Reflective Essay on Art and Famous Artists
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Published: Mon, 07 May 2018
The Olive Trees” by Vincent van Gogh caught my eye as soon as I saw it. Van Gogh has always fascinated me with his dramatic use of color and the thick texture he used while painting. After doing some research, I learned that he painted “The Olive Trees” in 1890 after voluntarily entering an asylum at Saint-Remy (MoMA). It has been said that van Gogh’s talent flourished in the last two years of his life while at Saint-Remy. Although he died at the ripe age of thirty-seven, he was a busy man. He created over 200 oil paintings during his life. Some of his most famous pieces are The Starry Night, Portrait of Dr. Gachet, and Irises (Artquotes).
“The Olive Trees” is an oil on canvas painting that measures 28 5/8 x 36” (MoMA). This piece is in the post-impressionist style. Post-impressionists extended Impressionism while rejecting its lack of emotions. Artists continued to use vivid colors, thick application of paint, distinctive brush strokes, and real-life subject matter (Topofart). The post-impressionist style is seen throughout most of van Gogh’s works and especially in “The Olive Trees”.
Van Gogh used thick oil paint combined with wide rough brushstrokes to create texture in this piece. This technique called “impasto” is evident in many of his other works such as “The Starry Night” (Frank). The subject of the picture is olive trees. These trees could be found all around the asylum he admitted himself to. This painting seems to have a lighter mood than some of the other paintings he completed right before his death. It seems that he, “found happiness” or something that got his mind off of the deep depression and mental sickness he had. The viewer can see it in this piece by looking at the use of color and dancing lines he used to create a happy, but mellow mood in the piece. This technique can also be seen in his other works such as “Starry Night”.
Not only did he use color and line to lighten the mood of the piece, but he also used shape. Van Gogh painted the olive trees, mountains, and clouds all by using organic shape. This creates a flow of line, mass, and space. By using these effects, van Gogh creates a visual rollercoaster for the viewer to follow. At first glance, the viewer’s eyes roll from the grass up to the olive trees, and then across the blue colored mountains. By using this flow of line, the painting has a unique balance to it which allows no space to appear empty. The painting seems lively and the olive trees create a mood of dancing across the landscape.
Van Gogh created a well balanced atmosphere by using the light colored clouds to balance out the blues used in the mountains. The clouds also help to balance the arrangement of greens he used for the foreground and olive trees. This is called symmetrical balance. I believe van Gogh used this in his work not only create a well flowing piece, but also to get the viewers eyes to move across the painting. By doing this, he keeps the viewer’s eyes from staring at one section of the painting. Instead, the viewer receives an emotional grasp from the flow of line, color, and texture that the painting offers.
Overall, I really enjoy this piece of art. Although it is not one of van Gogh’s most-known pieces, it is one of my favorites. I tend to go against the grain and choose things that I find interesting instead of going with the “social norm”. His use of color and texture is what keeps me looking at his work. I think the mood and emotion that he gave off by this painting could not be done with any other color. Obviously van Gogh had a message and an emotion that he wanted to portray in this piece, and I think he conveyed it perfectly. I think van Gogh was conveying a since of hope and happiness from this piece. His use of line and texture creates movement in the painting and a sense of joy. The bright cloud contrasts against the olive trees and seems to brighten the piece not only through color, but emotionally as well. The painting is a joy to look at and will remain that way for a long time to come.
“Famous Vincent Van Gogh Paintings.” Artist Quotes – Art Quotes – Famous Artists – Fine Artists. Web. 17 Apr. 2010.
Frank, Patrick, and Duane Preble. Prebles’ Artforms: an Introduction to the Visual Arts. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson /Prentice Hall, 2009. Print.
“Impressionism and Post-Impressionism Art Reproductions, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism Paintings.” Art Reproductions – Oil Painting Reproductions. Web. 18 Apr. 2010.
“MoMA | The Collection | Vincent Van Gogh. The Olive Trees. Saint Rémy, June-July 1889.” MoMA | The Museum of Modern Art. Web. 14 Apr. 2010.
Diego Rivera was born into a wealthy family in Mexico. From the age of ten, Rivera studied art at the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City (Biography). He was sponsored to continue study in Europe by the governor of Veracruz (Biography). After his arrival in Europe in 1907, he began to study art with a number of well known artists. A few years later Picasso and Georges Braque began getting world-wide exposure with their new type of art, Cubism. From 1913-1918, he devoted himself almost entirely to the cubist school of art (Arttrader). In 1920, Rivera left France and spent a short time in Italy. While there, Rivera studied frescoes and the popular works from the Renaissance period (Biography).
In 1921, Rivera returned to Mexico to start on what I personally believe to be some of his best works. He began to paint murals in auditoriums, schools, and other various government buildings. Most of his art carried political influence which he believed in. Rivera was a communist and his work shared that of his political beliefs and how he felt about the Mexican people. He began to develop his own native style based on large, simplified figures and bold colors. Although his paintings were beautiful, his attacks on the church and political beliefs made him a controversial figure. (Biography). Some of his best known works during this time are: En el Arsenal, Creation, and The Flower Carrier. Rivera painted frescoes in this style for many years up until his death in 1957 (Biography).
I chose to do my paper on one of his pieces with a Cubist influence. It was completed in 1912 while he was in France. The artwork is called “Cubist Landscape”. It is an oil on canvas that measures 25 ¾” x 35 ½” (MoMA). I chose this piece of art because it reminds me of my grandmother. She was a quilter, and at first glance, this painting reminds me of a patchwork quilt. Cubism was a huge influence in Rivera’s earlier career, and this was one of his first works in France. The content of this piece is a landscape filled with trees of different colors and a colorful sky with a mountain in the background. To me, it looks like you are looking at four different paintings that have been sat on top of each other at different angles. The use of the cubism style in this painting is very evident due to not only the name, but the way the object of the picture and background are “chopped” up and distorted throughout the piece. Rivera used big chunks of different objects to make this piece so it is not as distorted as the works of Picasso. I believe he did this so the viewer would not lose emphasis on the emotion Rivera was trying to get the viewer to feel.
Rivera balanced the painting by using the Cubist style to section the painting out in to different pieces. The eye is specifically drawn to the lighter-green tree in the front. This tree is standing straight while all the other trees are bent and leaning in different directions. By doing this, Rivera made the tree in the front the subject of the piece, and made your eyes be drawn directly to this object. Line also played a role in the emotion and emphasis on the tree. He emphasized the front tree even more by making it more detailed and by giving the trunk of it texture. It stands straight up compared to the other ones to symbolize strength and power.
The background of the artwork is where the emotion in the painting is created. The background is colored in a patchwork of the color wheel. Greens, reds, oranges, blues, violets, and yellows are all woven into the background to create a happy mood that surrounds the trees. The other trees also fall into the back ground and are red and blue. I think the added color that surrounds the subject gives the piece a lighter feeling and makes the viewer want to smile. I also like the use of impressionism in the piece. Around the border of the painting, Rivera dashed color on the background to create a meadow-like scene to the piece. The use of different color reminds me of wild flowers swaying in the breeze. He created what the eye would actually see in a meadow by using wide, short brush strokes. The way he painted the background reminds me of the brushstrokes used in “Impression Sunrise” by Monet. His short brush strokes also give texture and movement to the piece. Short brush strokes make the piece look soft in texture and give it movement as if there were a breezing blowing through the scene.
Overall I really enjoyed this piece of art. Not only did it remind me of my grandmother, but it also gave me a new grasp on the Cubist style of art. I was not a fan of cubism until researching this piece because I did not “get it”. So many times when viewers see cubism we want to run away because we cannot understand what we are looking at. In this piece Rivera makes it very clear and there is no underlying meaning like some of the other Cubists’ work. It is direct and straight-forward and that is why I chose it. This piece has caused me to grasp new meaning and understanding of the Cubist style and I will definitely embrace what I have learned.
Art Trader. Web. 21 Apr. 2010.
“Diego Rivera Biography.” Biography.com. Web. 21 Apr. 2010.
“MoMA | The Collection | Diego Rivera. Cubist Landscape. 1912.” MoMA | The Museum of Modern Art. Web. 20 Apr. 2010.
Georgia O’Keeffe was born November 15th, 1887 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. She grew up most of her life in Wisconsin but moved away to go to the Chatham Protest and Episcopal Institute in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1900. After graduating in 1904, she studied art at the Art Institute of Chicago and at the Art Students League in New York (Georgia). She is well known for her artwork and has won many awards such as the Gold Medal of Painting, the Medal of Freedom, and was presented the National Medal of Arts in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan (Georgia). It is said that O’Keeffe revolutionized modern art in both her time and to the present. She painted natural scenes which she vividly portrayed with a close-up view. She used art to convey that nature is as powerful as the widespread industrialization of the period of her time.
Georgia O’Keeffe married Alfred Stieglitz in 1924 (Georgia). He was a famous photographer who put his wife’s work in his gallery. In 1916, Georgia’s work was first exhibited and this is when her art began to be seen and appreciated. In 1949, O’Keeffe moved to New Mexico where her art took on a new dimension. She painted bones and desert scenes which captured the calmness and bareness of the desert (Georgia).
During her career as a painter, O’Keeffe has mostly been remembered for her abstract style of art. She painted many things you would see in nature. She painted them as she saw them, not has how most would see them. She created her style of art by zooming in on the object and painting things that the naked eye would not be able to see. This was her representation of the flower or other object she was painting. Her style of art has been viewed all over the world and she is one of the most famous American artists to this day.
I chose “Lake George, Coat and Red” to do my paper on because the piece jumped out at me. The painting is oil on canvas and it was created in 1919 (MoMA). This abstract piece is rich in texture and the mood of it warms your heart and lightens your mood. Georgia not only used line to create happiness in her piece, but she also used the bright reds in the background to accent the dark color of the painting. She used red and blue because they contrast one another, and it is a great way to catch the viewer’s eye. Not only did O’Keeffe use red and blues in the painting, she also used greens, yellows, and orange. I’m not sure if each color was meant to represent different types of emotions, but it gives the piece a center or “wholeness” since she used every color.
Not only is the color balanced in this piece, but the way she used the value in each hue also creates a centralized feel. Since the subject of the piece is a dark blue, I think O’Keeffe used the small white ball in the upper portion of the painting to create a small mass that contrasts the heavy blues she used for the subject. Her use of thick lines and texture also contributes to the balance of the piece and gives the subject a since of flow and gracefulness that draws your eyes from the lower left-hand corner of the piece on towards the upper right-hand corner.
The painting’s size is 27 3/8” x 23 ¼” (MoMA). This is an average size piece for her, and I think she used this size to get the viewer to see the painting up close and visually “feel” the texture and the movement of the piece. Not only did the size of the canvas play a role in how she wanted the viewer to feel, but the medium she used did as well. Georgia O’Keeffe used a lot of oil paints to make her art because of the way she could create texture throughout each piece with this medium. She also used oil paints because she could blend each color easily to create the hue she wanted. Scale also played a huge part of O’Keeffe’s work because most of her abstract art is a zoomed-in version of what the eye can see. By using this blown-up scale, O’Keeffe can make the viewer feel the emotion of the object.
Overall, I think that Georgia O’Keeffe mastered abstract art and I will continue to be a fan. She has forever changed the way art will be viewed and will be an inspiration for many artists to come. I would not change anything about this piece because the size, color, texture, medium, and line all play a part in what O’Keeffe wanted to portray in this piece.
“Georgia O’Keeffe Biography.” Lakewood Public Library (Lakewood, Ohio). N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2010.
“MoMA | The Collection | Georgia O’Keeffe. Lake George, Coat and Red. 1919.” MoMA | The Museum of Modern Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2010.
Paul Cézanne was a French painter born January 19, 1839. He developed artistic interests at an early age and was sent to Paris to study when he was twenty-three. He has often been called the father of modern art, who “strove to develop an ideal synthesis of naturalistic representation, personal expression, and abstract pictorial order” (Retro). While he was in Paris he studied the works of Monet, Delacroix, and Gustave Courbet (Retro). Cézanne’s early paintings show little resemblance to his later and more important style. The subject matter is dark and depressing and includes fantasies, dreams, religious images, and a general theme concerned with death (Notable). Most of the work from this era of his life was harshly criticized and was never accepted in any art exhibitions.
In the 1870’s, Cézanne began to change his style. He started using brighter colors and the religious subjects he once used in his paintings began to disappear (Notable). Cézanne’s paintings from the 1870s clearly show the influence of Impressionism. He used short brushstrokes characterized by Monet and other early Impressionist to portray what the “eyes see rather than what the mind knows” (Frank). Some of his most known pieces from this time are “House of the Hanged Man” and “Portrait of Victor Choquet” (Notable).
In the late 1870’s Cézanne moved back to his home in southern France and isolated himself from the art world. He began to create his own style of Impressionism, but he did not exhibit his art for almost twenty years (Notable). Cézanne’s began to come out of his solitude during the 1890s. In 1895, a large number of Cézanne’s paintings were shown, and public interest in his work slowly began to develop. By 1904 he was given an entire room at the Salon d’Automne (Notable). Unfortunately he died October 22, 1906 due to natural causes (Notable). Though he died right when he was getting large recognition for his work, Cézanne will be remembered as a front-runner of modern art (Notable).
The piece of Cézanne’s work I chose was “Still Life with Fruit Dish”. This painting is an oil on canvas that measures 18 1/4 x 21 1/2″ (MoMA). According to MoMA,
[Still life was an important genre to Cézanne, who made approximately two hundred such paintings over the course of four decades. In “Still Life with Fruit Dish” he created a shallow, compressed space that flattens the sculptural volumes of dish, glass, and fruit. This painting was a prized possession of the artist Paul Gauguin, who described the picture as “an exceptional pearl, the apple of my eye.” It was only when he needed money for medical care that Gauguin unhappily parted with it.]
I completely agree with Gauguin. This painting is a fantastic example of how Cézanne created his own style of Impressionism. If the viewer were to put Monet’s work next to it, you could see the resemblance of Impressionism, but he or she could also see both artist’s personal style difference. Monet was the pioneer of Impressionism, but personally, I prefer what Cézanne did with this piece much more than “Impression: Sunrise” or “Water Lily Pond” by Monet.
In “Still Life with Fruit Dish”, Cézanne created most of the lines in the painting with thick, swift brushstrokes in the Impressionist style. Most of the lines in the painting are jagged and not very detailed. The lighting in the piece looks like it is coming from the right and is shining down on the table and the fruit bowl. By using light this way, Cézanne put emphasis on the fruit bowl which is the subject of the piece. Cézanne also positioned the knife to point directly toward the fruit bowl. This guides the viewer’s eyes from the lower-right-hand corner of the painting directly to the subject. Since this piece is in the Impressionist style, Cézanne painted what the eyes actually see. Impressionists painted what they saw, so there is no underlying meaning to this piece like works of the Renaissance had.
The colors Cézanne used give emphasis on the subject. The background is a dark-colored wall. The tablecloth and fruit bowl are both bright white. Though blue is sometimes used to evoke sadness in a viewer, I do not believe Cézanne was trying to create sadness in this piece. The colors he used for the fruits are realistic colors and their greens, yellows, and reds warm the painting dramatically. Cézanne used thick texture in this painting, but it does not create movement or rhythm in the piece like the works of van Gogh’s did. I think here he used subtle texture just so the painting would not look bland and flat. The texture he used gives character to the fruit as well as the blue background.
Overall, I really like this painting and wish I could have a copy in my house. So far it is my favorite painting I have written about. Cézanne’s realistic proportion, contrast, and use of space also drew my eye to this piece. I like being able to view art and “know” what the artist wanted you to see and feel. When looking at this painting, I immediately “got it”. After reading about Cézanne, I have definitely acquired more knowledge about the Impressionist style and gained a new love for his type of art.
Frank, Patrick, and Duane Preble. Prebles’ Artforms: an Introduction to the Visual Arts. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson /Prentice Hall, 2009. Print.
“MoMA | The Collection | Paul Cézanne. Still Life with Fruit Dish. 1879-80.” MoMA | The Museum of Modern Art. Web. 25 Apr. 2010.
“Paul Cézanne Biography.” Oil Painting Reproductions : Museum Quality Art. Web. 25 Apr. 2010.
“Paul Cézanne Biography – Life, Story, Death, School, Information, Born, House, Time, Year.” Encyclopedia of World Biography. Web. 25 Apr. 2010.
Pablo Picasso was a famous Spanish painter and sculptor who lived from 1881-1973. He is best known for cofounding Cubism with Georges Braque. His father, Ruiz, was an artist and influenced Picasso’s early works. When Picasso was seven, his father began to give him formal training in drawing and painting (Answers). Ruiz was a traditional artist and instructor who believed that proper training required disciplined copying of famous artwork. Picasso became so preoccupied with art that he put his education second. After only six years of painting, Picasso’s father realized that his son was more talented than him (Answers).
At the age of thirteen, Picasso took an entrance exam to the Barcelona School of Fine Arts. After creating his piece in only a week, he was accepted and began taking classes (Answers). Three years later his father sent him to Madrid’s Royal Academy of San Fernando which was one of the most recognized art schools in Spain (Answers). Shortly after enrolling at the Royal Academy, Picasso dropped out to move to Paris in the early 1900’s. His first masterpiece was “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” which he created in 1907. It was thought of as being controversial because of its reference to the female body and masked faces he used (Answers). From 1909-1912, Picasso continued to work closely with Georges Braque to create what would be known as “Cubism” (Answers).
Though Cubism is a huge part of Picasso’s work, the painting I chose has no cubist influence. My artwork is “Night Fishing at Antibes”. It is a 6’9” x 11’4” oil on canvas that Picasso completed in 1939 (MoMA). I chose this piece because I wanted to learn more about abstract art, and because I enjoy fishing. The subject of this painting was based on “Picasso’s observation of night scenes off the shore of Antibes in the South of France. Men went out and fished by the light of acetylene lamps; the lights attracted the fish to the surface, where they could be netted or speared” (Lenin). Some say that the painting has deeper meaning that relates to the outbreak of World War II, but after researching the topic heavily, I found that the idea is not for certain. The content in the painting is two fishermen in a boat. One has fishing line attached to his toe, and the other man is about to stab a fish with a spear. Two women are standing on a bridge to the right. One woman is holding a bicycle and eating an ice cream cone. Picasso used symbolism in his paintings, and there must be symbolism in this piece, but after my research, I could not find any concrete answers for why he painted “Night Fishing at Antibes” this way. Most art critics believe that Picasso painted this piece as a war protest much like “Guernica”, but he never announced that this was the painting’s meaning (Answers).
The size of the painting also has to do something with the meaning. This painting is almost twelve feet wide and seven feet tall. If the meaning of the piece is to protest WWII, Picasso created this painting to be the size of a billboard. This would help drive the underlying meaning of the painting and convey what Picasso wanted to say about the war with a bold message.
Picasso created a well-lit piece by making the moonlight shine directly down on the water. This contrasts the fish on the right and makes the eyes look directly at it first. The piece is well balanced due to its large, dark background and small space of lightness. The viewer’s eyes go directly toward the fish on the right not only because of the lighting, but also due to the way Picasso used line. The spear has four straight, thick arrows pointing directly at the fish. This spear also looks like a trident. This could have some time of underlying meaning as well. The spear looks strong and bold. After guiding your eyes up the shaft of the spear, your eyes drift left across the arm of the fisherman. He is scaled much larger than the other fisherman in the boat and his eyes seem to be looking directly at the viewer. No other subjects in the painting are looking towards the viewer except for this fisherman. The spear and the fisherman’s arm are by far the strongest lines in the piece. They are at 90 degree angles, unlike any of the other lines in the painting. Though the piece is constructed with purely organic shapes, the painting does not convey a since of movement or rhythm. To me the piece seems like a snapshot in time catching everyone off guard.
The colors Picasso used in the painting give the piece emphasis on what time of day it is. The viewer can tell the painting is a night scene because of the title, but I believe Picasso painted a night scene for an underlying meaning. Almost every color in the painting is dark except for the water on which the moon shines down on. The dark hues give the piece a cold and sad feeling. Just by the color alone, I can tell that I would not want to be in this scene.
I really liked this work when I first saw it, but after doing research I have changed my view of it. Now knowing what was going on in the world at the time, I feel that this painting has a much deeper meaning than what I as young college student can grasp. I will always be a fan of Picasso’s work, but to be honest, I just do not understand a lot of what he wants the viewer to catch on to. I like the painting, but I am actually disappointed after writing this paper. Personally, I would have rather picked a piece that I could have understood than try to chase down the meaning of this painting. I spent more time doing research on the underlying meaning than I spent enjoying the painting. I felt like I was chasing my tail while doing the report on this piece. Nonetheless, I am still a fan of Picasso’s and maybe one day the message of this piece (if any) will hit me.
“MoMA | The Collection | Pablo Picasso. Night Fishing at Antibes. Antibes, August 1939.” MoMA | The Museum of Modern Art. Web. 22 Apr. 2010.
“Pablo Picasso – Night Fishing at Antibes (1939).” Lenin Imports UK – Latest CDs, Cassettes, Vinyl , Movie, Art Memorabilia In Stock – Art, Rock, Movie & Loads More. Web. 21 Apr. 2010.
“Pablo Picasso – Night Fishing at Antibes (1939).” Lenin Imports UK – Latest CDs, Cassettes, Vinyl , Movie, Art Memorabilia In Stock – Art, Rock, Movie & Loads More. Web. 28 Apr. 2010.
“Pablo Picasso: Biography from Answers.com.” Answers.com: Wiki Q&A Combined with Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus, and Encyclopedias. Web. 23 Apr. 2010.
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