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Humanities LibreTexts


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    Due to their ability to create art, throughout history artists have often been considered to have special and mysterious powers. Images can be used to enhance the power of an individu- al, system of government, or form of religion. Artists can use images to bring attention to and have an impact on social issues. Images of war can be used to validate and strengthen a ruler’s authority and power. From the nineteenth century to the present, violent conflicts have beendepicted with a greater range of imagery, in part due to technological advances and social at- titudes toward the impact of war. Imagery is forbidden within some religions based on inter- pretations of religious texts. The destruction of images can be the result of religious, social, or political beliefs or protests.

    Test Yourself

    1. Describe why and how art and artists have in some cultures been considered to have exceptional power.
    2. What are propaganda and persuasion, and what are some differences between them?
    3. How did King Darius I use images of both persuasion and propaganda at the Apadana in Persepolis?
    4. Describe how rulers have used images of them to enhance their authority.
    5. How and why did images of war change in the United States from the time of Revolutionary War through World War I?
    6. Give an example of an art work that was meant to protest war or social injustice, and describe how it did so.
    7. Describe how and why Nick Ut and Pablo Picasso focused on the individual in their depictions of war.
    8. Why are images forbidden within some religions? Give specific examples.
    9. What prompted the destruction and avoidance of religious images during the Protestant Reformation?
    10. Explain why images of a defeated or dead ruler or monuments of an occupied culture might be defaced or destroyed.


    Aniconic: the avoidance of figural imagery within a religion

    Caricature: portrait containing features or characteristics exaggerated for comic effect

    Documentary: in artistic or written forms, work that records actual events as they happened

    Frieze: a horizontal row of relief sculpture or painting on a building

    Genius: (from the Latin genui: to bring into being or create) a person of remarkable intelligence or with outstanding creative abilities

    Muse: personification of knowledge and the arts, and inspiration to write, sculpt, and compose

    Persuasion: the attempt to influence, convince or entice someone to make a choice (often a purchase)

    Propaganda: information (written, verbal, artistic) that promotes a particular viewpoint or set of ideas about a person or event. The word indicates information that is biased, misleading, or sometimes hidden that is used in order to influence views, beliefs, or behavior

    Synagogue: Jewish house of worship

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