Art History:   Grade 2 Lesson 1

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  Art & Observation - Art helps us to see - Point of View

INTRODUCTION

MATERIALS

  1. Farmer in the Field, 1888, Vincent Van Gogh, Dutch, (1853-1890), oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Reproduction print

    Vincent van Gogh grew up in an educated Dutch family; his father was a minister and his uncle an art dealer. He pursued many careers such as teacher, art dealer, and missionary preacher. His generosity, compassion and deep desire to understand his fellow men were misunderstood by the Belgian coal miners with whom he lived and to whom he preached until his dismissal in 1880. Around this time he began to sketch copies of Jean Francois Millet's somber peasants and later to take anatomy and perspective lessons in Brussels. Van Gogh's early self-training showed intense visual perception which developed into a sinuous, flame-like style with brilliant colors. At the age of 33 he moved to Paris to live with his brother Theo. There he was influenced by the Impressionists, Pointiallists, and by the flat planes and vigorous outlines of Japanese prints. After moving to St. Remy and in Auvers, where he died, he painted vivid passionate works, expressive of his tormented life.

    Van Gogh's Farmer in the Field reflects his use of brilliant colors and the influence of the "flat planes and vigorous outlines" of Japanese prints. His brush strokes, though somewhat larger and thicker than the Impressionists and Pointiallists, still demonstrate their influence upon his style. It is obvious that Farmer in the Field is his perception of the scene. He places little emphasis on figures; the two workers in the center are merely blue outlines, dwarfed by the landscape. The right-hand figure, also blue, is a whole person, although its sex is not easily determined. The figure is balanced precariously on the lurching, rushing landscape which is divided horizontally into four bands of color (red, green, yellow and blue).

    Note: Van Gogh's Farmer in the Field and Millet's The Gleaners are included in this lesson for comparison.

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  3. The Gleaners, 1857, Jean Francois Millet, French, (1814-1875), oil on canvas, Louvre Museum, Paris. Reproduction print

    Jean Francois Millet was the son of a French peasant. For a brief time he trained under a local Cherbourg artist and then under Delaroche in Paris where he was also influenced by Daumier. In 1849 he settled in Barbizon and painted genre subjects of peasants at work and prayer. The Gleaners and The Angelus are among his most representative works. Both are sentimental and romantic scenes executed in a realistic style.

    These quotes may help you enjoy the prints by Millet and Van Gogh. They are from The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh.:

    "The wood is becoming quite autumnal - there are effects of colour which I rarely find painted in Dutch pictures."

      "Yesterday towards evening I was busy painting a rather sloping ground in the wood, covered with mouldered and dry beech leaves. That ground was light and dark reddish brown, made more so by the shadows of trees which threw more or less dark streaks over it, sometimes half blotted out. The question was, and I found it very difficult to get the depth of colour, the enormous force and solidness of that ground - and while painting it I perceived only for the first time how much light there still was in that dusk - to keep that light, and to keep at the same time the glow and depth of that rich colour."

     "For you cannot imagine any carpet so splendid as the deep brownish-red, in the glow of an autumn evening sun, tempered by the trees."

    "From that ground young beech trees spring up which catch light on one side and are sparkling gleen there, and the shadowy side of those stems are a warm deep black-green."

    "Behind those saplings, behind that brownish-red soil is a sky very delicate, bluish grey, warm, hardly blue, all aglow - and against it is a hazy border of green and a network of little stems and yellowish leaves. a few figures of wood gatherers are wandering around like dark masses of mysterious shadows. The white cap of a woman, who is bending to reach a dry branch, stands out all of a sudden against the deep red-brown of the ground. A skirt catches the light - a shadow fails - a dark silhouette of a man appears above the underbrush. A white bonnet, a cap, a shoulder, the bust of a woman moulds itself against the sky. Those figures, they are large and full of poetry - in the twilight of that deep shadowy tone they appear as enormous clay figureines being shaped in a studio."

    "While painting it I said to myself: 'I must not go away before there is something of an autumn evening air about it, something mysterious, something serious.' "

    Van Gogh admired Millet tremendously. Speaking of the developement of art -
    "Up to Millet and Jules Breton... there was always in my opinion progress, but to surpass these two - don't even mention it! I must have a a foundation in these artists."

    Van Gogh wanted his figures to live, not to be academically correct. He believed that Millet painted figures as he felt them; he painted the truth of the laborer in action.
    Both Van Gogh and Millet painted the close connection of the peasant to the earth. How?

  4. Haymaking, , Pieter Breughal, Flemish (1525-1569),  , The Narodi Gallery, Prague, reproduction print.

    Pieter Breughal was one of the greatest painters of the Netherlands. In 1551 he journeyed to Italy and was deeply impressed with the art of the High Renaissance and the dynamic landscape of Italy. He glorified the simple life of the peasants at work and play. Notice how he keeps our eyes moving around the picture by carefully spacing the colors and groups of people. He leaves out shadows and confusing details.

     

  5. False Mirror, 1928, Rene Magritte, Belgian (1898-1967), oil on canvas, Museum of Modern Art, New York,  reproduction print.

    Rene Magritte was a well-known surrealist painter born in Lessines, Belgium. He began to draw and paint at the age of twelve and demonstrated n early taste for the unusual and the bizarre. He studied art intermittently and in about 1918 Magrittebegan to search for a personal painting style. His earliest work showed the influence of Futurism and by the early 1920s a form of cubism became apparnet in his painting. As artistic movements and he evolved a personal style which emphasized the meaning to an overriding aesthetic effort.

    Of Magritte, Suzi Gablik wrote: "When it came to painting, he manifested an almost constitutional dislike, feigning something between boredom, fatigue and disgust." Magritte's is everyman's Surrealist and universally admired. His paintings commend themselves, at least in reproduction, for their craftsmanship and finish, and they appear almost Super-realist. His work is dead-pan initially - the viewer takes a few seconds to realize what is wrong with the scene depicted. Being unaware of the meaning of the various symbols he uses is unimportant and does not detract from an appreciation of the disjnction between the real world and his depiction of it. It is in these slight and subtle shifts in meaning that his Surrealism lies. His speciality - the painting within a painting - is a further example of this disjunction; it is at once bith a mystical experience which allows us to question the nature of reality and also the basis for considerable semantic speculation. There is no apparent reason or consistency in Magritte's work - he delighted in ambiguity. If we truly appreciate it, we do the same.

    ♦ Adams, Hugh, Modern Painting, Mayflower Books, Inc NY 1979

    What is wrong?  What is real?

     

  6. Virgin Forest at Sunset,  1907, Henri Rousseau, French (1844-1910), oil on canvas, Kunstmuseum, Basel,  reproduction print.

    Rousseau was a French customs officer (un Douanier) who taught himself to paint by copying the masters in the Louvre. Later he exhibited at the Salon des Independants. Rousseau's tranquil jungle settings have a dreamlike quality and the forms of staring, hypnotic animals are rendered in a bold naive style. Many of his works reflect his lack of formal training - his past as a 'Sunday Painter' - in the flatness of forms, the labored detail, the meticulous but awkward finishing, the stiffness, the innacuracies of proportion and perspective and an aim of naivete. However, his paintings have something more. They have a decorative flair and an air of enchantment. Rousseau could not so much as copy a picture postcard (as he sometimes did) without transforming its trite realism into his own distinctive unreality. His often exotic subject matter intensifies and makes more obvious the other-wordliness inherent in all his work.

    The Virgin at Sunset particularly comes to life when thinking about the sounds and noises in the jungle.

          
     Other ideas: ♦ scents
    ♦ climate
    ♦ touch (example: are some plants prickly? some soft?)
    ♦ How does the person feel? Frightened? Brave?
    ♦ How would you feel?

         

  7. Chart of the Eye, graphic. Heritage Plantation

    Our eyes all have the same parts and work in the same ways. You might explain via use of the chart, parts of the eye and how our eyes work - BRIEFLY.


    This chart is included not just to teach the physiology of the eye but more to help the children realize that even though our eyes all work the same way, artists have found ways to make each of us see something different when we look at paintings. They use shapes and colors to depict things they see and they paint them as they see them. Photography would capture things as they are. artists do not all use the realism of photography in their paintings. Many of them use the effects of light and color to give us impressions of what they see.

    This year our topic is Art and Observation. Observation is defined as an act or power of seeing or of fixing the mind upon something - the gathering of information by noting facts or occurances (weather observation).

    We observe often with our senses. Each person who observes art will see something different. Sometimes it is a realistic painting and you notice something that another person might not find. Sometimes the artist doesn't paint as realistically and he or she paints an idea or a thought. When we view that kind of painting, we add our own ideas or thoughts.
    Each time we visit, you will be observing art. All of us have eyes and sight but our ideas about what we see will be different. We will be looking at many types of art this year. Think about not just the many different people who created it, but also how much fun it will be to use our own observations to help us see more.

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    INTRODUCTION

    There are as many ways to paint a picture as there are artists. Paintings help us to share a person's way of seeing. All artists look hard and think carefully about what they see.
    These are not actual paintings, they are printed reproductions. However good they may be, printed reproductions are always very different from the original painting. To see paintings in their full glory you should visit an ar gallery or museum. But whether you are looking at the actual paintings or at reproductions, use our eyes and look.

    An artist often has a difficult choice. Should he paint only hat he sees? Or should he paint what he knows is really there, even though it would be impossible to see it in real life? For example, some artists do not paint people exactly as they see them. They imagine how a perfect person would look, and take away all the faults and blemishes that exist in real life. On the other hand, many artists paint very realistically and include all the faults and imperfections.

    Some painters do not want us to think about perfection or the exact way that people look. They want us to think about feelings. When you have strong desires or emotions they can very often seem to push you about in different directions. Artists sometimes distort faces on a person's face or body in real life.
    Artists, as we have seen, have many ways of making pictures, but we should also realize that they paint for many reasons. Sometimes to make us imagine things we cannot see with our eyes or to make us share their dreams. Sometimes to make us think about ourselves and who we are. Sometimes just for the sake of showing the way pictures are made and how an artist uses things like colors, paint or brush strokes.

    All great artists know that once you start to look and think and imagine, there is no reason ever to stop.

       ~  Cumming, Robert, Just Look... A Book About Painting, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1979
           

    Things to think about:

                      What did each artist want to say?

                      How do the artists use light?

     

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