Art from the 16th to 19th centuriesSubmitted by admin on Sat, 03/10/2012 - 00:53
Overall the works from the 16th century in northern Europe and Spain looks amazingly beautify. The images seem to have taken on a new level of detail and complexity creating a visual richness that is almost beyond belief. Its as if they were designed to lead the viewer on an seemingly infinite journey of discovery with every nook and piece of cloth filled with rolling patterns and shapes.
The sense of attention to visual realism is breathtaking with surreal subject matter and optical illusions in both obvious and unexpected places adding to the experience. In fact it seems like the realism is a deliberate attempt to make the surreal aspects more believable. A sort of realism of effect but abstraction of reality.
Personally I long for the missing accuracy of physical form found in the renaissance works of Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian.
The El Greco painting the Burial of Count Orgaz shocked me with its beauty. Especially the count and two robed men which had astonishing detail and an otherworldly realism...
The Durer engraving The Fall of Man had the greatest impact on me with its exquisite depth, detail, an seemingly endless layering of elements. He must have created it with a microscope! It had so much detail I thought it must be giant and scaled down to fit in the book. In fact its only about 10 x 8 inches... I would love to know how long that took to create.
My questions would be why the forsakening of true physical form? I think if they mixed the “truth” of the renaissance with their new level of detail and surreal subject mater they would have reached a new level of viewer experience.
Overall it seems like great attention is being paid not only to light itself but to the contrast of light and dark. A glowing almost smokey light also seems prevalent which Rubens and Rembrandt typify beautifully. There seem to be more true forms although in some images the people looks almost like dolls. The focus seems to be less on objects and detailed pattens but on people, their nuances such as wrinkles and veins. Equally impressive are the specular highlights on glossy items (even fingernails!) and the luminous transparency of skin.
In Rubens the Allegory of the Outbreak of War the directional sense of movement and spraying of light are just magical. Again there is that glorious contrast with the intense brightness of the nude female figure on the left and smoking darkness of the soldier on the right, almost like two waves crashing together as the violence of men collides with the purity of peace.
Da Vinci's influence is clear but I wonder if these artists consciously merged Da Vinci's glowing smokiness with the razor sharp details of the Flemish painter we've read about.
Northern Europe 1600-1700
Tastes seem to be developing and interiors seem ornate and richly decorated. Some paintings seem colorful, delicate, and fanciful with an almost cartoonish feeling of illustrations. Then there seems to be some disturbing examples of clinical realism. A lot more static (if dramatic) posing seems to be popular. Gone is the sense of a coiled spring in the sculptures and the beautifully energetic twisting bodily forms of the paintings. While there is a clear desire to recapture classical beauty and the renaissance it feels hollow and does not seem to be imbued with the same life. Overall works seem colder, stark, and more accurate without capturing the “truth”. Its almost like a photo, accurate representations without capturing the spirit. Overall while there are nice examples its all starting to feel like poor copies of past glory.
One painting that I found extraordinary was Albert Bierstadt's, Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains. For a static landscape it has a wonderful glowing energy. A softness of ambiance coupled with a sharp yet delicate line of realism. It doesn't sacrifice the magic for reality but retains the elements that make it believable. A dynamic interplay between the contrasts of light and dark complete a serene yet terrific experience.
My question, overall, when I look at these images is this: When technology is making travel and communication infinitely easier, why do the artists seem like isolated individuals working in different directions instead of the gloriously unified artists of the renaissance with their cooperative and communicative efforts to drive art to such unprecedented heights?