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Austin Peay State University Art Lectures Discussion

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Themes of Art
Lecture 3
Ceiling of Chapter House, York
Minster, York, UK
Theme – an expression of meaning
in art that are fundamental and
often universal ideas that explore
life, society or human nature,but
can be any other subject. They are
usually implied rather than
explicitly stated.
We’ve talked about different ways that art has been imbued with meaning
and some of the motivations for making art. In this lecture, we’re going to
discuss some broad areas of expressing meaning to form themes. A Theme is
usually about life, society or human nature, but can be any other subject.
Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a work.
Themes are usually implied rather than explicitly stated. It’s important to
state that a single work of art may have more than one theme and result in
multiple interpretations. As we discuss the different themes, think back to
some of the work that we looked at in previous lectures and consider their
themes. When discussing a range of art works and time periods it’s
important to remember that categorizing artwork is just one method in
exploring our understanding of the work and that not everything can be put
into one category.
Themes of Art
A range of broad areas of meaning reflected in the arts of many cultures
throughout human history – these are a select way of referring to them for our
discussion purpose but not the only way to think about these themes.
The Sacred Realm
Politics and Social Order
Stories and Histories
Looking Outward – The Here & Now
Looking Inward – The Human Experience
Invention and Fantasy
The Natural World
Art as Art
The Sacred Realm
Interior, upper chapel, Saint-Chapelle. 1243-48 Paris.
Prayer hall of Abd al-Rahman I, Great Mosque, Begun 786 CE, Córdoba, Spain.
The Sacred Realm
Because we are looking at the ways that a variety of humans have created
artworks for religious practice, devotion, or sacred spaces, we’re using a single
term to differentiate this kind of art from other themes of art. The Sacred Realm,
is a way of categorizing artworks that have served a religious function. We won’t
get too detailed into the context of these works, but focus primarily on their role
Art has played an important role in our relationship to the sacred, helping us to
envision it, to honor it, and to communicate with it. The architecture that we’re
discussing today was created to provide settings for rituals of worship and
prayer, or rituals that formalize on contact between the earthly and divine
The Sacred Realm
Interior, upper chapel,
Saint-Chapelle. 1243-48 Paris.
The chapel of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris was
commissioned in 1239 by the French king
Louis IX, to house relics he believed to
include pieces of the True Cross, the Crown
of Thorns, and other instruments of Christ’s
Passion. The king’s architects created a
soaring vertical space with walls of stained
glass windows and gilded columns. All the
choices in creating this space serve in
forming an experiential connection to the
sacred realm, it acts as almost a conduit for
worship. It is a space defined by the
separation between the outside world and
the heavenly. A significant distinction in this
space is that it was a private space for the
royal court and not a public space for
devotional use.
In contrast, the Great Mosque at Córdoba,
Spain was built for a community. Begun in the
The Sacred Realm
8th century, the mosque eventually grew to be
the largest place of prayer in Western Islam.
The interior of the hall is a vast horizontal
space measured out by a virtual forest of
columns. Daylight enters through doorways
placed around the perimeter and when filtered
through the columns it creates strong
shadows, blurring the forms of the interior
making it difficult to judge the size. The arches
are decorated with red and white sections
Prayer hall of Abd al-Rahman I,
alternated through the space creating a
Great Mosque, Begun 786 CE,
rhythm but also an effect where it seems as if
they are reflected in a mirror and continue in
Córdoba, Spain.
space indefinitely.
Icon – a person or thing regarded as representative of something, often
One of the ways we have talked about the purpose of art is that it can give
tangible form to the unknown. So, speaking in general terms for human
interaction and interpretation of religion the content depicted in religious
images forces the artist to give tangible form to something that cannot be
known in visual form. Giving the intangible form has served different
functions throughout history, in some cultures images have the power to be
understood as a conduit through which sacred power flows, in others it is a
dwelling place for a deity. The next two images, one Buddhist and one
Christian were made at approximately the same time.
Icon – a person or thing
regarded as
representative of
something, often
Rathnasambhava, the
Transcendent Buddha of the
South, Tibet. 13th-century CE.
Opaque watercolor on cloth,
height 36 ½”, Los Angeles County
Museum of Art.
Cimabue. Madonna Enthroned. c.
1280-90, tempera on wood, 12’ 7
½ x 7’ 4”, Uffizi, Florence.
Rathnasambhava, the Transcendent Buddha
of the South, Tibet. 13th-century CE.
Opaque watercolor on cloth, height 36 ½”,
Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
The Buddhist painting portrays Rathnasambhava,
one of the Five Transcendent Buddhas, seated in a
pose of meditation on a stylized lotus throne. His
right hand makes the gesture of bestowing vows;
his left the gesture of meditation. Unlike other
buddhas, the Five Transcendent Buddhas are
typically portrayed in the bejeweled garb of Indian
princes. Arranged around Rathnasambhava are
bodhisattvas, also in princely attire. The
Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who have
deferred their ultimate goal of nirvana – freedom
from the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth – in order
to help others attain that goal. All wear halos
signifying their holiness. The Buddha, being the
most important of the personages depicted,
dominates the painting as the largest and central
The second painting is by the 13th century Italian painter
Cimabue, and depicts Mary, mother of Christ with her son.
Mary sits tranquility on her throne, her right hand indicating
the Christ child, who raises his right hand in a gesture of
benediction. On both sides of her are figures of angels,
heavenly spirit-messengers. Again, all wear halos signifying
their holiness. As in the Buddhist painting, the most
important personage dominates the composition as the
largest and central figure.
Formally, there are similarities between these images, they
both use iconography in gestures and placements to convey
meaning. Those similarities are not indicative of
communication between Italy and Central Asia, but are
indicative of two art traditions coming to the same conclusion
solving the problem of how to communicate to the viewer
who the important figures are in the composition.
Cimabue. Madonna Enthroned. c.
1280-90, tempera on wood, 12’ 7
½ x 7’ 4”, Uffizi, Florence.
Iconoclasm-“image breaking”, refers
to a recurring historical impulse to
break or destroy images for religious
or political reasons.
JGC Venner. The iconoclasm in Weert and
Wessem. Wood-block print.
Iconoclasm refers to a recurring historical
impulse to break or destroy images for religious
or political reasons. It is derived from the Greek
word for ‘image-breaking”, it first was used as a
term to describe the debate in the Christian
Empire of Byzantium. Byzantine churches,
monasteries, books, and homes were decorated
with depictions of Christ, of the saints, and of
biblical stories and personages. During the 8th
century a movement developed against such
depictions, and a series of imperial orders
resulted in the destruction of images throughout
the realm. The objection to the images was
based on the concept of idolatry, formed from
the second of the Ten Commandments and from
the Bible warning against the making of images.
Iconoclasm arose again in Western
Europe when newly forming
Protestant movements of the 16th
century accused Catholics of
idolatry. Protestant mobs
ransacked churches smashing
stained glass, destroying paintings,
breaking down statues,
whitewashing over frescores, and
melting down metal shrines and
vessels. The two images shown
depict iconoclasm during this
Unknown artist, Iconoclasm during the Reformation in
Zurich, 1524.
Images have played an important role in almost every religion in the
world In Buddhism, for example, making religious images is viewed as a
form of prayer. In Hinduism, they may provide a dwelling place for a
deity. When a religious artwork is taken out of the context it was
constructed for and placed in a museum, when viewers go to see it is
that still a form of devotion and worship?
The next two slides deal with instances where iconoclasm has been
primarily politically motivated. There are many instances throughout
the world and history but these next two images are reflective of
iconoclasm in the United States.
Johannes Adam Simon Oertel, Pulling down the statue of King George III New York City. 1852-53, oil
on canvas, New York Historical Society.
John C. McRae. Pulling down the statue of George III by the “Sons of Freedom,” at the Bowling Green,
City of New York, July 1776. 1875, Engraving, Library of Congress.
The painting on the left was made in 1852 and depicts events that
occured in 1776 when the statue of George III, the king of England
was removed from its plinth in New York City.
The image on the right is a print copy made and altered after the
painting. It is significant to note that after the American Revolution
when the United Kingdom no longer had sovereignty over the new
country that it was deemed appropriate to remove the king’s
statues. This happened even though there were people in the
colonies, now states who had not wanted independence from the
Diego Velázquez, The Toilet of Venus/The Rokeby
Venus. 1647, oil on canvas, National Gallery, London.
● 1913 “Art attack” action
protesting the
imprisonment of Emmeline
Pankhurst, a preeminent
figure of women’s suffrage
(the fight for the right to
● Women could be depicted
nude in art by male artists,
they could be mothers, and
wield kitchen knives (such
as the one used here) but
could not participate in
political discourse that
impacted their lives.
In 1913 Mary Richardson entered the National Gallery in London with a
kitchen knife hidden in her sleeve and slashed the painting by Diego
Velázquez. Her action is part of the Art Attack that saw suffragettes
attempting to destroy works which idealize the female body. This was a
form of protest against the imprisonment of Emmeline Pankhurst, a
preeminent figure in the fight for women’s right to vote. Museums
remained closed for one month afterwards for fear that more women
would arm themselves with the intent to damage more paintings.
Whether you agree or disagree that this was an appropriate way for
someone to get the attention of the public and make a case for what
was happening isn’t what I want to debate here. The point is that in
some cases peoples who do not have equal liberty look for a way to be
heard and that images are powerful enough to injure.
Politics and the
Social Order
● Expression of
divine approval or
the authority of
the ruler
Equestrian Statue of
Marcus Aurelius. 161-80
CE, Gilded bronze,
height 11’ 6”, Musei
Capitolini, Rome.
Politics and the Social Order
Art developed ways to express the divine approval
or the authority of rulers, and in some cases the
creation of art was a maintenance for that
particular-ruler in the afterlife, such as the case with
the Egyptian Pharaohs. During the Roman Empire, it
was important for images of the Emperor to be
depicted across a massive varied region as a way of
affirming the position of power. This was
accomplished through the mass production of
statues. One such example is that of the emperor
Marcus Aurelius, which utilizes gestures and
iconography that Roman citizens would have
Seated on his mount, he extends his arm in an oratorical
gesture, as if delivering a speech. His calm in victory
contrasts with the spirited motions of his horse, which
was originally shown raising its hoof over a fallen enemy,
a part of which is now lost. The Roman fashion for
beards came and went like all fashions but the beard in
the statue is significant in part for the way he wanted to
be portrayed and the connection to Greek philosophers.
Marcus Aurelius was cultivating an image to be seen as a
wise, just ruler, who can level-headedly trample his
● Personification of Liberty
holding the flag of the
French republic leading a
charge as if stepping of
the canvas
● 1830 uprising that
toppled the government
and installed another
● Imagery is an idealized
view of the insurrection
and the hopes the artist
had for the future.
Eugène Delacroix. Liberty Leading the People. 1830, oil on canvas, 8’ 6” x 10’ 10”. Musée
du Louvre, Paris.
Many of the images we have looked at so far in this class only exist through
mechanizations of someone wealthy and powerful fueling their production.
In most cases that role of supporting the artist included say in the content of
the images created. So, what happens when the perspective of the artist
changes and they are no longer responsible to represent a certain point of
In this painting, we see the personification of liberty holding the flag of the
French Republic, leading a charge almost as if they could step off the canvas.
This was painted in 1830 at the time of an uprising in Paris that toppled the
government and installed another. The imagery is full of an idealized view of
the insurrection and the hopes the artist had for the future.
● Depicts an
event that
took place
during the
Spanish Civil
● April 28,
1937 the
German Army
bombed the
town of
Pablo Picasso. Guernica. 1937, oil on canvas, 11’ 5 1/2 x 25’ 5 ¾”, Museo Nacional Centro de
Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid.
In Delacroix’s painting, he is glorifying the violence in the service of
democracy and this next painting by Pablo Picasso condemns the violence
that fascism unleashed against ordinary citizens. The previous image is to
demonstrate the monumental scale of Picasso’s painting.
We talked about Picasso developing the Cubist style as a new way to visualize
forms, elements of the painting are representational but the are abstracted.
Guernica depicts an event that took place during the Spanish Civil War, when
a coalition of conservative, tradition, and fascist forces led by General
Francisco Franco were trying to topple the liberal government of the fledgling
Spanish Republic. In Germany, and Italy, the fascist governments of Hitler and
Mussolini were already in power. Franco willingly accepted their aid and in
exchange he allowed the Nazis to test their developing air power. On April 28,
1937, the Nazi army bombed the town of Guernica, the old Basque capital in
Northern Spain.
Pablo Picasso. Guernica. 1937, oil on canvas, 11’ 5 1/2 x 25’ 5 ¾”, Museo Nacional Centro
de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid.
There was no real military reason for the raid, it was simply an experiment to see
whether aerial bombing could wipe out a whole city. Being totally defenseless,
Guernica was devastated and its civilian population massacred. Picasso, himself a
Spaniard, was working in Paris and completed the painting to represent Spain in the
World’s Fair Exhibition of 1937.
The painting itself is done in white and black, with shades of grey, possibly echoing the
visual impact of the news photography and newsreels. Although the artist’s symbolism
is very personal (and he declined to explain it in detail) we cannot misunderstand the
scenes of extreme pain and anguish throughout the canvas. At far left a shrieking
mother holds her dead child, and at the far right another woman in a burning house
screams in agony. For a long time the painting was displayed in the Museum of
Modern Art in New York, after Franco died in 1975 the painting was sent to Spain
which has led to debate about where it should be exhibited.
Pablo Picasso. Guernica. 1937, oil on canvas, 11’ 5 1/2 x 25’
5 ¾”, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid.
Currently held in Madrid, the capital of Spain it is displayed under bulletproof glass. The
painting represents what happened to the people of Guernica, and as a region the painting
is considered cultural property of the Basque. Just to put it into a little context, Spain is still
struggling politically to be a unified nation, with recent elections in Catalonia pushing for
independence from Spain and with that there is renewed effort for the Basque regions to
be independent as well.
Stories and Histories
● Artists often use stories for subject
matter, especially stories whose roots
reach deep into their culture’s collective
● Iconography can be read in art because
they are mutually agreed upon by a
Sassetta. St. Francis Giving his Mantle to a Poor
Man and the Vision of the Heavenly City. c.
1437-44, oil on panel, 34 ¼ x 20 ¾”, The National
Gallery, London.
Stories and Histories
Artists have often turned to stories for subject matter, especially stories whose
roots reach deep into their culture’s collective meaning. That’s one of the
reasons that symbols or iconography can be read in a work of art, because they
are mutually agreed upon by a society. In Christian Europe of the early 15th
century, stories of the lives of the saints were a common reference point. One
popular representation in art is of Saint Francis of Assisi, who had lived only
about two hundred years before this painting was created. The son of a wealthy
merchant in the Italian town of Assisi, Francis as a young man renounced his
inheritance for a life of extreme poverty in the service of God. He preached to
all who would listen (including birds and animals) and cared for the poor and the
sick. With the disciples who gathered around him, he founded a religious
community eventually known as the Franciscan Order of monks.
The painting here is by the 15th century Italian artist
Sassetta and illustrates two episodes from Saint
Francis’ life. To the left, Francis, still a wealthy young
man, gives his cloak to a poor man. To the right,
Sassetta cleverly uses the house – its front wall made
invisible so we can see inside, to create a separate
space, a sort of “painting within a painting’ for the
next part of the story. An angel appears while Francis
is sleeping and grants him a dream vision of the
Heavenly City, the angel’s hand leads our eye to the
vision which is portrayed at the top of the panel. The
use of a perceived separate space allows a division in
the narration and is a trope that has been used
throughout history and in other cultures. Think of it
similarly to the cells or blocks of a comic book that
divide the progression of a story.
Sahibdin and workshop. Rama and Laskshmana bound by
Arrow-Snakes, from the Ramayana Mewar. c. 1650-52, opaque
watercolor on paper, approx. 9 x 15 3/8”, The British Library,
● Illustrated
epic poem
that would be
familiar with
the original
● Events
broken up
into sections
within the
Following the same narrative method of putting different parts that progress the
story into segmented areas we have this image. This episode is part of an epic
poem the Ramayana, or the Story of Rama, who is the hero prince and
incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. The epic poem chronicles Rama’s search for
his wife Sita and his long journey out of exile to reclaim his rightful position as
ruler. In this episode, Rama suffers a setback as he battles Ravana for Sita’s
release. The story begins in the small, rose-colored space cell to the right, where
Ravana, portrayed with twenty heads and a whirlwind of arms confers with his
son Indrajut on a plan to defeat Rama, who is about to attack the palace.
Sahibdin’s illustration was made for an audience who knew the epic tale almost
by heart and would have delighted in puzzling out the painting’s construction.
Lecture 3 part 2
Looking Outward: The Here and Now
The themes that we have discussed so far from the sacred to stories of the past
are filled with important meaning, but art isn’t always that heavy. Sometimes
art is a way of documenting and describing what our life is like now.
Looking Outward:
The Here and Now
● Art can document the
familiar and mundane,
describing what life is like
at a certain moment
Model depicting the counting of
livestock, from the tomb of Meketre,
Deir el-Bahiri Dynasty 11. 2134-1991
BCE, painted wood, length 5’ 8”,
Egyptian Museum, Cairo.
This model was one of many found in the
tomb of an Egyptian official named
Meketre, who died around 1990 BCE.
Meketre himself is depicted in the center,
seated on a chair in the shade of a
pavilion. Seated on the floor to his left is
his son; to his right are several scribes,
with their writing materials ready. A herd
of cattle are driven before them so the
scribes can count them. While this model
served a purpose as part of Egyptian burial
practice for the afterlife, it provides us
with a visual documentation of a normal
occurrence in Egyptian life.
● Depictions of
empty places
and lonely
● Artificial light
and the setting
Edward Hopper. Gas.
1940, oil on canvas,
26 1/4 x 40 ¼”,
Museum of Modern
Looking Outward: The Here and Now
Moving to the 20th century we’ll look at the work of Edward Hopper. He is known for
his paintings that depict empty places and lonely moments. Here he captures the
moment that artificial light from the gas station blends with the light of the setting
sun. The scene is quiet and ordinary, a man tending to gasoline pumps, something
routine that he did everyday and has been captured forever in a painting.
WATCH THIS: Edward Hopper in 60 Seconds

Ed Ruscha. Twentyseven Gasoline Stations. 1963,
3rd edition.
Ed Ruscha’s art work varied from
paintings to artist books, that
capture life in the American
Southwest. In Twenty-seven
Gasoline Stations, Ruscha took
images of every gas station that
he passed on Route 66 from Los
Angeles home to Oklahoma City
where he was from. As you turn
the pages you pass them as he
did and if you read it backwards
it mimics the the experience of
driving back to the start. It’s
illustrative of a specific time
period and region that is similar
to our experiences but is visually
Looking Inward:
The Human Experience
● Art can describe the human
experience, the inner workings of
our psyche, or the meaning of our
● Frida Kahlo often painted herself
in the center of a busy visual field
Frida Kahlo. Self-Portrait with Monkeys. 1943,
oil on canvas, 32 1/16 x 24 3/16”, Jacques and
Natasha Gelman Collection.
Looking Inward – The Human Experience
Just as artist have tried to describe what life is like around us, so to have they worked
to visualize the human experience, the inner workings of our psyche or the meaning
of our existence.
In Self-Portrait with Monkeys, the artist Frida Kahlo does not provide us with an easy
way into her thoughts. She often painted herself as the still center of a busy visual
field. Wearing an embroidered Mexican dress, she regards us cooly, skeptically. Or
perhaps it is herself in the mirror that she sees. Kahlo began painting while
recovering from a streetcar accident that left her body shattered and unable to bear
children. She underwent dozens of operations and suffered from crippling pain.
Perhaps her numerous self-portraits are a way for her to proclaim that she is still
here, expressing her experience as a woman, as an artist, and as a Mexican.
WATCH THIS: Frida Kahlo The Woman Behind the Legend

● Describes a quiet domestic
scene of a woman in her
home with a jeweler’s scale
● Full of symbolism that
connects to questions of
life after death, judgement,
and the choices for how we
live our lives
Johannes Vermeer. Woman
Holding a Balance. c. 1664, oil on
canvas, 15 7/8 x 14”, National
Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
In Woman Holding a Balance, Johannes Vermeer has captured a quiet stillness. A gentle
half-light filters through the curtained window that reveals a woman contemplating an
empty jeweler’s balance. She holds the balance and it’s two glinting rays delicately with
her hand, which falls in the exact center of the composition. The frame of the painting
on the wall behind her catches the light, drawing our attention. The painting is a
depiction of the Last Judgement, which depicts the belief that Christ shall come to judge
and weigh the souls. On the table, the light picks out strands of pearls, jewels and
jewelry that serve as symbols of vanity and the temptations of earthly treasure. Light is
reflected in the surface of the mirror next to the window. The mirror suggests
self-knowledge, and indeed if the woman were to look up, she would be facing directly
into it. This painting in its quiet, subtle ways, addressed questions of life after death and
our journey to get there.
WATCH THIS: Why is Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” considered a masterpiece?

Illustration of the scale of Vermeer’s paintings and the
amount of detail he put into them
Invention & Fantasy
Triptych-a picture or relief carving on
three panels, typically hinged together
side by side and used as an altarpiece.
Bosch. The
Garden of Earthly
Delights. c.
1505-10, oil on
panel, 7’ 2 5/8 x
6’ 4 ¾”, Museo
del Prado,
Click on Link – Zoom in on details of The Garden
of Earthly Delight
Invention and Fantasy
What happens when you blend the world around you with
the creations in your mind?
Netherlandish painter Hieronymus Bosch is known for his
bizarre paintings. There’s a lot happening in this image and
I urge you to spend some time looking. The important
thing to note is the image is broken into three spaces,
similar to the narrative use of cells seen in lecture 3 part 1.
The painting is called a triptych because it is in three
sections. The left and right panels are hinged to the center
and act like doors that when closed conceal the middle
painting. This was a common way for paintings to be
constructed for churches to be closed with a painting seen
daily and opened up for special ceremonies and occasions
giving illustration to another painting.
WATCH THIS: Hieronymus
Bosch Butt Music
Invention and Fantasy
Yayoi Kusama. Love is
Calling. 2013, wood,
metal, glass mirrors,
tile, acrylic panel,
rubber, blowers,
lighting element,
speakers, and sound,
14’ 6 1/2 x 28’ 4 5/8 x
19’ 11 3/8”, David
Zwirner Gallery.
Invention and Fantasy
In her installation, Love is Calling, Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama created a space that
we experience as a fantasy, though in fact it has origins in her mental reality.
Kusama has long suffered from hallucinations in sight, and the fear that she felt in
this experience led her to translate it into art. The room is lined with mirrors so that
anything in it multiplies in endless reflections. When you step into the infinity room
you are transported into a fantastical immersive space.
WATCH THIS: Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors

The Natural
Thomas Cole. The Oxbow
(View from Mount
Holyoke, Northampton,
Massachusetts. 1836, oil
on canvas, 4’ 3 ½” x 6’ 4”,
Metropolitan Museum of
Art, New York.
The Natural World
Nature and our relationship to it are themes that we will see addressed in art throughout
the course. During the 19th century, many American painters looked to the American
landscape as the subject of their paintings. Thomas Cole’s famous painting The Oxbow
depicts the great looping bend of the Connecticut River as seen from the heights of
nearby Mount Holyoke in Massachusetts. To the left is a violent thunderstorm darkening
the sky. Cole developed the painting in his studio from a sketch he made at the site. His
painting relies on his familiarity with nature but also combines it with some fiction to
make an engaging composition.
I included another one of Cole’s paintings on the next slide because it is this massive
expanse of the landscape with this little tiny figure almost as a scale to the rest of the
scene. It’s a time when there was more nature than men, and there was an emphasis on
Western Expansion in the United States.
WATCH THIS: Thomas Cole The Oxbow
Thomas Cole. River in the
Catskills. 1843, oil on canvas,
Boston Museum of Fine Art.
The Natural World
The artist Wang Jian was a part of a tradition in
Chinese paintings that the purpose as never to record
the details of a particular site or view. Rather, painters
learned to create stylized depictions of mountains,
rocks, trees, and water so that they could construct
imaginary landscapes for viewers to wander through in
the mind’s eye. Whereas Cole’s paintings represent a
fixed position, Wang Jian’s suspends us in midair and
depicts a view that we could see only if we were
mobile like a bird.
Wang Jian. Landscape After Dong Qichang. Bingchen
(1676), Ink and color on paper, hanging scroll, Private
Stone and gravel garden, Ryoan-ji
Temple. c. 1488-1500, with subsequent
modifications, Kyoto, Japan.
The Natural World
The desire to portray landscapes has been
matched by the desire to create them for
the pleasure of our eyes. The famed stone
and gravel garden of the Buddhist temple
of Ryoan-ji in Kyoto, Japan, seems to
occupy a position halfway between
sculpture and landscape gardening.
Created toward the end of the 15th
century and maintained continuously ever
since then, the garden consists solely of
five groupings of rocks set in a rectangular
expanse of raked white gravel and
surrounded by an earthen wall. The garden
is a place of meditation, and viewers are
invited to find their own meaning in it.
The Natural World
The artist Robert Smithson was drawn to
the idea that an artist could participate in
the shaping of landscape almost as a
geological force. Like the garden at
Ryoan-ji, Spiral Jetty continued to change
according to natural processes after it was
finished. At one point Spiral Jetty
disappeared submerged under lake water
but has recently resurfaced, the rocks
transformed by a coating of salt crystals.
Robert Smithson. Sprial Jetty, Great Salt
Lake. 1970, black rock, salt crystals, earth,
and water, length of coil 1,500’, Utah.
Art as Art
Art can be inspired
by works that have
come before,
without knowledge
of this image we
would know that it
is referenced in the
next work
Hokusai. Ejiri in Suruga Province from Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji. c. 1831.
polychrome woodblock print, 9 5/8 x 14 7/8”, Honolulu Museum of Art.
Art as Art
The last theme represents the effect of artists looking at the work of their
predecessors. Some artists respond in unique ways and others respond making direct
reference to the work that has come before. Without knowledge of this woodblock
print, we would not understand the reference made by the next artist. This image is
one of a series of views of daily life in Japan, linked by the presence of the serene
mountain in the distance. Not all that different in the language that Ed Ruscha was
using in his Twenty-seven Gasoline Stations.
Jeff Wall. A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai). 1993. Transparency in lightbox.
7’ 6 7/8 x 12’ 4 5/16”, Courtesy the artist.
Hokusai. Ejiri in Suruga Province from
Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji. c. 1831.
polychrome woodblock print, 9 5/8 x 14 7/8”,
Honolulu Museum of Art
Jeff Wall. A Sudden Gust of Wind
(after Hokusai). 1993.
Transparency in lightbox. 7’ 6 7/8
x 12’ 4 5/16”, Courtesy the artist.
Art as Art
Jeff Wall is an artist that has often created a
dialogue between art that has come before
and the way that he develops compositions.
Wall is not using photography to document
the world in a straightforward way but uses
technology to construct an image. He has
recreated the two trees, the travelers, and
the wind-scattered papers. But there is no
sublime mountain in the background, nothing
to give the scene a larger meaning or sense of
purpose. Without knowledge of Hokusai’s
print we don’t realize the absence of the
Jeff Wall. A Sudden Gust of Wind (after
Hokusai). 1993. Transparency in lightbox. 7’ 6
7/8 x 12’ 4 5/16”, Courtesy the artist.
Lecture 4 – Visual Elements
Visual elements – elements that we perceive
and respond to when we look at a work’s form
that help us analyze our visual experience
Shape and Mass
Time and Motion
Texture and Pattern
Richard Serra. Sight Point (for Leo Castelli). 1972, 17
ton steel plates, Stedelijk, Amsterdam.
Up to this point we’ve talked extensively about the
various ways art supplies us with meaning, the next
two lectures will focus more on the fundamental
language used to describe the different elements that
give us access to understanding what we see visually.
This image is a large sculpture installation in
Amsterdam, the artist Richard Serra is known for
working with monumental sized steel plates and
creating spaces for people to interact with them. It’s
not so much about what we visually see but how we
experience standing next to and under the steel
plates. What does it feel like to stand under heavy
metal plates that look like they imply almost a stack of
cards, but knowing that if they were to slip you could
be crushed under the weight? How does the texture
make you feel, the way that the surface is rusting, and
thinking of how it feels to rub your hand against it?
Visual Element – Line
● a path traced by a moving
● Artists use line as symbols
● Lines can be expressive
● Lines can record the
borders of a form and
convey direction and
Keith Haring. Untitled. 1982, vinyl paint
on vinyl tarpaulin, 6 x6’, Hamburger
Bahnhod Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin.
A line is defined as a path traced by a moving point. Artists use lines as
symbols. The artist Keith Haring used thickly brushed green lines to portray a
winged merman appearing miraculously before an appreciative dolphin. The
wavy lines that indicate spiritual energy radiate from the apparition’s head
are symbolic. In fact all the lines in the drawing are symbolic. The merman,
for example, is drawn with a green line, but in reality there is no line
separating a body from the air around it. Rather, such lines are symbols of
perception. Our mind detaches a figure from everything around it by
perceiving a boundary between one region ( a body) and another (the air).
Lines can also be expressive themselves – think of when we make marks to
cross something that we have written out.
Outline – defines a
two-dimensional shape
Contours – the boundaries
we perceive of
three-dimensional forms
Contour Lines – the lines we
draw to record the
boundaries of a form
Jennifer Pastor. Sequence 6 from
Flow Chart for “The Perfect Ride”
Animation. 2000, Pencil on paper,
13 ½ x 17”.
Outline – defines a two-dimensional shape
Contours – the boundaries we perceive of three-dimensional forms
Contour Lines – the lines we draw to record the boundaries of a form
Contour lines are the lines we draw to record the boundaries we perceive
of three-dimensional forms. Jennifer Pastor used pencil to make a contour
drawing of a cowboy riding a bull at a rodey, one of a series of drawings
that record the entire ride from beginning to end. Her confident, even lines
capture the contours so skillfully that they suggest fully rounded forms.
Line- Direction and Movement
In following the lines showing the progression of the
bull rider, we were doing what comes naturally, our
eyes follow lines to see where they are going. Artists
can use this tendency to direct our eyes around an
image and to suggest movement. Directional lines play
an important role in Henri Cartier-Bresson’s
photography of a small Italian town. The success of the
photograph hinged on what he called the “decisive
moment”. The woman carrying a tray of loaves of
bread that almost mirror the texture of the
cobblestones is framed by the arches of the railing, the
railing that takes our eyes from the right of the image
to her, and then meet up with another set of railing
that moves our sights to follow to the back of the
image. Without the lines our eyes would not move
through the picture the same way.
Henri Cartier-Bresson. Aquila,
Abruzzi, Italy. 1951, photograph.
Line – Direction and Movement
● Our eyes tend to follow lines to see where
they are going
● Artists can manipulate this tendency to
direct our eyes around an image and to
suggest movement
● The directions of lines cause an instinctive
reaction to the direction of the line, which is
related to our experience of gravity
Henri Cartier-Bresson. Aquila, Abruzzi, Italy. 1951, photograph.
Line – Direction and Movement
● Flat, horizontal lines seem
● Vertical lines have an
assertive quality as they
defy gravity with their
upward thrust
● Diagonal lines are the most
dynamic and imply action
Thomas Eakins. The Biglin Brothers Racing.
1873-74, oil on canvas, 24 1/8 x 36 1/8”, National
Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Line- Direction and Movement
Our instinctive reactions to the direction of line is related to our experience of gravity.
Flat, horizontal lines seem stable like the horizon line. Vertical lines, like those of an
upright body, or a skyscraper may have an assertive quality, as if they defy gravity. The
most dynamic lines are the diagonals which almost always imply action. Think of a
runner or a skier, the body leans forward, so that only the forward motion keeps it
from toppling over. Thomas Eakins’ painting is stabilized by the long, calm horizontal
on the distant shore. The two boats in the foreground are set on the gentlest of
diagonals – only a hint, but it is enough to convey their motion. The diagonals in the
painting provide visual power, the tree tops, the clouds, and the oar capture the
streamlined quality of the boats racing across the calm water.
● Depicts the moment when
those on the raft sighted a
rescue ship
● Diagonal lines create two
centers of interest increasing
the tension of the scene
● The line of figures builds to the
highest figure trying to get the
attention of the passing ship
while the diagonal line of the
rope moves your vision to the
reality of the wind in the sail
moving the raft away from
Line – Direction and Movement
Théodore Géricault. The Raft of the Medusa.
1818-19, oil on canvas, 16’ 1 3/8 x 23’ 9”m
Musée du Louvre, Paris.
There’s a great contrast in linear movement and thus in emotional effect between
Eakins’ work and the painting by Théodore Géricault. His work is based on an actual
event, the wreck of the French government ship Medusa off North Africa in 1816. Only a
few of those on board survived, some by clinging to a raft. Géricault chose to depict the
moment when those on the raft sighted a rescue ship. Virtually all the lines in the
composition are diagonal. He uses them to create two conflicting centers of interest,
thus increasing the tension of the scene. Picked out by the light, the writhing limbs of the
survivors carry our eyes upward to the right, where a figure silhouetted dramatically
against the sky waves his shirt to attract the rescuers’ attention. A lone rope, also
silhouetted, carries our eyes leftward to the dark form of the sail, where we realize the
the wind is not taking the survivors toward their salvation, but away from it.
WATCH THIS: The Raft of the Medusa
Line – Implied
● Our eyes also
pick up on lines
that are only
● A dotted line is a
series of dots
spaced closely
enough that our
mind connects
Jean-Antoine Watteau. The Embarkation for Cythera. 1718, oil on
canvas, 4’ 2 13/16 x 6’ 4 3/8”, Schloss Charlottenburg, Staatliche
Schlösser und Gärten Berlin.
Implied Lines
Implied lines- are lines that our eyes pick up through visual cues, think of a dotted
line. The 18th century French painter Jean-Antoine Watteau created a sort of dotted
line of amorous couples in The Embarkation for Cythera. Starting with the seated
couple at the right, our eyes trace a line that curves in a gentle S and leaves us
evaporating into the gauzy air with the infant cupids. Cythera, is a mythological
island of love. Watteau specialized in elegant scenes in which aristocratic men and
women gather in a leafy setting to play at love. Often, as here, the scenes are tinged
with a gentle melancholy.
When someone points a finger, we automatically follow the direction of the point.
Watteau uses implied lines here as well, we follow the procession from the couple
up to the loop following the cupids and back down back across the image to the
statue of Venus whose gaze sends up circling back locked in a cycle.
Visual Element – Shape and Mass
Shape – is a two-dimensional form. It occupies an area with identifiable
Mass – is a three-dimensional form that occupies a volume of space. We speak of
a mass of clay, the mass of a mountain, the masses of a work of architecture
Figure – the shape we detach and focus on
Ground – the surrounding visual information the figure stands out from, the
Positive shapes – the shapes we perceive as figures
Negative shapes – the shapes of the ground
Shape and Mass – Implied
● Artists use implied shapes to unify
their compositions
● Just as artists use implied lines to
help direct our eyes around a
composition they have used
implied shapes to create a sense
of order
Raphael. The Madonna of the Meadows. 1505,
oil on panel, 44 ½ x 34 ¼”, Kunsthistorisches
Museum, Vienna.
Shape and Mass – Implied Shapes
Artists have used implied shapes to unify their
compositions as Raphael has done here in The
Madonna of the Meadows. He has grouped the
figures of Mary, the young John the Baptist and
the young Jesus so that we perceive them as a
single triangular whole. Mary’s head forms the
apex and John the Baptist the lower corner,
Mary’s foot draws our eyes to form the right
corner. Just as artists use implied lines to help
direct our eyes around a composition they have
used implied shapes to create a sense of order, so
that you perceive the works as a unified and
harmonious whole.
Visual Element Light
Doug Wheeler. D-N SF 12
PG VI 14. 2012, Venice,
April 13 – December 31,
2014, Reinforced fiberglass,
titanium dioxide paint, LED
lights, and DMX control.
Doug Wheeler is a contemporary artist whose work increases our awareness of
light as a presence in the world. His installation here plays on how we perceive
space and light, as seen in this image the light manipulates what we know is the
other side of an atrium, but it vanishes, swallowed up by the light. It looks as if
infinity has opened-up inside the building, even though we know that isn’t what
happened. This has been achieved by Wheeler curving a fiberglass shell painted
brilliant white, a smooth white floor, and carefully controlled lighting that
eliminates any shadows that would give us visual cues disrupting the illusion.
Implied Light: Modeling Mass in Two Dimensions
Model – gives masses a three-dimensional appearance replicating
light and shadow
Values – shades of light and dark
Implied Light: Modeling Mass in
Two Dimensions
Chiaroscuro Italian word for
Leonardo da Vinci. The Virgin and St. Anne with
the Christ Child and John the Baptist. c.
1499-1500, charcoal, black and white chalk on
brown paper, 54 7/8 x 39 7/8”, The National
Gallery, London.
During the Renaissance, Chiaroscuro was
developed as a technique to employ values
to record contrasts of light and shadows in
the natural world. Leonardo da Vinci utilized
chiaroscuro in the unfinished drawing, the
figures on the paper are covered in a light
source that shines from everywhere and
nowhere. Leonardo uses continuous tones
in his drawing, values that grade evenly into
each other. There isn’t a full value scale in
the drawing.
Implied Light: Modeling Mass in Two Dimensions
Charles White. Untitled. 1979, etching, 4 x 5 ½”, The
Charles Wilson Archives.
Hatching – areas of
closely spaced
parallel lines
Cross-hatching additional parallel
lines laid across
other parallel lines
to create darker
Charles White uses line to model the head of a
woman seen in profile, taking the pale gray of the
paper as the highest value, the artist indicated the
next step down in value with hatching, areas of
closely spaced parallel lines, as on the front of the
forehead or the side of the nose. Darker values
are achieved through additional sets of parallel
lines laid across the first, a technique called
cross-hatching. Seen from up close the effect
seems coarse, but at a certain distance the dark
hatch marks seem to average out with the lighter
paper into nuanced areas of gray an effect of
perception called optical mixing. The hatching
scale mimics the effect of the value scale utilizing
hatching and cross-hatching.
Stippling – areas of dots average out
through optical mixing into values
Another technique for suggesting value is
stippling. Invented by Giulio Campagnola in
about 1510, the ancient technique of
stippling has been popularly used in the
fields of engraving and sculpture. It is often
confused with the similar process known as
pointillism. The major distinction between
the two is that stippling uses a single color
whereas the latter can be created with
multiple colors.
Miguel Endara, detail, Benjaman Kyle. 2012,
ink on paper, 12 x 12”
Implied Light: Modeling Mass in
Two Dimensions
Visual Element – Color
Refracted – the breaking apart of light through a prism into different colors
Much of the color theory we understand can be traced back to experiments
by Sir Isaac Newton, who is better known for his works with the law of
gravity. In 1666, Newton passed a ray of sunlight through a prism, a
transparent glass form with nonparallel sides. He observed that the ray of
sunlight broke up or refracted into different colors. The colors separated out
by Newton have been arranged into a color wheel.
Visual Element – Color
Color Wheel – a standard way of arranging
the colors separated by the prism
Primary colors – red, yellow, and blue
because theoretically they cannot be made
by any mixture of other colors
Secondary colors – orange, green, and
violet are made by combining two primary
Intermediate colors/Tertiary colors – the
product of a primary color and an adjacent
secondary color
Color – Color Theory
Warm colors – colors we associate
with sunlight and firelight
Cool colors – colors we associate with
sky, water, shade
Palette – refers to the wooden board
on which artists traditionally set out
their pigments, but it also refers to
the range of pigments they select,
either for a particular-painting or
Eugene Delacroix’s artist palette
Color – Color Properties
Any color has three properties: hue,
value, and intensity
Hue – the name of the color according to
the categories of the color wheel
Value – refers to the relative lightness or
Tint – a color lighter than the hue’s
normal value
Shade – a color darker than the hue’s
normal value
Intensity also called Chroma or
Saturation – the relative purity of a color
Color – Color Harmonies
or color scheme is the selective use of two or more colors in a single composition.
Monochromatic – harmonies composed of variations on the same hue, often with
differences of value and intensity
Complementary – harmonies involve colors directly opposite each other on the
color wheel
Analogous – harmonies combine colors adjacent to one another on the color
Triadic – harmonies composed of any three colors equidistant from each other on
the color wheel
Restricted palette or open palette – working with a restricted palette artists limit
themselves to a few pigments and their mixtures, tints, and shades. Open palette
is the opposite.
Color – Color Harmonies
In Inka Essenhigh’s painting In Bed, the artist
has used tints and shades of blue to depict a
slightly sinister scene in which fiendish sprites
tug at a sleeping woman.
Monochromatic – harmonies composed of
variations on the same hue, often with
differences of value and intensity
Inka Essenhigh. In Bed. 2005, oil on canvas, 5’8 x 5’2”
Color – Color Harmonies
The yellow-and-orange fire in Turner’s
The Burning of the Houses of Parliament
would not have the same intensity if not
depicted with the night sky in blue and
Complementary – harmonies involve
colors directly opposite each other on the
color wheel
J.M.W. Turner. The Burning of the Houses of Parliament. c.
1835, oil on canvas, 36 ¼ x 48 ½”, Philadelphia Museum of
Color – Color Harmonies
Limited/Restricted Palette – working with a
restricted palette artists limit themselves to a
few pigments and their mixtures, tints, and
Sometimes this is due to stylistic
requirements and traditions, or the
availability of certain colors during a certain
period of art history. During the 18th century,
when John Singleton Copley painted Paul
Revere’s portrait, there were specific rules
that artists were trained to use for painting
WATCH THIS: Paul Revere Moral
John Singleton Copley. Paul Revere. 1768-70,
oil on canvas, 35 x 28 ½”, Museum of Fine Arts,

Color – Optical Effects of Color
Simultaneous contrast – complementary colors appear more intense when placed
side by side
Afterimage – prolonged staring at any saturated color fatigues the receptors in the
eyes, which compensate when allowed to rest by producing the color’s
complementary as a ghostly afterimage in the mind
Optical color mixture – colors can be mixed in light or pigment but they can also be
mixed with the eyes. When small patches of different colors are close together, the
eye may blend them to produce a new color.
Pointillism – developed by artist George Seurat he laid his paints down by placing
many thousands of tiny dots or points of pure color next to each other
Color – Optical Effects of Color
Pointillism – developed by artist
George Seurat he laid his paint
down by placing many thousands
of tiny dots or points of pure color
next to each other
Georges Seurat. Evening, Honfleur.
1886, oil on canvas, 25 ¾ x 32”,
Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Color – Optical Effects of Color
From a distance of a few inches the painting
appears to be a jumble of colored dots, but as
the viewer steps back the dots gradually
coalesce into shapes, and an image emerges of
the shore at Honfleur, a seaside town in
France. Seurat’s dots never quite fuse entirely.
They remain just distinct enough to give the
surface of the painting a lively texture and they
create a sort of shimmer as their colors
interact. Optical mixing is perhaps more
familiar to us today through computers, whose
screen images are made up of discrete units of
Color – Emotional Effects of Color
James Abbot McNeill Whistler certainly had calm
in mind when he chose blue for the overall color
of his Nocturne in Blue and Gold. Except for a
distant spangle of fireworks and the reflections
of a few lights in the water, the painting is
entirely monochromatic, brushed in shades of
grayish blue. Blue contributes significantly to the
subdued emotional mood of the painting,
although it does not create it all alone.
James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Nocturne in Blue and Gold
(Old Battersea Bridge). c. 1872-75, oil on canvas, 26 7/8 x 20
1/8”, Tate, London.
Color – Emotional Effects of Color
As for Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream the
effect is much different, writing of his painting, “it
was a time when life had ripped my soul open, the
sun was going down, it was like a flaming sword of
blood.” Understanding what the artist saw and was
attempting to convey helps us understand why he
selected the colors in such an intensity and contrast.
Edvard Munch. The Scream. 1893,
tempera and casein on cardboard, 36 x
29”, Nasjonalgalleriet, Oslo.
WATCH THIS: How Edvard Munch’s The Scream
became an Icon

Visual Element – Texture and Pattern
Mona Hatoum. Dormiente.
2008, mild steel, 10 5/8 x 90
9/16 x 39 3/8”.
Actual Texture – tactile, a quality we could experience though touch
Texture and Pattern
Actual Texture – tactile, a quality we could experience though touch
Actual texture is literally tactile, a quality we could experience through touch. If
you touched Mona Hatoum’s sculpture you could feel the smoothness of the
steel, but you may also hesitate if you have ever scraped your knuckle using a
cheese grater. The title asks us to imagine this large-scale grater as a bed, thus
encouraging us to contemplate the exact experience we would rather not
consider, the intimate contact of our vulnerable flesh with its jagged metal
protrusions. Visually I’d point out that this bed shape may be familiar to you if
you’ve ever slept on a military or camping cot, and that connection may mean
more to you than others.
Visual Element – Texture and Pattern
Visual Texture
– we can form an idea of what a
surface will feel like associated
with our memory of surfaces.
Looking to how we remember
what things feel like this image is
packed full of variety almost for
the purpose of showing us how
many different kinds of surfaces
the artist could paint.
Clara Peeters. Table with Cloth, Salt Cellar, Gilt Standing Cup, Pie, Porcelain Plate with
Olives and Cooked Fowl. c. 1611, oil on panel, 55 x 73 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid.
Visual Element – Texture
and Pattern
Pattern – any decorative repetitive motif or
design, can create visual texture
An interesting aspect of a pattern is that it
tends to flatten our perception of mass and
space, in this portrait you can see the push
and pull between the portrait of the woman
and the flatness of the pattern behind her,
however elements in the pattern don’t stay
in the background and are literally coming
Kehinde Wiley. Mrs. Waldorf Astor. 2012, oil on
forward across the portrait.
linen, 72 x 60”.
Visual Element Space
Three-dimensional space sculpture, architecture,
and all other forms with
mass exist in
three-dimensional space –
that is the actual space in
which our bodies also
Do Ho Suh, Reflection. 2004, Installation at Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York, 2007, Nylon and
stainless steel tubes, dimensions variable.
Three-dimensional space – sculpture, architecture, and all other forms with mass exist in
three-dimensional space – that is the actual space in which our bodies also stand.
Architecture in particular can be thought of as a means of shaping space, without the
walls and ceilings of a room space would be limitless, with them space has boundaries
and therefor volume.
In Do Ho Suh’s installation, we gain a sense of the shaped space it occupies by modifying
that space in an unexpected and disorienting way. Reflection consists of two identical
replicas of the tradition Korean entry gate that stood before the artist’s childhood home.
Made of blue nylon stretched over a framework of slender steel tubing, the meticulously
detailed gates are translucent, allowing us to see into and through them. Suh sets them
base to base in mirror image on a taut field of blue nylon mesh that bisects the space of
the room horizontally. Entering visitors are confronted with an inverted suspended gate,
a reflection that seems more real, more powerful than the gate it reflects, which rises
upright into the space above, softened and blurred by the blue haze of the nylon field.
Implied Space: Suggesting Depth in Two
Maharana Amar Singh II, Prince Sangram Singh, and
Courtiers Watch the Performance of an Acrobat and
Musicians. Rajasthan, Mewar. c. 1705-08, ink, opaque
watercolor, and gold on paper, 20 ½ x 35 ¾”, The
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Picture plane – with two-dimensional
art such as painting and drawing, the
literal surface the image exists on.
In order to express quantity and space
artists throughout history and across
cultures have used overlapping forms
and position to imply space in two
dimensions. In this scene of acrobats
and musicians performing before an
Indian prince, we understand that the
performers toward the bottom of the
page are nearer to us that the ones
higher up, and that the overlapping
elephants and horses are standing
next to each other in a row that
recedes away from us.
Implied Space: Suggesting Depth in Two Dimensions
Linear perspective – a technique
developed to construct an
optically convincing space to set
forms based on the forms
diminishing in size as they recede
from us and parallel lines recede
and appear to converge at a
central point
Vanishing point – the point
where parallel lines converge on
a horizon line in linear
Francesco di Giorgio Marini (attr.). Architectural
Perspective. Late 15th century, Furniture decoration
on poplar wood, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.
The development of linear
perspective profoundly changed how
artists viewed the picture plane. For
Medieval European artists, as we
saw with Indian artists in the
previous image, a painting was
primarily a flat surface covered with
shapes and colors. For Renaissance
artists, it became a window on to a
scene. The picture plane was
conceived as a sort of windowpane,
and the painted view was imagined
as receding from it into the distance.
Many paintings were created for no
other reason than to show off the
possibilities of the technique.
One-point linear
perspective Creates
emphasis on
one central
Leonardo da Vinci, The
Last Supper, c.
1495-97, Fresco, 15’ 1
1/8 x 28’ 10 ½”,
Refectory, Santa Maria
delle Grazie, Milan.
Leonardo da Vinci used linear perspective to construct a very similar space for his
portrayal of The Last Supper. It was, above all, the measurable quality of the space
created through linear perspective that intrigued Renaissance artists. Here, regular
divisions of the ceiling measure out the recession just as the regular divisions in the
pavement did in the last painting.
The Last Supper was painted on a monastery wall in Milan, it depicts the final
gathering of Jesus with his disciples, the Passover meal they shared before Jesus was
brought to trial and crucified. Leonardo captures a particular-moment in the story, as
related in the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus has just revealed to his disciples that
one of them will betray him, and this painting captures their various reactions. Judas
is fourth from the left clutching a money bag.
The lines of the architecture all converge at a vanishing point behind Jesus’ head, at
the exact center of the picture. Thus, our attention is directed forcefully toward the
most important part of the composition. The central opening in the back wall, a
rectangular window, also helps to focus our attention on Jesus and creates a halo
effect around his head. Leonardo is using similar iconography that we have seen to
signify holiness and hierarchy in the composition, but he’s manipulating them in such
a way that the overall painting has more realism than the icon painting of the
Madonna Enthroned we looked at in a previous lecture.
You may notice that the way the painting appears now is almost closer to pointillism,
and this is the effect of the materials Leonardo used in painting the fresco. He was
experimenting in the composition ratios and the ingredients he used, almost
immediately they began to degrade. There is less than 20% of the original paint left as
many retouches have been done over the centuries.
One-point linear
perspective Creates
emphasis on
one central
Leonardo da Vinci, The
Last Supper, c.
1495-97, Fresco, 15’ 1
1/8 x 28’ 10 ½”,
Refectory, Santa Maria
delle Grazie, Milan.
Implied Space: Suggesting Depth in Two
Foreshortening – the logic of linear perspective
requires every form to recede into the distance
even human and animal forms
Hans Baldung Grien portrays two foreshortened
figures, the groom lying perpendicular to the
picture plane and the horse which stands at a
45-degree angle. The size of both are compressed
by the odd angle we see them. The distortion of
foreshortening is difficult for artists to replicate.
Hans Baldung Grien. The Groom and the Witch. c.
1540, woodcut, image 13 15/16 x 7 7/8”, National
Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Space – Atmospheric Perspective
perspective – the
optical effect
caused by the
atmosphere that
interposes itself
between us and the
objects we perceive
John Frederick Kensett.
Lake George. 1869, oil on
canvas, 3’ 8 x 5’ 6”, The
Metropolitan Museum of
Art, New York.
Atmospheric perspective – the optical effect caused by the atmosphere that
interposes itself between us and the objects we perceive
The first European artist to apply the observation of atmospheric perspective was
Leonardo da Vinci, it’s the third element of the optically based system for
representing the world that was developed during the Renaissance. Looking to the
rocky outcropping, fallen tree trunk and green leaves, the shore of the foreground is
clear and detailed. Small islands nearby are less distinct, but the trees are still green.
Marking our progression into the distance, the three hills along the farther shores
grow progressively more hazy and tinged with blue, which takes over completely as
the farthest hill follows the curve of the lake away from us and disappears from
Space – Isometric Perspective
Isometric perspective – the use of diagonal lines to
describe objects receding in the picture plane without
allowing parallels to converge
As we have seen the converging
lines of linear perspective are
based on the fixed viewpoint of
an earthbound viewer. The use of
an aerial viewpoint seen in
Chinese and Islamic painting uses
the isometric perspective system.
A form of isometric perspective is
used in video games as seen in
the next two slide. Whether in a
painting or in a game, isometric
perspective is used to provide
more information than a fixed
view, single perspective.
Space – Isometric Perspective
Isometric Perspective offers an aerial viewpoint that provides more information
than a single viewpoint. Modified isometric perspective has been employed in a
number of video games.
Screenshot of gameplay in SimCity and Fallout
Visual Element Time and Motion
Kinetic – having to do with
motion. Kinetic art
incorporates (rather than
depicts) real or apparent
Alexander Calder. Southern
Cross. 1963, sheet metal, rod,
bolts, and paint, height 20’ 3”,
Storm King Art Center,
Mountainville, New York.
Time and Motion
Kinetic – art that moves
The 20th century saw time and motion develop from more than a link with art but
into an element from the advances in science and technology. Alexander Calder set
sculptures in motion with works that came to be called mobiles. Constructed from
abstract forms suspended on slender lengths of wire, they respond by their own
weight to the lightest currents of air. He also made works called stabiles that were
fixed to the ground, combined in Southern Cross , also the name for a constellation in
the southern hemisphere. The mobile constellation seems to be made of pieces of
night and his stabile looks suspiciously capable of movement with its pointy legs.
Visual Element – Time and Motion
Nick Cave. Soundsuit, 2012. Mixed media, including beaded and sequined garments, fabric, metal
and mannequin, 109 1/2 x 24 1/2 x 12 in. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New
York. © Nick Cave. Photo: James Prinz Photography
Nick Cave makes art that depends for its full effect on the motion of the performer.
Soundsuits take their name from the first one Cave made in response to racial violence
in the early-90s, initially intended to be a sculpture, but then he realized he could wear
it and that it would conceal the color of his skin. The soundsuits are scavenged from
materials and items purchased from thrift shops and flea markets. They dance before
us, as majestic beings that can be silly, mournful, disturbing, and transcend our
systems of classification. The performances are a combination of tribal dances and
rituals, carnivals, circuses, and even armor.
WATCH THIS: Nick Cave brings art sculpture to life with soundsuits
Principles of Design
Lecture 5
Formal Analysis – The terms that
help us see and describe what we
see in the subject matter and
meaning of a work of art
The Principles of Design

Unity and variety
Emphasis and Subordination
Scale and Proportion
Composition – especially in
two-dimensional art, refers to the ways that
artists have organized or composed the
visual elements and principles of design.
Design – is the same principle of
composition but is a better term for a
variety of art works
We’ve talked about the meaning of what we are seeing visually when we look at art
and how we access art, this class we’re looking at how those elements are combined
with the principles of design to help us see and describe art. When artists develop
the usage of the principles of design and the visual elements this impacts how easily
we can interpret their work.
The Principles of Design Unity and Variety
Unity – the sense of oneness, of
things belonging together and
making a coherent whole
Variety – is difference, which
provides interest
Henri Matisse. Memory of Oceania. 1953,
Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, and
charcoal on white paper, 9’ 4” x 9’ 4 ½”, The
Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Unity – the sense of oneness, of things belonging together and making a coherent whole
Variety – is difference, which provides interest
They are discussed together because they usually exist together in a work of art.
What is the painting about? What do you see?
Looking at Henri Matisse’s Memory of Oceania, we can see the variety of colors and
shapes, looking longer we can see how the composition is unified around a few
principles, the colors are in fact limited to six plus black and white, and all of them but
the pale yellow in the upper corner are creating visual connections across the picture
plane. The shapes, though highly varied forms fall into three categories, rectangles,
simple curves and waves. Only the yellow shape is without an echo. This painting is
influenced by the time that Matisse spent when he traveled to Tahiti in the South Pacific,
hoping to refresh his eyes from the environment he had painted within France.
The Principles of Design Unity and Variety
Yayoi Kusama. Infinity Nets [AOWFA]. 2013, acrylic on
canvas, 4’ 9 x 3’ 8 ½”, David Zwimmer Gallery, New
The Principles of Design Unity and Variety
Yayoi Kusama takes the principle of unity
to an extreme, the painting consists
entirely of a small looping storke,
repeated – again and again, the loops
gathering into chains, the chains joining
like stitches in crochet or the knotted
loops of a net. The repetition is far from
machinelike demonstrating its handmade
nature, each loop is distinctly formed, the
chains tend to gather into overlapping
whorls and fold; zones of subtle color
variation arise.
The Principles of Design – Balance
Visual weight – refers to the apparent “heaviness” or
“lightness” of the forms arranged in a composition,
as gauged by how insistently they draw our eyes.
The sculpture balances impossibly on one point,
Noguchi took the industrial materials and
rectangular forms of mid-20th century architecture
and stood them on end, as though the buildings all
around were pedestrians and his sculpture a dancer
in their midst. The sculpture balances because the
weight is distributed evenly around a central axis.
Even the photograph of the sculpture is balanced
visually, the simple red form set starkly against a
dark background draws our attention strongly to the
Isamu Noguchi. Red Cube. 1968, steel painted red,
height 24’, The Noguchi Museum, New York.
The Principles of
Design – Balance
Symmetrical balance
– the forms of a
composition mirror each
other across a central
axis, an imaginary
straight line that divides
the composition in two.
The two halves
correspond with the axis
acting as a center of
Haruka Kojin. Reflectwo. 2007, installation at the Museu de Arte
Moderna de Sao Paulo. April 10-June 22, 2008, artificial flower
petals, acrylic, string, dimensions variable
The colorful shapes in Reflectwo, mirror
each other across a horizontal axis, with
the upper and lower halves
corresponding. Think of a wooded
shoreline reflected into the water. The
image of the installation is deceptive, the
elements of the flower petals hanging on
the string float before us and looking at
an image flattens the depth of the
arrangement, depending on how you’re
standing the relationship to the perfect
symmetry of the work is revealed or it
The Principles of Design Balance
Symmetrical – descriptive of a
design in which the two halves of
a composition on either side of an
imaginary central vertical axis
correspond to each other in size,
shape, and placement
Georgia O’Keeffe. Deer’s Skull with Pedernal.
1936, oil on canvas, 36 x 30”, Museum of Fine
Arts, Boston.
Georgia O’Keeffe employed a less rigorous form of
symmetrical balance, the skull itself is symmetrical set
on a vertical axis. Then she softens the symmetry with
subtle shifts in balance. Toward the top of the image,
the dead tree branches off to the right have rhythms or
repetitions with the skull’s horns. To the bottom of the
image, the trunk swerves off to the right as well, but a
pale upward-thrusting branch, a lone cloud, and the
distinctive silhouette of Pedernal Mountain all add
visual weight to the left. The relaxed and yet
fundamentally symmetrical approach is sometimes
called relieved symmetry.
The Principles of Design Balance
Mandala – In Hinduism and
especially Buddhism, a diagram
of a cosmic realm, from the
Sanskrit for “circle”
Newar artists at Densatil Monastery, Central
Tibet. Thirteen-deity Jnanadakini Mandala. c.
1417-47, distemper on cotton cloth, 33 ¼ x 28
7/8”, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Mandala- a diagram of a cosmic realm
The most famous mandalas are connected
with Buddhism, though there are Hindu
mandalas as well. This mandala is a Tibetan
Buddhist one, and it depicts the cosmic realm
emanating from the female Buddha
Jnanadakini, the sky-goer of Transcendental
Insight, who is shown seated in its centermost
square. Everything radiates outward from her,
including four more female Buddhas, deities of
the cardinal points (north, south, east, west),
and other celestial beings. The word mandala
means “circle” in Sanskrit, the ritual language
of early South Asia, where both Buddhism and
Hinduism first took form.
The Principles of Design – Balance
Asymmetrical – simply something that is not symmetrical
How do we determine whether something is asymmetrical?
Just a few possibilities:
1. a large form is visually heavier than a smaller form
2. a dark-value form is visually heavier than a light-value form of the same size
3. a textured form is visually heavier than a smooth form of the same size
4. a complex form is visually heavier than a simple form of the same size
5. two or more small forms can balance a larger one
6. a smaller dark form can balance a larger light one
The Principles of
Design – Balance
Asymmetrical – simply
something that is not
Gustav Klimt. Death and Life.
Before 1911, finished 1915, oil on
canvas, 5’10 x 6’6”, Museum
Leopold, Vienna.
Asymmetrical balance
Gustav Klimt’s Death and Life has
asymmetrical balance that dramatizes the
opposition between life, envisioned to the
right as a billowing form of light-hued
patterns and slumbering human figures, and
death, a dark skeletal presence at the far left,
robed in a chilling pattern of grave markers.
The two halves of the painting are linked by
the gaze that passes between death and the
woman he has come to claim. Klimt has
placed her face exactly on the vertical axis of
the painting, which here serves as a sort of
symbolic border between life and death.
The Principles of Design – Balance
An asymmetrical composition with forms placed so far to
the left as to be barely on the page, Sotatsu relies on an
implied line of vision both to balance the composition and to
reveal its meaning. We naturally raise our eyes to look at the
form of the priest sitting in the tree – that’s all there is to
look at. We then follow the direction of his gaze down to
nothing. Meditation on emptiness is one of the exercises
prescribed by Zen Buddhism, and this ingenious painting
makes that clear. Our eyes repeatedly seek out the priest,
who repeatedly sends us back to focus on nothingness.
Tawaraya (Nonomura) Sotatsu. The Zen Priest Choka. Edo period, late
16th- early 17th-century, hanging scroll, ink on paper, 37 x 15”, The
Cleveland Museum of Art.
English painter, JMW Turner, uses
asymmetrical balance to describe the
catastrophic fire he observed, the viewer is
placed on the opposite bank of the river, our
eyes are immediately drawn to the
spectacular conflagration in the distance at
the left. Turner balances this leftward
attraction with the large white form of the
bridge to the right, which brings us to the
foreground of the painting where a crowd
has gathered. A single white street lamp the highest value in the painting – draws our
eyes to the left, and from there we circle
back to the flames, this time allowing the
directional lines of the rose-tinged blue-grey
smoke to carry our eyes off into the night
sky, where a few stars shine.
Joseph Mallard William Turner. The Burning of
the Houses of Parliament. c. 1835, oil on
canvas, 36 ¼ x 48 ½”, Philadelphia Museum of
The Principles of Design – Emphasis and Subordination
Emphasis – means that our attention is
drawn more to certain parts of a
composition than to others
Subordination – means that certain areas
of the composition are purposefully made
less visually interesting, so that the areas
of emphasis stand out
Henry Ossawa Tanner. The Banjo Lesson. 1893,
oil on canvas, 49 x 35 ½”, Hampton University
Museum, Hampton, Virginia.
Emphasis and subordination are complementary concepts. Emphasis means that our
attention is drawn more to certain parts of a composition than to others. If the emphasis is
on a relatively small, clearly defined area, we call this a focal point. Subordination means
that certain areas of the composition are purposefully made less visually interesting, so
that the areas of emphasis stand out. Henry Ossawa Turner used size and placement to
emphasize the figures of the old man and the young boy. Tanner set the pair in the
foreground, and he posed them so that their visual weights continue to form a single mass,
the largest form in the painting. The colors used emphasize the figures in contrast to the
background, directional lines of sight create a focal point on the circular body of the banjo
and the boy’s hand. Tanner has subordinated the background so that it does not interfere,
blurring the detail and working in a narrow range of light values. If one of the pictures on
the back was was painted with bright colors it would draw your eye and remove emphasis
from the figures. Remember the painting by Vermeer of the woman holding the balance,
there the painting on the wall was a significant part of the meaning of the work and highly
detailed. Here, the shapes are alluded to as markers of domestic space and setting.
The Principles of Design – Emphasis
and Subordination
Emphasis and Subordination
Paul Cezanne arranged a white napkin to create a
focal area and subordinated the rest of the image
through a closely harmonized palette of earth
tones. Drawn up into a peak at the center, the
napkin looks like a domestic version of Mont
Saint-Victoire, the mountain that Cezanne painted
so often. A white fruit dish and a white pitcher
flank the peak, leading additional visual weight to
the center of the composition. Over this base of
dark and light values, Cezanne scattered red,
orange, yellow, and green fruits, patches of
intense color. Each a brilliant focal point in its own
right, the fruits are gathered into the larger order
Paul Cezanne. Still Life with Compotier,
of the composition by the white cloth, and they
Pitcher and Fruit. 1892-94, oil on canvas, 28 ¼ culminate in the pyramid of oranges and apples
x 36 ¼”, The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia.
raised high by the bowl.
The Principles of Design – Emphasis
and Subordination
Francisco de Goya used almost the same
color scheme to a much different effect.
Again, white, yellow, and red, demand our
attention by creating a dramatic focal area
against a background of earth tones and
black. This time, however, the subject is not
a napkin and fruity but a man about to die,
the blood of those who have preceded him,
and a lantern that casts a harsh light. Using
the limited palette of color Goya has limited
distractions in the background and creates
focus and intensity.
Francisco de Goya. Executions of the Third of
May 1808. 1814-15, oil on canvas, 8’ 9 x 13’ 4”,
Museo del Prado, Madrid.
The event he depicted occurred during
the invasion of Spain by Napoleon,
when a populus uprising in Madrid was
brutally suppressed by occupying
French soldiers. Goya uses
psychological forces to direct not only
our attention but also our sympathy.
Faces serve as natural focal points, the
victims of the firing squad have faces,
and we can read their expressions.
While the French soldiers are not given
faces or humanity, they’re just
depicted as forms at the end of rifles.
Francisco de Goya. Executions of the Third of
May 1808. 1814-15, oil on canvas, 8’ 9 x 13’ 4”,
Museo del Prado, Madrid.
Scale – size in relation to a
standard or “normal” size.
The Principles of Design – Scale and Proportion
Claes Oldenburg uses the effect of
a radical shift in scale to create an
absurd and silly sculpture, in
Plantoir he presents a gardening
tool on a heroic scale. Perhaps it’s
a monument but to what? Looks
like it could have been discarded
by a giant in a fairy tale.
Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. Plantoir. 2001, stainless steel, aluminum, fiber-reinforced
plastic, painted with polyurethane enamel, height 23’ 11”. Collection Fundacao de Serralves, Porto.
The Principles of Design – Scale and Proportion
Proportion – refers to
size relationships
between parts of a
whole, or between
two or more items
perceived as a unit
Stela of the sculptor
Userwer, detail. Egypt,
Dynasty 12, 1991-1783 BCE,
limestone, The British
Museum, London
Scale and Proportion
Proportion – refers to size relationships between parts of a whole, or between two
or more items perceived as a unit.
Many artistic cultures developed a fixed set of proportions for depicting a “correct”
or “perfect” human form. Ancient Egyptian artists, for example, relied on a squared
grid to govern the proportions of their figures Unfinished fragments such as this
give us a rare insight into their working methods. Egyptian artists took the palm of
the hand as the basic unit of measurement. Looking at the illustration, you can see
that each palm (or back) of a hand occupies one square of the grid. A standing
figure measures 18 units from the soles of the feet to the hairline with the knee
falling at horizontal 6, the elbow at horizontal 12 and so on.
Hierarchical scale – the
representation of more
important figures as larger than
less important figures, as when
a king is portrayed on a larger
scale than his attendants
Think about images we’ve seen
where figures are depicted
larger than others, or in the
Scene from the Standard of Ur,
detail. Mesopotamia, Early
Dynastic III, 2500 BCE, gold inlay,
lapis lazuli, The British Museum,
The Principles of Design – Scale and Proportion
The Principles of Design – Scale and
Proportion – refers to size relationships between
parts of a whole, or between two or more items
perceived as a unit
● From the Greeks and Romans a numerical
relationship holds the key to beauty and that
perfect human proportions reflected a divine
● Vetruvius wrote that the perfect male form
related to the geometry of the square and the
Leonardo da Vinci, Study of Human Proportions according to
Vitruvius. c. 1485-90, pen and ink, 13 ½ x 9 ¾”, Gallerie
dell’Accademia, Venice.
Among the many ideas from ancient Greece and Rome that
were revived during the Renaissance was the notion that
numerical relationships held the key to beauty, and that
perfect human proportions reflected a divine order.
Leonardo da Vinci was only one of many artists to become
fascinated with the ideas of Vitruvius, a Roman architect of
the first century BCE, whose treatise on architecture, widely
read during the Renaissance related the perfect male form
to the perfect geometry of the square and circle. Leonardo’s
figure stands inside a square defined by his height and the
span of his arms, and a circle is centered at his navel.
WATCH THIS: Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man

The Principles of Design – Scale and Proportion
The Golden Section – also known as Fibonacci
Sequence (the Golden Ratio), it divides a length
into two unequal segments in such a way that the
smaller segment has the same ratio to the larger
segment as the larger segment has to the whole
Fibonacci Sequence,
(explained much
better than I can…)
The Principles of Design – Rhythm
● Rhythm is based in
repetition, and it is a
basic part of the
world we find
ourselves in.
● Natural rhythms
form the passing of
time and organize
our experience
Maya Lin. Storm King Wavefield. 2007-08, Earth and grass, 240,000 square feet (11-acre site) at Storm
King Art Center, Mountainville, New York.
Rhythm is based on repetition, and it is a basic part of the world we find ourselves in.
Natural rhythms measure the passing of time organizing our experience, think about
the pattern in the cycle of the seasons, or the moon, or the waves. Through repetition,
any of the visual elements can take on a rhythm within a work. In Maya Lin’s Storm
King Wavefield, mass provides the rhythm, the mass of a wave form repeated again
and again. Maya Lin was inspired to construct this form in three-dimensions after
studying the model water-wave formation called the Stokes wave, studied in fluid
dynamics – which is the branch of physics that studies fluid in motion, including ocean
waves. Arranged in seven rows over 4 acres of land, the grass-covered earthen wave
forms reach heights of 10 to 15 feet, towering over visitors who venture into the
troughs between them. Only from an elevated vantage point, as in the photograph,
can we understand the rhythmic ordering of the whole.
The Principles of Design – Rhythm
● Architects use rhythm to divide a
building into distinct visual units so
that we can grasp its logic
● A repeating vertical rhythm of
pilasters (flat, ornamental columns)
marks off one-quarter intervals
across the facade, like an even
● The arch of the large entryway is
repeated in smaller arches
Leon Battista Alberti. Façade of Sant’Andrea, Mantua.
Designed 1470.
Through rhythm, architects can articulate the
proportions of a building in visual elements.
Renaissance architect Leon Battista Alberti used
rhythms to articulate the monumental facade (exterior
face) of the church of Sant’Andrea. A repetitive
vertical rhythm of pilasters (flat, ornamental columns)
marks off one-quarter intervals across the facade, like
an even beat. There would be a fifth pilaster in the
exact center if the large entryway did not intervene.
The arch of the large entryway is repeated in smaller
arches between the pilasters. Similarly, the large
rectangle of the principal doorway in this arched
entryway repeats in the smaller side doors on the
Lecture 6
EXHAUSTED. 1976, Pastel on paper,
22 3/4 x 28 3/4 inches.
Introduction – What are drawings? What materials
are used?
Ed Ruscha the artist we looked at his artbook
Twenty-seven gasoline stations is also known for his
art that uses unconventional materials. The video
linked on the previous slide showcases how he
transformed gunpowder into a material that could
be used for making marks and drawings. The image is
a drawing in the sense of applying materials to paper
to create a design or image. We’ll look at traditional
and unconventional materials used for drawing and
the many forms it can take. I also think this particular
one captures a shared sentiment between students
and professors.
Drawing as preparation
and study – sketches
John Constable, Sketchbook, 1813-15,
pencil, Victoria and Albert Museum
Artists throughout history have utilized
different methods in the preparation of their
final or complete work. While the medium
of the finished work may change, using
drawing materials and the act of sketching
helps the artist to plan, to visualize, and to
anticipate their final work and what changes
they may need to make.
Drawing as preparation and study – sketches
The painter John Constable was known for his very
large scale sometimes six feet wide landscape
paintings. His paintings are most often recognized
for the realistic clouds that he depicted in his
painting. He spent a significant amount of time
observing the sky and nature as well as extended
time practicing and sketching in order to replicate
the clouds accurately. The clouds in his paintings
are so accurate that meteorologists are able to
identify their different classifications. Constable
wasn’t just painting his impression or memory of
clouds, but the observable reality of them.
Study of Cirrus Clouds, oil painting,
John Constable, 1822, Britain.
Museum no. 784-1888. © Victoria
and Albert Museum, London
Drawing and Learning
aid learning & memorization
help clarify what you know
enhance research methodology
enhance creativity and problem
● enhance communication efforts

Drawing and Learning
Just as you are encouraged to take notes as an
aid to memory and learning, drawing too has a
similar result. By combining images and
language it can aid in your memorization as well
as retention of information. It can help clarify
what you know, by sketching the steps out of
Photosynthesis it gives visualization to a process
you may be able to repeat the cycle from
memory but that aid of seeing it worked out can
help take that information from just
remembering something to knowing it.
● Drawings can
the artistic
process and
of ideas
Pablo Picasso, First composition study for Guernica. May 1, 1937. Pencil on blue paper, 8 ¼ x 10
5/8”, Museo Nacional Centro De Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid.
Drawings can document the artistic process and the development of ideas. We saw the
finished painting of Guernica that Pablo Picasso painted in response to the destruction
of the city. While he was compelled to paint and express the horror in his own attempt
to process and cope with what happened, it took him planning and experimenting with
different elements before he picked the final forms used in the composition. These
sketches that he prepared give us insight into his process and let us see how his mind
worked. Sometimes an idea can lead to other places or can work less successfully than
imagined, sketching gives the opportunity for an artist to develop their ideas. What
changes do you notice from the finished painting?

Artists may use drawing as a way to
understand the world around them
Leonardo was fascinated with the
parallels between the behavior of
currents of water and the motions of
waving grass
In drawing the flower he was able to look
closer and make those associations in the
way that he drew the contours and the
form of the flower, to him that same
gesture was connected to how he would
make the contours of waves
Leonardo da Vinci. Star of Bethlehem and other Points. c. 1506-08, red chalk and pen, 7 5/8 x
6 3/8”, The Royal Collection, Windsor Castle, England.
Leonardo was also an inventor, he had ideas for
adapting processes and looked to problem solve
them with machines. Even though he didn’t bring
many of his ideas to life, sketching allowed him to
work through a problem and come up with a
creative solution. On this one sheet of paper we
can see his notes, his sketches for machines, a
portrait of a man, and his exploration of the
anatomy of a horse.
Leonardo’s sketchbook at the British Library,
digitized so you can turn the pages
Drawing – Materials
Pigment – a coloring material, usually powdered – traditionally these came from
materials such as precious stones, clay, or plant materials
Binder – a substance that allows material to adhere to the drawing surface
Drawing – Materials
● Drawing – consists of making contrasting marks on a flat surface.
● Usually done with monochromatic media such as with dry materials:
charcoal, conté crayon, metalpoint, graphite or pastel or wet material:
● Charcoal – is made from wood or other organic materials that have
been burned leaving pure black carbon powder. This powder, or
pigment, is mixed with a binder, a sticky substance like pine resin or
glue to make blocks of charcoal.
● Charcoal must be protected with a fixative to prevent smearing or
Techniques for manufacturing
charcoal have been known since
ancient times
● The best-quality artist’s charcoal is
made from special vine or willow
twigs, slowly heated in an airtight
chamber until only sticks of carbon
remain – black, brittle, featherweight
WATCH THIS: Decoding Degas Part 1

Illustrates techniques using charcoal

Yvonne Jacquette, Three Mile Island, Night I.
1982, charcoal on laminated tracing paper, 4’
3/16 x 3’ 2”, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture
Garden, Washington, D.C.
Describe the drawing by Yvonne Jacquettewhat qualities or elements does the work
have that is connected to the topics we’ve
discussed in our previous lectures? (ie: visual
elements and principles of design)
-Isometric or Aerial perspective – here seen in
a modern concept that previous generations
of artists couldn’t create without airplanes
-Tonal range of the charcoal, able to create
areas of black, grey values, and leave the
white of the paper
Yvonne Jacquette, Three Mile Island, Night I. 1982,
charcoal on laminated tracing paper, 4’ 3/16 x 3’ 2”,
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden,
Washington, D.C.
Conté crayon is compressed charcoal or graphite
mixed with wax or clay that comes in a variety of
What do we notice that is different from the last
drawing to this one?
-looking for the smoothness and blending previous drawing had distinct marks/hatching.
The combination of the wax or clay in the conte
crayon aids with blending. The previous drawing
has a dusty quality because of the way that the
compressed charcoal marks the paper with
distinct lines. Conte crayon allows for a more
sensitive value allowing the artist to model the
man’s face and describe three-dimensions.
Georges-Pierre Seurat, Edmond Aman-Jean, 1882-83, conté crayon on Michallet paper.
Graphite – A soft, crystalline form of carbon first
discovered in the 16th century, graphite is a
naturally occuring drawing medium

Pure, solid graphite need only be mined,
then shaped into a convenient form
The artist has used a soft pencil to create
the image, while there is some value it is
much more limited than the charcoal or
conte crayon and requires a range of
Chris Ofili. Prince among Thieves with Flowers.
1999, pencil on paper, 29 ¾ x 22 ¼, The Museum of
Modern Art, New York.
● Pure, solid graphite is rare and precious, more commonly graphite must be
extracted from various ores and purified, resulting in a powder.
● A technique was discovered for binding the powdered graphite with fine clay
to make a cylindrical drawing stick.
● Encased in wood, it became what we know as a pencil, today the most
common drawing medium of all
● Varying the percentage of clay in the graphite compound allows pencils to
range from very hard (lots of clay) to very soft (minimal amount of clay)
● The softer the pencil the darker and richer the line produces
● The harder the pencil the more pale and silvery the line
WATCH THIS: Musgrave pencil company Shelbyville

Metalpoint – The ancestor of the
graphite pencil, an old technique that
was popular during the Renaissance. The
drawing medium is a thin wire made of a
soft metal such as silver.
Ground – covers a drawing (or painting)
surface with a preliminary coat of paint.
Traditionally made with bone ash (or
chalk), glue, and white pigment in water.
Filippino Lippi. Figure Studies: Standing Nude and
Seated Man Reading. c. 1480, metalpoint,
heightened with white gouache, on pale pink
prepared paper; 9 11/16 x 8 ½”, The Metropolitan
Museum of Art, New York.
These figures that were sketched in an
artist’s workshop could have been
incorporated into a painting. The use of
metalpoint was a convenient, quick, way
to determine if a form expressed what
the artist was trying the achieve in the
composition and could be used
repeatedly for reference.
Filippino Lippi. Figure Studies: Standing Nude
and Seated Man Reading. c. 1480, metalpoint,
heightened with white gouache, on pale pink
prepared paper; 9 11/16 x 8 ½”, The
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Metalpoint – is the use of malleable metals
such as silver, pewter and gold to make
drawing marks on prepared surfaces.
The surface must have tooth, or roughness,
in order for the metal to hold the marks.
How is value achieved in this drawing (type
of mark-making)? – It is hatching and
cross-hatching because of the nature of the
materials, the metal point makes lines to
create value.
Leonardo da Vinci, Head of a Girl, c. 1483, silverpoint
on paper.
Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing
Drawing – Materials
Pastels – are composed of finely
powdered colored pigment and
Chalk – a soft white limestone, in
art this word is used for three soft
finely textured stones that can be
used for drawing: black chalk
(carbon and clay), red chalk (iron
oxide and clay), and white chalk
(calcite or calcium carbonate)
The pigments used smudge easily
so fixative must be used.
Drawing – Materials
Pastel consists of pigment
bound with a non-greasy binder
such as a solution of gum arabic
in water.
What kind of light source do you
think there is in this image
versus the next image?
Edgar Degas. The Singer in Green. c. 1884, pastel on light blue laid paper, 23 ¾ x 18 ¼”, The
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Drawing – Materials, Pastel
Degas is famous for the subtle
layering of color he was able to
achieve in his pastel drawings.
WATCH THIS: Decoding Degas

Illustrates the application of different
colors to get the finished drawing
Edgar Degas, Nach dem Bach sich abtrocknende
Frau, (After the Bath, Woman drying herself),
1890-5, pastel on wove paper laid on millboard.
Drawing – Materials
Oil pastel – semi-solid sticks of
high pigment oil paint that are
used like crayon.
Mary Ann Currier, East Palatka
Onions, 1983, oil pastel on paper
What differences do we notice
between the oil pastel drawing
and the last two pastel drawings?
Here you can see how the
difference in the binder can be
blended even further than the
pastel to create more realistic
descriptions of three dimensions.
Drawing – Materials
Ink – is the combination of colored pigment, and a binder
suspended in a liquid and applied with a pen or brush.

The oldest ink drawings come from China in the 3rd
century BCE and are done on silk or rice paper.
Drawing and Painting are linked and the use of ink
blends the definitions of the two almost
WATCH THIS: How was it made silk painting

The reason I link so many videos about process and
materials is to reinforce your understanding of the
definitions of terms and the work that goes into making
these objects.
Lu Guang, Spring Dawn Over the
Elixir Terrace, c. 1369, hanging
scroll: ink on paper.
● Pens today have metal
nibs but this was not
invented until the late
19th century
● Reeds or quills were
used as pens – they
respond to pressure
and create varied,
gestural lines
Rembrandt van Rijn, Cottage
among Trees. 1648-50, pen and
brown ink, on paper washed with
brown, 6 ¾ x 10 7/8”, The
Metropolitan Museum of Art,
New York.
Drawing – Materials
Rembrandt van Rijn has used line and contour to express space, we see the curving tree
top, and even though every leaf is not replicated we understand that the artist is
describing a full tree connecting to our understanding and memory of trees. The angles
as well have movement and can connect to our memories of the wind moving through
branches and leaves.
Drawing – Materials
WATCH THIS: Gamaliel Rodríguez
residency at the Bemis Center

Gamaliel Rodríguez, Misfire Smoke
Signal Case #3, 2011, ink on paper,
Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico
Paul Collins, From Gabby’s
Overpass, Sept 18, Day 8. Ink
on paper.
Wash – ink diluted with water and
applied with a brush
Do you have to draw with
your hand?
Joseph L. Griffith Drawing Machine
If a machine a
human designs
makes a drawing, is
it art?

Eske Rex, Drawing Machine, detail
Drawing and
Beyond: Paper as
a Medium
Collage – Made through
adhering different
materials together to
create a composition.
Romare Bearden, Mysteries.
1964, collage, polymer paint,
and pencil on board, 11 ¼ x 14
¼”, Museum of Fine Arts,
Pieced together from photographic
magazines, a series that evoke the
texture of everyday life as Bearden
had known it growing up as an
African American in rural North
Carolina. Think of collage as a
connection to the craft of quilt
work, making things from materials
that are scraps, or reused from
something else.
Drawing and Beyond: Paper as a
Mia Pearlman’s collage installations of cut paper
that have also been drawn on to present us with
a visual and experience that gives us time to
contemplate our experience of nature or natural
Mia Pearlman. Inrush. Installation at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York. Oct. 7 2009. Paper,
India ink, paper clips, tacks.
WATCH THIS: Mia Pearlman
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