Thursday, June 07, 2007

Art Appreciation Made To Stick

In grade three or four - it was so long ago, I can hardly remember - we had a class called Art Appreciation. Each week we received a post card size print of a noted artist and their work. As we gazed upon the cards, we heard stories of the lives of the artists. We were transported to a different time and place. These three I share today are the ones that are etched into my brain. The first is a wood cut by Japanese printmaker Hokusai called Tidal Wave. I remember the crisp lines. I remember the motion and the action that is illustrated in two dimensions.

The picture to the left is a paiting in oil by Pierre Auguste Renoir's "A Girl with a Watering Can". I believe I could look at this painting for hours. In fact, I probably did. And there are several prints of various sizes in my possession. When I recall first memories of art, this painting is always one of them. Along with this painting comes the artists focus on light, depth and brush stroke. Why is it certain images have such an impact on us? What part of our senses retain this information? One can almost feel the season surrounding the girl. At this time of year, when the roses blossom and the peonies pop - it is this painting that always plays in my mind's eye. Any suggestions Dr. McMaster?

Finally, this fresco by Beato Fra Angelico, Italian Renaissance artist - Annunciazione (The Annunciation) which is housed in the Museo di San Marco in Florence, Italy. I first discovered the symmetry and perspective of this masterpiece - not to mention those groovy wings - in grammar school Art Appreciation class. Then, a few years ago, we were able to take the trip of a lifetime (so far, at least :) and spent a couple weeks in Firenze. Imagine the emotion when I saw this painting - in real - after only seeing it on paper. It took my breath away. The visit to Italy started as a goal almost 20 years ago. It was simple "Before I die, I want to see the Sistine Chapel". We saw much more including the grave of Fra Angelico.

All of this before marketing, before blogging, before branding - these are paintings that stuck. This may be a bit of a stretch - and its art not ideas - but...I'm reading "Made to Stick" by the Brothers Heath (that darn MarketingProfs Book Club). Chip and Dan use an acronym - SUCCESs. Do these paintings meet the criteria? Simple - yes. Unexpected - in their time and even today, yes. Concrete? - I'd say so. Credible - artists carry credibility over time though usually after they die. Emotional? - try looking at them without feeling or emitting a response. And finally, do they tell Stories - they ARE a story.

What is some of the early art you remember? I'd be curious to know. Was it "Made to Stick"?


Hattie said...

My mother took me to (I think it was) the De Young Museum in San Franciso, where I saw my first real painting, the Greco St. Francis venerating the crucifix. She bought some postcards, too, one of them of Valesquez's Infanta Margarita.
Later I was to see the traveling collection of Van Gogh's works.
Nothing I have seen since then, and I have seen a lot of art, can replace the thrill of seeing these great works for the first time with young eyes.
It is so important to educate young people in art. I'm convinced kids have an innate sense of quality. Think how many never see anything good and never get to develop their tastes.
I'm going to put some paintings on my blog the way you have done.
I very much like what you have to say here.

Robyn McMaster said...

One piece of art that really sticks in my mind is Michaelangelo's painting on the Sistine Chapel. Often you'll see closeups of the section in which the finger of God is reaching out to Adam. I find it powerful.

Bob, you're not going to believe this, but I have written a piece on Fra Angelico...

Robyn McMaster said...

Bob, I didn't answer your question because it's a good one that I'll blog on. :-) I think it deserves a really thoughtful answer!

BobG said...

How cool, hattie :) thank you for your generous comments. Kids are like sponges with keen eyes. I reflect often on seeing these little cards and at the time all I was thinking about was recess LOL - but here it is 45 years later and I still see them on my desk.

Your mention of Van Gogh makes me smile. El Greco and Velazquez...I am literally getting chills as I type this - goodness!

Robyn - no fooling?!?! thats getting quite uncanny in consideration of us mentioning similar thinking on topics. At the same time, art will do well as writing. I'll have to check out your piece on Fra Angelico. It reminds me to post a paper I wrote on Michelangelo's David. And his Sistine Chapel...WOW! The moment of creation. Your comments and answers are always thoughtful - you'll need to let me know.

Happy Friday to you both!

Becky Carroll said...

Great post, Bob! I think art appreciation is becoming lost in this world of multi-media. Whenever we can, we take our kids to museums and just let them stand there and look at paintings - no music, no flashing graphics, no explanations. One can't help but feel emotion and use their imagination when viewing paintings!

I love Renoir as well; his people are always so full of life and color. Another artist I really like is Mary Cassatt. She usually depicts mothers and children together, and I love the tenderness I see in the expressions. No one painting that sticks - it is the emotion on the faces that sticks for me.

BobG said...

I love Mary Cassatt, Becky - thank you for mentioning her for she is far too often overlooked.

Excellent observation on modern day living. I do believe we have to use the power and influence with children by continuing to show them great art through the ages :) Part of my post suggests there is something intrinsic to "seeing" paintings - no matter how "boring" they might be :)

Greatly appreciate you coming by again!

Hattie said...

I saw the Cassats in the Met in NY a couple of years ago and must say that while reproductions are nice the originals are wonderful. I had them all to myself for an hour or so.

Ryan Karpeles said...

Thanks for sharing, Bob. I was also able to see that Fra Angelico painting in person, and I was completely blown away. Art in Italy seems to have that effect...

The art that sticks for me the most is Botticelli. The colors are so vivid, the light sources are immaculate, and the depth & detail is incredible. Definitely one of my all-time favorites :)

BobG said...

AN hour alone with Mary Cassatt - mmmmm - how delicious!

Ryan - when I saw your twitter wallpaper I was floored...took me right back to Firenze and Roma. You are correct - the art in Italy is eye-popping. One thing that stands out is it is e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. Walk down the street and walk right up to it ... Botticelli - sumptuous, seductive, magnificato - yesssss! Now I got Joni Mitchell's "only joy in town" running through my head. Thanks, Ryan :)

Open Eyes Blinded By The Knowledge Of All That Is said...

I love Renoir... I could stare at his paintings for hours, it is so easy to get lost in them...

Jackie Cameron said...

HI Bob
We have a Mary Cassat's "The Child's Bath" poster hanging on our wall from an exhibition of her work in Boston. I find it beautiful and touching.
I like the idea of art appreciation in school. I remember being excited but confused when I saw my first Picasso.I was probably about 12 and I expect it was "Dora Maar Seated" as I recall the lady in the portrait had her nose in 2 places! My Mum dismissed it saying that a kid could do that sort of drawing and from that I took it that Picasso could only paint that way.
Many years later as a family - my own children would have been about 10 and 12 - we visited the Picasso Museum in Paris. (We often dragged them round museums and galleries). This time we lost them for a while and came across them looking at a portrait of Dora Maar. My son is himself a talented artist - my daughter just knows what she likes to look at. They both said that this was the best gallery they had ever been in.They loved the range of Picasso's work.
I had forgotten about this until your post. Thanks for bringing it flooding back.
A final word on Picasso. Last year we visited the Guggenheim in NY and I came across "A Woman Ironing". I was so moved by this painting.

BobG said...

Open eyes blinded - the feeling of being lost in any painting is enticing. Time moves at a unique pace. For me, Renoir holds a special place called lush - thank you for leaving your comment.

Jackie - I'm so glad you mention Picasso and his work (in addition to the Cassatt painting which I'd forgotten the title of :). I'm guessing your children will always remember tilting their heads and wondering - just like you! And they will ultimately thank you for "dragging them round the museums"! Don't you just love the Guggenheim? I've seen only few of the great one's works - most notably "Guernica" in NY and the public sculpture outside Sears Tower in Chicago - and they both floored me. I must get out my books and look for "A Woman Ironing"

Jackie Cameron said...

Our visit to the Guggenheim was at the instigation of our son who is a design student here in Scotland right now. He had seen photographs of the interior and persuaded his Dad and I that we should visit when we were in NY for the basketball. I am so glad we went. The outside was clad in scaffolding which was a pity - but that sprial interior - WOW!

We have some pretty good galleries here in Scotland too:-)

Thank you for taking me back there.

BobG said...

Absolutely Jackie - your welcome...and you took me back there! Its almost 35 years since I visited NYC and those museums :) what an astounding trip for a 20 something art student! Pass along to your son just how his action convincing Mom and Dad to see the Guggenheim impacted an art lover in the Pacific NW.

I'd imagine Scotland has some very fine museums - along with other amazing sights. One day perhaps an opportunity to visit will arise.