James Abbott McNeill Whistler rose to prominence as an artist during two very popular, very influential, and very different movements in the art world: the movements of the Pre-Raphaelites and the Impressionists. He was a bit of both, in terms of his aesthetics, and yet not really either in terms of his subject matter or his worldview. His paintings, unlike his eccentric and at times combative personality, were subtle and nuanced. Whistler founded a new movement called Tonalism, which featured an emphasis on detailed texture, bold brushstrokes, muted Earth tones, and a soft focus. Many artists, particularly Whistler himself, oscillated between intimate portraiture and moody landscapes. The resultant accumulation of his life’s work is an oeuvre that is imbued with conceptual depth and intellectual thought, but not necessarily wrought with emotion or overt expression of oneself. Whistler’s legacy is not one of sentimental gratification; not for the artist, who strongly believed in art for art’s sake, and not for the viewer, whose eye is caught more by his technique than by his romantic philosophical worldview. Rather, his legacy, as one must assume he would have preferred it, is the art itself.
I’m not too fond of “realism”, as so often the subject matter is painted devoid of emotion and focuses instead on technical details that can become superfluous. However, there are a number of painters in the realist movement which have avoided this aesthetic pitfall and created imagery that is at once visually meticulous and emotionally gratifying. Swedish painter Anders Zorn combined the bold brush strokes and introspection of impressionism with the attention to detail and objectivity of realism. What makes him stand out from so many realist painters is that he managed to capture not just the image of his subjects, but also their emotional states and characteristics. For this reason he’s one of my favorite Swedish artists.
Controversial Masterpieces: Censorship Of Classical Art From The Renaissance Through The 19th Century
Whether the church’s chiseling the genitalia off of ancient statues or painting over blasphemous elements in a mural, art has been a contested territory, and there has been a long history of suppressing art that challenged the social mores of its day or expressed ideas deemed as obscene or heretical. Perhaps because art existed before the written word, before most other physical mediums of expression, it could be argued that art was the first form of communication outside of verbal speech to be censored. In the world of art, censorship often takes on three forms, either a work of art is expurgated (altered to exclude content that may offend), removed from public view, or destroyed altogether. The latter is rare since most cultures around the world hold art in high esteem and don’t wish to see its destruction regardless of its perceived objectionable qualities. Expurgation or obscurement has been more common.