A favorite History of Art professor of mine would often ask the question; “what makes this piece of work “art”?! It took most of my fellow students and I years of education and experience to be able to answer that question on the spot. As anyone probably would answer, we gave the same, often replying it “looks good”! “But, what is good?” Father Hilger would further push. At this point, we would have to step it up into high reflective gear. Using principles of judging a work of art, a sheet with disseminating pointers, we would go to work on our reasons and opinions.
We used the standard terms such as color, texture, line, space, weight, emotion and so on. Things that most of us consider tangible and/or a non-visual sense perception is taken into account. How do we express Texture without touching. Feel weight without using a scale or lifting. For those of us who speak english well and have a large vocabulary (or Thesaurus – which I try never to use unless at a loss for a more fresh or appropriate word) the expression of such perception can be easy to interpret. However, using the “correct” words to get that meaning across to someone who may use your critique for their benefit is assuredly an additional factor.
The thing that helped me the most was always the first impression focus. Is it striking? In what way? I’ve found that even pieces that are not “attractive” to me, tend to have an Artistic appreciation afforded to it. That saying “One person’s junk is another person’s treasure” is exactly appropriate in this situation. My least favorite painter is Van Gogh. He does nothing for my taste in paintings. Even with this revelation, I am still able to make a judgement towards his work. His use of color in Starry Night is in my opinion vibrant, passionate and piercing. That is part of a typical critique. I could go on about his lines (stroke of paint brush) or even its weight. I can also say that emotionally it leaves me mesmerized, peaceful and full of melancholy.
The opposite side of the spectrum would be my favorite painter. August Renoir in my opinion was a Genius! His work exhibits all the favorite and important parts of painting that my taste require. His work evokes exactly the emotions that my palate lives for. I owned a book of his greatest work. Still own a replica of one favorite and always looking for others. His Still life, Genres and Ballerinas are simply Beautiful! Only Edgar Degas has a hold on me slightly stronger when it comes to Ballerina paintings, pen & ink or pencil sketches. His strokes are the epitome of feminine. They are delicately place. The entire period of impressionism is based on tiny dots of paint placed sporadically and in an array of pastel & monotone colors. Imagine a collage of different colors, textures, sizes and heights; all placed in non-uniformed fashion. Next, step back and take a good look. It suddenly becomes a building, a flower or a Face! Flesh tones made of hundreds of dots and many colors of tan, grey, blue and pink.
Modern day art has copied the process and it can be done via software on the internet. Well, it all started with the Masters of the Impressionist Era! What computers mathematically do with your pictures in a modern-day collage; was all done in the heads of man in the 19th Century, late 1800s. Quite Amazing Calculations they had and on such a large-scale.
The variation of texture can give you tremendous insight into feelings. The question of how an artist felt about the subjects or even what the items and subjects in the piece were feeling can quite possibly be answered by viewing the work.
This Renoir, Le Moulin de la Galette, is the same as the one I have in my bedroom sitting area. It makes me feel as if I am at the party! The action is felt through the masterful placement of color. Varied attention to details in people’s faces are key to my amazement and again thousands of well placed and coordinated specs of paint!
I look at Renoir’s work and it makes me:
… all of these feelings and at the same time. I can smell the air and trees. I hear the water, people’s conversations and period music. I grasp the taste of the food on tables. I feel as much in that time as the subjects of the paintings and sculptures.
This Toulouse-Lautrec is leaning toward the more traditional style with stroke and color. Unlike, Renoir, Monet or Degas or “Lady” Cassatt; it has less of a “leave it to the imagination” process of the under brushed stroke effect. The flesh tones are still in the slightly “morbid” style. They tend to look a little less than Alive!
Experiment with how you feel! Does a color jump out at you. Is a stroke of the paintbrush or pen smooth or jagged and if so; what feelings does it evoke? These are some of the question that one should ask themselves when viewing a piece. How exactly does the work affect you?
When a piece of work touches your soul in a way you can’t explain, you have probably just experienced the effects of “A Work of “Art“!
If you look real close or tap on the first picture you will notice a little something special “looking” for you.
I like to call it the “Renoir Lagniappe”!