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    Key Concepts

    Visual art can be usefully interpreted using a variety of approaches to discovering meaning in the elements, principles, and relationships present in works of art. A structured approach using description, analysis, interpretation, and evaluation is presented and exemplified as one mode for understanding how works of art can carry meaning.

    Other modes of interpretation recognize many approaches to art-making. Works of art may be idealized, representational, non-objective, or abstract. Issues of historical and personal style also become important in understanding what artists hoped to communicate with their artwork.

    Types of art revolve primarily around representation, abstraction, idealization, and nonobjective art, which is a rejection of representation.

    The historical progression of artistic style simultaneously relies on and is limited by technology, socio-cultural, and religious constraints. Examples of cultural or Regional style are drawn from the ancient Near East, Ancient Greece and Rome, and the Indian sub-continent. Examples of period styles exemplified include the Romanesque and Gothic periods of Europe and the Italian Renaissance. Examples of formal styles, i.e., the “isms,” include nineteenth century realism, expressionism of Weimar Germany, and the Abstract Expressionism of the New York School.

    Test Yourself

    1. Discuss the difference between the categories of representational art, abstract art, and non- representational art.
    2. Cite and briefly describe the four phases of critical analysis presented in this chapter.



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    3. Cite one example of an idealized work of art and discuss potential reasons for and goals of this idealization, especially as relates to the work’s culture of origin.
    4. Restate the three types of art historical style mentioned in this chapter, citing one example of each, and illustrate this example with a specific work of art




      a. ____________________ ____________________ ____________________
      b. ____________________ ____________________ ____________________
      c. ____________________ ____________________ ____________________
      d. ____________________ ____________________ ____________________


    Abstract: in art, the property of representing selected essential features of a particular subject instead of relying on objective appearance alone.

    Andachtsbilder: a German term to denote devotional images used to aid prayer.

    Bodhisattva: in Buddhism, an enlightened person who remains in the world in order to help others attain enlightenment.

    Catalogue Raisonné: a published collection of all the works of a given artist or art exhibition.

    Composite view: the construction of a human figure from both profile and frontal views, for example, as in ancient Egyptian art.

    Contrapposto: an asymmetrical arrangement of the human figure in which the line of the arms and shoulders contrasts with and balances the line of the hips and legs.

    École des Beaux-Arts: an influential art school in France.

    Expressionism: one of several art movements of the twentieth century that were concerned with conveying emotional and mental responses through art (German Expressionism, Abstract Expressionism, Neo-Expressionism).

    Gum Bichromate: a photographic print process which uses gum Arabic and bichromate.

    Hierarchical proportion: the condition in which the size of figures is determined by social importance rather than observation.

    Humanism: the belief that people are naturally good and that problems can be solved using reason instead of religion.

    Idealized: an image that is represented as being ideal or perfected.

    Linear perspective: a geometric system for representing the illusion of receding space.

    Naturalistic: of or pertaining to the appearance of nature, without idealization.

    Non-objective: unrelated to or exclusive of perceptions of objective external reality.

    Non-representational: artwork which intentionally avoids the strategy of representation, instead selecting only novel and original experience as subject matter.

    Orthogonal lines: in linear perspective, diagonal lines that recede into fictive space.

    Photo-transformation: a type of photography created by Lucas Samaras which uses fingers and a stylus to move and smear the dyes of a Polaroid print while still wet.

    Portals: in Gothic architecture, doorways, traditionally embellished with sculptural decoration.

    Representation: in art, the use of signs or images which stand in for or take the place of something else.

    Stupas: in Buddhist religious architecture, rounded mounds which contain religious relics, mark sacred places, or are used as sites of meditation.

    Tetrarch: in Roman political history, the term for one of four co-emperors of the Roman Empire installed by Diocletian in 293 CE.

    Tympanum: in Gothic Architecture, the semi-circular area above the Portal, traditionally embellished with sculptural decoration.

    Vanishing point: in linear perspective, the point on the horizon to which orthogonal lines converge.

    Yakshi: in Hindu and Buddhist mythologies, female counterparts to male Yaksha, who are both mythical beings that guard treasure hidden in the Earth.

    4.5: BEFORE YOU MOVE ON is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Pamela Sachant, Peggy Blood, Jeffery LeMieux, & Rita Tekippe.

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