Art, a representation of how one views the world around them. A glimpse of an artist’s inner psyche which can only be interpreted through their work. Paintings, drawings, sculptors and the never-ending list of creations have developed and changed overtime, from impressionism to cubism to modern art, there is no sign of the evolving chain stopping.
Yet, a large and quite important question lingers among every art critic or artist themselves : when is an artist… an artist?
Surely when one looks at a painting of Vincent Van Gogh it is easy to label it as an incredible piece of art. Ironically, this famous artist was not appreciated for his work during his time period as much as he is adored in the modern day era. Why such a shift of disinterest or dislike to intriguing and admirable?
The answer may rely on the effects of culture on the artist.
In other words, there is a strong presence of how the majority of the population views a particular subject, in which a general notion and or standard must be followed in order for something to be considered acceptable. Van Gogh had one theme in his art that was presented strongly when he was alive: it did not follow the typical gradient or norm of his time period.
Van Gogh focused primarily on the style of post-impressionism, using multiple, short brush strokes to create an image. An example of this is his “Irises” painting.
For such a beautiful work of art, it surely must have attracted attention, correct? Of course, after his death. It seems that the majority of his works were only considered important once the man shot himself.
During his lifetime, there was a revival of classicism as well as post-impressionism, the after-effect of impressionism. Both styles differed drastically as well as their meanings behind it. Classicism preferred a realistic and dramatic style of art, with blending of soft colors and scenes so real, it’s as if you could jump in them. Post-impressionism focuses much more on solid, vivid colors with various brushstrokes, giving the effect that the picture is blurred or blotched. The two methods of art are near opposites of one another. Classicism was favored as the culture became more secular and materialistic that only classicist artworks represented. Due to impressionism being a new technique of art, and straying away from the secular idea, the reception was at first hostile, even towards its counterpart, post-impressionism, until later on in the century 19th century where it became popular.
As ideas became more flexible and freely spread, impressionism was finally accepted as a modern art, and for good reason. It is visually appealing and allows more room for an artist to perhaps give a different look of their perspective of life.
Now, Vincent Van Gogh was not necessarily considered an artist at that point of his life, only when society decided to have a change of heart after he passed away.
What if there was no change? Will Van Gogh still be considered an artist?
This is a very tricky subject in the sense that I am a part of the culture who once did not accept Van Gogh as an artist, in a way, it depends roughly what exactly is considered “art”.
Personally, art must be a reflection of an experience that is represented through the work. My definition may not be universally accepted, however, there is a pattern of masterpieces that will follow it. Let me provide a couple examples:
Picasso’s Guernica, an anti-war icon during World War II that shows the tragedy of the bombing of the village Guernica in Spain. The distortions and colors are not considered a flaw, in fact, they heighten the raw emotion of chaos and misery. It was not a beautiful event, but an ugly event, a terrible event that could only be reflected as such.
Frida’s Two Fridas is a surreal self portrait of herself and her internal struggle reflected in the painting. Without any context, it is easily relatable for its depressive tones and split personality take. Frida painted this when she divorced her husband. It is clear that the two “Fridas” represent her past and former self. One is wounded from the heart in traditional clothing, a wedding dress I believe. The other is her casual attire, though her heart is mended, scars are still visible. Both cling onto each other for support and possibly a hold onto the past.
John Constable’s The Hay Wain, a landscape painting. Nothing symbolic or dramatic, simply a glimpse of his life and culture, a piece of melancholy history he used to be a part of.
All these artists expressed a part of themselves through their work in original and special ways, even if they do not all look visually appealing. Perhaps they were not appreciated to the fullest extent in their lifetime, but it certainly showed they had artistic merit, therefore, they are an artist even during their lifetime of having their art rejected.
However, art itself is loosely define, which is why sometimes art can be extended not only from paintings but to books and to biology and such. The boundaries widen and it becomes more vague and easy to label anything as art.So if I were to bite an apple, and stick it to some wall, and decided it is art, it could be art, strangely enough!
Another difficult situation is the art having meaning for different people. For example, If I bite an apple and glue it to a wall, certainly I won’t call it art since there is no strength or idea I put into it, but what if someone else saw it and was emotionally moved by a meaning that I could not find. I did say that an artwork should have some kind of raw emotion or experience, but is it the same if someone were to add an experience and love and care to an object that was never labeled as “art” by someone else?
Whether art should have a solid universal definition, this type of topic is applicable to other areas not motivated by drawing or sculpting.
Such as, what makes a doctor? Someone who performs a very specific but well technique for a certain system in the body, or a person who has a broad knowledge of the human biology but does not necessarily perform any medical procedures except give medicine? There is that peculiarity of titles versus actions, which is why we usually have distinct titles for a vague title: Cardiologists and Pharmacists respectively.
Funny enough, there is a show that uses this broad definition, Doctor Who, where the main character is a doctor by title but not by occupation. How are people comfortable with this? Well, he is the doctor, who saves lives but not by standard medical procedures. He is and he is not. Being a doctor is a manipulative word, just as much as the word art.
The can an artist truly be that word? A word that could flex and bend?
I think it could. People have a standard, whether it be beauty or meaning, I am positive that anyone with a pair of healthy eyes would know a calculator is not necessarily art and more of an invention by engineers. I understand that sometimes the norm may be “wrong”, such as how audiences of the past reacted to Van Gogh’s art. It is a new form and anyone who yields from the norm tend to be not appreciated. Yet, I am a person who is not fond of calling splashes of paint on a wall as art. Am I wrong because I can’t find the meaning or perhaps I am just not used to it in general?
By my definition, I rather believe its not, or atleast to the extent that the artist wants me to believe its art. To have that title of an artist, to me is more than drawing a dot on the ceiling, its a process, and who knows, maybe I’ll find that splatter of paint to be art someday, I just need a good reason as to why.
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Wolf, Justin. “Impressionism Movement, Artists and Major Works.” Impressionism. The Art Story Contributors, 2015. Web. 9 Oct. 2015. .
“Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.” Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mar. 2010. Web. 9 Oct. 2015. .
Robinson, Lynn. “Picasso, Guernica.” Khan Academy. Khan Academy, 2015. Web. 9 Oct. 2015. .
Barker, Elizabeth. “John Constable (1776-1873).” John Constable (1776-1837). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1 Oct. 2004. Web. 9 Oct. 2015. .
Bravo, Doris. “Khalo, The Two Fridas (Las Dos Fridas).” Khan Academy. Khan Academy, 2015. Web. 9 Oct. 2015. .