Greatness of Western Civilization (part 2b)

This part, we shall examine the great art of Western Civilization. For this post, I have combined two articles. Each deal with the 10 greatest pieces of art. One was from the Guardian; the other was biography online. Here are their selections. I am not now, nor ever claimed to be an art expert. But, I know what I like. Some of these would not make my top 10, in truth, to me the Jackson Pollock, wouldn’t even be art. Like I said, I am no expert. The one thing that should stand out to everyone. This art spans over 30,000 years. How many civilizations must have risen and fallen.

All comments made are from the original articles.

Mona Lisa – Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci worked on his masterpiece over a period of 20 years. He carried it with him everywhere. The enigmatic smile has captured the imagination of the world. I love this painting because it is very human, but also gives a glimpse of the world beyond, the transcendental.

Creation of Adam – Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo

Michelangelo took four years to paint the Sistine Chapel. He chose scenes from the Old Testament. This is the epic moment of God creating Adam. How similar God is to man in this picture.

Cafe Terrace at Night – Vincent Van Gogh

The genius of Vincent Van Gogh is captured in this atmospheric portrayal of French cafe life at night.

The Starry  Night – Vincent Van Gogh (1889)

It shows the view from the east-facing window of his room at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (with the addition of an idealised village) It has been voted the most popular watercolour.

Poppies in a Field – Claude Monet

Claude Monet is one of the great impressionist painters. This wonderful pastoral scene captures the essence of how the impressionists captured the beauty and simplicity of nature.

Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee – Rembrandt

Rembrandt captures the drama and emotion of this epic scene from the Gospels. Note his effective use of light and dark to highlight the drama of the scene.

The Girl With a Pearl Earring – Jan Vermeer

Jan Vermeer was relatively unknown in his lifetime. But, this fascinating portrait (somewhat reminiscent of the Mona Lisa) is a beautiful example of the Baroque style.

Le Moulin de la Gallette – Jean Renoir

A leading impressionist, Auguste Renoir captures the buzz and excitement of this outdoor scene in Paris.

Just a personal note, this is by far my favorite. I can almost feel myself there.

The Fighting Temeraire – John Turner

John Turner, an English Romantic painter, is often referred to as the ‘artist of light’. This scene is a captivating example of how Turner portrayed sunlight on the sea.

Peace – Picasso

The simplicity of this symbol of peace by Pablo Picasso remains one of the most powerful pieces of art.

L’Estaque – Paul Cezanne

Eugène Delacroix – Liberty Guides the People

This painting epitomises the Romantic ideals of the French revolution. The French government bought it in 1830, but it was kept private for many years because it was considered too inflammatory.

Perhaps, it is just me, but I cannot help but see a parallel to both the American Revolution and the Civil War periods. If the lady was holding an American revolutionary flag, she would fit in many paintings of the period. Then look at the man with the stovepipe hat, very reminiscent of Lincoln. And the crowd around him could easily be Confederate soldiers.

Jewish Bride – Rembrandt

A painting of mesmerising ambiguity. ‘The Jewish Bride’ paints a tender portrayal of human love.

Original source

Greatest Paintings

Greatness of Western Civilization (part 2a)

This part, we shall examine the great art of Western Civilization. For this post, I have combined two articles. Each deal with the 10 greatest pieces of art. One was from the Guardian; the other was biography online. Here are their selections. I am not now, nor ever claimed to be an art expert. But, I know what I like. Some of these would not make my top 10, in truth, to me the Jackson Pollock, wouldn’t even be art. Like I said, I am no expert. The one thing that should stand out to everyone. This art spans over 30,000 years. How many civilizations must have risen and fallen.

All comments made are from the original articles.

Leonardo da Vinci – The Foetus in the Womb (c 1510-13)

Leonardo expresses the human condition in a nutshell – indeed, his rendition of the womb resembles an opened horsechestnut casing. Inside is the beginning of us all laid bare. Five hundred years ago, this artist and scientist could portray the human mystery with a wonder that is not religious but biological he holds up humanity as a fact of nature. It is for me the most beautiful work of art in the world.

Caravaggio – The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (1608)

Caravaggio shows a murderous moment in a prison yard. The executioner has drawn a knife to sever the last tendons and skin of John the Baptist’s neck. Someone watches this horrific moment from a barred window. All around is sepulchral gloom. Death and human cruelty are laid bare by this masterpiece, as its scale and shadow daunt and possess the mind.

Rembrandt – Self-Portrait with Two Circles (c 1665-9)

You are not looking at Rembrandt. He is looking at you. The authority of genius and age gaze out of this autumnal masterpiece with a moral scrutiny that is terrifying. Rembrandt seems to see into the beholder’s soul and perceive every failing.

Chauvet cave paintings (c 30, 000 years ago)

Who painted these exquisitely lifelike portraits of animals? There was no such thing as writing in the ice age so nothing is known of the names, if they had names, of these early people. Cave artists may have been women; they may have been children. What is known is that Homo sapiens, our species of human, makes its mark with these paintings that are as beautiful and intelligent as anything created since.

Here I have to comment. I look at the detail and emotion these drawings portray. To dismiss these as just primitive is wrong. For this amount of detail and emotion there had to be a thriving culture. This was not painted by some berry gathering Neanderthal. There is some form of training.

Jackson Pollock – One: Number 31, 1950 (1950)

The art of Jackson Pollock is a modern mystery. How, from flinging paint on a canvas laid on the ground, did he create such beauty and inner structure? Like a solo by Charlie Parker or Jimi Hendrix, his freeform improvisations loop and lurch and yet achieve a profound unity. Pollock only held this together for a short period of brilliance. This painting is a cathedral of the mind.

Again, I must comment. As I said before, flinging paint on a canvas is not art to me. I’m afraid the “beauty and inner structure” are simply a fantasy created to make the viewer feel intelligent and profound.

Velázquez – Las Meninas (c 1656)

The king and queen stand where you are standing, in front of a gathering of courtiers. Velazquez looks from the portrait he is painting of the royal couple. The infanta and her retinue of maids (meninas) and dwarf entertainers are gathered before the monarch. In the distance, a minister or messenger is at the door. In a bright mirror, the royal reflection glows. This painting is a many-layered model of the world’s strangeness.

Picasso – Guernica (1937)

When Picasso started to paint his protest at the bombing of Guernica, the ancient Basque capital, by Hitler’s air force on behalf of Franco in the Spanish Civil War, he was at the height of his powers. Thirty years after painting his subversive modernist grenade of a picture Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, his cubist intelligence was now enriched by the mythology and poetry unleashed by the surrealist movement. He also looked back to such historical paintings as Raphael’s Fire in the Borgo as he set down the greatest human statement of the 20th century.

Michelangelo – Prisoners (c 1519-34)

Michelangelo’s Prisoners, or Slaves, were begun for the tomb of Pope Julius II but never finished. In its entirety – including the Dying and Rebellious Slaves in the Louvre and the statue of Moses on the final, reduced version of the tomb eventually erected in Rome – this constitutes the greatest unfinished masterpiece in the world. Yet Michelangelo did not leave things unfinished out of laziness. It is an aesthetic choice. The tragic power of these prisoners as they struggle to emerge out of raw stone is an expression of the human condition that equals Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Parthenon Sculptures (447-442 BC)

The long marble frieze, colossal broken statues of reclining gods, and frenzied carvings of centaurs fighting humans that Lord Elgin removed from the Athenian Acropolis two centuries ago are best known today as objects of controversy – which is sad, because we should be marvelling at their genius. Most of the best ancient Greek sculpture is only known through Roman copies. This is the greatest assembly anywhere of the real thing: the very art that created the idea of the “classic”. Gaze on the lowing heifer that inspired Keats’s Ode on a Grecian Urn and the goddesses whose robes uncannily resemble pictures by Leonardo da Vinci. Artistically, beyond the squabbles, it doesn’t get better than this.

Cézanne – Mont Sainte-Victoire (1902-4)

The broken vision of Cezanne is a glittering array of glimpses and hesitations and reconsiderations. The intensity of his gaze and the severity of his mind as he attempts to see and somehow grasp the essence of the mountain before him is one of the most moving and revelatory struggles in the history of art. Out of it, very quickly, came cubism and abstraction. But even if Cezanne’s researches had led nowhere, they would put him among the greatest artists.

Link to Original

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2014/mar/21/the-10-greatest-works-art-ever