The Emergence of Modern Art in the 20th Century

Robert Motherwell, an American abstract expressionist painter who helped develop and define Modernity with his involvement in the New York School following WWII, made the following observation about this special time in Western Civilization:  “The history of modern art…is the history of modern freedom.”  What do you believe Motherwell meant by this statement and what are your thoughts on Modern art?

Photograph of Jackson Pollock painting his composition One


Michelangelo and his Vision of a “Superior Order of Beings”…

Michelangelo Buonarroti, the famed Italian Renaissance/High Renaissance sculptor, painter, poet, was able to fix into visible shape a race of figures that later generations have interpreted as belonging to a “superior order of beings.”  The English painter Sir Joshua Reynolds, in his Discoursed (1769-90), stated:  “His people are a superior order of beings; there is nothing about them, nothing in the air of their actions or their attitudes, or the style and cast o their limbs or features, that reminds us of their belonging to our won species.”  What are your thoughts on Michelangelo’s interpretation of the human figure within the notion proposed by Reynolds above?

Michelangelo, The Captive

Michelangelo, The Captive

Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance Art/Architecture

The Learning Modules for this week focus on the development of Romanesque, Gothic and early Renaissance expressions.  You are now seeing how the hand, the eye and the heart/soul of the artist, through time, have documented life and offered interpretations of that life.  You have witnessed examples of pure GENIUS in the arts and will continue to do so throughout this Fall 2011 semester.  I don’t use the word GENIUS lightly.  William Blake, in his Annotations to Sir Joshua Reynolds Discourses (1808) stated:  “If art was progressive we should have had Michelangelos and Raphaels to succeed and improve upon each other.  But it is not so.  Genius dies with its possessor and comes not again until another is born with it.”  Do you agree with Reynolds’ notion of genius?  What are your thoughts on genius in the arts?

Leonardo and the Salvator Mundi Painting

London’s prestigious National Gallery is about to open a major show of Leonardo da Vinci paintings.  Included in this exhibition will be a painting formally called Salvator Mundi or Savior of the World.  Art Historians and Leonardo scholars believe this painting to be by Leonardo which is why it will be included in the exhibition but there is no absolute proof that this work of art, though acknowledged to be exceedingly fine, is in fact by Leonardo.  I am asking you to read an article from the Los Angeles Times  (,0,2568694.story) and offer your thoughts on this attribtion as a Leonardo work of art.  You might also visit London’s  National Gallery website  ( for additional information regarding the Salvator Mundi and the larger Leonardo exhibition.

Art in Context—Ancient World

At this juncture in the Fall 2011 semester, and within the recent context of assessing art from its historical paradigm (i.e., Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome), what are your thoughts on the following comment made by John Stuart Mill, in The Subjection of Women (1869):  “The reason why the old painters were so greatly superior to the modern is that a greatly superior class of men applied themselves to the art?”  Your thoughts?

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

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