How Photography Changed Everything

I’ve often wondered about the moment where someone paused, paintbrush in the air and decided that copying reality, adding to it only a dash of idealism, metaphor and allegory was tedious. Who was the first to pause and ask why they should be copying endless paintings from the great masters, plethora of drapes and fruits, dissecting hidden symbols in a twisted quest for meaning? Who jump started the creative process, opening the way for new art and a new way of expression? I think that singling a lone artist at a precise time and place would be almost impossible. The Idea seemed to come to several around the same era and in different locations. How can we reinvent artistic expression? In this class, we studied the transition of art into something new and exciting. It was intriguing to see all the different stages and styles, with artists struggling to push art forward. I think we shouldn’t down play the impact of photography in this process. Besides, the time frames coincide nicely, the first photographs appeared the 1800s and becoming popular in the second half of the 19th century, just as the first impressionists were questioning the artistic status quo. I always thought that photography was the trigger. Suddenly there is a way to make an exact copy of an instant in time. A perfect copy, that takes a few hours at best, instead of the months it would take a painter to struggle and duplicate that same image. I believe those first Avant -Guard artists saw the potential in photography and also might have seen the end of an artistic area. Not wanting to be left behind, they had to create something new, and find a new path for an artistic expression that photography could not offer. There is something more intimate and emotional in a painting, something about the time and energy, thought and technique used in painting and drawing that transcends photography. Which is probably why the fine arts realm snubbed it for a while. I think the artists felt threatened by this new technique, and refused to give it the artistic acknowledgement it deserves. It’s a tricky process to compose a good artistic shot. It takes a lot of knowledge and manipulation, you have to have a good subject, the adequate lighting, and proper processing technique. There is a lot of skill and creativity involved in artistic photography. It took some time for the higher end artistic circles to realize this. Despite their hidden uses of photography for their own work. Indeed Photography and Painting have a long history of co-dependence. Here is a fascinating article on the subject, discussing just how painting and photography are linked.

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It talks about how artists rapidly came to use photographs, as snapshots of a subject and duplicate, or at least use the image as a reference in their own work. (artists today do this routinely, Modern artist at work ) The funny part was the denial of the painters themselves, still considering photography as simplistic, unworthy of the “fine arts” title. According to the article, Critic Ernest Lacan described those painters’ relationship to photography as “like a mistress whom one cherishes but hides.” And visa versa, photographers have dived into the vast archives of paintings in search for subject matter and composition inspiration. (the two images at the beginning of the article were particularly striking) Here are a few examples 1apolka dots 8 final copy films-inspired-art-13 In our own highly multimedia world, photos have taken over. We are constantly taking pictures on phones, tablets and cameras, sharing them in some hopes that they will perpetuate the memory of an instant, becoming pseudo artists ourselves in an attempt to communicate something visually. It’s an interesting development for our society, this urge to share our personal perspective and vision in an overwhelmingly quantitative way. The anthropologists of the next century will have literal tons of images to go through, hopefully helping them decipher our intricate modern society. A down side of this photo craze, is the absence of ACTUAL memories. A new study came out this week, showing that the distraction of taking a picture, hinders the process of creating a detailed memory. By taking rapid snap shots, you are more likely to forget the details and locations of items and specifics of events. This article here talks about it.

www.imaging-resource.com

How photography can affect your memory if you aren’t paying attention

I feel like this wouldn’t be a problem for an artist reproducing that item or that instant in time. They have to carefully study and observe before recreating (in what every style, composition or technique) what they have seen. There is something to the creative process that demands careful consideration, experimentation and precise execution. It’s interesting to see that off handed, careless photo taking is damaging our own abilities. Perhaps we have grown too comfortable and too reliant on our technology, expecting it to remember and create in our place without pouring in the essence that is Art.

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Ice Age Art, the Beginning of Everything

(This is part 1 of 5)

A beautiful documentary from the BBC about ancient art. Fascinating exploration of prehistorical art, with great explications and high, BBC quality.

Very much enjoyed this one. It’s fascinating to see and to try and understand that ancient art. We humans have always been pushed towards creating. One can only wonder why? Why must we seek out aestheticism, beauty and creation?

The documentary touches on an interesting correlation between the advent of art and the beginning of society, associating prehistorical art with the awakening of the human as we now know it. We can theorize that the process of creation might have helped develop the minds of the modern man. A very romantic idea indeed.

Mysteries of the Female Figure, Part 6 The Modern Woman I

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The Pompidou center offered a very different perspective on the female figure. I also found that women were one of the most common themes in the art here. There’s something to be said about the fascination of artists with the female body, trying to represent it, change it and mold it into something new, but still expressing the natural beauty of the women in their lives. After the advent of photography, the art world changed completely. Artists were seeking a new meaning to creation, a new inspiration, and women played an important part in that search for a new art.
(Naked woman sitting, Georges Braque 1907, Fauvist movement with outrageous colors.)

Picasso

Picasso’s vision of the world has always fascinated me. I simply marvel at the variety of his works, and so there are quite a few of his works here. The cubist movement was scorned and mocked, but I find it to be a show of technical prowess. It’s a much more challenging piece to admire and decipher, but definitely worth the effort.

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Woman’s bust, 1907

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Woman sitting in a chair, 1910

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Girl with a hoop, 1919

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Naked woman with Turkish hat, 1955

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Women by the ocean, 1956

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I liked this series of sculptures, marble and stone women, standing with tilted heads. The one on the top in embracing a lover. The perspective is a bit odd, it almost seems like the breasts are in the wrong spot, I was a little puzzled at first, but it was in the cubist exhibit, so perhaps it is just a different point of view than what we are used to. The figure on the bottom gives of a gentle softness with a smile.

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Andre Derain, 1907-08 collection of nudes

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Otto Dix’s works are always a little perturbed. But this one was especially so. The main characters are reflected multiple times throughout the pieces as if they are surrounded by mirrors, each reflection focusing on a different part of the strange couple. The strangest part of the piece is how the artists identifies the female here as a nun, making this representation of vice and hubris all the more shocking. (Soldier and Nun, Otto Dix 1916)

Mysteries of the Female Figure, Part 5 The Second Empire

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We continue with the theme of allegories in the second empire. This large bronze piece was carefully constructed. Each element having a specific significance and symbolism. It’s a nationalist piece, the center female figure representing France herself. (France is always personified as a woman) She is surrounded by artistic muses and symbols for the Roman empire and supremacy.

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Here are two another bronze allegories, personifying poetry and the art of creation. They are placed in front of Paris’ “Hotel de Ville”, the main city hall of the city, a stunning piece of architecture, covered in sculptures of great men of France, authors, politicians and of course, some of the more important mayors and city officials. She is one of three only female presence on the building (the other is France herself above the clock.)

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The portraits of the second empire, show the fashions of the time, something I love to see. Following the different trends in clothes and fashion through art would be another great topic to study more in depth.

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But they also reflect a sort of genteel feel, calm, soft images and a feeling of delicate elegance that I found charming.

Mysteries of the Female Figure, Part 3 The Middle Ages

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I had the opportunity to visit the Cluny Medieval Museum, which I had never been to. It was a wonderful experience to see the different art work of that era (650-1400 c.e.) as I feel like this is a somewhat forgotten aspect of art history. The craftsmanship and talent of the Middle-ages surprised me greatly, changing my outlook on the so called “Dark Ages” completely.

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What fascinated me the most were the massive tapestry panels. The sheer size of them alone is awe-inspiring. But they are so rich in detail and pattern that one truly has to wonder about the time and care an artist puts into these beautiful fabric masterpieces.

DSCN1071This elaborate scene showed the baptism of a French prince and showed the divine blessing on his future reign. I found it fascinating as nearly every person of the prince’s entourage was female. Beautiful noble women dressed in their finest, surround and supporting the future sovereign. Each lady has a small caption, naming each also. The occurrence of text and words in tapestries was unknown to me and I found it a little out of place but of great historical importance. It leaves little room for misinterpretations. The scene takes place in an elaborate background, nature, especially flowers and plants had great symbolic values and you can find them in nearly every piece.DSCN1072

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Another slightly surprising thing I found at Cluny was this strange pose of the Madonna. I’d never seen them in this tilted pose, holding the baby on their hip with such a pronounced curve. Usually Madonnas are much more stiff and standing straight. But I feel like this pose made her seem more human and approachable. Religious art was THE most important theme to be found here. The sheer quantity was staggering. 9 out of ten pieces, if not more, were depicting some kind of Christian scene, character or event.

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The wood carving ability of medieval artisans should definitely be mentioned. This piece struck a chord with me. Saint Madeleine’s statue was slightly smaller than true size, but her presence compensated for it. Her dress was a complicated mess of folds and creases and it was hard to believe she was made of wood at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The most famous series of tapestries is beyond a doubt the Unicorn collection. It is a five piece series, each showing a noble maiden in a fantastic, imaginary place filled with plants, flowers and small animals. Each scene presents her with a lion and a white unicorn and each represents a different sense. This one here, shows the sense of sight, symbolized with the mirror. It was interesting to see the different representations of these senses throughout the room. And for once, to not have a major Christian theme in these pieces.

Mysteries of the Female Figure, Part 2 Ancient World II

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This large mosaic is entitled “Amazonmachie”, which in French means massacre of the Amazons, (the same suffix is used to describe bull fighting). The violence of this piece caught my attention.

The story of the Amazons is quite sad, strong, independent women, ultimately subdued by men. The details and colors of this piece made it all the more memorable. (Turkey, 400 ce)

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I wanted to include as many different mediums as I could also, just to show the diversity of the female figure in different Art forms. Here is a bas-relief, showing a Greek hero, Heracles welcoming the personifications of Charity, Hospitality and Generosity. The details of the women’s attire caught my attention with this piece. Sadly, empty studs in the stone showed tantalizing signs of more elaborate ornamentations (jewelry and embellishments) that we can only guess at today. (Island of Thasos, 480 bce)

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Here we have another glimpse at  funerary steles. This time in the Egyptian culture. What struck me here was the way both figures, man and wife, are placed on the same level as equals, gently embracing for eternity. There is no superiority of one over the other, regardless of what the situation was in life, in death, they are equals. This was a surprisingly reoccurring theme.

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Scribe Ounsou and his wife, Imenhetep, 1450 bce

Ancient Rome

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The beauty of this sculpture struck me. It’s a two tone marble and bronze statue of Artemis, the Huntress. I loved how they incorporated the marbling of the stone into the folds of her clothes and the striking black and white contrasting materials.

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This marble sculpture of one of Apollo’s muses is a Roman copy of a Greek piece, created in the second century c.e. However, in the 18th century, a fanciful restoration, added the comedy mask and caused an ongoing commotion about the true subject matter of this piece.

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Here is another roman re-creation of an original Greek statue, reconstructed from fragments. The Romans took the pose and features of this character but adapted her to suit their needs, placing her in a different tale of mythology altogether. In Greece, she was Diane, and in Rome, she became Atalante, one of Ovid’s metamorphoses. But her dynamic posture caught my eyes, she seems ready to come to life at any second and run right past us.

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200 c.e. restored in the 18th century.

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This was the most impressive marble statue I saw in the Louvre. The presentation and location are the perfect backdrop for this monumental 10 foot tall statue of Athena (Pallas of Velletri). Her face is stern and her features almost masculine, shown as a figure of strength and victory. This is a Roman reconstruction from the 2nd century. The original Greek statue was a ten foot bronze of the goddess, this piece was apparently recreated from plaster molds of the Greek original, a piece that was never found.

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Facing the Pallas Athena, is a long hall, filled with statues and busts of the goddess Athena/Minerva, showing her in different poses and dress.

DSCN1599You guessed it, more funerary steles. I was rather surprised to find one more example of this reoccurring theme in Roman culture. It was a surprise to see the similarities in each of these Mediterranean civilizations. Once more, we have the couple, man and wife, side by side, seated as equals, together, facing the afterlife. I think it is an important reminder of the position of the woman in the family structure, not as inferior, but as a partner.  And it would seem that each culture added their own touch to this idea.

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Stele of Zabdibol and Haggai, Syria 240 c.e.

Mysteries of the Female Figure, Part 1 Ancient World I

During my Paris vacation, I had a lot of fun simply absorbing the atmosphere and being surrounded by art and beautiful things to look at. I wasn’t quite sure how to approach this topic. Women have been a major theme and inspiration in every aspect of art and creation since the dawn of human kind. This topic is rather vast and I didn’t want to do something bland or impersonal. So I decided to go on a “Treasure Hunt” of sorts through the city and different museums to simply record the different women I would encounter, photographing the ones that struck me or spoke to me. And this is how I hope this project will be read, as simply an exploration, a walk through the figures that captured my attention. Enjoy!
(I tried to be as thorough as possible, but some pictures are blurry and some dates are missing, but I still wanted to include the image nevertheless because of its beauty or uniqueness.)

The Ancient World

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This ancient sculpture was apparently the stereotype of the female form, made  around 6000 bce, this was one of the oldest I found.  She has a generous, curvy figure  sign of abundance and is comfortably seated with her legs crossed.

Etruscan/Cyclades figures

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This figures date back to 2,700 bce from the Island of Keros. We saw similar things in our book, the stylized, recognizable but impersonal figures of these women. They all have the same poses. The museum also mentioned finding very slight paint residue on the Marble faces of these anonymous women.

The Mediterranean Basin in Ancient Times

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This funerary stele was moving to me. I saw a lot of funerary art during my couple trips to the Louvre, and it should be a topic on it’s own. These grave markers are a snapshot of past lives, and I found it touching to find this couple, husband and wife, carved in stone side by side for eternity, or at least, as long as the stone would last. Testament to this ancient love. (130-140 C.E. Lebanon)

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These figures were magical talismans, promoting protection or healing. They fascinated me since they represented Egyptian, Greek and Semitic deities but in outrageous, caricatural and crude forms. These little figures were meant to attract the anger of supernatural forces being mocked, in order to distract them from plighting the owners instead.DSCN1271

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These intricate female heads caught my eye. They were meant to be bodiless, representing a Greek ritual of sacrificing locks of hair. Little wonder since each and every one has an elaborate and carefully fashioned hair style. Most of these were found in burials, and are assumed to represent the sacrifice of loved ones to insure the safety of the passing soul. They are an appeal and a prayer to female, mother-like deities such as Isis and Aphrodite. (Found in Egypt and dating back to the 2-3rd century c.e.)

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This third century bronze embodies a culture much different from ours, where female goddesses were praised, worshiped and depended upon. Here we have a statue, blending the features of Isis and Aphrodite, showing a Mother figure with gentle curves, open arms and a soft smile. The Isis-Aphrodite cult was quite important in the ancient world and spread from Africa to England, all the way up the Middle East, showing a passion and love for the female aspect of the divine.