Art & Aesthetics: Brief History

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    Aesthetics: Evolution & History

    By

    Shashwata Datta

    07 8

    MMC(AV)-2011

    Submitted to

    Prof. Ashwin Ramanathan

    Often it has been witnessed throughout history; arts, aesthetics, literature and architecture etc.

    have always been riding the wave of the prevalent philosophy of the times. Every time there was

    a major change in philosophical views of the times, literary and artistic movements would soon

    follow. Here we shall only concern ourselves with development of western arts and aesthetics.

    Pinpointing the meaning of aesthetics, is a very tricky task as its meaning is subject to the

    time, location and context of the instance it is referred to. Here aesthetics can be equaled with

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    Medieval Period 450 AD-1400 AD

    Post the Classical period and before the advent of Renaissance there were many minor artmovements in Europe. They are,

    Byzantine art

    is the term commonly used to describe the artistic products of the Byzantine Empire. Byzantine

    art developed out of the art of the Roman empire, which was itself profoundly influenced by

    ancient Greek art. Byzantine art never lost sight of this classical heritage.

    Medieval Christian art

    Much of the art in this form was religious in focus, often funded by the Church, powerful

    ecclesiastical individuals such as bishops, communal groups such as abbeys. One of the central

    questions about medieval Christian art concerns its lack of realism. They simply sent a religious

    message, a task which demands clear iconic images instead of precisely rendered ones.

    Romanesque art

    The name Romanesque refers to the fusion of Roman, Carolingian and Ottoman, Byzantine, and

    local Germanic traditions that make up the mature style. Although perhaps the most striking

    advances in Romanesque art were made in France, the style was current in all parts of Europe

    except those areas in Eastern Europe that preserved a full-fledged Byzantine tradition.

    Architecture, sculpture, and painting of this kind flourished in Europe during the middle Ages.

    Romanesque architecture emerged about 1000 and lasted until about 1150, by which time it had

    evolved into Gothic.

    Gothic art

    Gothic art evolved from Romanesque art and lasted from the mid-12th century to as late as the

    end of the 16th century in some areas. The term Gothic was coined by classicizing Italian writers

    of the Renaissance, who attributed the invention (and what to them was the neoclassical

    ugliness) of medieval architecture to the barbarian Gothic tribes that had destroyed the Roman

    Empire and its classical culture in the 5th century ad.

    Renaissance 1400 AD-1600 AD

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    The Renaissance began in northern Italy and then spread through Europe. Italian cities such as

    Naples, Genoa, and Venice became centers of trade between Europe and the Middle East. Arab

    scholars preserved the writings of the ancient Greeks in their libraries. When the Italian cities

    traded with the Arabs, ideas were exchanged along with goods. These ideas, preserved from the

    ancient past, served as the basis of the Renaissance. When the Byzantine Empire fell to Muslim

    Turks in 1453, many Christian scholars left Greece for Italy.

    The Renaissance was a cultural movement that profoundly affected European intellectual life in

    the early modern period. Beginning in Italy, and spreading to the rest of Europe by the 16th

    century, its influence affected literature, philosophy, art, politics, science, religion, and other

    aspects of intellectual inquiry. Renaissance scholars employed the humanist method in study, and

    searched for realism and human emotion in art.

    The Renaissance was much more than simply studying the work of ancient scholars. It

    influenced painting, sculpture, and architecture. Paintings became more realistic and focused less

    often on religious topics. Rich families became patrons and commissioned great art. Artistsadvanced the Renaissance style of showing nature and depicting the feelings of people. In

    Britain, there was a flowering in literature and drama that included the plays of William

    Shakespeare.

    Mannerism 1530 AD -1600 AD

    Mannerism is a period of European art that emerged from the later years of the Italian High

    Renaissance around 1520. It lasted until about 1580 in Italy, when a more Baroque style began toreplace it. Mannerism encompasses a variety of approaches influenced by, and reacting to, the

    harmonious ideals and restrained naturalism associated with artists such as Leonardo da Vinci,Raphael, and early Michelangelo. Mannerism is notable for its intellectual sophistication as well

    as its artificial (as opposed to naturalistic) qualities.

    In Mannerist paintings, compositions can have no focal point, space can be ambiguous, figures

    can be characterized by an athletic bending and twisting with distortions, exaggerations, an

    elastic elongation of the limbs, bizarre posturing on one hand, graceful posturing on the other

    hand, and a rendering of the heads as uniformly small and oval. The composition is jammed by

    clashing colors, which is unlike what we've seen in the balanced, natural, and dramatic colors of

    the High Renaissance. Mannerist artwork seeks instability and restlessness. There is also afondness for allegories that have lascivious undertones.

    Baroque 1600 AD -1700 AD

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    Baroque is an artistic style most often defined as "the dominant style of art in Europe between

    the Mannerist and Rococo eras, a style characterized by dynamic movement, overt emotion and

    self-confident rhetoric. It was the art style or art movement of the Counter-Reformation in the

    seventeenth century. Although some features appear in Dutch art, the Baroque style was limited

    mainly to Catholic countries. It is a style in which painters, sculptors, and architects sought

    emotion, movement, and variety in their works. The appeal of Baroque style turned consciously

    from the witty, intellectual qualities of 16th century Mannerist art to a visceral appeal aimed at

    the senses. It employed an iconography that was direct, simple, obvious, and dramatic.

    Some general parallels in music make the expression "Baroque music" useful. Contrasting

    phrase lengths, harmony and counterpoint ousted polyphony, and orchestral color made a

    stronger appearance. Similar fascination with simple, strong, dramatic expression in poetry,

    where clear, broad syncopated rhythms replaced the elaborated metaphysical similes employed

    by Mannerists such as John Donne and imagery that was strongly influenced by visual

    developments in painting, can be sensed in John Milton'sParadise Lost, a Baroque epic.

    Theatre evolved in the Baroque era and became a multimedia experience, starting with the actual

    architectural space. In fact, much of the technology used in current Broadway or commercial

    plays was invented and developed during this era. The stage could change from a romantic

    garden to the interior of a palace in a matter of seconds. The entire space became a framed

    selected area that only allows the users to see a specific action, hiding all the machinery and

    technology - mostly ropes and pulleys.

    This technology affected the content of the narrated or performed pieces, practicing at its best the

    Deus ex Machina solution. Gods were finally able to come down - literally - from the heavens

    and rescue the hero in the most extreme and dangerous, even absurd situations.

    Rococo 1700 AD -1770 AD

    Rococo describes a movement in the arts in the early 18th century, in France. Rococo has been

    born from the Baroque era, during the age of Enlightenment. That was a time when new ideas

    about human existence were introduced and Rococo art is the visual representation of the

    optimism people felt in response to that.

    The word "rococo" is derived from "rocaille", meaning "rock work" or "shell work," a favorite

    motif of the time. It stresses purely ornamental, light, casual, irregular design.

    Though Rococo originated in the purely decorative arts, the style showed clearly in painting.

    These painters used delicate colors and curving forms, decorating their canvases with cherubs

    and myths of love. Portraiture was also popular among Rococo painters.

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    Neoclassism 1750-1800

    It is the name given to quite distinct movements in the decorative and visual arts, literature,theatre, music, and architecture that draw upon Western classical art and culture (usually that of

    Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome).Neoclassicism arose partly as a reaction against the sensuous

    and frivolously decorative Rococo style that had dominated European art from the 1720s on. But

    an even more profound stimulus was the new and more scientific interest in classical antiquity

    that arose in the 18th century.

    Romanticism 1800-1850

    It was the attitude or intellectual orientation that characterized many works of literature, painting,

    music, architecture, criticism, and historiography in Western civilization in that period.

    Romanticism can be seen as a rejection of the precepts of order, calm, harmony, balance,

    idealization, and rationality that typified Classicism in general and late 18th-century

    Neoclassicism in particular. It was also to some extent a reaction against the Age of

    Enlightenment and against 18th-century rationalism and physical materialism in general. It was

    also encouraged by the heroic ideals of the French Revolution. French Romantics were led by

    Eugene Delacroix. Other leading artists included William Blake, Caspar David Friedrich, JMW

    Turner, Thomas Cole and John Constable.

    Realism 1850-present

    The second half of the 19th century has been called the positivist age. It was an age of faith in all

    knowledge which would derive from science and scientific objective methods which could solve

    all human problems.

    In the visual arts this spirit is most obvious in the widespread rejection of Romantic subjectivism

    and imagination in favor of Realism - the accurate and apparently objective description of the

    ordinary, observable world, a change especially evident in painting.

    Spurning the ideal, Realists, such as Jean-Francois Millet and Gustave Courbet, sought to depict

    the truth: in particular, the everyday social truths of the new industrial age. Realism continues to

    spawn new approaches to the depiction of reality in the 20th century.

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    Modern art 1860 AD -1979 AD

    Modern art refers to artistic works produced during the period extending roughly from the 1860s

    to the 1970s, and denotes the style and philosophy of the art produced during that era. The term

    is usually associated with art in which the traditions of the past have been thrown aside in a spirit

    of experimentation.

    This period saw countless number of art movements. Each trying to break an older norm and

    setup newer trends, only to be replaced afterwards by another. It only took a handful of artists to

    start a movement.

    Some of the major modern art movements were,

    - French Impressionism- Post Impressionism- Expressionism- Cubism- Futurism- Rayonism- Constructivism- Surrealism- Photorealism

    Cotemporary art or Post-Modern art 1980 AD -present

    From roughly this point onwards, Modern Art (c.1860-1979) or 'Modernism' becomes

    superceded by what art-historians like to call 'Post-Modernism'. In a nutshell, Modernism (ie. the

    main movements which emerged during the period 1860-mid 1960s) asserted the supremacy of a

    particular style or interpretation of reality, normally considerably at odds with the prevailing

    academic tradition. In contrast, contemporary art movements take the view that the 'substance' of

    Modernism has performed no better, and must be dumped in favour of greater style. Post-

    modernism thus represents the triumph of style over substance.

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    Post-modernist art typically employs new media and materials, stresses the importance of

    'communication' from artist to audience and seeks to renew the big question: 'what is art?'

    Significant styles in postmodern movement are,

    New Classicism

    Conceptual art

    Installation art

    Lowbrow art

    Performance art

    Neo conceptual art

    Neo expressionism art