Art History

1 January 2017

First, we will be discussing a very significant artist by the name of Leonardo da Vinci. In addition to looking closer at several of his renowned pieces of work he has accomplished; we will mainly focus on his most prominent piece called the Mona Lisa and how it has shaped this tradition, some of which have become inseparable from how we think about art itself. The second artist that we will discuss is Willem de Kooning’s, a Modern 20th century artist; and we will focus on his famous piece of work called Woman I.

This survey will discuss the material and technical history of these works, what this can tell us about their meaning of art over time, and how art has evolved from the past to the present. High Renaissance art is characterized by self-confident Humanism. Here we see artists admiring classical art and architecture as a way to show off their classical knowledge or for a patron who commissioned these works to seem more knowledgeable about the world and its history.

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Leonardo began to create deep paintings with spatial illusions, which will be more prevalent in the Baroque period.

Leonardo da Vinci, the great artist and inventor of the fifteenth century, came into existence on April 15, 1452, in Vinci, Italy and died in the year 1519. When Leonardo was just fifteen years old, his artistic career had begun. He was an apprentice for a famous artist by the name of Verrochio. While working for Verrochio, he did little things in the background of paintings and eventually became an even better painter than Verrochio. From here he became famous in his early twenties.

He achieved much in his lifetime, including beautiful paintings, creative and unusual inventions, life-like sculptures, and many scientific advances. He wasn’t only a painter, but also an inventor. Inventing things like flying machines, geometry, mechanics, municipal construction, canals and architecture. Leonardo da Vinci liked to use two main types of techniques in his work sfumato and chiaroscuro. Sfumato is a technique that artists use to make smoky overall haze effect to a painting using a lightly tainted varnish.

Leonardo da Vinci liked to use this technique because dusk was his most favorite time of the day and during dusk usually came fog. Chiaroscuro is a technique in art that is ‘characterized by strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition. It is also a technical term used by artists and art historians for using contrasts of light to achieve a sense of volume in modeling three-dimensional objects such as the human body. ’ (http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Chiaroscuro).

The Mona Lisa is also known as La Gioconda; and is perhaps Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous of paintings. It is an oil painting, painted on poplar wood. Painting the Mona Lisa, Leonardo elevated himself into another station of artist, those that create new forms and perspectives. The relatively small painting of Mona Lisa manages to craft one of the most intense and effective art experience into a compact 30″ by 20 ? ” frame. The painting is most famous for the smile of the woman, which people have been trying to decipher for a long time.

Many believe that the portrait is that of da Vinci himself, while many also place a great deal of mystic connections with this painting. The identity of the lady in the painting is not known for certain. The most probable person is the wealthy Florentine Madonna Lisa del Giaconda. However it is also possible that Leonardo did not portrait a specific person. The portrait depicts a woman’s bust, with a distant landscape that is visible in the backdrop. The woman is shown seated in an open area, and behind her is a vast landscape, which recedes to an icy mountain.

Some winding paths and a far away bridge is also perceptible in the background. Leonardo used a pyramid design to install the woman in a simple and calm manner within the painting. The woman is shown with her hands folded, with her breast, neck, and face painted the same color as her hands. The light is diffused so that the various curves and geometrical shapes on the painting are made visible through it. Perhaps the most interesting aspect about the painting is the woman’s smile. Many believe that it is innocent and inviting; while others believe it is that of smugness and is a smirk.

Many scientific studies have been undertaken to determine the exact nature of the smile and the real reason remains a mystery. It is believed that every person sees the smile differently because of the changes in the lighting that Leonardo presented. He modifies the formula however, creating a sense of distance between the sitter and observer, mostly utilizing the arm chair on which she rests. Everything about her posture speaks reservation and silence. However, her eyes silently meet the gaze of the observer, drawing the viewer into her eye line.

Everything surrounding her face is dark, bringing that much more focus to the light of her face and the attraction it provides. The overall effect is a kind of natural attraction to her, drawn in by her appearance, but it immediately contrasts with the distance Leonardo creates between subject and observer. We now move to the Modern Era and will be focusing on the artist Willem de Kooning. De Kooning was born in Rotterdam, Holland, in 1904 and died in 1997. It was there he attended crafts school and then a traditional art academy.

He was influenced by artists such as Piet Mondrian and Theodore van Doesburg, as well as Picasso’s Cubism. The explosive nature of de Kooning`s work tells us that it is an art of struggle, that its source is both painful and personal, obviously based on feeling over intellect and very probably stemming from some “primal event” (as Freud might term it) in his early life, or series of events, so traumatizing that the artist was forced to thrust them into his unconscious, and has spent a lifetime trying to keep a lid on them, only to have the unconscious contents violently erupt countless times in his paintings.

Evidence of this conflict in de Kooning’s paintings seems the unremitting violence of the artist’s attack upon the women who are his subjects and the paint surface itself. De Kooning’s women have taken a terrible fall from purity into filth and degradation, becoming very torn and scarred in the process. They are, in the paintings, voluptuous but depraved, alluring but dangerous, disillusioning and disappointing in their fall from the pedestal… nd therefore must be symbolically destroyed. Woman I is just that type of a painting, Abstract Expressionism. More than any other, the work of Willem de Kooning probably epitomizes how this movement came to be visualized by most Americans. His 1950-52 Woman 1, with its garish, horrifying face and massive breasts was just barely figurative enough for the public to grasp; yet ugly enough for them to hate. Woman 1 depicts a distorted human form, with goat’s hooves instead of feet.

Eyes as big as grenades, teeth grinning violently, huge limbs, mountainous breasts – this “woman” is exaggeratedly, absurdly physical and at the same time not there at all, a spewed monster of fantasy. There is no body here. The woman is a woman in the painter’s mind – a fabrication of colour and brushwork, with the splattered, pushed, released paint telling us unequivocally that it is a furiously sexual vision. No doubt many in seeing it for the first time visualize just such a scenario. In fact, it was anything but spontaneous.

Though he didn’t work on it daily, it took two full years to complete; going through constant, one might say almost endless, revisions. Near the end, de Kooning even went so far as to discard it. Then, weeks later, he rescued it from the trash, reworked it some more, and sent it off to be exhibited. In comparing the two artists; Leonardo da Vinci and Willem de Kooning, we can clearly see a vast difference here. In Leonardo’s era, the focus of the subjects was more natural, focusing on definite light sources and having a sense of order and stability.

The High Renaissance era was also no longer dependant of Church and Royalty for influence on what to paint; which gave artist like da Vinci the opportunity to explore new techniques applied to his astonishing pieces. Leonardo da Vinci focused on the soft side of the woman, paying respect to the curves and inner as well as outer beauty of the woman. His lines are clean, precise. Willem de Kooning; however, takes the image on the woman and distorts it, almost in a disrespectful way. He enjoyed making paintings that leave the observer wondering what the painting s about, what feeling we have when we look at the painting weather it is anger, joy, love, or hate. He does not value woman as Leonardo seems to and depicts them as strange human ‘objects’ and in an abstract and ‘sloppy’ way. The two artists do however have something in common. Both eras show how each artist was branching out from the previous era and wanted to explore new techniques and new ways of expressive views of painting. In the end, Kooning and da Vinci have both had a major impact on Art History and intensified art and will always have an impact on artist to come.

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