Western Art History

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Date Western Art History
1. Nowadays it is an outdated opinion that only a beautiful object can be called art. I agree with the idea stated in Janson’s History of Art “art always serves a purpose” (Davies et al. xxiii). The main demand for an object to be named an object of art is the will of its creator and the message in it. If a person claims to make art, and we look and see that indeed it tells us a story, then it is art. By exhibiting a urinal at the museum, Marcel Duchamp demonstrated that anything placed into the context of art becomes art. In no small part due to originality and freshness of an approach, new artists emerge. Now individuality rules the world, and the art world, too. For example, comparing Keith Haring’s works to any teenager’s scribbles, one may think that everyone can do it. However, exactly that was his idea of art – “breaking down the barriers between high and low art” (Yarrow). Unlike the teenager who scribbles some figures in his/her copybook, Haring treats himself as an artist, has a story to tell and paints rather weird and original creatures. Therefore, he producers art about which spectators can argue. It only proves all these elements combined foster what we call an object of art.
Fig. 1.Untitled, 1985 by Keith Haring.
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2. The first glance at the Woman of Willendorf focuses on her ample body shape. The absence of facial features and accentuated genitalia make the spectator think about reproductive qualities of the woman. The swollen breasts and the big belly remind about a possible pregnancy of the woman. With hardly-noticeable arms and almost absent feet, the figurine seems to draw attention to the center of its body where probably lies the real sense of its creation. However, it is not clear whether the figurine was made as an abstract portrayal of the desired fertility, or a realistic portrait of an existing woman. There were found figures of different shapes: with a huge belly or no belly at all (Fig. 2). Therefore, we can suppose that the “fertility” figurines are real-life sculptures showing different stages of pregnancy or obesity (Davies et al. 11; Dixson and Barnaby). The theory with pregnancy may be proved by the figurines from Gönnersdorf that depict headless women in profile with stomachs of various sizes.
Fig. 2.Fertility Figures.
Fig. 3.The figurines from Gönnersdorf.
3. No knowledge about a people can be complete without information on culture and living conditions of all levels of its society. The content of Egyptian tombs informed us more about kings and aristocracy while recent excavations of workmen’s villages allowed a deeper
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look into how the common people of ancient Egypt lived. Apart from usual household sites with sleeping and kitchen areas and pens for cattle, there were found chapels and shrines with painted walls and painted wooden tops. Pottery shreds were used for writing and drawing; the level of literacy was high in the villages (Bayfield).
The excavation of traces of an ancient Egyptian trade port revealed that the Egyptians traveled as far as Somali or Punt probably bringing exotic products and animal (for example giraffes) for the Egyptian wealthy people (McLachlan). Further excavation and research “open up new possibilities for Egyptian influence on other ancient cultures” (McLachlan).
4. The official sculptural portrait of the king Akhenaten and his consort Nefertiti of Egypt is made in the typical Amarna style (Fig. 4). The couple looks real-life and is holding hands, which was not inherent to the Egyptian style before the Old Kingdom (David). Usually the Egyptian kings were portrayed in stately appearance wearing massive headpieces and sitting on the throne. Meanwhile Akhenaten was often depicted in relaxed surroundings of his family playing with his children (Davies 73). Additionally, Akhenaten introduced a new artistic style in depicting a human figure. Both he and his wife have feminine figures with a slender long neck, small round shoulders, slender arms and legs, round hips, and a pot belly. The inscriptions on the back-plate proclaim the connection between the royal couple and the sun god Aten (David). According to scholars, such portable statuettes were common in Egyptian households where “[m]any of the houses had a shrine, before which families would pay homage to the royal couple – the sole living, earthly manifestation of the inaccessible solar disk” (David).
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Fig. 4.Akhenaton and Nefertiti.
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6. The Minoan artists conveyed the idea of motion through depicting animals in the very moment of moving. For example, birds are depicted with wide spread wings on the background of the sky. In one of Knossos’ premises, there was found a fragment of the wall painting depicting dolphins and fish among blue wavy lines; sea creatures are drawn moving in different directions in water (fig. 5). Another example of the depic 


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