Saturday, March 28, 2009

My Favorite Art and Why

I can’t imagine my life without art. I think it is sad that so many people go through life without ever really enjoying any art other than cartoons when there are so many beautiful paintings to enjoy!

Currently, I am a sophomore in highschool. Having studied around 45 artists since first grade and having a collection of around 200 prints, today I went through my album and picked out my three favorite artists and three favorite prints and I thought I’d share them with you. Picking out the artists was easy. I knew right away that John William Waterhouse, William Bougereau and Frederick Leighton would be my favorites. (I would have replaced Leighton with Thomas Kinkade in a heartbeat, but I haven’t collected his paintings, or really studied them, so he doesn’t count.) If you quickly scan a few of their paintings, you’ll realize rather quickly that all three of these artists have very similar styles. They are all three realists, and all three paint lots of figures from mythology/poetry/literature, and mostly young girls and children.Most of Waterhouse’s paintings are figures from mythology or poetry. His favorite subjects seem to be Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and The Lady Of Shallot. I was quite pleasantly surprised when I accidentally stumbled upon his painting called, “‘I am half sick of shadows’, said the Lady Of Shallot.” This is a line from Tennyson’s poem The Lady Of Shallot, and one that has always stood out to me. Waterhouse’s other subjects include: Jason and Medea, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, Penelope, Danae, Pandora, Thisbe, Circe and Ulysses.

Bougereau’s paintings make me think of silk. The faces in his paintings are so smooth that they make you want to stroke them. He has a way of making skin look like light. He especially paints beautiful pictures of children. I think he was probably the most skilled of all the painters I have ever studied, with the possible exception of Thomas Cole. Unfortunately most of his paintings seem to have been attempts to glorify the human body rather than the Creator.

Leighton was, perhaps, the most sensuous of the Pre-Raphealite painters. He struggled all his life to find meaning and perhaps to make an absolute out of sensuality. (He failed, by the way) Why would I choose him as a favorite artist? His paintings are beautiful. To me, art is about beauty. Contrast the wretch Leighton with the wretch Gauguin and notice that although both of them were desperately lost and searching for meaning in all the wrong places, one of them made beautiful paintings and the other did not. An ugly painting with a good meaning is nothing to me, because art is not just about meaning. AND a beautiful painting with “no meaning” is still beautiful to me. I don’t believe that there is any such thing as art without a meaning. I think that every artist, whether he likes it or not, is putting down meanings with every stroke of his brush, even if he is only saying, “look how fearfully and wonderfully made I am! I can look at this thing that I see before me and put it down on paper…God is incredible.”

Out of all the many artists I have studied, I like these ones the best because of the skill and beauty in their paintings. It’s amazing to me what they are able to do with paint. I love artists who can capture moods and expressions in people’s faces and I think that the human face is the most intriguing subject for art. I find that I also like surrealistic and/or idealistic landscape paintings but these seem to be a relatively modern interest in art and I have not actually studied any particular artist who painted works of this type, so I cannot list them.

It was quite a bit harder to choose my favorite paintings, but I eventually managed to narrow them down to three.

The first is Jacques Louis David’s Napoleon. I cannot think of any other painting that evokes such feelings in me as Napoleon. I like it because I think it is a beautiful illustration of mankind. Although this may sound odd, it makes me feel a greater capacity to love. I think how hated the historical Napoleon is (and perhaps rightly so) and then see this “romanticized” version and think that it shows him looking rather like a frightened child, pointing vaguely up the mountain towards the “great things” he wants to do. To me he looks like he is giving one of those parting glances we leave with people we love dearly and may never see again. “Think well of me. I did my best.” This is no defense of or excuse for the historical Napoleon, obviously – it’s just the way the painting makes me feel.

Another of my favorite paintings, Forget Me Not is by Arthur Hughes, I think the most admirable of the Pre-Raphaelite painters. Rather than only dreaming about the heroism and perfection that most of the other Pre-Raphaelites failed to live out, Hughes was more devoted to his principles in real every-day life.

Although I greatly appreciate Waterhouse’s paintings of mythological and literary characters that I recognize and enjoy, I cannot imagine choosing any of them to be my favorites paintings. They lack the significance that I look for in anything that I choose to be my “favorite.” Although it is not as skillfully done, perhaps, as many of his other works, I chose The Annunciation as my favorite of Waterhouse’s paintings. It has incredible significance. I love the purplish-blue combination and the way the colors compliment each other so well. I also love the humble way in which he portrays Mary here. Unlike most of his female subjects, she looks completely pure.

So, anyway, those are a few of my favorites when it comes to art. What about you?

Seize The Day!


Anonymous said...

Hi Strong Joy!
Lovely post on art... sure beats mine, I must say :). As I mentioned over on God in the Bush, we have very similar art tastes. I love the Pre-Raphaelites, although unfortunately I am little aquainted with Arthur Hughes. His painting is lovely. Some of my other favorite artists (besides what I put up on my blog and those mentioned here) include Mary Cassat, who did many lovely mother-child paintings, Trina Schart Hyman (perhaps not considered a proper painter, but her illustrations are my favorites), N.C. Wyeth, a few Degas and some Monet, and more I can't remember ;).

I also read you on Deborah Drapper's blog. I left a note about how glad I was to see some "familiar" faces there, doing much the same thing as me and Lizbelle and others. I guess you heard about her on The Rebelution? That's where I did.

Well, anyway...
See you later, dear!

P.S. Oh, I didn't enter into your Cultural Literacy Contest because I read the list from the first commenter and couldn't do any more than that!

StrongJoy said...

Thanks for the encouraging words! I've been very absent in the blog world and haven't been visiting anyone's blogs for awhile so I hadn't seen your art post. (bad me) I think it's beautiful. I especially love the Soul Of The Rose. Isn't Waterhouse just incredible?