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Submission: Art and Art History


With your recent return, I thought I’d take it upon myself and get the ball rolling (I won’t just be part of the party, I shall begin it). I will apologize in advance for my inquisitive nature. First let me begin that I am not just some history, art, and Latin geek. I have read yours (and the others) books. It was just pure dumb luck that I discovered your little internet world while trying to get through my Latin I class. So forgive me if my future questions are going to be a mix of the various topics. However, my first question is for my own happiness. I am an art history major and I just have to ask, who is your favorite artist? Is it still Botticelli? Do you still paint? How do you feel about modern art? Do you like conceptual art? I can’t really get into anything too conceptual but would love your opinion. Favorite style or period? Like anyone else, I love renaissance and counter-reformation art but have recently discovered that I utterly adore medieval art. The scribes then were extremely naughty with their penis tree doodles (if you have never seen these drawings and need a good laugh, google “medieval art penis trees”) Feel free to talk my ear off on any and all art related topics because this is what I live for. Art history majors are few and far between where I live, so if I find someone with a similar passion than a conversation is bound to erupt. Okay I’ll stop talking now. 🙂

I am sure you know that the answer to the question of who is my favorite artist is quite lengthy and complicated. Botticelli is very important to me, and yes, I would say that he is my favorite artist. I found Botticelli during a very dark period of my life.  I felt as if beauty and splendor were gone, and I don’t say this dramatically.  I could scarce stand the sight of the “Middle Ages”; it was sick, impoverished, and frightening.  There was no beauty there.  But then I awoke and I saw Botticelli– vivid and innocent.  I had almost lost color.  Does this make sense?  I could scarcely see or appreciate the colors of the world around me.  Everything was hazy and dull.  Gazing at Botticelli, there was color again, beautifully rendered.

Though, I love a great many artists for different and unique reasons. I feel that no one can render color like Botticelli; however, I do not think him the master of all technique and emotion. For example, Caravaggio is infinitely more seductive, darker, and his religious themes less allegorical.

I do not enjoy modern art.  I understand each one by definition, meaning I know what impressionism and expressionism are.  I do not like them, though, because I feel that they lack the depth of a story or allegory.  I cannot “read” an expressionist painting the way that I can read the story of the allegory of the spring in La Primavera by Botticelli.  I can read what the Renaissance was, it’s true nature, in those images.  I do not like any of the movements after Realism to the 20th century.

It has to be said.  I have to be honest with you and the rest of my wonderful visitors: I do not like Van Gogh.

I have to say, the penis tree is an interesting find.  I don’t think that I can match that, but I can give you random images of men fighting large snails and other assorted hybrids.

How did you fare in your Latin course?

One thought on “Submission: Art and Art History

  1. I will admit that I owe a lot to Botticelli as well, even now, 500 years later. I originally began university as a Business Administration Major (on request of my father). After my first year, I was given a scholarship to study abroad through a program called TNCIS. My father wanted me to go to Scotland, considering my family has Scott-Irish heritage, but I decided on Italy (I did, however, make it to both Scotland and Ireland this year). We did all the major cities. Siena, Florence, Rome, Pisa, Venice and Cinque Terre. I finally got to scratch off my lifelong goal of seeing Botticelli’s Birth of Venus in person in the Ufici.
    While studying his brushwork reality hit me. I realized that I could not work a 9 to 5 job in a cubical for some big business and be happy with my life. On the contrary, I think that would drive me absolutely insane and you’d see me on the news after stabbing a co-worker with a stapler.

    I always had a passion for history and art and it all just made sense. After that, I came home, changed my major, and told my father. In that order because I didn’t want him talking me out of it. I have been an art history major since and I have Botticelli to thank for that. So yes, what you’re saying all makes perfect sense to me.

    I would like to ask a follow-up question about Botticelli if you don’t mind? What are your feelings on his relationship with Savonarola? I personally was horrified by the outcome that insane friar had on him.

    While I’ll always love Botticelli, Caravaggio is my true love. Currently, I have at least 4 biographies and 6 different copies of his full works and works in detail. In fact, I have a copy of his “Boy with a Basket of Fruit” hanging in my kitchen. I wrote a research paper on him this last semester and am planning to expand on it for my senior thesis. What I love most about my studies is I don’t just look at art; I get to delve deep into the minds, and experiences of the artists. Caravaggio is just an amazing character. Did you know he killed a man over losing a tennis match? Or that he threw artichokes at a waiter in a restaurant?

    Unfortunately, modern art and I are not strangers, but I have the same feelings towards it as you. However, I stop caring after post-impressionism. There are a FEW expressionists that I enjoy; such as Kieffer, Munch, Kandinsky, and Kirchner; and this is strictly because I have studied their lives. Anything after that, I just lose all interest. However, Dada, conceptual, and abstraction go a step further and actually irritate me. I do not consider myself an artist. Yes, I can paint and draw. I’ve had my share of studio classes and I’ve learned the proper techniques, but I don’t consider myself good. So in my opinion, if I can do it, it’s probably not art.

    Van Gogh is the definition of the tragic artist. I have warmed up to him and some of his work over the past few years. I feel like it’s important to try to understand the artist, versus the artwork, especially for modern art. For example, if one were to look at your work without knowing you, they’d probably come to a completely different conclusion than someone who might understand you on a more personal level. Even if your work is more allegorical. There is a theory that Van Gogh had a color vision deficiency called “Xanthopsia.” Also, know as Yellow Vision because of the yellow haze it caused the seer. This could explain Van Gogh’s extremely yellow palette. Also, one of the treatments side effects caused a swirling movement to ones vision. Some historians believe that this side effect explains Van Gogh’s swirling brushstrokes. Even if you don’t like him as an artist, you can now understand him a bit better as a person.

    I AM SO HAPPY YOU LOOKED UP THE PENIS TREES! Most of those manuscripts were found in a how-to guide for finding and killing witches. Men actually believed witches could physically steal their penises and then hid them in trees! There’s a joke that is drawn out in one of the manuscripts were a man finds one of these trees and makes a deal with the witch, in return she tells him to pick whichever member he likes. Obviously, he picks the biggest one and she says “No no, you can’t have that one. It can not be used as it belongs to a priest.” While the dark ages were dark, the humor is still the same today.
    I have seen the last image before. Art historians have no real explanation for these kinds of drawings. I think everyone has just settled on they were board.

    Latin….oh…latin… Originally I was going to take Italian, but the language department of my university had to downsize for a short amount of time. I was left to choose between Spanish, French, and Latin. Latin seemed like the next best choice for my degree. Since then, my university has brought back the other languages; but seeing as I have to have 2 years of the same language, I can’t go back and take Italian and still graduate on time…..
    I barely came out of Latin I with an A, but only after it gave me one hell of an ancient ass kicking. I have Latin II this fall and to say I’m stressed is an understatement. I’m determined to make my second A, but I’m not sure if I’m mentally prepared for the abuse.

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