Home > History, Humanities > Art History – Looking at Pictures

Art History – Looking at Pictures

As all the degrees involved in the creation of this blog would have an Art History subject next semester, I thought it would be useful to start to approach the topic. Specially for the people who never met the topic before, such as me. While we will be” trying to analyze the place of art in the lives of human beings and especially as they arose as expressions of each period of time and culture” as it is said in the courses program, we should have some sort of tools or basis to face the issues. This time I am recommending a book by Susan Woodford on how to succeed in getting an overall analysis of paintings “Looking at Pictures“. I hope it’s worthy to begin with.

   It’s a good book to start art pieces analysis because it provides an easy-reading introduction to the main aspects to bear in mind, such as composition, design, space description, style, inner meaning and quality. It also explains different categories, for example: landscape, portrait,religious images, still life, miths…The publication aims at the informative market and shows some famous painting’s analysis as models for further study. I had included some representative ones: Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation, Velazquez’s The Spinners and Turner’s Rain, Steam and Speed.

In her publisher words: “Some pictures are easily appreciated at first glance, but others – often the most rewarding – require some explanation before they can be fully understood. (…) Starting with familiar ideas, Dr Susan Woodford moves on to explore subtler, less obvious concepts. For example, she shows how paintings can be appreciated as patterns on a flat surface emotional effect; how ordinary objects can conceal hidden meanings and how knowledge of tradition improves our understanding of revolutionary works”

Because art study is not only a mere report on works characteristics, but a personal interaction and interpretation, as it is supported when it’s said: “We defend that students should infer from the features of the painting the author, age or formal power, and not vice versa, which has hitherto been the usual practice, that of a deductive approach from a style of abstraction down to concrete examples. It needs time and analytical habit, because the more paintings they look and consider, the best they will appreciate its plastic qualities and  its artistic value. It is also necessary to carry out an intellectual outlook over the work, in order to know what is best. We are therefore obliged to insist on the need for the acquisition of knowledge and their own criteria.”

“A painting is an «open work», it’s not only an expression of the painter but it is also completed by sealing off in the eyes and the feelings it evokes in the person contemplating it, that is,  the viewer rebuilds the art object with his personal perception.” It is said in Oscar Domínguez seminars on looking paintings.

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Categories: History, Humanities
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