Art not only serve as a tool for visual appreciation, but is oftentimes referred to as the mirror of the society. It’s because art effectively conveys or reflects what is happening in a certain society, at a certain period of time. With this, we see art not only as entertainment, but also as social critique. In viewing art, we go deeper than the colors, lines, and shapes that we see.
We read between the lines, and look at art in relation to the time and society it was conceived. By doing so, we are able to build a deeper understanding of how and why a specific artwork is created.
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Baroque Period through the Romantic Age
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Indeed, social, political, and economic conditions are able to shape and alter the nature of meaning of art. In order to further understand how art’s nature and meaning are altered by the abovementioned factors, we can specifically look at a certain era in art and scrutinize some of its details. First, we can consider the neoclassical era. Neoclassicism was prevalent during the 18th and 19th century. It was based on Ancient Greek or Roman classics, with high standards on the artwork’s subject, design, and a lot more. We can see that this is the time of abundance, wherein artists follow high standards clearly.
Some of the works reflect a time of oppression, of the need to follow the rules and conventions not only in the art but also in the society. This is the time when there were ruling kings and other tyrants, who dictate everyone to conform to the standards and repercussions that he want. No one is above the ruling authority, so the society indeed has to follow. This is reflected in the works of art at this time, one good example is David’s Oath of the Horatii (http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/File:David-Oath_of_the_Horatii-1784. jpg). Instead of using bright, pastel colors, it uses sharp ones which exude sophistication and clarity in the works.
The subject are well-made, life like figures of Roman soldiers and other men. Romanticism is another era in art that we could consider in order to see how it is affected by social, political, and economic factors. This began during the second half of the 18th century, wherein there is a complex artistic, literary, and intellectual movement. It was also prevalent during the Industrial Revolution. Works of art at these times were considered to revolt against the social and political norms of the ruling aristocrats, as well as the rationalization of nature by science.
The works of art in this era exudes strong emotions, giving the viewers a great aesthetic experience. It appeals on emotions like horror and awe, with the use of vibrant colors, unique themes, and creative styles. This era reflects a changing society, moving from the aristocratic rule towards freedom of expression. It does not conform to any rules of design; instead its strong appeal to the emotion is what sets it apart from other eras. A great example of this is Eugene Delacroix’ Liberty Leading the People which commemorate the toppling down of a prominent political figure during the French Revolution (http://en.
wikipedia. org/wiki/Liberty_Leading_the_People). The liberation from the ruling aristocrat inspired the creation of this work, and it exudes great emotion in its subject, a half naked woman leading the people forward, walking past the bodies of the fallen during the war. Another example is Francisco Goya’s The Third of May 1808, wherein he depicts the oppression during the reign of Napoleon I, commemorating the Spanish resistance to the invading French ruler (http://eeweems. com/goya/3rd_of_may. html).
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