Wells

How to Look at Great Art-Tools for 19-21

How to Look at and Understand Great Art - Tools from Lectures 19-21

Lecture 19: Self-Portraits - How Artists See Themselves (11.03.19)

When you look at a self-portrait, notice how the artist presents him or herself:
⦁ Is the self-portrait painted, sculpture in relief, or sculpture in the round?
⦁ Is the self-portrait formal or informal?
⦁ Was the self-portrait done in profile, three-quarter, or full face?
⦁ Is the self-portrait life size, larger, or smaller?
⦁ Is the artist looking at you, at something in the picture, or off into space - that is, where is the artist's gaze directed?
⦁ How are you gazing at the artist - from above or below, from the point of view of someone in the picture, in a mirror or through a window in the picture?
⦁ What objects are associated with the artist, and what might they signify about him or her?
⦁ Is the self-portrait realistic, idealized, distorted, or abstract?
⦁ Is the self-portrait flattering, distinctly unflattering, or neutral?
⦁ How does the self-portrait reflect the times and circumstances in which the artist lived and the role of artists at that time?
⦁ Is the artist the main subject of the work or just a cameo appearance as part of a larger work?
⦁ If there are other self-portraits by this artist, how does this one compare to them?

Ask yourself
⦁ What does the artist seem to be saying about herself or himself in this portrait, and what does it reveal about the role or status of the artist at that time?

Lecture 20: Landscapes - Art of the Great Outdoors (11.03.19)

Notice how the artist composes and fills the landscape:
⦁ Where is the horizon line in the painting?
⦁ How much of the canvas is filled by the foreground, the middle ground, and the background?
⦁ How close is the foreground to you, and how distant is the background?
⦁ What is the interplay of horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines in the landscape?
⦁ Where does the light come from in the landscape, and what kind of weather is suggested?
⦁ If there are any figures in the picture, what is their proportion to the landscape?
⦁ Where do you as a viewer enter the landscape, and how easy is it to imagine walking through it?
⦁ Is the overall feeling of the landscape serene and peaceful or wild and dramatic?
⦁ Is it a wooded landscape, farm landscape, seascape or cityscape?

Ask yourself:
⦁ How does the way the artist presents the landscape influence my response to the work?

Lecture 21: Putting It All Together (11.03.19)

When you "read" a work of art, notice as much as you can about it:
⦁ Use all your tools here!
⦁ Take time to really look at the work; use your imagination to enter into the spirit of it.
⦁ Pay attention to what your eye falls on first, how your gaze moves around the work, where it comes to rest. What emotions or thoughts does it evoke?
⦁ Look from more than one angle.
⦁ Do your own reading of a work before you read the plaque. Does the plaque add anything new to what you were able to see for yourself?

Ask yourself:
⦁ After reading what you can from a work and enjoying that reading, what question do you want to ask about the work?