Art Talk

Art or Artist

Following a chat with professional artist on twitter, (Ian Pearshall see links page on this site for his), where I outlined what some of the factors that made me like a piece, I got onto the subject of whether or not it was important to me to know about the artist behind it.

I went through several instances of paintings I was drawn to without knowing a thing about either the background or the artist at all. Is it necessary I argued that we know anything? Can we not just value the work without any information? Is it always the case that after the initial sight of a piece we want more information about the artwork and or the processes, things that inspired it and lead to its creation or the life of the artist who created it or both?

Beata Beatrice

Gabrielle Dante Rossetti

This famous work by Gabrielle Dante Rossetti I got a print of years ago, framed it and it hangs on my wall to this day. For many years afterwards I knew nothing about either the painting or the artist, and was not in the remotest bit interested in finding out more other than to look for other works by him. None I found had the same effect or impact on me which is not surprising when I tell you why I love it to this day and why I didn’t want to know more for a long, long time.

I was blown away by this painting when I saw for the first time and continue to be so for one reason and one reason only. So much so in fact that I nearly cropped the print I had of it to just this.

That expression for me on it’s own is sheer genius because it doesn’t just capture a moment of time but a nano second and I’ve seen no other painting before of since to have merited that response. All the other elements Rossetti carefully and painstakingly took to the time to include irritated me. At the time this was painted a universally understood language of symbolism existed which to the modern viewer is largely lost, but I’m not about to spoil those new to this work to share what symbolism Rossetti included and meant to say by using them.

I felt that if we saw Beata like this as a film held on pause and then moved forward frame by frame the next few frames would reveal much more about what she was both thinking and feeling and that is what makes this painting so extraordinary in my opinion.

Rossetti himself might be mortified by this if he were alive today, or simply delighted to hear I enjoy it so much. I came across it around the time I was studying Art History at A level so had got into the habit of reading up on works and the artists who create them so had to make a conscious effort not to regarding Beata Beatrice, until one day I thought it unfair on Rossetti not to.

The value of the new

When an unknown artwork comes to our attention we know nothing about them or the story behind the piece. Many prefer to keep such things to themselves and we largely don’t expect to learn more. Why then has it become the norm to expect professional artists to bear their souls by revealing their inner workings, thoughts, feelings and entire life history in order to to be able to sell their work? Some don’t if course but the majority end up doing so.

My art history studies at school started, as was normally the case back then with European Art,  and with the Renaissance and Giotto because up until that point in Europe no one had really studied folds in the clothes worn before attempting to  represent them accurately. It sparked folk doing so and from there we whizzed through to the High Renaissance and the explosion of genres, styles and movements that then ensued. Each one was a reaction to something before it either by rejecting the fashion of the time or by developing a style from any period.

As time passed in that chronological journey, the techniques used began to become of paramount interest to successive artists because back in Giottos day if you wanted to do a realist artwork absolutely everyone needed to learn how to draw and paint everything they saw from scratch as no one had even thought if it before. Some started to focus more on perspective to get that right, others explored colour and so on. To this day techniques remain among the top things those interested in art ask about for for exactly the same reason… They want to have a go themselves.

Interest in the life of an artist really started to take off at the of the High Renaissance as by then it wasn’t just religion that people wanted depicted; wealthy patrons and families wanted commissioned pieces and if you were an artist then you started to promote your wares by sharing more about yourself to make a living. But it’s really only become the norm when agents got involved a couple if centuries ago as more and more people began to afford to buy pieces. My next Friday piece will explore further about how we quantify creativity in ‘Art Worth’.

Feel free to comment on anything you see on here that sparks your interest at any point. I can’t promise to respond quickly, but will do my best whenever possible.

Published by SketchSocial

Amateur artist trying to complete my challenge of an artwork for each day of this year. Along the way I'm sharing techniques, favourite artists for anyone interested.

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