Saturday, January 31, 2015

MWA: 21 to 30

It was a year ago in February that I revisited the latest round of Monthly Works of Art from 11 to 20. Another ten have passed by, so here is the recap of #s 21 through 30. This MWA feature, which I've been doing for a while now, truly has been an attempt to bring a little beauty, and thoughts about that beauty, to readers out there. In this world in which we live, we are exposed every day--too much and in graphic detail--to news about horrific terrorist attacks and executions, natural disasters and health epidemics that destroy innocent lives, and too much lying and insulting and then false apologizing in politics, sports, entertainment, and the media. It may seem naive, but I hope that these posts about art help bring some beauty into the lives of those who read them, even if just for a few moments. We need more beauty in our lives, and there are so many exquisite examples of visual creativity out there that have demonstrated how unique and ingenious some men and women from all cultures around the world have been over time. Academically speaking, it is often considered a terrible thing these days to emphasize and discuss the aesthetics of art over its social politics, philosophical construct, and/or economic origins and reception. To speak about art's beauty first and foremost is seen to conjure the outdated writings of scholars such as Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768), whose History of the Art of Antiquity and other writings raised personal aesthetic value on par with an understanding of the making, interpretation, and criticism of the work of art itself. Today Winckelmann is usually disregarded as outdated and historically inaccurate, and while some of this may be true factually, reading the writings of Winckelmann at least helps the viewer understand how important it is to trust one's feelings about art and beauty. Is not beauty really why people are drawn to art? It is the visual component, the way a work of art captures the eye of a viewer, makes him or her stop and look more closely, and wonder how and why the artist did what he or she did. I went into art history because I believe the appreciation of beauty in works of art is important, and I contend that we need to keep that in mind no matter how or what methodologies we use to interpret artists and their works. This does not mean to say that every work of art is always beautiful to all people. Indeed, everyone has opinions as to what is or is not beautiful. One person may love a Rubens, another a Rossetti, a third a Rothko, and each might criticize the other as being ugly or incomparable to their own source of beauty. Thus, difference in the interpretation of beauty is as equally important when it comes to appreciating art. A work of art has the power to appeal to individuals on many levels: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and frequently in a way that combines these levels. Art can do all that, and even more importantly, it can make you forget. For I hope this brief narrative about the power of art appealed to you, dear reader, and made you forget, for just a moment, all of the horrible things in our lives that I described in the opening of this paragraph.

In reviewing the past MWAs, I am amazed to see that the Good Shepherd sculpture from the Vatican still ranks as among the most popular with 568 page views. Following it is Edouard Manet's Repose with 244 views, and Isamu Noguchi's Core with 180 views. Here is the list of the MWAs from 21 to 30, and I'm pleased to see a few high numbers here as well, specifically works by the 19th-century German artist Overbeck (image above) and the 20th-century American woman artist Stettheimer (image below). You can click on the title of each to see the work and read more about it.

XXI. Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Hunters in the Snow, 1565 (48 views)
XXII. Sandro Botticelli, Primavera (Spring), ca. 1482 (45 views)
XXIII. John William Waterhouse, Hylas and the Nymphs, 1896 (32 views)
XXIV. Bronzino, Portrait of a Young Man, 1530s (43 views)
XXV. GianLorenzo Bernini, The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, 1647-52 (21 views)
XXVI. Leonardo da Vinci, Last Supper (Il Cenacolo), 1494-98 (28 views) [This was a tribute to my father.]
XXVII. Sir Edwin Landseer, The Old Shepherd's Chief Mourner, 1837 (31 views)
XXVIII. Florine Stettheimer, A Model (Nude Self-Portrait), ca. 1915-16 (88 views)
XXIX. Lucas Cranach the Elder, Salome, ca. 1530 (25 views)
XXX. Friedrich Overbeck, Italia and Germania, 1828 (95 views)

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