We are searching data for your request:
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.
6 Important Impressionist Painters Who Shaped the Iconic Movement
In the 1870s, the western art world was turned upside-down with the emergence of Impressionism, an avant-garde art movement. Born in Paris, France, Impressionism was founded by a unique group of artists who each opted to abandon traditional rules of art in favor of a new approach. Characterized by quick, painterly brushstrokes and a unique use of color based on the effects of light, this novel style of painting enabled the artists to capture fleeting impressions of everyday life&mdashan interest that unified them and eventually led to their “Impressionist” title.
While a myriad of artists influenced the iconic movement, the work of a select few has resonated particularly strongly over the last century. Here, we explore the work of these iconic Impressionist painters in order to understand their respective contributions to the first modern art movement.
Early life and works
Édouard was the son of Auguste Manet, the chief of personnel at the Ministry of Justice, and Eugénie-Désirée Fournier. From 1839 he was a day pupil at Canon Poiloup’s school in Vaugirard, where he studied French and the classics. From 1844 to 1848 he was a boarder at the Collège Rollin, then located near the Panthéon. A poor student, he was interested only in the special drawing course offered by the school.
Although his father wanted him to enroll in law school, Édouard could not be persuaded to do so. When his father refused to allow him to become a painter, he applied for the naval college but failed the entrance examination. He therefore embarked in December 1848 as an apprentice pilot on a transport vessel. Upon his return to France in June 1849, he failed the naval examination a second time, and his parents finally yielded to their son’s stubborn determination to become a painter.
In 1850 Manet entered the studio of the classical painter Thomas Couture. Despite fundamental differences between teacher and student, Manet was to owe to Couture a good grasp of drawing and pictorial technique. In 1856, after six years with Couture, Manet set up a studio that he shared with Albert de Balleroy, a painter of military subjects. There he painted The Boy with Cherries (c. 1858) before moving to another studio, where he painted The Absinthe Drinker (1859). In 1856 he made short trips to The Netherlands, Germany, and Italy. Meanwhile, at the Louvre he copied paintings by Titian and Diego Velázquez and in 1857 made the acquaintance of the artist Henri Fantin-Latour, who was later to paint Manet’s portrait.
During this period, Manet also met the poet Charles Baudelaire, at whose suggestion he painted Music in the Tuileries Gardens (1862). The canvas, which was painted outdoors, seems to assemble the whole of Paris of the Second Empire—a smart, fashionable gathering composed chiefly of habitués of the Café Tortoni and of the Café Guerbois, which was the rendezvous of the Batignolles artists. As he created the work, passersby looked with curiosity at this elegantly dressed painter who set up his canvas and painted in the open air. At the Salon of 1861, Manet exhibited Spanish Singer (1860), dubbed “Guitarero” by the French man of letters Théophile Gautier, who praised it enthusiastically in the periodical Le Moniteur universel.
Impressionism and Photography
The Impressionists further upset the Académie with their composition techniques. Traditionally, artists had created images where the lines, shapes, tones and colours were arranged in a way that led the eye to the focal point of the painting. This was the most important area of the picture and was usually situated in a central position. It was considered poor composition if the background or edges of the painting detracted from the focal point. True to form, the Impressionists broke this rule.
At this time, photography was in its early stages of development. As there was often a difference between what the photographer saw in the viewfinder of his camera and what actually appeared on the negative, photographers would crop their pictures to improve their composition. This resulted in some unusual arrangements which emphasized shapes and forms at the edge of the image. Some of Impressionists, like Degas' in his 'Four Dancers', embraced the asymmetrical effects of cropping and made it a prominent feature of their compositions.
Tobolsk Kremlin (2009)
Current Prime Minister and former President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev claims the final spot in this list of most expensive photos ever sold. His black and white photo of an aerial view of the Tobolsk Kremlin in Siberia fetched $1.75 million at auction, however, some experts say the high price was paid more for charity than for real artistic merit. It was sold at an auction that was part of the fourth annual charity fair Rozhdestvenskaya Azbuka (Christmas Alphabet), to Mikhail Zingarevich.
A grandiose building. Soufflot’s ambition was to outdo the churches of St. Peter's in Rome and St. Paul’s in London. The monumental peristyle was inspired by the Pantheon commissioned by Agrippa in Rome.
A decorative programme. From 1874 onwards, the sanctuary was decorated with paintings on canvas marouflé illustrating the life of Saint Geneviève and the epic story of the beginnings of both Christianity and the monarchy in France.
The crypt. Visit the tombs of the eminent personalities interred in the crypt who shaped France's national identity. A permanent exhibition gives details about the lives and works of those who are buried here, from Voltaire and Rousseau to Alexandre Dumas.
Foucault’s pendulum. First installed in 1851 and removed then reinstalled in 1995, this device demonstrated the Earth's rotation.
To ensure the safety of our visitors, the monument is strictly applying the security measures decided by the french authorities.
The monument is fully opened.
Artist's Impression of the Pantheon - History
Miscellaneous Mohammed Images
There have been depictions of Mohammed in every era and in nearly every country in the world. This "Miscellaneous" section of the Archive encompasses Mohammed depictions from periods and locations not covered in other categories.
The North Frieze on the Supreme Court building in Washington, DC features a bas-relief sculpture of Mohammed, among several other historical law-givers. He is in the center of this image holding a curved scimitar on the left is Charlemagne, and on the right is Byzantine Emperor Justinian. You can download a detailed pdf of the Supreme Court friezes here. The urban legend site Snopes.com has info about the frieze in this entry. A slightly less clear photo of Mohammed in the frieze can be found here, as part of this article which gives some background on the sculpture. (See below for a different courthouse Mohammed that met a less happy fate.)
(Thanks to: js, C. Reb, and Matt R.)
In 1928, Liebig's Extract of Meat Company (a German firm which had developed concentrated beef extract and bouillon cubes) issued a series of advertising trading cards to promote its canned beef extract products. The 1928 card set (one of hundreds of different designs issued by the company over the years, on various themes) illustrated six different pivotal points in Mohammed's life. The most beautiful of the cards was the second one, seen here, which showed the Archangel Gabriel escorting Mohammed up to the presence of Allah in Paradise -- the climax of his legendary "Night Journey." The full set of all six cards are visible near the bottom of this page.
(Thanks to: karmic inquisitor.)
A cigarette card showing an artist's impression of Mohammed, manufactured by the Ogden Cigarette company, printed sometime around the turn of the 20th century.
(Thanks to: Martin.)
Mohammed at Mecca, by Andreas Muller, late 19th century this is a photogravure reproduction printed in 1889 the original is in the Maximilianeum Gallery, Munich. Mohammed is the one on the camel, and is depicted casting the idols out of the Kaaba.
(Thanks to: little old lady and Andrew.)
Certain towns in southern Spain hold an annual festival called "Moros y Cristianos" ("Moors and Christians"), which celebrates the Reconquista -- the recapture of the Iberian Peninsula by Christian Spaniards from the Muslim colonizers who had invaded centuries earlier. In some locales, at the climax of the festival, townspeople burn Mohammed in effigy. The Mohammed figure, called La Mahoma, is usually bigger than life-size and in full costume. The picture here shows La Mahoma from the 1920 Moros y Cristianos festival in the town of Biar, near Alicante. But according to this site, some of the villages are planning to tone down their celebrations this year by not having La Mahoma at all. And artists in the city of Valencia are now afraid to make sculptures that mock Mohammed in their annual satirical Fallas festival.
(Thanks to: foreign devil.)
A photo essay on this site shows La Mahoma of Biar being paraded through the town in the 2000 Moros y Cristianos.
A municipal fraternal organization maintains the tradition of La Mahoma from year to year.
On September 25, 2006, the Berlin opera house Deutsche Oper cancelled scheduled performances of Mozart's opera "Idomeneo" out of fear that Muslim extremists might commit acts of terror in response to the production. The original Mozart score made no mention of Mohammed or Islam, but the contemporary German version -- first performed without incident in 2003 -- shows a character displaying the severed heads of four religious figures: Poseidon, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed. The picture shown above comes from a 2003 rehearsal of the opera.
These two additional images of Mohammed's head in "Ideomeneo" come courtesy of the Drinking From Home blog the photo on the left shows an actor playing Mohammed before his head is removed and the other picture shows Mohammed's head sitting on a chair on the right.
This contemporary drawing of Mohammed is a thoughtful attempt to show what he might have actually looked like in real life, based on scholarly research into the earliest known descriptions of him, and into the type of clothing worn in Arabia during his lifetime.
(Thanks to: Rob.)
This unusual drawing of a dark-skinned Mohammed comes from a site about Factology, an obscure messianic Islamic-themed schismatic religious group which is based on the teachings of Dr. Malachi Z. York.
(Thanks to: Raafat.)
This advertisement for Taiwan's "Confutopia Church" (a combination of "Confucius" and "utopia") shows Mohammed holding hands with a pantheon of historical spiritual leaders. The figures, from left to right, are: A Taiwanese aborigine, Mohammed, Confucius, Jesus, Buddha, Socrates, and Lao-Tzu. (The first figure might instead be Krishna -- it's not clear).
(Thanks to: David B.)
Zombietime reader David B. also sends these photos of Confutopia members performing at Hsuan Chuang University in 2008. The group photo features students portraying (from left to right): Lao-Tzu, Buddha, Socrates (with question mark), a fan, Confucius, Jesus, and Muhammad. The large photo on the left is a close-up of the actor portraying Mohammed notice the golden crescent and star (the symbol of Islam) on his chest, despite his odd headgear.
The second photo shows the same actors doing a hip-hop dance performance the photo on the left is a close-up of Mohammed dancing.
This picture from a Scientology book for volunteer ministers is quite similar to the Confutopia image (seen above) both show Mohammed as one among several famous spiritual leaders throughout history. In this picture, a Scientologist (on the left) towers over (in order, left to right) Mohammed, Jesus, Confucius, Buddha, Lao-Tzu, Zoroaster, Moses and Abraham. (The last figure is not named, but may be Adam.) Higher level Scientology materials explain how Scientology is superior to all other religions (including Islam), because they are nothing more than "engrams" falsely implanted in our minds.
(Thanks to: Anonymous Japan.)
On the left is a close-up of Mohammed (along with Jesus and a Scientologist) taken from the picture above and on the right is another version of the same photo, this time with a different Scientologist and different background colors. This second image was found at the Refund and Reparation site, and was originally taken from The Scientology Handbook.
(Thanks to: Anonymous Japan.)
19th-century German artist Theodore Hosemann created this painting in 1847, which is titled "Die Berufung Mohammeds durch den Engel Gabriel" ("The Calling of Mohammed Through the Angel Gabriel"). A reproduction of it was published in the December 20, 1999 edition of Der Spiegel magazine in Germany (but not properly attributed until a mention in the February 7, 2000 issue). A jpeg of the painting was posted at wikimedia.
(Thanks to: Martin H.)
This Chilean scholastic site features a modern veiled portait of Mohammed -- a rarity in a non-Islamic country.
New York artist Christina Varga created this neo-Byzantine portrait of Mohammed (with Arabic calligraphy instead of a face) in 2002 as part of a triptych showing Mohammed, Jesus and Buddha which was displayed at The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York City. The artist's caption for her Mohammed portrait says, "Mohammed the Prophet (peace be upon him) stands before the green domed mosque of Medina called the Prophet's Mosque. Because it is forbidden to represent his face calligraphy commanding all to maintain a pure body and spirit and declaring the greatness of Allah the one True God covers it. Mohammed's hands are in a position of Surrender - the definition of Islam. His halo represents the flames surrounding his body in Islamic iconography."
(Thanks to: Raafat.)
Contemporary Marxist artist Erin Currier created this portrait of Mohammed it now resides in a private collection.
(Thanks to: Raafat.)
This 1930s-era glass painting from Senegal shows Mohammed's flight from Mecca to Medina in 622 A.D. It's currently for sale at this online African art gallery.
(Thanks to: Leigh F.)
The Mevlana Museum in the Turkish City of Konya houses an extremely rare relic from Mohammed's body itself: this antique box contains what is said to be Mohammed's beard. Tour guides at the museum say that such relics were taken from across the Middle East by Ottoman Sultans and brought back to Turkey to preserve them from fundamentalist Islamic sects (such as the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia) that sought to destroy idolotrous Mohammed relics even centuries ago. These photos were taken and submitted by Archive reader "HypnoToad." (More photos of the museum can be seen here.) The museum also has a reliquary which supposedly houses one of Mohammed's teeth.
The courthouse of the Appellate Division, First Department of the New York State Supreme Court used to feature a statue of Mohammed (seen here on the right) on its roof balustrade, among several other historical figures. The statue stood unchallenged between 1902 and 1955, when, as reported by Daniel Pipes, the Muslim community demanded its removal. Unlike with the United States Supreme Court Mohammed depicted at the top of this page, the New York Courthouse Mohammed was dutifully removed in 1955 as a result of Muslim complaints, and the remaining statues repositioned. The photo shown here is the only known surviving picture of it.
(Thanks to: Daniel Pipes.)
The Sermon of Mohammed. Oil painting on canvas by Italian artist Domenico Morelli, late 19th century. In the Museo Civico Revoltella, Trieste, Italy.
The Carnival Collection of the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library at Tulane University in New Orleans preserves the original float designs made by Jennie Wilde of the "Mistick Krewe of Comus" for the 1910 New Orleans Mardi Gras parade, which envisioned several elaborate floats in an Islamic theme, including this one for "Mahomet." (A low-resolution version of this image has also been posted at wikimedia.) In all, there were five float designs that depicted Mohammed the other four are presented below. In this one, Mohammed is the figure at the upper left of the image.
It is not known if any of these Islamic Mardi Gras floats were ever constructed, and if they were, whether or not they were photographed.
The next float design was titled "Al Borak" the artist's notes say, "The animal brought by the angel Gabriel to convey the prophet Mahommad to the seventh heaven. The name means 'the lightning.'" Mohammed is the figure at the far left.
The third float design depicted The Hegira (Mohammed's flight from Mecca to Medina), and included several authentic details from Islamic scripture, such as the spider which spun a web to disguise the entrance of the cave where Mohammed was hiding from his pursuers. It's not entirely clear which figure on the float is Mohammed -- he is likely either the figure in red or the seated warrior in gold.
The design called "The Koran" included a cow because, according to the artist, the Sura called "The Cow" was the longest Sura of the Koran. Presumably, the seated figure at the top of the float is Allah, the figure at the right is the Angel Gabriel who is receiving the text of the Koran from him, and finally conveying it to Mohammed, the figure at the left -- although these identifications are not definite.
The last of the floats to possibly depict Mohammed is titled "The Place of Adoration," with Mohammed apparently the seated figure with a beard at the lower left of the image. Although the image did not include any notes from the artist, the notion of a "place of adoration" in Islam refers to a spiritual mindset one enters when praying.
There were 15 additional Mistick Krewe of Comus float designs made by Jennie Wilde in 1910, but as far as can be determined none of them included depictions of Mohammed.
This modern drawing of Mohammed was used in public school instructional materials in Spain.
The Spanish newspaper El Mundo has this mohammed portrait on their Web site in a section about the history of Islam.
This 20th-century painting from a Shriners' Hall in Maine shows Mohammed receiving a vision.
Another Shriners' painting showing Mohammed (in the red robe on the right) being comforted by his uncle as he hides from Meccans during his flight to Medina.
Recent issue of French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur with Mohammed on the cover. The magazine has extensive coverage of the Muslim reaction to the Danish cartoons but make no mention of its own Mohammed cover.
This reproduction is a bit small, but it shows Mohammed destroying the idols at the Kaaba in Mecca. It is taken from Manly P. Hall's occult guide The Secret Teachings of All Ages, which incorporates ideas from many religions, Christianity and Islam among them.
(Thanks to: MikalM.)
This painting was originally done by Russian symbolist painter and Theosophist Nicholas Roerich in 1932, and is entitled "Mohammed the Prophet," showing Mohammed receiving a vision. It has appeared in the literature of various Christian groups.
(Thanks to: David B., Aquarius, and Nicholas.)
Roerich also made an almost identical painting called Mohammed on Mount Hira that is much less well-known.
(Thanks to: Raafat.)
Painting of Mohammed preaching. By Russian artist Grigory Gagarin, painted sometime in the 1840s or 1850s. Source: Wikimedia Commons. The image on the right is a detail from the full painting, showing just Mohammed.
This skilled contemporary pastel rendering of Mohammed was posted at the "No Compulsion" site in 2014 to illustrate an article called "Psychological Profile of MUHAMMAD" by "Dr. Hafsa 'bint Sharif, Ph.D." (High-resolution jpeg visible here.)
(Thanks to: Raafat.)
This 1865 engraving by Alonzo Chappel entitled "Mahomed the Prophet Expounding His Creed" appeared for sale at eBay in 2013, but has since been bought and the listing taken offline. The original image size is 5 1/2" x 7 3/4".
(Thanks to: littleoldlady.)
As mentioned near the top of this page, in 1928 Liebig's Extract of Meat Company issued a series of six advertising trading cards illustrating important moments in the life of Mohammed. The cards came in both German and French (and possibly other languages as well). A collector has uploaded these images of all six of the French-language cards to the Internet Archive. All six are presented here.
(Thanks to: Martin H.)
The Humanist site "Freethunk" features this page of eight Mohammed clip-art images (as well as a few Mohammed cartoons that are included on the "Recent Responses" page of the Archive).
This online clip-art gallery also offers several copyright-free line drawings of Mohammed, including the one shown here.
(Thanks to: Raafat.)
Modern-era painting showing Mohammed. Artist unknown.
Contemporary stylized drawing of Mohammed.
This modern line drawing apparently of Mohammed can be found on this site.
(Thanks to: Raafat.)
Artist Irena Mandich recently painted this portrait of Mohammed crying (entitled "Mohammad, Salaam"). This attempt to show Mohammed as sad about the violent Muslim response to the controversy could itself be seen as being even more offensive to Islamic sensibilities.
Artist William Fahey painted this picture entitled "Muhammad and the Angel." It depicts the prophet's vision of the Angel Gabriel, based on the description in the "Life of the Messenger of God," by Ibn Ishaq.
(Thanks to: Raafat.)
Australian atheist artist Demetrios Vakras drew this detailed allegorical sketch, titled "Honorary ANZACs in the House of Peace - Expiration of Armenia, 2010," and posted it here and here on his Web site along with an explanation of the work's many symbols and references. Mohammed is visible in the upper right corner of the image riding on Buraq, symbolizing the ideology of Islam that is at the ultimate root of the Turks' genocide of the Armenians in 1915, which is depicted at the lower left with Ottoman soldiers posing with the heads of decapitated Christian Armenians. The "ANZAC" in the drawing's title reflects the artist's disgust that the nation of Australia does not condemn the Armenian genocide to the same degree that it condemns the later Holocaust of the Jews, even though Hitler was inspired by the Turks' earlier example of "getting away with" genocide. In 2006 a march to commemorate the Australian military campaign in Turkey during WWI was opened to descendants of the Australians' enemies, the Turks, because they were characterized as being "honorable opponents" -- even though at the exact same historical moment that the Turkish army was battling the ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand) forces, they were also committing genocide elswhere in Turkey, and thus ought not be deemed "honorable" in the artists' opinion. Thus, with bitter irony, he places ANZAC insignia on the Turks' fezzes and he sarcastically awards them the title of "Honorary ANZACs."
In a related incident, the artist Demetrios Vakras was later financially ruined after he and his partner got into a seemingly trivial dispute with a gallery owner over an exhibit of works critical of Islam and other religions, which nonetheless resulted in a $450,000 fine being levied against Vakras for "imputations" about the owner, even though they were true.
The Galician artist Alfredo Pirucha includes in his online gallery this portrait of "The Prophet," most likely Mohammed. Pirucha's intentionally childish style adds a layer of irony and mockery to his works.
This brass ashtray, discovered by a reader at a garage sale in Los Angeles, appears to be a representation of a bearded male figure with his face covered, sitting on a camel or horse. It might, or might not, represent Mohammed.
(Thanks to: Jon.)
This apparent portrait of Mohammed was part of an artwork displayed for a short period in 2007 in the window of a framing store in Berkeley, California.
This graphite or charcoal rendering of Mohammed carrying a spear and a copy of the Qu'ran and Hadiths is titled "False Prophet" and was found online in 2006 on a Serbian Web site.
The "Kokkedal Bad Santa" series of Mohammed portraits began in the Christmas season of 2012 when the governing board of the Egedalsvænge housing complex in the town of Kokkedal, Denmark voted to not display a Christmas tree or have its popular neighborhood Christmas celebration for the first time ever, which ignited a flurry of public outrage in Denmark after it was discovered that a majority of the voting boardmembers were Muslim and who had earlier that year spent the neighborhood's communal funds on a much more expensive Islamic Eid holiday celebration, even though most of Egedalsvænge's residents were not even Muslim. The media declared the incident to be part of the "War on Christmas" and Danish artist Uwe Max Jensen lodged his own protest by painting a work he entitled "Christmas in Kokkedal" ("Jul i Kokkedal" in Danish), shown above. He then placed the painting for sale at the art auction house Lauritz.com -- and was shocked when Lauritz refused to sell his piece because it too closely resembled the infamous "Mo-Bomb-Head" Jyllands-Posten cartoon by Kurt Westergaard and they were therefore likely afraid of violent reprisals from Muslims were they to offer a "portrait" of "Mohammed" for sale, even if it wasn't labeled as such.
Jensen was so upset at being censored that he painted a second follow-up version titled "Bad Santa (Christmas in Egedalsvænge)" ("Bad Santa [Jul i Egedalsvænge]" in Danish), seen here, which was more obviously based on the Westergaard cartoon and featured a Christmas tree in Santa/Mohammed's turban festooned with bomb-ornaments.
This second painting received so much publicity that he made commemorative Christmas seals (not actual postage stamps, but decorative seals traditionally affixed to envelopes containing Christmas cards) from a mirror-image of it and sold them in blocks of 20 to collectors and free-speech advocates.
(Also see other works by Uwe Max Jensen on the Mohammed Image Archive's Derivative Works page.)
In the nation of Sweden there is a contemporary urban folk custom of placing in the center of "roundabouts" (the circular traffic islands in the middle of major intersections) whimsical homemade sculptures representing pet dogs. The sculptures, which are fairly commonplace in Sweden, are called "roundabout dogs" (rondellhund in Swedish). In the summer of 2007, Swedish artist Lars Vilks made some paintings of Mohammed as a roundabout dog after they were rejected by two art galleries wary of controversy, a sketch based on one of the paintings ended up being published in a small local Swedish newspaper, Nerikes Allehanda. Incredibly, this ignited an international furor, with protests, diplomatic quarrels, and threats of violence. The original sketch, seen above, was also posted on Vilks' blog.
(Thanks to: Martin H., Jonathan R., Gilles C., Politically Incorrect Lib, Raafat.)
Over the following month, Vilks continued to draw additional sketches of Mohammed as a roundabout dog, as a regular dog, and as a human in various satirical settings, and posted them to his blog on July 21, July 22, July 23, July 25, July 26, July 27, July 29, July 30, August 11, August 13, and August 18.
More details about the international furor can be found at these links:
The Lars Vilks Muhammad drawings controversy, at wikipedia.
Newspaper article in Swedish about the beginnings of the incident.
Turkish hackers attacked Swedish Web sites as retaliation for the roundabout dog Mohammed.
After you have mastered visual analysis, the next major approach to art history is cultural context. This is the placement of a work of art in its context for creation and reception. The various details help us to understand what a work might have meant in its original (or any particular subsequent) time. This context might include the following:
- The artist’s life and training
- Patronage of the work (who paid for it, how and why)
- Political circumstances when the the work was made
- Religious circumstances when the the work was made
- Philosophical movements of the time
- Other major forms of cultural expression from the same period
- Contemporary scientific and geographic knowledge
- Original setting of the work
- Original use of the work
I will give very brief examples of each of these types of context, to help clarify. These points would all be good starting points for analysis. They are, in and of themselves, just data. If you include any elements of cultural context in your writing, be sure to not just give the what, but also explain why this matters:
- The artist’s life and training
- , and he received training in his workshop as a very young boy.
- Pope Julius II paid Michelangelo for the Sistine Chapel, after being convinced to do so by Raphael and Bramante, who wanted to see the remarkable young sculptor fail at this massive painting project.
- Goya created his Los Capricos etchings in part as a response to his disillusionment with Spanish politics.
- As popular piety grew in Renaissance Flanders, laypeople began to worship on their own, creating a market for personal home altars like the Merode Altarpiece.
- The philosophical viewpoint of the Enlightenment suggested that civilization could be perfected over time, and Hogarth worked to encourage this with overtly moralizing tales in paintings and prints.
- The long, smooth barrel vaults of Romanesque churches were perfectly suited to Gregorian (or Plainsong) chant, popular at the time, with its long, low, simple monophonic melodies.
- The maps of Abraham Ortelius were based on history, myth, and recent scientific observations.
- were designed not for display in museums but for use in simple, rustic tea houses, such as those designed by Sen no Rikyu.
- were never made to be displayed in glass vitrines in museums, but rather, were made to be worn by dancers in ritual performances.
These are just some of the many elements of a work’s cultural context. When we put together careful visual analysis with careful cultural contextualizaton, we can really begin to understand the meanings and significance of works of art!
Impression Sunrise by Claude Monet
This famous painting, Impression, Sunrise, was created from a scene in the port of Le Havre. Monet depicts a mist, which provides a hazy background to the piece set in the French harbor. The orange and yellow hues contrast brilliantly with the dark vessels, where little, if any detail is immediately visible to the audience. It is a striking and candid work that shows the smaller boats in the foreground almost being propelled along by the movement of the water. This has, once again, been achieved by separate brushstrokes that also show various colors "sparkling" on the sea.
From the 15th April to 15th May 1874 Monet exhibited his work together with Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Édouard Manet, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, and some other thirty artists. They organized their exhibition on their own as they were usually rejected at the Paris Salon. Most visitors were disgusted and even outraged over such a graffiti. Monet's Impression, Sunrise enjoyed the most attention and some visitors even claimed that they were absolutely unable to recognize what was shown at all.
A critic who attended the exhibition, M. Louis Leroy, wrote a now-famous article in Le Charivari in which he used the term "Impressionist" based on the title of this painting. Despite the fact that Leroy had used the word derisively, the group decided to adopt it and painters such as Renoir and Degas were happy to be called Impressionists
Despite its notoriety, the painting is in some ways untypical of Monet's own work of this period and of Impressionism more generally. It shows little of the Impressionist treatment of light and colour. The colours are very restrained and the paint is applied not in discrete brushstrokes of contrasting colours but in very thin washes. In some places, the canvas is even visible and the only use of impasto is in the depiction of the reflected sunlight on the water. The painting is strongly atmospheric rather than analytical and has a spirit somewhat akin to Turner's works. Nevertheless, it does illustrate particularly well one of the features of an Impressionist painting that was thought so revolutionary. The technique is very 'sketchy' and would have been seen as a preliminary study for a painting rather than a finished work suitable for exhibition. (Monet himself saw the work as unfinished, and it was for that reason that he adopted the title 'Impression' to distinguish it from such works as his other view of Le Havre in the same exhibition, though this too lacks the finish than expected.) In this work, Monet stripped away the details to a bare minimum: the dockyards in tile background are merely suggested by a few brushstrokes as are the boats in the foreground. The whole represents the artist's swift attempt to capture a fleeting moment. The highly visible, near-abstract technique, compels almost more attention than the subject-matter itself, a notion then wholly alien to viewers.
Today, Impression, Sunrise is considered as the most prominent Impressionism painting, along with the famous Van Gogh night stars painting.
How evolution could give rise to real-life dragons
Stories about dragons have always taken their inspiration from real-world animals. Does this mean dragons could feasibly exist?
Hardly anyone believes in dragons nowadays, despite all the effort the Game of Thrones special effects team have put into making their creations look realistic. Nobody has ever found a real live dragon, and there are no fossils of them, so it is reasonable to say that they do not exist and never have.
But could they have? Are dragons as we understand them genuinely impossible, or is it simply that evolution has not, yet, thrown them up?
Let's imagine what it would be like if dragons really did exist. Not creatures that just look a bit like dragons, but actual flying dragons that breathe fire. How would such animals have evolved? What would their place be in an ecosystem?
Our ancestors had no need to employ high-tech computer wizardry to create convincing dragons.
"Most peoples at some point in their history have believed that the dragon was real," writes anthropologist David E. Jones in the introduction to his book An Instinct for Dragons. In its pages, Jones asks why myths about dragons are so ubiquitous, citing examples from places as diverse as Hawai'i, Iceland and New Zealand.
When imagining dragons, people have always taken their cue from reality
His answer involves monkeys. On the African savannah, troops of vervet monkeys face three kinds of predator &ndash snakes, eagles and big cats &ndash each of which is recognised with a specific alarm call. This alarm-calling behaviour has been extensively studied and used to understand analogous behaviours in humans.
Jones suggests that the dragon is an amalgam of these basic primate fears. The sinuous scaliness of the snake, the wings of the eagle, and the jaws and claws of a big cat combine to form a fearsome memory in an ancient part of our brains.
It is a neat idea, albeit one that is virtually impossible to test.
What certainly is true is that, when imagining dragons, people have always taken their cue from reality. The ancient Chinese philosopher Wang Fu even echoed Jones' theory when he described dragons as possessing the necks of snakes, the claws of eagles and the soles of tigers.
But to find something that looks more like dragons as we imagine them, we need to look at animals from the distant past.
Whatever culture they appear in, dragons are always reptilian. That means the Mesozoic Era is the place to start. It lasted from 252 million years ago until 66 million years ago, and is known as the "Age of Reptiles". The most famous Mesozoic reptiles are of course the dinosaurs.
Any real-life dragons would have filled a similar niche to that occupied by apex predators like Tyrannosaurus rex
The similarities between dinosaurs and dragons are well documented. There is a long history in China of identifying fossilised dinosaur bones as those of dragons.
Palaeontologists have also playfully nodded to dragons when naming their new discoveries. In the dinosaur pantheon we have everything from the "dragon king of Hogwarts" (Dracorex hogwartsia, a spiky-headed pachycephalosaur) to the "dragon of Qijiang" (Qijianglong guokr, a 50-foot long sauropod).
Based on their appearance, as well as their taste for large prey like knights and fair maidens, any real-life dragons would have filled a similar niche to that occupied by apex predators like Tyrannosaurus rex.
However, a closer look at dragon anatomy suggests it would be wrong to group them with such creatures taxonomically. Instead, the two distinct dragon body forms hint at two alternative evolutionary scenarios.
The first group of dragons contains the lóng of China, the drakon of Ancient Greece and the Old English wyrm. These are all dragons with elongated bodies and small legs, or no legs at all. In appearance these creatures are essentially snakes, so we should look at the snake family tree.
Among animals with backbones, wings have evolved three separate times: in birds, bats and pterosaurs
There is fossil evidence to suggest that the first snakes evolved from burrowing lizards, whose legs shrank and eventually disappeared as they adapted to an underground lifestyle. This fits with many classic depictions of subterranean dragons, such as the Nidhogg of Norse legend or the Greek "earth-dragon" Python, which gave its name to the real-life genus of large, constricting snakes.
What sets these creatures apart from your average snake is their size. However, that is not a major problem: we only need to look at the fossil record to find some truly dragon-sized snakes.
At 40ft (12m) long, with a body as thick as a man's waist, the mighty Titanoboa was a true monster. It could easily have been the ancestor of a lineage of gigantic, serpentine dragons.
But when you think "dragon", chances are you are not thinking of a giant snake. You are imagining the other type of dragon: a creature with large, leathery wings bursting from its shoulders. In short, you are imagining a creature that &ndash from an anatomical perspective &ndash should not exist.
Among animals with backbones, wings have evolved three separate times: in birds, bats and pterosaurs. Each time they evolved in roughly the same way: non-flying ancestors gradually transformed their forelimbs into membranous wings supported by modified fingers.
The giant azhdarchid pterosaurs were perhaps the largest animals ever to take flight
This means that, for a vertebrate, having wings is a trade-off. You can have arms or wings, but not both.
Body plans are highly conserved, so while it is not impossible to imagine a six-limbed vertebrate, the evolutionary leap required is huge. When extra limbs do occur, they tend not to be adaptive. Instead, they are the result of birth defects or, in the case of some unfortunate frogs, parasitic infections.
Perhaps this is why in so many modern fantasy films, from Harry Potter to The Hobbit, the classic six-limbed dragon has been ditched in favour of a sleeker four-limbed model. Such a creature is more accurately called a "wyvern", and it is at least anatomically more realistic.
There is still the not-insignificant problem of how to get these enormous creatures off the ground. Fortunately for dragons, another group of prehistoric reptiles give their ambitions for flight some hope.
Named after a dragon from Uzbek folk culture, the giant azhdarchid pterosaurs were perhaps the largest animals ever to take flight, and the group most likely to give rise to real-life dragons.
When birds fly, they get 90% of their launch power from their back legs
An image by palaeoartist and pterosaur researcher Mark Witton of the University of Portsmouth in the UK makes this clear. It shows one species of azhdarchid, Arambourgiania philadelphiae, standing as tall as a giraffe. The largest azhdarchids had wingspans of around 36ft (11m).
These enormous animals could fly, but doing so required a set of specific adaptations. These included a hollow skeleton, to minimise weight, and sturdy upper arm bones on which to anchor massive flight muscles.
Our hypothetical dragons would need the same adaptations. They would also have to make certain anatomical sacrifices.
"When birds fly, they get 90% of their launch power from their back legs, and then they transfer over to their wings," says Witton. "That means they need to have much bigger bodies, because they need to have two big sets of muscles to get into the air."
Reptiles can master many problems that mammals can
Pterosaurs, on the other hand, relied on their already considerable front-limb/wing strength to launch themselves into the sky. "They don't need to worry about carrying all their leg muscles into the air with them after they've taken off," says Witton. "That of course means that they can get much bigger."
In other words, the largest pterosaurs only got that big by having relatively small torsos and legs. "Birds get to about 80kg [176lb] and that's as heavy as they can ever get and still fly, whereas a [flying] pterosaur can get to four times that weight," says Witton.
Our dragons would have to make the same trade-off. It does not diminish them too much, but it does confine the more bulky, lumbering depictions of them to the scrapheap.
So let's suppose that our proposed dragons were an offshoot of the giant azhdarchid pterosaurs, or another similar group of flying reptiles that evolved in parallel. How feasible are some of their other, more magical attributes?
Mythological dragons are often highly intelligent. This can manifest in a kind of malevolent cunning that they use to outwit potential dragon-slayers, or &ndash in the case of Eastern dragons &ndash immense wisdom that is shared with only the most fortunate humans. Either way, dragons possess cognitive abilities that we do not usually associate with reptiles.
Historically, scientists have used the term "reptilian" to describe the parts of the human brain associated with basic functions such as breathing. Reptiles themselves have often been described in such terms &ndash that is, driven by instinct and not intellect. However, in recent years scientists have begun exploring reptile intelligence in a more considered way, designing reptile-specific tasks that properly test their intellectual limits.
While actual immortality is unlikely, reptiles like giant tortoises and tuataras can clock up well over a century
Their conclusion? "Reptiles can master many problems that mammals can," says Gordon Burghardt of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. "Complex problem-solving, reversal learning, social learning, complex sociality, tool use and individual recognition have all been discovered."
Some of the more intelligent reptiles are the larger species with correspondingly large brains, such as crocodiles and monitor lizards. Another potential contributor to intelligence is longevity, which has also been associated with bigger brains. Dragons are certainly not lacking in size, but what about lifespan?
Many dragons of legend are eternal, ageless creatures, whose lives can only be ended at the hands of a burly hero with a big sword. While actual immortality is unlikely, reptiles like giant tortoises and tuataras can clock up well over a century. The key to such extended lives could be a slow pace and a correspondingly slow metabolism.
That would explain why dragons spend so much of their time lounging around on piles of gold. Speaking of which, could such gold-lust ever evolve?
Given people's enthusiasm for gold and their willingness to fight for it, at first glance it seems that a taste for shiny metal objects would be a distinct disadvantage for even the most well-armoured dragon.
However, some animals do have a thing for bright objects. Many readers will immediately think of magpies, but in fact studies suggest that magpies' supposed love for shiny things is just a superstition.
A dragon's hoard could be an elaboration of the bowerbird system, with female dragons choosing males with the biggest stack of gold
Bowerbirds are a different matter. To attract females, male bowerbirds line the floors of their "bowers" with all sorts of treasures, albeit humbler ones than those found in a dragon's lair. Instead of jewels and coins, bowerbirds hoard berries and pieces of broken glass.
These bizarre birds have been key players in the study of "sexual selection": the idea that certain traits evolve because one sex prefers certain characteristics in the other.
Female bowerbirds choose males with high-quality bowers because such bowers are an indicator of quality. If a male has the energy to seek out and arrange the best possible bits of glass, he probably has good-quality genes that will ultimately be passed on to his children. The system works rather well. A dragon's hoard could be an elaboration of the bowerbird system, with female dragons choosing males with the biggest stack of gold.
Our dragons are shaping up nicely. So far we have prehistoric reptiles, maybe a sister group to the giant pterosaurs or giant snakes, with advanced cognitive abilities to match their size and longevity, and a complex mating system based on the procurement of shiny, metallic objects.
This may not sound too far-fetched. But of course we have missed out dragons' most fantastical ability: fire-breathing.
Spitting cobras can fire venomous projectiles from their fangs. The sting of a bullet ant has been described as "like walking over flaming charcoal with a three inch nail embedded in your heel." A bite from a Komodo dragon will leave a wound slathered with toxic proteins. There is no denying that nature has come up with all sorts of horrifying ways for animals to hurt each other, but a flaming discharge is not one of them.
The only things that come close are rather unassuming-looking creatures called bombardier beetles. These insects store hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide in their abdomens. When provoked, they initiate a violent chemical reaction that ejects a near-boiling-hot stream of chemicals at the unfortunate attacker.
Imagine an evolutionary convergence that bestows analogous chemical weaponry on an enormous reptile. Two glands in this creature's neck secrete the necessary solution, and when they mix in the back of its throat, a jet of gas and scalding liquid is expelled from its mouth.
Such a creature is highly implausible, of course, but then so are bombardier beetles.
They initiate a violent chemical reaction that ejects a near-boiling-hot stream of chemicals at the unfortunate attacker
These beetles have even been cited by creationists as evidence that the theory of evolution cannot be true, on the grounds that they could not have evolved naturally. These anti-evolution arguments have been firmly refuted by scientists, who have outlined the key steps in the transition from non-explosive to explosive beetles.
It is understandable that people are incredulous about these remarkable animals, but as the old adage goes, "truth is stranger than fiction". Evolution has yielded some remarkable innovations over the eons.
Dragons may only exist in the human imagination, but the real world can more than match them for strangeness.
Join over five million BBC Earth fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.