Summer Holidays #2: Sculpture Trail

 

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Pyxis, by Ray Haydon

Brick Bay Winery, which I wrote about in my last post, has a rather unique feature: it is home to an extensive collection of contemporary sculptures laid out along a native bush walk which, for a small fee, visitors can explore. Curious to see more modern sculpture, to which I’ve had a limited exposure, I paid my fee and, along with a friend and his teenaged son, began a two-hour exploration. Continue reading “Summer Holidays #2: Sculpture Trail”

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A Very Short History of Art: The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Realism, and Impressionism

1 Camille Corot A View Near Volterra 1838
Camille Corot, ‘A View Near Volterra’, 1838. Neither Romantic nor Realist, but merging aspects of both, this view is a real one, based on sketches Corot made on a visit to Italy a decade before.

From the early Christian period to the Rococo, the story of European art is one of evolution: the Gothic art of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries blossomed into the Renaissance of the fifteenth and sixteenth, which developed into the elaborate Baroque of the seventeenth century, which reached the furthest extent of its development in the Rococo of the early eighteenth. Only at that point did a conscious disconnection from the immediately preceding style occur, first in the opposition of Neoclassicism to the principles of the Rococo, and then in the rebellion of Romanticism against the principles of Neoclassicism.

But as we move into the nineteenth century, something different happens. For the first time, rather than a single, unified artistic school or a pair of opposing schools we encounter the beginnings of a plurality of distinct artistic styles. These styles sprang from different, sometimes conflicting, artistic philosophies, but they coexisted alongside one another, and in doing so arguably laid the groundwork for the endless variation in artistic expression which would be produced by the artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Continue reading “A Very Short History of Art: The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Realism, and Impressionism”

Local Culture: UCOL’s Print and Puppets at the Edith Gallery

20160624_112116Established in 1902, Whanganui’s Universal College of Learning offers over a hundred courses, including a number of nationally-recognised art courses. Recently my friend Anne Bennett, who is enrolled in UCOL’s Certificate of Art and Design, invited me along to see a display of puppets, woodcuts, and drypoint prints at UCOL’s Edith Gallery (named after local artist Edith Collier, who I really must write a post about at some point). Continue reading “Local Culture: UCOL’s Print and Puppets at the Edith Gallery”

A Very Short History of Art: The Renaissance

Fr Angelico Annunciation 1432
Fr. Angelico, The Annunciation, 1432.

The ‘Renaissance’ (‘rebirth’), which began in Italy in the early 1400s, spread progressively through the rest of Europe, and (from an artistic standpoint at least) ended in the early 1600s, left with us some of the greatest names and most recognisable masterpieces in European art.

After the centuries of intellectual decimation left in the wake of the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Renaissance was a time of increasing enquiry and experimentation in multiple fields. A renewed interest in the workings of the natural world led to the beginnings of modern science. The questioning of old religious assumptions and hierarchies led, in the North, to the Protestant Reformation. The invention of the printing press led to an unprecedented spread of literature, literacy, and literary endeavour. And in art a quest for greater realism led to changes in both technique and subject matter. Continue reading “A Very Short History of Art: The Renaissance”

A Very Short History of Art: The Early Christian to the Gothic

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Early depiction of Jesus, c.375 C.E.

As the Roman Empire fell into decline and collapse another unifying cultural force began to spread through Europe, this time not by a process of conquest and empire-building, but through the gentler methods of persuasion and spiritual transformation. Legalised by Emperor Constantine I in 313 C.E. and declared the official religion of the Roman Empire under Theodosius I in 380 C.E., the rising influence of Christianity and the waning power of Rome had a huge influence on art throughout Europe.

Christianity had inherited from its Jewish roots strong taboos against idolatry and nudity. Moreover, the new religion emphasised the pursuit of spiritual over physical perfection. Where once the athlete’s sculptured muscles and the maiden’s curvaceous beauty had epitomised all that was most desirable in humanity, now the focus was on gaining spiritual enlightenment and eternal life in the hereafter. Continue reading “A Very Short History of Art: The Early Christian to the Gothic”

A Very Short History of Art: The Prehistoric to the Ancient

Lscaux Horses
Horses from the Lascaux cave paintings.

I’m at it again, compressing decades, and in this case millennia, of history into a few hundred words. This time I’ve set my sights on the world of European Art, and am starting at the very beginning: with Palaeolithic art and the ancient cave paintings of Lascaux.

I’ve already posted about these under Paintings You Should Know, but suffice it to say no-one now knows what motivated our ancient ancestors, over 17,000 years ago, to work by the light of flickering torches deep underground to paint, with prehistoric brushes and pigments, gigantic images of the animals then plentiful in ice-age Europe. What we do know is that no other animal that we are aware of has ever set out to create visual or symbolic representations of the things they observe in the world around them: the impulse to create art seems to be uniquely human. Continue reading “A Very Short History of Art: The Prehistoric to the Ancient”

Local Culture: Artists Open Studios

Every AOSMarch Whanganui hosts its annual Artists Open Studios event. My town has a thriving artistic community, and Open Studios gives them an opportunity to showcase their work to both the local community and visitors from out of town. The event has been running for more than ten years, and in that time has grown from a small event by the river to something which includes artists throughout the region (last year I drove nearly an hour to visit studios in Waverley) and runs over not one but two consecutive weekends. Continue reading “Local Culture: Artists Open Studios”

Art You Should Know: The Angel of the North by Sir Antony Gormley

Angel of the North
The Angel of the North, by Sir Antony Gormley,

‘…but [the angels] said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”‘

Completed in 1998, the towering (20m tall) Angel of the North dominates the skyline over the A1 and A167 roads near Gateshead in Tyne and Wear, England, and is instantly recognisable throughout Britain. Continue reading “Art You Should Know: The Angel of the North by Sir Antony Gormley”

Art You Should Know: Michelangelo’s Pieta

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Michelangelo’s Pieta, 1498-1499

“… and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Simeon’s prophesy to Mary when she presented the infant Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem, Luke 2:35b (NIV)

Michelangelo Buonarroti carved his ‘Pieta’ from Carrara marble in 1498-1499, originally as a funeral monument for the French Cardinal Jean de Bilheres. It measures 1.74m by 1.95m and is the only piece Michelangelo ever signed. Continue reading “Art You Should Know: Michelangelo’s Pieta”