Art Class

I want you to focus on developing a vocabulary for describing art.  Here are a couple of websites to start with.  You could also look through the “Art” section of my blog.  I thank Minal for supplying the following website.

Google Art Project

New Delhi based blogger on art– Johny ML 

Could the class please upload their posts in the comments section below?


  1. Chardin (1699-1779)
    Chardin is known to be one of the greatest masters of still life during the 18th century. Chardin during his period is known to change the art form from Rococo to more real life art form. During the period, Rococo was a popular art form that was a pretentious style crammed with allegorical images from classical mythology swirling with ornate decoration. Chardin found Rococco as intellectual and started painting his interpretations of the real life objects.
    I like Chardin’s paintings because they are an art in the simplest of household items. Additionally, it is also encompasses certain structures in his paintings.Chardin portrayed items from his own house and were selected by him for their shapes, colors etc. Most of his pictures had these objects blending closely with the background colors. It created an overall effect of the objects emerging out slowly from the background.
    Chardin looked for beauty in the common objects. A Beauty that a normal human being did not see as we all are very close to such beauty embedded in our day-to-day lives.
    Chardin’s ‘Glass of Water and Coffee Pot’ contains many of the key elements of his deceptively simple still lifes. His subject matter is always secondary to his search for the compositional balance of tone and colour. The subject comprises three common kitchen items arranged on a concrete shelf: a glass of water, a charred copper coffee pot and a few cloves of garlic. It is the harmonies and contrasts that he builds into the visual elements of these ordinary objects that make this painting extraordinary.
    All modern artists share some basic principles of arts with chardin – an art form that is without any superfluous details and reached through the drawing of pure forms.


  2. Amrita Shergill
    Amrita Shergill is a Hungarian born Indian painter who, in certain circles, is referred to as India’s Frida Kahlo. Her work is considered to be on par with the Masters of Bengal Renaissance. Born to an Indian father and a Hungarian mother, Amrita’s career as a painter started under the tutelage of her uncle, Ervin Baktay. From such distant beginnings, Amrita moved with her family to India at the age of 9 and eventually came to be recognized as the most expensive woman painter of India. Amrita’s career was initially influenced by European painters such as Paul Gauguin among others. After a couple of stints in Europe – in Italy and France – during the early parts of her painting career, Amrita return to India in 1934 in answer to her inner calling: “feeling in some strange way that there lay my destiny as a painter”.
    Amrita’s paintings can be classified into two sections. The European, specifically Hungarian, influenced earlier part of her work and the quintessentially Indian, later part of her work. The second part of her work began with her never-ending journey in pursuit of the traditions of Indian art. In India, Amrita was influenced by the Mughal miniatures, Pahari paintings, and the Ajanta cave paintings. Her travels in the southern parts of India resulted in her South-Indian trilogy paintings: ‘Bride’s Toilet’, ‘Brahmacharis’ and ‘The South Indian Villagers’.
    Perhaps one of the most impressive and accomplished Indian artists belonging to the pre-colonial era, Amrita was the youngest and the only Asian to have been elected as an Associate of the Grand Salon in Paris. Amrita’s work, which she herself admitted was her artistic mission, reflects her deep passion for painting, her sense of color, and most notably her empathy for her Indian subjects, depicted through their poverty and despair.


  3. My view about Cesar Pelli’s work:
    Born in Argentina, Cesar Pelli is a world renowned architect best known for designing some of the world’s tallest buildings and major urban landmarks. Pelli is often praised for using a wide variety of materials and designs, seeking new solutions for each location. He believes that buildings should be responsible citizens and that the aesthetic qualities of a building should grow from the specific characteristics of each project such as its location, its construction technology, and its purpose.
    In one of the books, he discusses what makes architecture unique among the arts: that it stands at the junction of a profession and an art, that its completion is final, that it is meant to be inhabited and taken over by its inhabitants.
    He bases his analysis on eight principal “connections”: time, construction, place, purpose, culture, design process, constituency, and oneself. Each connection has a historic and contemporary view attached to it. For e.g. Petronas Towers – the world’s tallest buildings in Kuala Lumpur, is twin star-shaped skyscrapers to reflect Malaysia’s Islamic heritage. This project and others, including Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C., and the World Financial Center in New York City, demonstrate that large and complex structures can both maintain and enliven the cultural character of the built environment.
    Though Pelli was trained as Modern architect in 1950’s, I find his work as late modernism. With the efficacy towards colors and historical and cultural expressions in his designs, we can stand him as unclassifiable architect.
    Skyscraper is not only about the length of the building but also about the energy it reflects. The grandness of Pelli’s work is reflected in all such sky scrapers. The use of striking colors and glass consistently across the design is something that makes us familiar with Pelli’s work. The use of glass appropriately suggests his inclination towards ecology and environment. An example to site this is Rainbow center mall and winter garden in Niagara Falls, New York. The main entrance welcomes visitors with a 120-foot tall glass-enclosed conservatory filled with exotic lush landscaping, small pools, stone pathways and raised walkways. The glass admits maximum amounts of natural light, making the building an escape from the rough winter climate of upstate New York.
    His design strategy is also inclined towards flexibility and future expansions. Hotel Aria at Las Vegas is a one example I can think of as of now. I have personally visited that and it gives the grand feeling on looking at its exteriors. It is one of the Hotels that does not symbolize any major vis-à-vis other hotels in Vegas such as Paris or New York- New York but still the glass work and the simplistic design makes it stand out from the rest.


  4. Pseudo-real Art by Devajyoti Ray
    Devajyoti Ray is credited to have brought in the pseudo-real form of painting into the Indian art market. Pseudoreal art consists of amalgamating individually abstract shapes and figures into an imagery that appears real. Ray’s brand of pseudorealism involves depiction of everyday scenes in Indian life, treated in an offbeat manner using offbeat colours and abstract symbols. Some of his popular works are titled Goodbye, Mother, Toiletry and Bangle Seller.
    The origins of pseudo real art can be attributed to the propagandistic and pseudo imagery being created by modern artifacts such as the media and politics. Ray’s art most significantly is a reflection of the manner in which several abstract and individually baseless ideas can be put together into colourful imagery that seems to make sense to the casual observer.


  5. SABITABRATA BANERJEE – On Rabindranath Tagore
    A bullock cart, laden with earthenware, driven by Bansi while his nephew Madan manages the pots and pans, strolls through the village roads towards the Friday haat… This was my first introduction to Rabindranath Tagore. As I read through the poem, the world of imagination engulfed me forcing me to enter into the canvas of my little slate a bullock cart.

    The genius of Rabindranath Tagore lay in his ability to showcase beauty in simplicity.
    The phantoms of faces, Come unbidden into my vacant hours. Fondly indulgent is my Mistress of the Line to the errant in the poet.”— Rabindranath Tagore

    Although Rabindranath Tagore had sporadically experimented, his earlier career as a painter flourished in the first half of the 1920’s. Tagore went on to produce close to 2,500 paintings, exhibited across India, Europe and Asia. This period also saw some of Tagore’s most sensitive writings on art and aesthetics, apart from the setting up of Kala Bhavan, the institute of art that he saw as an integral part of his experimental university. Clearly the “mistress of lines” whom
    Rabindranath so dearly nurtured had a deep fascination for him.

    Key to Tagore’s artistic vision was the idea of personality and harmony. Impressionism appealed to Tagore’s individual perception of reality. Some of his landscape paintings and his self portrait definitely reveal impressionist tendencies. Tagore’s use of color too reveals idiosyncrasies as he experimented with pigmentation to produce a boldness that was largely absent in contemporary Indian art.

    Tagore’s fascination for geometrical shapes is also manifested in several of his paintings. For Tagore, these shapes seem to be strangely imbued with the expressionist revelation of deep psychic pain.
    As one moves through the later paintings of Tagore there is an overpowering sense of darkness and the grotesque, an aspect that is also brought out in the numerous mask paintings that depict the subject in pain.

    Tagore moved on and collaborated with Nandalal Bose, frequently drawing from him the representation of the everyday details. With Nandalal, Tagore also embarked upon the woodcuts of Sahaj Path, the Bengali primer where images from everyday life were used for pedagogic purposes.

    Bansi and Madan taking their earthenware to the haat arouse the child’s imagination and perhaps it was Tagore’s way of introducing a child to the world of literature and simultaneously inspiring him in expressing his imagination on a canvas.


  6. A write up on Jitish Kallat:
    Jitish Kallat, a graduate of the Mumbai’s prestigious JJ School of Art, is among the leading figures of contemporary Indian art. He works with varied media including paintings, sculpture installations, photography and video. Mumbai, the city where Jitish was born and is currently based, forms a recurring theme across many of his works. He has a bold visual style, sometimes using advertising imagery and often inspired by scenes from Mumbai, while being dramatic.
    In this write up I describe a few of his works from previous exhibitions, some of which I liked and all of which I believe, form a representative sample of his works.
    The triptych series of which Sweatopia is a part (including Eclipse and other works like Horrorificabilitudinitatibus which has more than 3 panels), is very symbolic of his work style and his primary inspiration – Mumbai and its denizens. The painting comprises of a photo montage scene of people (in the other works individuals, children, etc). Their hair is replaced with sketches of chaotic Mumbai scenes (slums, traffic, animals, etc). The name is a play on Sweat and Utopia and the works symbolize the daily struggle of the average Mumbai citizen while exuding hope. The style is very pop art, almost kitsch. Somewhat reminiscent of Andy Warhol and yet the language is distinct and very individualistic.
    This is a large sized sculpture installation again inspired by scenes from Mumbai. It depicts a child selling books at traffic signals. The sculpture is stark, made of black lead and dramatic. The child is probably illiterate and evidently poor, but is not seeking pity. Instead his pose is quite defiant. His feet are shaped like houses, symbolizing his nomadic nature – his home is where ever he chooses to put his feet. Another work in this series is the Annexe depicting a child with a thick rope to lash himself, asking for alms – again not out of pity as charity, but as a fee to watch him lash himself.
    Death of Distance
    A very simplistically executed and yet hard hitting work. This was inspired by a news report of a school girl committing suicide because her mother couldn’t afford to give her a rupee. The installation consists of a large 1 rupee coin placed in front of 4 panels displaying alternately (depending on where the viewer is standing), a news report on BSNL charging 1 rupee for STD calls and another news report of the school girl’s suicide).
    One could accuse Jitish of exploiting poverty, pandering to western notions of India to create art that would sell, but I like to see his work as a response to his surroundings and a labour of love for his muse, the city.
    Aquasaurus, Autosaurus Tripous, Collindonthus
    A series of installations of vehicles in skeletal form starting with Aquasaurus, a water tanker depicted as a fossilized skeleton. The works are very dramatic and in your face. And lend themselves to multiple interpretations. For example does Aquasaurus depict the end of water woes or the end of cities themselves? Among his works, I am unable to connect with this series – they seem attention grabbing in a macabre sense (somewhat like the works of Damien Hirst).


  7. Paresh Maity

    I first came across Paresh Maity when I read about “The Indian Odyssey”, a massive 800 feet long oil painting commissioned by GMR for the new T3 terminal at Delhi. The painting is purported to be the largest contemporary work of art in India. Having researched a bit about Maity, it was quite obvious why he was chosen for the job. He is after all one of those contemporary artists in India especially comfortable with large canvasses. Moreover, his impressionist style combined with the use of vivid basic colors is quite suited to represent the celebration of India.

    Maity’s works are predominantly either watercolor landscapes or oil on canvas figures of people. Although a keen photographer, he has used watercolor to bring alive the picturesque landscapes. A central theme of many of his watercolors is the sea and the seashore, lined with boats. Unlike certain artists sticking to their genres, Maity is prolific with both watercolor landscapes and strikingly different oil canvas figures. His paintings depict figures of Indian people, especially women. You can deduce it is a Maity oil painting from the sharp features of the figures (nose and eyes) combined with an embedding of peaceful birds, fish, etc…Maity’s paintings are without exception peaceful and happy; there is no place for misery or horror on his canvas. He has also created quite a few sensual paintings; however I do not personally find them attractive, although he infuses a similar style as his oil canvas figures embedded with birds, into these paintings.


  8. Caravaggio
    One of the key artists whose work has impressed me is Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio—an Italian artist from the 16th century, more popularly known simply as Caravaggio. I was lucky to see some of his paintings during my travels. I have seen several of his paintings but some of his works that have particularly impressed me are:
    • The Taking of Christ – National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin
    • The Supper at Emmaus – National Gallery, London
    Some of the key reasons for my interest in his paintings include:
    1. Medium- Most of his works are oil paintings which I tend to appreciate more than other mediums like watercolours.
    2. Religious themes: Several of Caravaggio’s paintings are based on religious themes, particularly those from the Bible and these exemplified the Baroque movement of which he was a leading figure. In these paintings he has used life-like figures and the expressions and the emotions of the people depicted are as natural as it can get. The usage of shades and lines in his work is such that it gives his characters a very strong sense of three-dimensionalism even though his medium is two-dimensional. No wonder he is considered a prime exponent of naturalism and realism.
    3. Chiaroscuro usage: Caravaggio was the master of the chiaroscuro technique which is an extreme contrast of light and dark value. The figures seem to be simply emerging out of darkness and the faces have a radiance completely in contrast with their dark surroundings. This is particularly prominent in The Taking of Christ. The usage of light and the reflections created by it is a critical element in his work.
    4. Natural settings: Most of his work, although depicting specific religious themes do not have grandiose settings and there is hardly any usage of lavish or luxurious surroundings.


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