Week 1

Pieter Bruegel the Elder (The Netherlands, 1525 – 1569), The Harvesters, 1565, oil on wood, 46 x 53 inches. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

INTRODUCTION:

Modern art begins in the middle of the 19th Century, in the 1850s, and lasts until approximately the 1960s. After that, once the vocabulary of modernism has been established and fully explored, the art made in the 1970s and 1980s is called post-modern art. Art made within the last 15-20 years is generally called contemporary art.

To bring everyone up to date historically to the beginning of the modern era, it is highly recommended/suggested that you read or skim the essay ‘A Brief History of Western Culture’ on smarthistory.org if you feel you need general historical background:

Before we get to the first modern artists and modern style of painting, called Impressionism, we will spend this week reviewing major terms and important concepts that are fundamental to discussing and analyzing works of art.

On smarthistory.org, from the ‘Start Here’ banner at the top, select the ‘Tools for Understanding Art’ drop-down menu and from there, watch the first four short videos in the menu on the left. LINK to first one: http://smarthistory.org/chiaroscuro-explained/

Each explains a central characteristic of painting that developed during the Renaissance resulting in artworks appearing naturalistic or extremely life-like in their appearance. Since these techniques for making images were used by artists for several centuries leading up to the modern era, we must understand their role in image making in order to understand why it was such a big deal when modern artists began to break these visual rules and pushed back against the expectation of naturalistic and illusionistic images that usually featured an important historical event, a person of national importance or a religious subject.

The four terms are: chiaroscuro, foreshortening, linear perspective and atmospheric perspective. For each term, in your notes, write down a short definition in your own words of what the term means and how it functions or what it does within a painting. Use the week #1 powerpoint where slides #2 – #12 review these terms.

Keep in mind that these techniques are not used individually, but employed together to depict objects and provide structure within images so that they appear illusionistic of real space and so that forms appear to have volume and mass. It is often good to think in terms of opposites – use of these techniques is what makes artworks appear to be three-dimensional rather than appearing to be flat and two-dimensional, like the canvas on which they are painted.

Read and carefully review the terms and concepts on the preliminary document (6 pages) to familiarize yourself with various terms and concepts related to making art. If anything is unclear, bring your specific questions to class next week to clear up.

Complete the terms and concepts worksheet (3 pages) of short answer questions in which you will be applying many of these terms and concepts to artworks included in the introductory powerpoint (powerpoint on Blackboard only). (The powerpoint will also include many of the artworks seen as illustrations in the videos and essays for review.)

Once you have finished the worksheet, contribute one answer of your choice from your work to the assignment’s class wiki on Blackboard (not questions 2 or 10). If someone has answered a question with the same answer as you, select and answer a different question. If your answer is different, then add it, but no one question should have more than two different answers until every question is answered at least once.

This wiki is one of the two ways I will be assessing your understanding of the content and through which you will be accumulating participation points. The second is by me checking in but not collecting your worksheet in class. Once the wiki is completed, it will serve as a way for everyone to self-review the terms and concepts themselves so everyone is clear and accurate on the meanings.

Read two short essays and complete the following 3 written components and exercises based on the contents of these essays:

  1. Compile thorough yet extremely concise notes of the contents of these essays. For ‘Becoming Modern’, keep notes divided into the 8 sub-categories, beginning with the introductory paragraphs then followed by 7 subheadings using these subheading words.

For each category, pull out only the most important and defining individual words or short phrases that relate to the subheading and compile a list or outline of terms related to each of these 8 categories.

For ‘What is Modern Art’ and its 5 sub-categories, again, keep concise and very short, targeted notes adding only the new key words and information. If material relates to an established category from the ‘Becoming Modern’ essay, add it there and only make new sub-categories for entirely new content.

If you need to look up a word’s meaning on dictionary.com, do it.

  1. After compiling your notes, go to the class wiki on Blackboard for these essays and add 2 terms or concepts from your notes from either essay (it might be mentioned in both) into the categories in the wiki. If a term has already been added by someone else, do not repeat it, add a new and different one. The point here is to pull out only the most important content and to build a group outline of major terms and concepts associated with modernity for easy reference.
  2. Think about what it means to be modern based on the discussions in these essays. Being modern implies an awareness of and relationship to the influential elements that affect the day-to-day development and functioning of a society.
  • For example, today, you wouldn’t be considered a modern person if you used a typewriter or a feathered quill pen and ink to write a quick note to someone. You would be considered old-fashioned. Or, maybe you are being deliberately ironic or retro, but that still reflects your understanding of modernism to make this stylistic choice to forgo the modern device, such as a phone for texting or a computer for email.

On a separate page from your notes, using complete sentences, explain what it means to be a modern person today in relation to each of the first three categories in the ‘Becoming Modern’ essay: capitalism, urban culture, and technology.

In a few sentences for each term, explain a modern issue today that relates to capitalism; a modern issue relevant today that relates to urban culture; and a modern issue or element of society that relates to technology. Be specific about a relevant and topical issue that affects people today and explain it to me.

Do not use examples from the essay or my example about email and texting above. Your answers do not have to and most likely will not be about art at all. This first writing assignment will give me insight into some of the things that are important or relevant to you and will enable me to assess your writing for the first time.

For class next week – summary of the 4 required things to do:

  • Bring the completed worksheet of terms and concepts for in-class review.
  • Bring a separate page with your responses to the ‘Becoming Modern’ essay to turn in (either neatly handwritten or typed).
  • Contribute note-taking content from the ‘Becoming Modern’ essay and the ‘What is Modern Art?’ essay to the class wiki.
  • Contribute one answer from the terms and concepts worksheet to the assignment’s class wiki (after the in-class review of this material, you are expected to go back and fix, edit, or update as needed your own content to make sure it is accurate and thorough as we begin to compile a reference guide for use throughout the semester.)

Remember / FYI:

  • The powerpoints and the wikis are always on Blackboard, not on this wordpress site.
  • The terms and concepts document and worksheet is available (both links above in the text) here and on Blackboard.
  • If you are turning in your work typed this week, get in the habit of submitting typed work in a simple 12-point font, double spaced, and do not insert images into a text. Always proofread and run spell check.