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Posts Tagged ‘Art History’

Leonardo da Vinci’s THE LAST SUPPER is agreed by many to be the one of the most significant paintings in Western art.  Not only does it represent artistic genius, it brings to life a crucial moment in history.  Obviously THE LAST SUPPER, along with many other master works of antiquity can legitimately be categorized as “Christian Art”.

During past centuries when the masses of people did not read, and had no access to Bibles or writings of any kind, visual art was the major medium through which ideas could be expressed.  Great paintings, timeless sculptures, and magnificent cathedral murals portraying the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus were the means by which the common people could experience and consider for themselves the tenents of Scripture.  God raised up long-since-unparalled masters of art in those centuries, for the purpose of communicating truths which are now largely communicated through the Bible and other writings.

A friend who publishes an evangelical magazine once asked me if I could submit some “Christian art” for his periodical.  After scratching my head on that one for some time, I had to tell my friend that I really didn’t have anything which he would consider suitable.  He was looking for a painting with a cross, Jesus kneeling in the Garden, or a weeping woman standing by the empty tomb.

Because so many masters have “gone there, done that”,  I—an absolute neophyte at painting—would be highly presumptuous to even consider painting such a scene.  And how many people (myself included) have been turned off by ethereal attempts at portraying a Jesus who looks more like a 19th century English poet or a Swedish Hippie, than the Jewish carpenter whom He was when He walked the earth?!

Visual art differs from vocal music and poetry—or any medium where words are involved.  Words tell, and thus we do have “Christian music” and “Christian poetry”.  I have published Christian poetry, as well as essays and testimonies.  But it has been said that “A picture is worth a thousand words”.  So what kind of contemporary pictures, aside from presenting Jesus as a 19th century poet or a Swedish Hippie, can actually be deemed “Christian art”?

As an amateur artist my aim is to express joy, color, beauty plus a quality of life which includes a sense of wonder, enthusiasm, excitement, intrinsic meaning, and contentment in the moment at hand.  The Judeo-Christian worldview affirms life and presents a loving, sovereign God of creation.  I desire to celebrate life, and in so doing to celebrate the Creator.

Without making a cheesy attempt to mimic centuries of genuine artistic genius, a celebration of life is the best I can offer concerning “Christian art!”  However, I can and do add titles to my paintings, and titles are WORDS.  The following watercolor on Yupo paper is an example titled:  “By the Fiat of His Word“.

Margaret L. Been — September 19, 2015 — (First posted in another of my blogs:  http://hiswordistrue.wordpress.com in 2014. )

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Windows to Beyond

Always Time for Tea 2

Art makes fascinating study.  I’m continually amazed at the varying views and disagreement between artists in every detail of painting.  Some staple or tape their paper to a board before proceding, while others (and I am one of these) just let the paper float so that they can lift and blend colors or rinse off areas which are still damp when so desired.  Many artists make value sketches before beginning to paint, and plan every brush stroke in advance, while others begin intuitively—letting the first blobs of paint on wet paper determine the subject of the work.

Some artists will say, “Never extend a shape to the edge of the paper or let part of an object disappear”, while others contend that disappearing shapes make a piece far more interesting.  (The latter suits my taste best, as you can see in my above still life titled “Always Time for Tea.”)

Both of my samples pictured here (the top one is titled “Windows to Beyond“) defy the supposedly “set in stone” art rule which insists that light comes forward and dark recedes.  Obviously the concept of advancing light and receding dark applies to the magnificent chiaroscuro (strong contrast between light and dark) works of the Old Masters which frequently featured portraits. 

Recently I was treated to a traveling exhibition of Rembrandt’s self-portraits at the Milwaukee Art Museum.  The face and form of the artist loomed prominently in lights and midtones, highlighted in subtle shadows and flanked by a definitive background of darks.  But I am not a “master” in any sense of the word.  Although I understand the chiaroscuro precept (among other art rules) I don’t consciously attempt to employ it.  Rather, I just sit down and paint—and invariably my darks come forward and my lights recede.  

Perhaps my darks are not true darks.  My handling of watercolor evokes the medium’s transparency and ability to diffuse, but I may never replicate the incredibly rich, velvet-textured darks produced by oils.  That’s okay.  I greatly appreciate the skills and materials which are way beyond my ken, and I’m thankful to have even a rudimentary degree of understanding concerning the principle of light and dark.  Also, quite possibly my darks come forth and my lights recede because my (perhaps one and only!) strength is COLOR.  As one of my favorite contemporary artists, Charles Reid explains: vibrant color always predominates.  Viva les couleurs! 

I delight in reading all and any art history I can get my hands on—and there is enough of it out there to keep me entertained for the rest of my life.  Most of the reading is enjoyable and informative, but I’m especially drawn to the artists who exploited color to the max—the Impressionists, Post Impressionists, and various other “Ists” of the 2nd half of the 19th Century into the early 20th.  Currently my most beloved painter of that era is Matisse who shocked the Parisian art world with his blatant use of color.  Matisse and his followers earned the title:  Les Fauves—meaning “Wild Beasts”.

Reading about artists and art movements is, to me, like eating chocolate or maple sugar—thrilling beyond words.  In fact, the reading is far better than candy!  I can’t get sick on reading art history!  Only more and more inspired, drawn, captivated, and excited about the entire amazing world of shape, texture, and COLOR!  🙂

Margaret L. Been ©2013

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A Place Within

I have been studying art history, and I’m constantly realizing how little I know while rejoicing in the fact that I have time to learn.  Especially since the Parisian Art Revolution which began in the 1860s when those “isms” which warm my heart began to develop in rapid succession, my head spins as I sort out the many fascinating developments of art. 

There is one particular aspect of pictorial language that resonates with me, a language which I understand from the inside out:  the language of color.  Here I’m thoroughly at home in my adopted country of visual art.  I’m on familiar ground, surrounded by artists with whom I could chat at a sidewalk café most anywhere in the civilized world. 

Perhaps that’s because my art is completely subjective.  Like my poetry, my art is a place where I’m free to express myself—a world within.  Even more than the components of light and shadow, typical of the Old Masters’ works, color speaks to me!  As effectively as poetry, color portrays that highly personal inner place—my soul. 

This art adventure parallels a new stage of life, a transition from country to community living.  Thirty three years ago, in the press of demanding circumstances, my husband and I moved to a country home where (like Thoreau at Walden) I could learn to live deliberately.  From that country home we moved to a wild location where there were more deer than humans, a visibly large population of black bears, and a substantial number of timber wolves.  Beautiful background for feeding the soul. 

I believe that God created each of us with a personality to be shaped and honed as He wills.  For nearly thirty years He shaped my world within through nature and solitude and (like Thoreau) I actually learned to live deliberately.  Then suddenly we were translated to a community setting.  My husband and I did what we never thought we could do; we moved from our haven of wild serenity to the accelerated pace of a city suburb—albeit quiet, and definitely not urban. 

And here I am, still living deliberately.  Meanwhile, what am I learning from art history?  I’m learning that art really is all about freedom, even freedom from the isms.  

For me, that means freedom to express my world within—specifically through COLOR

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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