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Monthly Archives: January 2017

Italian Renaissance art and artists

Mention the Renaissance art and one is immediately reminded of Michelangelo lying on his back on rough planks, held up by scaffolding and painting the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling; and the enigmatic smile of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Italian culture can be experienced in the Roman architecture which can be seen in the ruins, which still remain in many parts of the country… The prescripts of the Roman Catholic Church, the distinctive taste of Italian food and wine, but most of all, in Italy’s art.

The Renaissance period was a time of great cultural upheaval which had a profound effect on European intellectual development. Having its beginnings in Italy; by the 16th century, it had spread to the rest of Europe. Its influence was felt in various aspects of intellectual pursuits such as philosophy, literature, religion, science, politics, and, of course, art. The scholars of this period applied the humanist method in every field of study, and sought human emotion and realism in art.

Renaissance scholars studied the ancient Latin and Greek texts, scouring the monastic libraries of Europe for works of antiquity that had become obscure, in their quest for improving and perfecting their worldly knowledge. This was in complete contrast to the transcendental spirituality that medieval Christianity stressed. However, that does not mean that they rejected Christianity. On the contrary, much of the greatest works of this era was devoted to it, with the Church patronizing a lot of the works of art. However, there were subtle changes in the manner in which they began to approach religion. This affected the cultural life of the society, which, in turn, influenced the artists of that period, and was hence reflected in their art.

In Raphael’s School of Athens, for example, illustrious contemporaries are depicted as classical scholars, with Leonardo da Vinci being given as much importance as Plato had in his time. The development of highly realistic linear perspective was one of the distinctive aspects of art. Giotto di Bondone (1267 – 1337) a Florentine, was regarded as the greatest Italian painter just prior to the Renaissance period. He is thought to be the first artist who treated a painting as a window into space. He abandoned the rigid Byzantine style, and developed a more naturalistic style of painting.

Filippo Brunelleschi (1377 – 1446), is considered the first great architect of the Italian Renaissance, and Leon Battista Alberti, was another pioneering theorist of Renaissance architecture. It was only after their writings were published, that perspective was formally accepted as an artistic technique. The development of perspective characterized a wider movement of incorporating realism into the arts. With that objective in mind, artists of this era also developed other techniques, such as examining light, shadow, and, as was made famous by Leonardo da Vinci, studying the human anatomy.

The inherent reason for the changes incorporated in artistic technique was a renewed interest in depicting nature in its natural beauty, as well as to resolve the fundamentals of aesthetics. The pinnacles of this can be seen in the works of Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519), regarded as the most versatile of geniuses; Michelangelo (1475 – 1564), a Florentine sculptor, painter, and architect; and Raphael (1483 – 1520) whose works embody the ideals of High Renaissance. The techniques that they pioneered have always been imitated a great deal by other artists.

Italian Renaissance art can be described as the artworks that were created during the early 15th century to about the middle of the 16th century. Even though the artists of that period were usually attached to particular courts, and had allegiance to particular towns; nevertheless, they traveled all across Italy, often holding a diplomatic status, and propagating philosophical and artistic ideas.

Renaissance art is usually split up into four periods:

  • Proto-Renaissance, which lasted from 1290 to 1400. This period has its beginnings from the paintings of Giotto, as mentioned above, and includes the works of Taddeo Gaddi, Altichiero, and Orcagna.
  • Early Renaissance, which existed during 1400 to 1475. This period is embodied by the works of Fra Angelico, Masaccio, Piero Della Francesca, Verrocchio, and Uccello.
  • High Renaissance period, from 1475 to 1525, belonged to the great triad, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael.
  • Mannerism period, from 1525 to 1600, is represented by Andrea del Sarto, Tintoretto, and Pontormo.

Florence is the city that is credited as being the cradle of Renaissance art. Some other great artists of this era include Titian, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Donatello, Brunelleschi, and Bellini.

Pop Culture and Artifacts

When you think about objects that define pop culture, what are the things that you first think of? Well, chances are that more often than not all those images are pop culture items (including Kermit the frog, Archie Bunker’s chair, and even Hannah Montana ). The effect of the phenomenon is such that it permeates and captures the imagination of the masses. While not many of us may be familiar with the works of Caravaggio or the theories of Nietzsche, most of us would have devoured Archie comics and read every Dan Brown book. That is the power of pop culture. These cannot be restricted to literal objects, as ideas, images, attitudes, people, phenomena, are all a part and parcel of world and American popular culture.

There are many experts who have spent a lot of their time studying one or the other artifact in popular culture. Most people while analyzing these artifacts use two forms of analysis – an interpretive textual analysis and content analysis. The former helps in examining the literal and social meanings of the object at hand and how they are linked to larger subjects prevalent in society. The latter studies it in quantitative terms. Studies help determine the mood of the country as a whole and reflect their mindset and options. An object is defined as a pop culture artifact when you observe widespread popularity of the object and different mediums including references to the artifact. They are sourcing pop culture in an Internet culture to create new idols. From kitschy items of the ’60s and the ’70s to the quirkiness of music and television today, the very definition is evolving on a daily basis.

So what are the different American artifacts that has captured the imagination of different generations? From the popularity of the icon that is Mickey Mouse and the logo that has a direct association to the Jonas Brothers today, pop culture icons and artifacts are many. Some notable icons of pop culture are The Beatles, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and Madonna. Andy Warhol’s painting of Marilyn Monroe cemented her position as one of the everlasting icons of popular culture. Icons may not be necessarily human; superheroes like Batman, Superman, X-men, and movie franchises like the Star Wars have created their own little kingdoms in the pop culture space. These artifacts include any piece of clothing or object associated with these icons.

Most of these artifacts have an association with celebrities or cultural icons. In some cases it is with a television show or a movie franchise. While pop culture may often be faced with the accusation of being trivial and responsible for the intellectual degradation of the audience, the acceptance that pop culture finds remains unmatched. This can be observed in the anime boom in America with manga and anime both becoming huge in the country. Pop culture artifacts with their enduring popularity will remain embedded in the psyche of the people forever. While other high culture artifacts may stand the acid test of time, their popularity will never be as all-encompassing or widespread.

History of Pointillism and Divisionism

In the 1880s, Seurat was one of the first to develop pointillism. Paul Signac was another founder of the style, and other prominent artists using the technique included Vincent van Gogh, Henri-Edmond Cross, John Roy, and Henri Delavallee. Pointillism was first called ‘divisionism’ by its practitioners. The name ‘pointillism’ developed only later, and was intended to mock the style. Today ‘pointillism’ is an accepted term for this style, and has no derisive connotations. Some people still use the term ‘divisionism’ to refer to paintings similar to pointillism, but this label is more accurately used to emphasize the technical color theory that is employed in many such paintings. While pointillism uses small dots to create the impression of form and structure, divisionism creates unique color impressions by juxtaposing dots of different colors according to principles of color and vision.

How Does Pointillism Work?

In a typical pointillist painting, you might see a colorful landscape that appears to include a wide range of vibrant colors. If you look closely, say at a patch of aquamarine or teal water, you will see that this bright color is really composed of tiny dots of yellow, green, and blue. By altering the combination of dots of primary colors, pointillist painters can create the illusion that they are using many more colors than they are. Using the viewer’s eye and brain to mix the colors can create a brighter impression than mixing pigments that absorb light. So the aquamarine you see is brighter and more vivid than the color that would have resulted if the painter had mixed yellow, green, and blue paint together. The white canvas between dots can enhance this effect.

Stippling – Black and White Pointillism

The same technique that is used in color pointillism can be used to create gray scale images. By using dots of only black and white, dynamic gray scale images can be produced. In art, this black and white technique is called stippling. Although it has been used in painting, it is more commonly used as a drawing technique. Halftone printing, the printing technique used in black and white newspaper printing, is a descendant of stippling.

Pointillism Today

Pictures in magazines and newspapers are printed in a method similar to pointillism. Small dots of only three or four colors are printed in such a way that they create the illusion of other colors printed on the page. Even photographs are printed this way, giving the appearance of flesh tones and other photographic colors. Additionally, electronic screens like TVs use a similar technique. Screens display dots, or subpixels, of red, blue, and green at different intensities, and our eyes and brains interpret these collections of dots as detailed color images.

Learning about pointillism is interesting from more than just an art history point of view. The masters of pointillism created stunning masterpieces using this technique, but anyone can understand the basic concepts behind it. Children can learn about and practice pointillism in order to get hands-on experience that can help them to understand color mixing and the mechanisms of vision that make it possible. Because so many of our modern technologies rely on similar ideas to create the images we see around us, pointillism is a fascinating subject. Every image in Photoshop and in the newspaper, and even images people create out of Legos, mosaic tiles, and cake sprinkles could be thought of as modern pointillism.

1960s’ Psychedelic Artists

The works of the following famous artists inundated the 60s decade and revolutionized the graphics as well as the commercial arts scenario! Thank God these mavericks chose to walk the less traveled road, else the world would have been deprived of the possibilities of a different but creative form of expression!

Warren Dayton
Warren Lloyd Dayton (March 1940-Present) is among the most distinguished psychedelic artists of the 60s and currently lives in Sierra’s, near California. He is an American illustrator, graphic designer and poster artists whose posters imbibe considerable psychedelic influence.

Vaughn Bode
Vaughn Bode (July 1941-July 1975) is known for his involvement in, and contribution to, underground comics, graphic design and graffiti. His best known creation is the comic strip character Cheech Wizard and a typical feature of his art style is the depiction of voluptuous women.

Barney Bubbles
Barney Bubbles (July 1942-November 1983) was an English graphic artist whose career involvements included painting, graphic design and directing music videos. Barney designed sleeves and albums for many popular music and rock bands including Quintessence, Hawkwind and Brinsley Schwarz.

Karl Ferris
An English photographer and graphic designer, Karl is a pioneer and chief innovator of what is known as psychedelic photography. He worked with Jimi Hendrix in the late sixties as his photographer and album cover designer.

Jimi Franklin
Jimi Franklin (1943-Present) is best known for his poster art incorporating armadillo motifs, which he later used to illustrate the 1st record album of psychedelic rock band Shiva’s Headband.

Hapshash and the Colored Coat
The Hapshash were a British graphics team who were active in the 1960s and are best known for their psychedelic posters which reflected strong art nouveau influences. They had promoted the appearances of such iconic bands as Pink Floyd.

John Hurford
John Hurford (1948-Present) is an English artist whose work is characterized by pronounced depictions of fantasy like landscapes and creatures and mythical beings. He has designed album covers for musicians like Judy Duble.

Alton Kelley
Kelley (June 1940-June 2008) was an American artist whose major works include designs for rock concerts and albums in the 1960s.

Abdul Mati Klarwein
Klarwein (April 1932-March 2002) was born in Germany and is an artist of the 60s whose work is influenced by surrealism as well as pop culture and his artworks reflect his penchant for depicting non Western deities and his interest in symbolism.

Bob Masse
Among the most distinguished poster artists of the 1960s, Bob Masse is still wears the crown of being Canada’s top rock poster artist. He is among the most coveted modern psychedelic artists whose works have garnered lots of attention and appreciation in the middle and latter part of the 60s.

Peter Max Finkelstein
Peter Max (October 1937-Present) is an American artist with German ethnicity and is well known for his iconic style of expression. His poster art style, popularly known as the Cosmic 60s art, could be seen on the walls of colleges and dorms all across America during the 60s.

Victor Moscoso
Moscoso (1936-Present) is an American psychedelic comic book artist, and designer whose best known works include posters for concerts and illustration of many underground comix.

Stanley Mouse
Born Stanley George Miller (October 1940-Present), Mouse is best known for his 1960s’ psychedelic rock concert poster and Grateful Dead’s album cover designs.

Martin Sharp
Sharp (1942-Present) is an Australian underground cartoonist, film-maker, song writer and artist. He is best known for his contribution to Australian and International pop art since the early 60s. His most popular works include psychedelic posters of Bob Dylan, Donovan, etc.

Gilbert Shelton
Shelton (May 1940-Present) is a prominent American cartoon artist who has also contributed towards underground comix arts. His most popular creations include The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Fat Freddy’s Cat, Wonder Wart-Hog, Not Quite Dead and the cover for Grateful Dead’s 1970s’ album Shakedown Street.

Dave Sheridan
Dave (June 1943-March 1982) was a remarkable American cartoon artist of the late sixties throughout the seventies. His famous works include Dealer McDope and Tales From The Leather Nun. He is also the co-creator of the The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers along with Gilbert Shelton and Paul Mavrides.

Keiichi Tanaami
Tanaami (1936-Present) is a Japanese artist and designer whose works have adorned many a print and film and his psychedelic paintings have been widely exhibited. He has over 50 solo exhibitions, spanning across the late 1950′ to the early 2000s, to his credit and has written more than thirty books and essays on painting, print and films.

John Van Hamersveld
Hamersveld (1941-Present) is a known for his designs for psychedelic bands’ albums and record jackets. He is a graphic artist and illustrator by profession and his most prominent works include the graphic designs of The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour, The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street and The Grateful Dead’s Skeletons in the Closet.

Wes Wilson
An American and psychedelic poster designer, Wilson (July 1937-Present) is well known for his design of the posters for Bill Graham of The Filmore. His style is synonymous with the peace movement and the 60s psychedelic art.

Mark Boyle
Born in Glasgow, Mark Boyle (May 1934-May 2005) was very active in the 1950s, having influenced the Underground subculture of 1950’s UK with his artistic creations. He is famous for his World Series work which he started working on in the late 1960s and which consists of recreation of various spots on the Earth’s surface that were selected randomly. Boyle has used natural materials from the sites of his creations as well as fiberglass and certain resins to create the specific artistic effects and impressions.

Apart from, the aforementioned icons, other brilliant psychedelic artists and famous painters of this genre include Pedro Bell, Fred Schrier, Ellis D Fogg, Amanda Sage, Rick Griffin, Alex Grey, etc. The unconventional has always attracted widespread attention but few have had the courage to walk the untrodden path. These artists dared to differ and create fantastic art bordering on surrealism that left the world amazed. Psychedelic art is for those who dare to foray into their subconscious – that plane of existence which does not fall along the lines of logic. This art form is a beautiful way to express the subconscious and give form to fantasy.