Learning how to study and understand great art provide one with a remarkable prosperity of great artistic works. Accordingly, an artist’s visual language and the ability to read helps in opening up new ways of seeing enabling one to comprehend the unfolding of history and historical events. Ultimately, art helps to reveal the human experiences in all their lively emotional and dynamic existence. In short, the ability to demystify imagery as well as the motives of art enables one to understand historical events and to challenge the contemporary arrangements.
Of note is that there are technical skills and knowledge that is important to be able to fully understand the richness of various artworks. To demystify the hidden meaning of a work of art, especially those complex, mysterious, and challenging artworks, an in-depth examination and practical skills are often necessary. In order to appreciate fully the significance of art in demystifying history, it is important to look at such art works as “Vitruvian Man, “Gin Lane,” “An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump,” and “Liberty Leading the People”.
The ‘An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump’ artwork is a perfect example of how art enhance the understanding of history. This piece of art incorporates images of groups of artists, scientists, and, industrialists (Palmer 121). The painting shows candle-lit scenes. The painting departed from the conformist view represented in most paintings during the mid-18th century and embraced an approach that was apparent in historical and religious works. The painting ultimately depicts the period of industrial revolution and the age of enlightenment.
Accordingly, William Hogarth, a satirical artist, sought to depict the damaging effect of industrialization on the increasingly urbanized communities through his popular engraving, Gin Lane. The Gin Lane is an illustration of the evils that arise from the drinking of cheap gin. As such, the artwork is a campaign aimed at sensitizing the society in the mid-18th century against the production and consumption of gin. The elaborate artwork led to the enactment of the Gin Act in 1971 through which the sale of cheap gin was considerably reduced.
The “Liberty Leading the People” portrays liberty as a robust woman of the people as well as a figurative divinity-figure. The heap of corpses acts as a platform from which liberty ultimately emerges. The Phrygian cap that the image of the bare-breasted and barefooted woman wears is a symbol that represents for the period of the first French revolution during the late 1800s. The fighters that are represented in the artwork represent all social classes: the bourgeois represented by the man in a top hat and the boy holding a pistol representing the revolutionary metropolitan workers.
Consequently, the Vitruvian Man, a multi-limbed man in the circle and the square, represents the historical entity as well as the representation of the present world. It is a representation of the concept of human proportion that has been considered for centuries. It is an artwork inspired by the work of a roman architect by the name of Vitruvius who studied geometry and anatomy. Vitruvius’s geometry and anatomy interests were later adopted by da Vinci enabling application of geometry in artwork as well as inspiring further scrutiny regarding the mathematical proportions of the human body. As such, the Vitruvian Man is a representation of the ability of science and art to blend.
Palmer, A. L. Historical Dictionary of Neoclassical Art and Architecture. Scarecrow Press,
Renwick, L. The Rise of the Romantics 1789-1815: Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Jane Austen.
Oxford University Press, 1990.
Hogarth, William. Gin Lane 1751. Tate https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hogarth-gin-lane-t01799