The Art Work Proposal

             For this installation will be about the focus of the human body through art.  The techniques of modern artists as well as contemporary, classical, and Renaissance will be used to mention a few.  The point of the exhibition is to allow the viewer to witness the changing forms of the human body as it is depicted through the changing lens of artistic movements.  Artistic and historical memory is important because it allows the people to witness the change of the lens of society through artwork.  It allows for a collective memory to evolve from art in a public place; thus the use of human bodies as seen through the different time periods of art which this exhibition will cover will give a chance to the viewer to discover how radically the visions of the body have come.  Through the development of art, the fascination of the body has been a main motif.  It is Venus, Roman Goddess of love who has intrigued the artist, and held their attention for well over a few centuries, as well as the hero in early Greek art and into this century.  Thus, heroine and hero (or the human body) has been not only Venus, but also Aphrodite (the Greek Goddess of Love), she has been Mary, mother of Christ in Gothic tradition and she had been found in the countless faces of women depicted by Picasso, Monet, Degas, Warhol (for isn’t Monroe a goddess?).  The hero body has taken on the form of classical Greek statues, as well as the more arcane Munch painting to the development of sordid cubism in Picasso’s interpretation of a the human form.  The link in these references is that this god and goddess are holding the fascination of artist.

Earlier in the semester, there have been studies of females presenting viewers with their view of femininity.  Here, however, there will be a close-up on females through the eyes of the other gender.  With this premise, the art being focused on will cover the art periods of High Renaissance, Romanticism, Impressionism, Mannerism, Schiele’s unique style of art, and Modern art.  These chose eras embody a progression of female as the centerpiece in art, and that centerpiece delineates through time into Pearlsteins vision of nudes.  Venus, Aphrodite, Mary, and the genre of today have in common the powerful feminine pulchritude, which artists have found alluring and which still prevails for today’s audiences.

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Agnolo Bronzino, “Allegory of Venus”: 1546, Oil on Wood, 146 x 116 cm

            Bronzino pulls back a curtain of a painting to present two lovers.  The canvas is crowded with images, people, and action.  This is juxtaposed with the fact that as much as action as is happening in the scene, the bodies of the activists remain marble white and not pinkish.  This deadness is intriguing considering that the subject of the piece is love.  The playfulness of the painting reveals love as a foolish occupation, for in the upper left corner of the painting are two figures representing fraud, infidelity, and jealousy.  All of these things are what love turns into with time – Bronzino is reflecting.  For in the opposite corner of the painting is the figure Father Time, who pulls back the curtain.

            The foolishness figure or Folly is diagonally behind Venus and is readying himself to throw roses on the incestuous couple (Venus and her son Cupid).  Behind Folly is the figure of Pleasure who offers a sweet snake to the lovers. Pleasure is depicted as a half-woman, half-snake, which alludes to Satan in the garden of Eden.  This type of allegory has the ultimate outcome of downfall for the tangled lovers in the center.  Their incestuous love affair will be revealed in time to be nothing but a foolish endeavor.  The masks positioned by Venus’ foot represent falseness.  The falseness here is that of love.

Love is proven to be false because neither one of the figures in the painting are anticipating their love to last.  Love becomes a fling, and because it is not a true love, Satan is in the back letting the viewer know that it is lust which drive the two figures onward.  Another clue to their folly, of fling is that once again their flesh isn’t alive with the new budding of love, but they are chiseled marble which tells the viewer that love here is transitory, and based solely on eroticism.

Titian’s Venus & Adonis: 1553-1554, Oil on Canvas, 63 x 77 3/8 in.
Titian’s view of Venus is depicted with her lover Adonis.  The viewer is captivated by the pull which Venus has on Adonis to keep him from going on the hunt.  Adonis is stoic, having no care for Venus’ pleas, only worrying about the pull of his dogs and the glory which will await him.  Unfortunately, Adonis dies on the hunt, and Venus is torn asunder with grief.  In this timely picture however, Titian has elaborated the love struggle between the lovers.  Adonis’ pull from his dogs, echoes the grip Venus has around his upper body.

            In the background cupid lays asleep under a tree, with his arrows limply falling to the ground.  This speaks for both lovers.  The arrows represent the love which Adonis does not have any longer for Venus, and cupid’s slumber is Venus’ love for Adonis which will soon be bereavement.

            The movement of the strokes which Titian has used gives the viewer a sense of action.  At times Titian used his fingers as well as paintbrushes to allow for a feel struggle.  Venus is bound to never let go of Adonis while he remains resistant and impassive.  The clouds in the background speak of an immediate doom for Adonis, for they bellow and break above his head.  There is a clear spot in the sky almost surrounding Venus which could mean a shimmer of hope for her (to love again), of which means that there will be an emptiness soon to swallow her up.

            In all, Venus will love Adonis posthumanously.  The cycle of Venus is to be generous with her love.  She will continue to give, for soon cupid will awake, retrieve his arrows from the tree and shoot them at another.

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres’ “Grande Odalisque”: 1814, Oil on Canvas, 91×162 cm
Here is found a sensual Venus surrounded by drapes, a feather fan, sheets, and yet not one thing covering her.  The fact that Venus has turned the front of her body away from the viewer says that she is being mysterious; not letting all of her secrets show.  She does turn her face toward the artist, which says that she is not ashamed of her present condition of nudity, but she is reveling in it, in the way that she doesn’t use all the material surrounding her to cover herself with, or that she is in a relaxed pose; elbow on the bed for support, one leg crossed over the other.  She stares blatantly at the viewer/artist and she is neither chagrined nor gloating; she is simply and clearly passive.

            Yet the condition in which her passivity is relinquished tells the viewer that there is something more here than a hardened stare.  There is the elaborate background, the soft tones of her skin which are warm and inviting despite her back toward us.  In Ingres depiction of Venus the viewer is torn between wanting to reach out and fall into the warmth which her body promises, and at the opposite end of the spectrum the viewer is shunned from thinking such a thought because of that look which personifies stoicism.

            In the previous work by Titian it was Adonis who embodied this stoicism yet here the role is reversed.  It is as if Venus has been hardened by the loss of things.  She obviously has material wealth but she is unhappy, or worse still apathetic.  This is not the loving Venus in Titian’s work.  Ingres portrays a lover who has many admirers yet is still reluctant to give her love as generously as before.  Venus fools the onlooker.  This is a classic cliché of “her eyes say no but her body says yes”.  This enticing, alluring figure of Venus is turning more into the man-eater female which is seen in female art of the 20th century.

 Edgar Degas “The Tub”: 1885-86. Pastel on paper, 60×83 cm.

            Degas’ genius of revealing women is shown her in his simple work of ‘The Tub’.  Here, the subject is not necessarily noted as Venus, but the implication remains.  The impression of the nude figure is seen in a tub, where she is bending down to grab either  soap or a cloth.  The movement is very gracefully accomplished: she sweeps the upper portion of her body forward and down, bending at the hips.  Her legs remain stationary, planted firmly on the right side of the tub.  The highlights which Degas depicted on her back give the viewer a sense of warmth; there must be a window in the background.

The figure’s clothes are lying limp on the ground beside the tub.  While she is not enticing the viewer to join her, she is presented with no inhibitions.  The viewer is given a feeling of being not a voyeur but just someone who has stumbled upon a very delicate scene.  There is not guilt in the viewing of her; there is no shame in the figure.  This has to do with her not gazing out of the canvas.

            The curves which Degas attributed to her let the painting flow.  There is subtle movement within the painting, and it is comforting.  We are not faced with the fury of the clouds as seen in Titian’s work.  We are brought coldness by the marblesque nature of her skin.  We are not worried that she will hate our view of her.  She is simplified in her movements, her motion of bathing.  She is elegant and graceful.  Though she is nude, she remains unseen from the viewer.  The upper half of her body covers up her breasts and pubic area.  This is done so that the viewer may not feel that they are invading or seeing something pornographic.  This may be due to Degas’ reputed ‘hatred’ of women, but nevertheless, here Venus is unashamed but keeping her secrets.

Chagall ‘I and the Village’: 1911, Oil on Canvas, 192.1 x 151.4 cm

In Chagall’s, work I and the Village the difficulty of understanding modern art is best exemplified.  The overlapping shapes cause much visual stress for the audience and this stress leads to a misinterpretation of the composition as a whole.  Although the shapes are well defined, in the overlapping of each other is also found the overlapping of colors; the human eye has difficulty in translating mixed color as well as shape, this chaos causes an unstable reaction in the viewer which makes them in turn unable to comprehend to piece.  The painting is definitely an example of early surrealism, which is also a difficult concept for the average viewer to understand since the landscape is not a natural landscape but could involve a dreamscape or a psychological scape (both used by Chagall).  This piece in particular however best exemplifies the goals of the Dadaists in that it’s interpretation is left to the viewer and its over all message lies within the feelings the painting evokes in the viewer instead of having the painting stand for something in particular.  Thus, Chagall’s work had no meaning overall but was personal to each viewer.

Egon Schiele “Woman Sitting with Left Leg Drawn Up” 1917, Sketch, 1019×764 cm.
Egon Schiele was a contemporary of Gustav Klimt.  Both artists experimented with the ideas of love through their work.  Klimt’s famous masterpiece “The Kiss” is seen as a romantic entanglement of love.  Schiele’s work examines the more gruesome workings of the human psyche.  However, in his piece “Woman Sitting”  the figure is his own Venus, for she is his wife.

The woman sits in an empty canvas.  She is wearing leggings, tattered shorts, and a green sleeveless shirt.  Her hair is either short or tied up.  Her hands move toward her uplifted left leg and wrap it in an ownership embrace.  The lifted leg causes the fabric of her shorts to fall and reveals the underneath of her thigh.  Her eyes stare straight out at the viewer.  Here is Venus enticing.  Fully realized and sensual, she gazes out from the blank canvas, but no one would really notice it was blank because she herself embodies so much of the paintings color.  Venus is heavily outlines, her skin is rather sallow but in parts there are pieces of pink shining through.

A classic Schiele move with the figure is having the legs spread apart.  That is what is alluring about her.  She invites without prejudice to the viewer.  Perhaps this is why the canvas is blank, she has nothing but herself to offer.  Venus is without material gifts here unlike Ingres’ Venus.  There is only her, with red hair and opened legs.  The pose is playful though, with head resting on kneecap.  The missing element here, as well as the other depictions of Venus excluding Bronzino’s is that Venus does not smile.  Though she is playful in Schiele’s version of her, she is still apathetic in a way.  In fact there is no true emotion shown in any of the Venus’.  There are suggestions by the surroundings but no actual signs of how Venus feels.

Philip Pearlstein “Two Models with Blow-Up Chair” ”: 1998, Oil on Canvas, 121.9 x 167.6 cm
Pearlstein’s innovation in completing this project is one of Modernism, mixed with Realism.  Pearlstein paints an oil painting of two females.  They appear plastic wrapped within the canvas due to the severe highlights Pearlstein applies to both of  their bodies.  They lay beside each other, one on the chair the other next to the chair, and they both appear to be asleep.  These two models or Venus’ are full frontal nude.  The viewer is unable to see if they are ashamed or not from their faces because one of them is hiding her face and the other one’s head extends beyond the canvas (this is a trademark of Pearlstein).

Though both Venus’ are or appear asleep they are active with the coloring and highlights which Pearlstein has seen fit to attribute to them.  The line of light glares down the frontal figures body, highlighting the left breast, the stomach wrinkles and over the curves of both of the legs.  This mimics the curves and highlights given to the plastic chair which she ‘sleeps’ upon.  The other model fades into the background, yet still has that tiny shot of highlight upon the same appendages and other body parts which the first Venus had on her.

The interesting item in this painting is that there are two female figures being painted.  This is coupled with the fact that here too, like all the ones before it, Venus is apathetic, or at best the viewer is unable to tell what she (they) are feeling.  Never mind the composition, Venus is still without a ‘voice’ in this painting.  Through the very brief glimpse of feminine fecundity, and pulchritude, Venus remains elusive, and stoic.  It has taken the art movement of the 20th century to see the full force of Venus.  She has, with the help of female artists, broken her silence.

Munch ‘The Cry’1893,  Casein/waxed crayon and tempera on paper (cardboard), 91 x 73.5 cm

Edvard Munch was a gifted artist from Norway.  His painting The Cry conveys to the viewer an immense amount of power and emotion, not only through the lines of the painting but through the way in which the lines converge and break apart.  The oeuvre of Munch’s paintings encompasses a split from the traditional school of thought with painting, that is after Munch’s split with the traditional Paris School, the idea of art became symbolic with revolutionary ideas and with this the Berlin Secession was formed.

            Munch’s paintings as a whole represented a stark reality, and as such , his paintings were themselves stark, full of anxiety.  The images he portrayed emphasized fear in humanity, and that fear was given a backdrop of nightmarish landscape and psychological background.  Munch delved into the unreasonable fear that causes a person to go berserk on a battle find or engulfed by the death of a loved, as Munch himself was when both his mother and sister died, succumbing to tuberculosis, and thus The Cry was created, to mark the point of fear in humanity staring into the face of their own nightmare; in Munch’s case, abysmal grief (Art History Guide).

            The use of line for Munch was the focal point of most of his works.  The rhythm of the line expresses in long wavy concord the echo of the action in the painting, in the case of The Cry the lines themselves appear like a sonic boom, or, the echo of the cry being given by the central figure.  Munch does not leave any of his paintings disregarded and in every corner of The Cry the scream is given voice, whether in the stilted action of the figure with tense mouth and hands or the harsh lines etched into the paper.  Such representation of line and emotion can be witnessed in Munch’s other art pieces such as Two Women on the Shore, and Girl Looking Out the Window.  (Art Explorer).

            The central figure in the painting The Cry, though androgynous does not detract from the message Munch portrayed.  The message of Munch’s painting is insatiable sorrow, or grief.  This feeling transcends gender.  Since the grief that is expressed in the painting has its roots with the death of family members, the overall sentiment of the painting is not limited in scope to identity, and so, the figure in the middle becomes representational to each viewer of the work.  This is the genius of Munch; he was able to give the viewer the exact emotion that he himself was feeling while creating his work.  The androgynous figure in the painting only adds to emphasize the universal concept of fear and nightmares and this makes that feeling accessible on a broader scale than if the figure was gendered.

            The lithograph of the black and white version of Munch’s The Cry, though rendered supremely does not quite emphasize the devastation that the colours add in the original.  In the use of colour Munch is able to create a three dimensional landscape which further developed the sense of anxiety and stygian sentiment.  With the use of colour Munch created a frightening apparition of a personal horror, though the black and white in its own regard does to an extant portray this, it is merely in the use of line that a viewer can empathize with the central figure.  The variety of lines and of colour is what gives the viewer that psychological sense of horror, and paints the nightmare in vivid detail.

            The black and white lithograph makes great use of positive and negative space.  The undertones are remarkable and the lines hold true to the feeling that the entire work is screaming with the central figure.  The viewer also gets a great sense of anxiety in how harsh the line depictions are in the black and white lithograph.  The magic of Munch’s The Cry takes place with the color.  It gives an extra feeling of how intensely sorrowful and horrified the figure is, and this is done through creating mood with color.  The vibrant sky pitted against the swallowing blues of the water and the marriage of colors in each object carry the viewer to that psychological setting of surrealism while maintaining the centrality of emotion in the figure’s action.

Picasso ‘Woman’s Head’: 1909, Bronze, 40.6 x 26 x 25.4 cm

Picasso’s Woman’s Head sculpture is similar to his cubist paintings by ways of movement.  Cubism was a study in finding the focus of a painting, or in this case sculpture, and expounding that focus to incorporate the movement of the body in accord with the rest of the painting.  This is how the sculpture is successful as a cubist rendering; it stays true to the focus of the artist’s intention, that of movement.

            In Picasso’s other cubist art portraits he utilizes angles to create for the viewer a sense of movement.  These angles give a full encompassing of the myriad of movements possible for the protagonist in each painting.  In Picasso’s sculpture of the woman’s head, he uses cubism as a means of angles in order to deliver to the viewer how infinite the design of the head can become in its variegated movement, just he does in his cubist art works (i.e. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon).

            Picasso’s Guitar is similar to his synthetic cubist paintings again by the utilization of angles.  Picasso presents the viewer with the Guitar in a multidimensional environment but the guitar is isolated on a two dimensional space.  Picasso was extravagant with his use of angles, and in the Guitar this extravagance is deftly portrayed.  His synthetic cubist art work were perhaps more in depth when the viewer pays close attention to the figures Picasso portrayed, but the inanimate guitar for Picasso took on a new life in cubism and he related this life by placing everyday objects around the guitar in order to emphasize space.

The painting however is not as successful as his paintings of similar dates or at least of later dates.  Synthetic Cubism gave way to an enhanced portrayal of life for cubists, but Picasso’s paintings of a later date were more sophisticated in scope because they retained the essence of art and did not strictly rely on synthetic materials that can appear cheap when put to canvas.  Picasso remained successful through his ventures in art genres by applying the same principles to each subject; that of movement through angles and the utilization of space.

Warhol ‘Gold Marilyn Monroe’: 1962, Silkscreen ink on synthetic polymer paint on canvas 211.4 x 144.7 cm

Warhol was also obsessed with death as is prevalent in his electric chairs and his detailed and horrific traffic accidents.  In the capturing of these images, however, Warhol further extrapolated from the image, from the emotion, that death itself was also banal because it had been reduced to absurdity by the mass media.  It is in the media that Warhol found his niche, his calling as an artist; in the media’s over popularization of objects and people, those objects and people ceased to be real in a sense and there were only icons or inanimate objects just for entertainment.  What Warhol did was to show the art world, through his famous repetitive art pieces, just how desensitized the media had made society.

            It is in his Gold Marilyn Monroe that the apex of these media mogul ideas come together.  The gold background of the piece is reminiscent of a Byzantine icon, and in the color scheme Warhol extols the tragic personality of Monroe.  The off-register color gives the viewer a sense of otherworldliness, or off kilter sensation similar to that of off-color magazines, and in turn, Warhol’s statement is that Monroe, the sex goddess, envied by men and women, is reduced to nothing more than an image, a commodity.  Through Warhol’s picture of her, Monroe is presented as impersonal, and similar to the thousands of Virgin paintings, Monroe too has been over-done.

The screen prints were a staple of Warhol’s artistic genius.  He did numerous screen prints of famous people including Elvis Presley, Mick Jagger, and of course Marilyn Monroe.  The silk screen allowed Warhol to continue with his experimental color combinations and images.  The images were expressionistic and considering that they were images of people and not mundane objects it is no wonder that this period in Warhol’s life is known as his ‘post-pop’ period.

This period occurred after Warhol spent some time in a hospital after being shot and almost killed and he had time to ruminate on where he wanted to take his art.  Warhol turned a corner in his career and he decided that he wanted his art to take him into the film industry.  In the human form Warhol produced hundreds of silk screens of famous people, and in this expressionism he also considered how to attract the viewer to specific parts of art.

The expanse of Warhol in the art world was one of enduring repercussions.  The movement of pop art was almost solely defined by Warhol’s vision, and his adamant views of the world.  That is to say that from commercial artistry to modern art, Warhol presented the world with a unique idea, one that encapsulated a modern way in seeing icons, and a way in which viewers could be more fully directed toward what they were seeing.  The Campbell’s soup cans were a definition of commercial mentality; Warhol harnessed the invisible concepts of products, and produced through art, a remarkable and uncompromising mantra.  His mantra was involved with different interpretations of the world; the icon reiteration in Warhol’s art simply expressed what was already in society, the banality of canonization.

A visit to the museum for viewers is meant to be quite different from studying the works of art in class, in that the viewer can use their own space and angle to view the paintings and other works of art and not have to view them in a two dimensional sense (from a book).  The glare from the lights on the pages of the glossy text book made it at times hard to render certain shapes, and colors so visiting the actual artworks at the museum made the trip incredible for the viewer.  The viewer will enjoy walking up close to the sculptures and looking up at how tall in comparison to their self the paintings are in reality.

Artistic memory is important because it allows the people to view the continuation of the human form over centuries of reinvention, as Huyssen states “Artistic memory today is not what it used to be. It used to mark the relation of a community or a nation to its past, but the boundary between past and present used to be stronger and more stable than it appears to be today” (Huyssen “Present Past Palimsets”; 1).  Thus, the importance of artwork framed beside each other creates a revelation of definitions for the human figure, as this exhibition does.  Although Huyssen writes that memory is fading into the past and events or artistic movements are not being recognized or remembered but instead are falling into demise over time and being forgotten this is what this art exhibition is strongly against.  The repetition of the human figure as seen through the perspective of these various artists lends the viewer to realize how the human figure has a myriad of shapes and forms, from the pristine Venus to the heroic and tragic Cry as seen in Munch’s painting.

The use of space in the museum, and the set up of the paintings not coordinating to their designated time periods but instead emerging to the viewer in a kaleidoscope of color, form, shape, and size is what made this exhibition particularly appealing.  Thus, the viewer is not hampered down to the designated definitions of the human body for a specific timeframe, but can view the changing forms from their own perspection.

Work Cited
Art Explorer.  Edvard Munch.  (Online).  Available:

Art History Guide.  Edvard Munch.  (Online).  Available:

Constantino, Maria:  Schiele.  Chartwell Books, INC.  New Jersey.  1994.

Janson, H. W.  and Anthony F. Janson:  History of Art.  Prentice

Hall, INC., and Harry N. Abrams, INC., Publishers.  New Jersey.


Huyssen, Andreas.  Present Pasts:  Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory.  Stanford

            University Press, 2003.

Nicholas, Anna:  The Impressionists.  Grange Books.  London.  1995.

Stokstad, Marilyn:  Art History.  The University of Kansas.  New York.  1995.

Agnolo Bronzino, “Allegory of Venus”: 1546, Oil on Wood, 146 x 116 cm

Titian’s Venus & Adonis: 1553-1554, Oil on Canvas, 63 x 77 3/8 in.

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres’ “Grande Odalisque”: 1814, Oil on Canvas, 91×162 cm

Edgar Degas “The Tub”: 1885-86. Pastel on paper, 60×83 cm.

Chagall ‘I and the Village’: 1911, Oil on Canvas, 192.1 x 151.4 cm

Egon Schiele “Woman Sitting with Left Leg Drawn Up”: 1917, Sketch, 1019×764 cm.

Philip Pearlstein “Two Models with Blow-Up Chair”: 1998, Oil on Canvas, 121.9 x 167.6 cm

Munch The Cry’: 1893,  Casein/waxed crayon and tempera on paper (cardboard), 91 x 73.5 cm

Picasso ‘Woman’s Head’: 1909, Bronze, 40.6 x 26 x 25.4 cm

Warhol ‘Gold Marilyn Monroe’: 1962, Silkscreen ink on synthetic polymer paint on canvas 211.4 x 144.7 cm

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