of her less “beautiful” moments, her face is twisted in pain and her hands outstretched. The artist clearly didn’t go to traditional religious art, her poses is not one typically of religious art yet it creates a great sense of theatricality. Shifts of human thinking were leading away from medieval art. Gardner states, “Human forms, as seen in Church architectural elements, became slightly less stylized and more deeply relieved (though they were still not "in the round"). In both cases, humans in sculpture looked more realistic.” (Kleiner). There is a great sense of emotion depicted on the face of the figure. The pose is loose and unopposed, all marking a move away from strictly Gothic artwork. Without prior knowledge of the story or the ability to read, this group of paintings could be understood by the ignorant and yet still powerful and moving to the most knowledgeable of society.
Giovanni Battista Gaulli and Bernini’s “Triumph of the Name of Jesus” presents the idea of illusion. Painted on the ceiling of a cathedral, “Triumph of the Name of Jesus” is meant to inspire awe from the worshipers below. Religious art can be a powerful tool to anyone, ignorant, literate, or scholarly. Paintings help convey different stories and often messages that many may not have even realized while reading the Bible. Religious paintings are very interesting in that each is unique and no two painters interpret a subject of meaning the same way. A great insight into how religion has changed over the course of history that might otherwise have been lost if not for art. The vaulted ceiling gave the illusion as if the biblical figures were looking down at the congregation while they worshiped (Gombrich). Each scene, painted for the decoration of this Chapel, is executed with bright colors assisting in making all the detail clearly visible from the Chapel’s floor. Each figure is a fine example of Gaulli’s knowledge of anatomy with a sense of ideal beauty. One can only imagine how special it would have been to worship under such a powerful painting. These stories are illustrated so that the viewer can get an understanding of the biblical stories Gaulli has depicted. Without prior knowledge of the story or the ability to read, this group of paintings could be understood by the ignorant and yet still powerful and moving to the most knowledgeable of society. The perspective of the painting looks as if the viewer is looking directly into heaven, this illusion creating a powerful effect.
Velázquez's Las Meninas
Velázquez’s painting “Las Meninas” is an excellent example of the use of realism in art, the painting shows a typical household scene, nothing is posed and it looks as if the viewer just stepped into the room. The unusual thing about “Las Meninas” is that it shows the act of painting. The canvas is prevalent in the foreground as if it had just been left there by the artist. The family looks to be an upper class one that is preparing to get ready to have their portrait painted. This painting is interesting in that it is a realistic portrayal of what is to be an idealized event. By capturing the moments before the painting process had begun, the artist is showing a glimpse into his own everyday life, that of dealing with stiff, formal subjects. This painting seems to be almost an “anti” portrait.
The group who is the subject of the piece are very anatomically correct (Gombrich). Their positions as they stand there are natural and not posed. By today’s standards they are no idealized beauties, instead an accurate representation of a real life family that we might see in our everyday life. The relaxed pose and the lack of compositional rules and was quiet scandalous for the time and brought new interest to the breaking of artistic rules. The viewer almost feels as if they are walking in on this scene spontaneously, the intimacy of the scene may be why it was so controversial (Gombrich). The painting is not over dramatized focusing mainly on the room instead of the people. These subjects are clearly the focus and Velazquez doesn’t crowd the composition with unneeded adornments but instead reflects the artist’s studio in its practical nature. (Gombrich).The painting seems to move away from using order, balance, or ornamentation in this composition.
One article states, “The Infanta Margarita, the daughter of the King and Queen of Spain, is made the most central figure in the foreground group by placing her the closest to the center axis of the painting but very intentionally not on that axis. She is placed just to the left of center. At the same time the light streaming in from the window on the right falls on her more than the surrounding figures. The poses of the figures around her with their gestures call attention to their deference to her authority at the same time as acknowledging the presence of the viewer. Seven of the nine figures stare outward. The effect of this, rather than breaking the spell of spontaneity, implicates the viewer into the narrative of the painting. We are made to be as much a part of the composition as any of the other figures in the painting. We take on the role of both the observer and the observed. There is a reciprocity between our looking and that of the characters in the painting. Without our presence, their glances do not make sense. The role we play in this story is revealed by the mirror image just over the Infanta's right shoulder. Our role as the King or Queen of Spain explains the attention paid to our presence by the other figures.” (Gombrich)
I do not feel that one should necessarily limit oneself to purely conventional means of conformity to societal standards. While society does expect certain qualities that lend themselves to social harmony, I do not think that there are really any strict limits or rules, for new ideas are developed all of the time. Understanding must change with society, ideals that once were important may be less so in the future. If you use this painting as an example, many works of art would never have been created if artists stayed within conventional rules and limits associated with their chosen medium. Art is about going beyond the limit and developing new styles, however most works of visual art do some use of technique. The same can be said of ideology, a basis can be set up it is up to others to push the limit of what is acceptable if society is to continue the learning process
Overall Velázquez's painting “Las Meninas shows and attempt to end strict rules within art and still create a beautiful piece of art. The artist creates an off center composition that is not posed and appears to be taking place as an artist prepares to paint. It chronicles the process and challenges of being an artist. The painting has many things to look at but is not overly ornate. The use of servants and the appearance of the artist himself within the painting shows that not just royal families are worthy of being painted. This painting gives a better glimpse into royal life than a stiff formal portrait ever could.