Classical Greece and the Advancement of Art

We turn our attention away from Egypt and confront the classical era of Greek art.  John Dryden, in his letter/essay “To Sir Godfrey Kneller” (1694), made the following observation on Greek art:  “By slow degrees, the godlike art advanc’d; As man grew polish’d, picture was enhanced; Greece added posture, shade, and perspective; And then the mimic piece began to live.”  What are your thoughts on Greek art, especially compared to Egypt, within the Dryden context listed above and the two works illustrated below?  Is Greek art more “advanced” in your opinion than Egyptian?  Be specific in your assessment.

Parthenon, Athens Greece, 5th century B C

Nike of Samothrace, Greece, 2nd century B C

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Ancient Egypt and the Rise of Civilization

James Breasted, a famed Egyptologist who helped define the academic profession of Egyptian Studies at the University of Chicago, believed that Egypt was the most influential model from the Ancient World of what truly constitutes a great ancient civilization.  In his lectures at the University of Chicago, Breasted stated:  “There is but little room for doubt that Egypt led the way in the creation of the earliest known group of civilizations which arose on both sides of the land bridge between Africa and Eurasia in the fourth millennium B.C.”  What are your thoughts on the art of ancient Egypt and does the Vegas Casino Luxor represent a factual re-creation of this great civilization from the Ancient World?

Giza Plateau, Egypt

James Breasted and Family, Amada Temple, Nubia (Egypt)

Luxor, Las Veas, Nevada

Our Ancestors Continue to Speak to Us Through Cave Paintings

David Lewis-Williams, a noted anthropologist who has studied cave paintings in Western Europe and South Africa, has written extensively on the visual record left behind by our ancestors.  Of particular interest is the reason behind the images and what are these ancient peoples telling us from 30,000+ years ago?  One reviewer of Lewis-Williams ideas related to cave painting stated:

“Did our remotest ancestors really distinguish between natural and supernatural realms? Or did they regard the significant agencies that controlled nature as part of nature, and such that they could be encountered and communicated with, just like any other part of nature?

Lewis-Williams thinks that cave walls were viewed as the sacred interface between human beings and chthonic forces. Can we really know? Perhaps he can appeal to the continuity of brain structure and function to suggest that religious experience is likewise continuous. However, he is careful enough to talk often of “maybe” and “perhaps”; and to an amateur being offered the explanation, it is the tentativeness that sounds most persuasive.”

What are your initial thoughts on the cave painters and the works they left behind as they adorned the walls of caves?  As we turn our attention now to the chronological history of mankind through their art, what values or beliefs do you bring to this inquiry?

Paintings in the Altamira Cave, Spain

Bison, Alta Mira Cave Painting, Spain

Photography as an Art Medium

Photography is a by-product of the Industrial Age and the Age of the Machine.  There is no disputing the advances that have been made in photography from early camera obscuras, to daguerrotypes, to film and now to digital.  But, with all the technical advances, has photography risen to be an Art form or medium?  Eugene Delacroix, the talented and influential 19th century French painter, criticized photography in the following 1859 Journal entry:  “When a photographer takes a view, all you ever see is a part cut off from a whole:  the edge of the picture is as interesting as the centre; all you can do is to suppose an ensemble, of which you see only a portion, apparently chosen by chance.”   On the other hand, Edward Weston, a well known and respected 20th century photographer, wrote in his diary (1926) the following:  “The camera sees more than the eye, so why not make use of it.”  David Hockney, a respected late 20th century British artist, doesn’t believe photography has truly defined itself yet.  In 1976 Hockney declared:  “I think that photography has let us down in that it’s not what we thought it was.  It is something good but it’s not the answer, it’s not a totally acceptable way of making pictures…I’m not even sure how emotionally powerful a photograph can be.  Take a photograph of a woman and a child crying…Obviously suffering occurs.  But you’re aware that the photographer is standing in front of them; you feel that, instead of taking the photograph, he should be helping.  After all, a man can paint a picture later; he could have helped and then painted the picture.”  Below are three famous photographs taken in the 20th century during war (WWII and Vietnam).  What are your thoughts on photography as an Art medium?  Do you believe that photography is on the same aesthetic level of value and importance as a medium of Art as has been the case with painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, performance art or ceramics?

Joe Rosenthal, Raising the American Flag on Iwo Jima (photograph)

Eddie Adams, From the Vietnam War Suite of Photographs

Nick Ut, an Associated Presss Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographer