Art History:   Grade 2 Lesson 7

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  ART & OBSERVATION- Art & Architecture

bulletBACKGROUND INFORMATION - Structural elements in Architecture


  1. STONEHENGE, c 2950-1600 BC, Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, England, Reproduction photograph

         The huge stones of Stonehenge were quarried (with who knows what primitive tools) about 25 miles from the site where they were placed. They weighed up to 50 tons each and were dragged (or rolled on enormous logs) and erected as supports for huge stone lintels. No one is sure how the lintels or posts were lifted. Stonehenge was a place of worship with origins over 4000 years old. 

         For centuries, prehistoric Europeans had built elaborate stone tombs. But about 2000 BC, probably inspired by their priests, they began to built huge stone monuments for the use of the living. Earlier suggestions these monuments were used for ceremonial processions have been supported by the determination that they also formed part of an astronomical observatory.

         The first stones were erected by the farming communities of the Wiltshire downs and plains who were also using part of the site for burials (mounds). Iron age peoples rebuilt Stonehenge on at least four occasions. The technical skills required to bring the stones to the site, cut them into shape and then erect them according to a carefully pre-arranged pattern, make Stonehenge and engineering masterpiece. The main phase of the building alone must have taken a force of 1000 men over 10 years to complete.

          The stones at Stonehenge are arranged so that on midsummer's Day a man standing at the center of the monument and looking through the opening between 2 of the outer circle of sarsen uprights (the scene in the presentation photograph) will see the rising sun pass directly over the upright "Heelstone", outside the monument. Midsummer's Day was an important occasion in the lives of the people who built Stonehenge; they saw the full glory of the midsummer sun as symbolizing re-birth after the darkness of winter. As late as the 1st century AD, when the Romans came to Britain, the Celts and their Druid priests were using the temple. It is thought that the original builders, some 2000 years previous to that had used it for sun worship.

         The mathematical accuracy in the Heelstone's positioning, combined with other alignments indicating the exact position of midwinter sunset and 2 extreme positions of the midsummer moonrise during it's 18 1/2 year cycle has led scientists to suggest that Stonehenge and other stone monuments were designed as elaborate observatories. from them, Bronze Age priests might have been able to build an accurate calendar of the seasons for use in agriculture, and to predict eclipses of the sun and moon. The sightings could be taken along the sides and diagonal of a rectangle, marked out by the monument. Use of the rectangular layout would have been impossible if the monument was placed as little as 30 miles to the north or south.

    click for enlargement

    bulletStones of England - Stonehenge
    bulletThe Phases of Construction of Stonehenge - Student info
    bulletsee also Grade 5 Lesson 6


  2. INTERIOR OF SAINT PETER'S, Vatican City, Rome, 1746-1754, Giovanni Paolo Panini, Italian, (1691-1765) 1.545 x 1.970 m oil on canvas, Aelsa Mellon Bruce Fund, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC 
        Carlo Maderno lengthened the arm of the cross in Saint Peter's Church in 1606. A gigantic barrel vault is held up with squarish piers that are highly decorated and designed to appear light in weight. The brad nave seems even wider because of the huge archways that open into extremely large side aisles, which again open into chapels. We can appreciate the enormous size and elaborate decoration in this painting by Panini. The piers are of colored marble and sculpture is added to painted spaces. This interior, from the entrance to the end of the apse is longer than 2 football fields. The structure over the high alter, under Michelangelo's dome, is about the height of a ten story building. This is the interior of a building using rounded arch and dome construction. Another famous building with these same basic elements is the Capitol Building in Washington DC.



    St Peter's Basilica - Building facts (PBS)

  3. THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE, 1939, Joseph Stella, Italian/American (1877-1946) Oil on canvas, 70 x 42 in. (177.8 x 106.7 cm) Whitney Museum of Art, New York.

         The Brooklyn Bridge was designed by John Augustus Roebling and built from 1869-1883. This suspension bridge which spans the East river between Manhattan and Brooklyn was an engineering first which was admired and copied by generations of engineers. Between 2 great towers with pointed arches, hang the cables of woven steel which support the road bed of the bridge.    

         Joseph Stella was inspired by the American City, especially by its movement and tempo. He was born in Italy but came to America at the age of 19 where he began his career as an illustrator. A trip to Europe brought him in contact with the Cubists and Futurists. both of these influences can be seen in this painting of the Brooklyn Bridge. The energy of the new Industrial Age can be seen in the sequence of position which suggests motion. He follows the Cubists when he paints a subject as if it can be seen simultaneously from a variety of points of view. The brilliant colors suggest the artificial lights of the city.



         Here are nine doorways that can be found in Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA. You will notice post and lintel doorways as well as rounded arch doorways. You will see a doorway that is very plain and one that is Art Deco. but you don't have to go to Cambridge to see doorways such as these. you only have to walk through downtown Sandwich and look around you. Notice your Town Hall and the doorway to the Public Library. also look at the doorways to some of the homes. Sandwich even has a church whose steeple was patterned after one designed by a famous architect in London, England in 1671: The Church of Christ on main Street has a steeple like the one designed by Christopher Wren for the St. Mary-le-Bow Church in London. because he felt that churches themselves would be hidden by the surrounding buildings, this architect used his time and skill in designing their beautiful spires.


  5. TRAVEL POSTERS, , Reproduction photograph.

     A. Greece - Santorini (Thira)

    You can compare Venice with this town in Greece also built by the water. Can you see how the builders of these churches and houses made the best use of the hilly site on which the buildings would stand? Can you see rounded arches made into domes? Compare these domes with our next travel poster.

     B. Moscow - Cathedral of St Basil the Blessed

    The onion-shaped domes of the Church of St Basil are a development of the Byzantine Dome. This was a very important influence on the architecture of many churches throughout Russia and eastern Europe. There is a great detail in the mosaic and tile that decorate this magnificent building. (see also:Grade 5 Lesson 7)

     C. New York - The Chrysler Building

    An enduring architectural masterpiece, the Chrysler Building was long the symbol of New York before the Empire State Building eclipsed it in height and size. It was finished in 1930 adn rises well over 1000 feet. Seen in this poster is its sunburst tower with its overlapping projections pierced by sharply pointed triangular windows. the design is called "Art Deco".


  6. EGYPTIAN TEMPLE Post and Lintel


  7. AQUEDUCT, 1st Century AD, Roman, Pont du Gard, Nimes, France, reproduction photograph

    The Romans methodically developed water-supply systems as part of urban planning. Water was carried from the source to the city by gravity flow, requiring the building of channels with a continuous, gradual decline over distances often exceeding 50 miles.  

    The Pont du Gard is one of the most impressive examples of Roman engineering skill. Each large arch spans some 82 feet and is constructed of uncemented blocks weighing up to 2 tons each. The small top arches are placed in groups of three over the larger arches. The finished aqueduct carried water over a distance of about 30 miles and provided each inhabitant  with about 100 gallons of water a day.

    Pont du Gard, France 

    (35 arches)

    Segovia, Spain 

    (119 arches) 2950ft



    The route of the Metz aqueduct, Nimes : under- and over ground




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