Category Archives: (5) How Art Shaped Our Society & Us – 1500 AD to 1750 AD

Spotlight: What is Ukiyo-e? something we could learn from…

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Ukiyo-e is a genre of Japanese woodblock prints (or woodcuts) and paintings produced between the 17th and the 20th centuries, featuring motifs of landscapes, tales from history, the theatre, and pleasure quarters. It is the main artistic genre of woodblock printing in Japan.

Usually the word ukiyo-e is literally translated as “floating world” in English, referring to a conception of an evanescent world, impermanent, fleeting beauty and a realm of entertainments (kabuki, courtesans, geisha) divorced from the responsibilities of the mundane, everyday world; “pictures of the floating world”, i.e. ukiyo-e, are considered a genre unto themselves.

The novelist contemporary to the time period, Asai Ryōi, in his Ukiyo monogatari provides some insight into the concept of the floating world:

… Living only for the moment, turning our full attention to the pleasures of the moon, the snow, the cherry blossoms and the maple leaves; singing songs, drinking wine, diverting ourselves in just floating, floating; … refusing to be disheartened, like a gourd floating along with the river current: this is what we call the floating world…

Living in those above moments would make everyone a little happier…

Thanks for following – the eventsfy team

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukiyo-e

Spotlight: Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727 AD) is known for what major scientific breakthrough?

Isaac

Answer: Gravity, along with laws of motion and pre-enlightenment ideology based on natural law

Sir Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727 AD) was an English physicist and mathematician who is widely regarded as one of the most influential scientists of all time and as a key figure in the scientific revolution. His book Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, first published in 1687, laid the foundations for most of classical mechanics

Newton formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation that dominated scientists’ view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. It also demonstrated that the motion of objects on the Earth and that of celestial bodies could be described by the same principles.

Newton built the first practical reflecting telescope and developed a theory of color based on the observation that a prism decomposes white light into the many colors of the visible spectrum. He also formulated an empirical law of cooling and studied the speed of sound.

It was Newton’s conception of the Universe based upon Natural and rationally understandable laws that became one of the seeds for Enlightenment ideology. Locke and Voltaire applied concepts of Natural Law to political systems advocating intrinsic rights; the physiocrats and Adam Smith applied Natural conceptions of psychology and self-interest to economic systems; and sociologists criticized the current social order for trying to fit history into Natural models of progress.

The mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange often said that Newton was the greatest genius who ever lived, and once added that Newton was also “the most fortunate, for we cannot find more than once a system of the world to establish.”

English poet Alexander Pope was so moved by Newton’s accomplishments to write the famous epitaph:

  • Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night;  God said “Let Newton be” and all was light.

In one of Newton’s memoir, he wrote:

  • I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Newton’s famous monument (1731) can be seen in Westminster Abbey, at the north of the entrance to the choir against the choir screen, near his tomb.  The Latin inscription on the base translates as:

  • Here is buried Isaac Newton, Knight, who by a strength of mind almost divine, and mathematical principles peculiarly his own, explored the course and figures of the planets, the paths of comets, the tides of the sea, the dissimilarities in rays of light, and, what no other scholar has previously imagined, the properties of the colors thus produced. Diligent, sagacious and faithful, in his expositions of nature, antiquity and the holy Scriptures, he vindicated by his philosophy the majesty of God mighty and good, and expressed the simplicity of the Gospel in his manners. Mortals rejoice that there has existed such and so great an ornament of the human race!

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*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Newton

Spotlight: Bach (1685 – 1750 AD) – a closer look…

Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750 AD) was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist of the Baroque period. He enriched many established German styles through his skill in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organization, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France.  His music is revered for its intellectual depth, technical command, and artistic beauty.

Bach was born in Eisenach, Saxe-Eisenach, into a very musical family; his father, Johann Ambrosius Bach, was the director of the town musicians, and all of his uncles were professional musicians. Bach’s abilities as an organist were highly respected throughout Europe during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognized as a great composer until a revival of interest and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century. He is now generally regarded as one of the main composers of the Baroque period, and as one of the greatest composers of all time.

After his death, Bach’s reputation as a composer at first declined; his work was regarded as old-fashioned compared to the emerging classical style.However, during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, Bach began receiving greater recognition for his work. Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Robert Schumann, and Felix Mendelssohn were among his most prominent admirers; they began writing in a more contrapuntal style after being exposed to Bach’s music. Beethoven described him as the “Urvater der Harmonie“, the “original father of harmony.”

Bach’s music is frequently bracketed with the literature of William Shakespeare and the science of Isaac Newton. In Germany, during the twentieth century, many streets were named and statues were erected in honor of Bach. His music features three times – more than any other composer – on the Voyager Golden Record, a phonograph record containing a broad sample of the images, common sounds, languages, and music of Earth, sent into outer space with the two Voyager probes.

Bach’s musical style arose from his skill in contrapuntal invention and motivic control, his flair for improvisation, his exposure to North and South German, Italian and French music, and his devotion to the Lutheran liturgy. His access to musicians, scores and instruments as a child and a young man and his emerging talent for writing tightly woven music of powerful sonority, allowed him to develop an eclectic, energetic musical style in which foreign influences were combined with an intensified version of the pre-existing German musical language. From the period 1713–14 onward he learned much from the style of the Italians.

Bach’s devout relationship with the Christian God in the Lutheran traditionand the high demand for religious music of his times placed sacred music at the centre of his repertory. He taught Luther’s Small Catechism as the Thomascantor in Leipzig,and some of his pieces represent it; the Lutheran chorale hymn tune was the basis of much of his work. He wrote more cogent, tightly integrated chorale preludes than most. The large-scale structure of some of Bach’s sacred works is evidence of subtle, elaborate planning. For example, the St Matthew Passion illustrates the Passion with Bible text reflected in recitatives, arias, choruses, and chorales.

Bach’s compositions include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Mass in B minor, the The Well-Tempered Clavier, his cantatas, chorales, partitas, Passions, and organ works.

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*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bach

Spotlight: The Taj Mahal (1653 AD), considered a masterpiece, was built in memory of whom?

Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal (1653 AD)—a white marble mausoleum located in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India—was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Widely recognized as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage,” the Taj Mahal is also regarded by many as the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Indian architectural styles.

Ever since its construction, the building has been the source of an admiration transcending culture and geography, and so personal and emotional responses have consistently eclipsed scholastic appraisals of the monument.

In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the white domed marble mausoleum is the most familiar component of the Taj Mahal, it is actually an integrated complex of structures. The construction began around 1632 and was completed around 1653, employing thousands of artisans and craftsmen with Ahmad Lahauri, who is generally considered to be the principal designer.

Emperor Shah Jahan himself described the Taj in these words:

Should guilty seek asylum here,
Like one pardoned, he becomes free from sin.
Should a sinner make his way to this mansion,
All his past sins are to be washed away.
The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs;
And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.
In this world this edifice has been made;
To display thereby the creator’s glory.

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*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taj_Mahal

Spotlight: The novel, Don Quixote (1605 AD), is considered by many as the best literary work ever written – so what’s it all about?

don quixote

Don Quixote—a Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra published in 1605 AD—follows the adventures of Alonso Quijano, a noble man who reads so many chivalric novels that he decides to set out to revive chivalry, under the name Don Quixote. He recruits a simple farmer, Sancho Panza, as his squire, who often employs a unique, earthly wit in dealing with Don Quixote’s rhetorical orations on antiquated knighthood. Don Quixote is met by the world as it is, initiating such themes as parody, realism, and literary representation.

Don Quixote is considered the most influential work of literature from the Spanish Golden Age and the entire Spanish literary canon. As a founding work of modern Western literature, and one of the earliest canonical novels, it regularly appears high on lists of the greatest works of fiction ever published. It has had major influence on the literary community, as evidenced by direct references in Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers (1844) and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). In a 2002 list, Don Quixote was cited as the “best literary work ever written”

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*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Quixote

Spotlight: “If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me” – Macbeth 1605 AD

macbeth

Macbeth, written by William Shakespeare in 1606 AD, is considered one of his darkest and most powerful tragedies. Set in Scotland, the play dramatizes the corrosive psychological and political effects produced when evil is chosen as a way to fulfill the ambition for power.

Macbeth—Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy—tells the story of a brave Scottish general named Macbeth who receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders King Duncan and takes the throne for himself. He is then wracked with guilt and paranoia, and he soon becomes a tyrannical ruler as he is forced to commit more and more murders to protect himself from enmity and suspicion. The bloodbath and consequent civil war swiftly take Macbeth and Lady Macbeth into the realms of arrogance, madness, and death.

Over the course of many centuries, the play has attracted some of the most renowned actors to the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. It has been adapted to film, television, opera, novels, comic books, and other media.

“If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me”. Macbeth Quote (Act I, Scene III).

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*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macbeth

Spotlight: Can you name this fresco (1509 AD by Raphael)?

Raphael-School

 

Answer: The School of Athens by Raphael (1510 AD)

The School of Athens represents all the greatest mathematicians, philosophers and scientists from classical antiquity gathered together sharing their ideas and learning from each other. These figures all lived at different times, but here they are gathered together under one roof.

The two thinkers in the very center, Aristotle (on the right) and Plato (on the left, pointing up) have been enormously important to Western thinking generally, and in different ways, their different philosophies were incorporated into Christianity. Plato holds his book called The Timaeus.

Plato points up because in his philosophy the changing world that we see around us is just a shadow of a higher, truer reality that is eternal and unchanging (and include things like goodness and beauty). For Plato, this otherworldly reality is the ultimate reality, and the seat of all truth, beauty, justice, and wisdom.

Aristotle holds his hand down, because in his philosophy, the only reality is the reality that we can see and experience by sight and touch (exactly the reality dismissed by Plato). Aristotle’s Ethics (the book that he holds) “emphasized the relationships, justice, friendship, and government of the human world and the need to study it.”

Pythagoras (lower left) believed that the world (including the movement of the planets and stars) operated according to mathematical laws. These mathematical laws were related to ideas of musical and cosmic harmony, and thus (for the Christians who interpreted him in the Renaissance) to God. Pythagoras taught that each of the planets produced a note as it moved, based on its distance from the earth. Together, the movement of all the planets was perfect harmony — “the harmony of the spheres.”

Ptolemy (he has his back to us on the lower right), holds a sphere of the earth, next to him is Zaroaster who holds a celestial sphere. Ptolemy tried to mathematically explain the movements of the planets (which was not easy since some of them appear to move backwards!). His theory of how they all moved around the earth remained the authority until Copernicus and Kepler figured out (in the late 1500s) that the earth was not at the center of the universe, and that the planets moved in orbits the shape of ellipses not in circles.

Raphael included a self-portrait of himself, standing next to Ptolemy. He looks right out at us.

Spotlight: Who painted this ceiling – Sistine Chapel 1512 AD?

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The Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michelangelo is a cornerstone work of High Renaissance art.

What  Do the Frescoes Depict?

A lot! The main panels down the center depict scenes from the Book of Genesis, from the Creation, to the Fall, to shortly after Noah’s deluge. Adjacent to each of these scenes, on either side, are immense portraits of prophets and sibyls who foretold the coming of the Messiah. Along the bottoms of these run spandrels and lunettes containing the ancestors of Jesus and stories of tragedy in ancient Israel. Scattered throughout are smaller figures, cherubs and ignudi (nudes). All told there are more than 300 painted figures on the ceiling. By the way, have you noticed the wealth of architectural members and moldings which dissect the ceiling? Most of those are actually two-dimensional, skillfully painted in by Michelangelo to demarcate separate compositions.

 

How Long Did it Take Michelangelo to Paint These?

It took him a bit over four years, from July of 1508 to October of 1512. Michelangelo got off to a slow start, not having painted frescoes before. He intended to (and did) work in buon fresco, the most difficult method, and one which only true masters undertook. In addition to having to learn everything about the medium itself and making initial blunders in that area, he also had to learn some wickedly hard techniques in perspective. (Consider that his figures look “correct” on curved surfaces, viewed from nearly 60 feet below.)

However, ultimately it wasn’t Michelangelo’s fault that the ceiling took four years. (Once he got the hang of things, he painted like a man on fire!) The work suffered numerous setbacks, such as mold and miserable, damp weather that disallowed plaster curing. A primary cause of downtime occurred when Julius was off waging a war, or ill to the point that Last Rites were administered. The ceiling project, and any hope Michelangelo had of being paid, were both frequently in jeopardy while Julius was absent or near death. Small wonder that the artist complained so often and bitterly about the project, really.

Contrary to popular belief, he painted in a standing position, not lying on his back. According to Vasari, “The work was carried out in extremely uncomfortable conditions, from his having to work with his head tilted upwards”

Michelangelo wrote a poem describing the arduous conditions under which he worked:

I’ve grown a goiter by dwelling in this den–

As cats from stagnant streams in Lombardy,

Or in what other land they hap to be–

Which drives the belly close beneath the chin;

My beard turns up to heaven; my nape falls in,

Fixed on my spine: my breast-bone visibly

Grows like a harp: a rich embroidery

Bedews my face from brush-drops thick and thin.

My loins into my paunch like levers grind:

My buttock like a crupper bears my weight;

My feet unguided wander to and fro;

In front my skin grows loose and long; behind,

By bending it becomes more taut and strait;

Crosswise I strain me like a Syrian bow:

Whence false and quaint, I know,

Must be the fruit of squinting brain and eye;

For ill can aim the gun that bends awry.

Come then, Giovanni, try

To succor my dead pictures and my fame;

Since foul I fare and painting is my shame.

 

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eventsfy team

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sistine_Chapel_ceiling

*http://arthistory.about.com/od/famous_paintings/a/sischap_ceiling.htm

Spotlight: Why is the Mona Lisa (1506 AD) so famous?

Mona_Lisa

 

The Mona Lisa  (1503 to 1506 AD) is a half-length portrait of a woman by the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci, which has been acclaimed as “the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world.”  Mona in Italian is a polite form to address a woman —similar to Ma’amMadam, or my lady in English. 

 

The painting’s fame was emphasized when it was stolen on 21 August 1911. The Louvre, where it is currently on display, was closed for an entire week to aid in investigation of the theft.  After two years being missing, the theft tried to sell the Mona Lisa to the directors of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and was caught.

Leonardo used a pyramid design to place the woman simply and calmly in the space of the painting. Her folded hands form the front corner of the pyramid. Her breast, neck and face glow in the same light that models her hands. The light gives the variety of living surfaces an underlying geometry of spheres and circles. Leonardo referred to a seemingly simple formula for seated female figure: the images of seated Madonna, which were widespread at the time. He effectively modified this formula in order to create the visual impression of distance between the sitter and the observer. The armrest of the chair functions as a dividing element between Mona Lisa and the viewer.

The woman sits markedly upright with her arms folded, which is also a sign of her reserved posture. Only her gaze is fixed on the observer and seems to welcome them to this silent communication. Since the brightly lit face is practically framed with various much darker elements (hair, veil, shadows), the observer’s attraction to it is brought to even greater extent. The woman appears alive to an unusual measure, which Leonardo achieved by his new method not to draw the outlines, “mainly in two features: the corners of the mouth, and the corners of the eyes” (Gombrich), as firmly as that had been the use, before (sfumato). There is no indication of an intimate dialogue between the woman and the observer as is the case in the Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione (Louvre) painted by Raphael about ten years later, and undoubtedly influenced by the work.

Detail of Lisa’s hands, her right hand resting on her left. Leonardo chose this gesture rather than a wedding ring to depict Lisa as a virtuous woman and faithful wife.

The painting was among the first portraits to depict the sitter before an imaginary landscape and Leonardo was one of the first painters to use aerial perspective. The enigmatic woman is portrayed seated in what appears to be an open loggia with dark pillar bases on either side. Behind her a vast landscape recedes to icy mountains. Winding paths and a distant bridge give only the slightest indications of human presence. The sensuous curves of the woman’s hair and clothing are echoed in the undulating imaginary valleys and rivers behind her. The blurred outlines, graceful figure, dramatic contrasts of light and dark, and overall feeling of calm are characteristic of Leonardo’s style. Owing to the expressive synthesis that Leonardo achieved between sitter and landscape it is arguable whether Mona Lisa should be considered as a traditional portrait, for it represents an ideal rather than a real woman. The sense of overall harmony achieved in the painting—especially apparent in the sitter’s faint smile—reflects the idea of a link connecting humanity and nature.

Mona Lisa has no clearly visible eyebrows or eyelashes. Some researchers claim that it was common at this time for genteel women to pluck these hairs, as they were considered unsightly. In 2007, French engineer Pascal Cotte announced that his ultra high resolution scans of the painting provide evidence that Mona Lisa was originally painted with eyelashes and with better visible eyebrows, but that these had gradually disappeared over time, perhaps as a result of over-cleaning. For modern viewers the nearly missing eyebrows add to the slightly abstract quality of the face.

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eventsfy team

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mona_lisa