Art Critique Essay

2287 words - 9 pages

As time progresses, art progresses and as time goes on, the addition of years to the expansion of time introduces new experiences, new minds, new artistic venues and styles to the human populace. Likewise, no matter the decade or the era, there will always be someone willing to critique art comprehensibly and as a result, there will always be people in this world, such as Heinrich Wölfflin, who truly understand the arts and demonstrate this with their theories. Heinrich Wölfflin was an educated, Swiss art critic and historian who developed a set of criteria to distinguish between Renaissance and Baroque art through the use of five pairs of concepts: linear and painterly, planar and recessional, open and closed form, multiplicity and unity, and clearness and unclearness (Liukkonen).
To begin, ‘linear’ refers to the development of line as a path of vision and a guide for the viewer’s eyes and ‘painterly’ refers to the gradual depreciation of lines or the grouping of values while losing the edges of objects, but still maintaining the overall forms in a painting. In linear works of art, paint is held within boundaries, and in painterly works of art, movement is stressed on the canvas by losing boundaries through deemphasized edges. Next, ‘plane’ and ‘recession’ are easier to recognize compared to the concepts of linear and painterly; ‘plane’ or ‘planar’ refers to the parallel surface exposed in a painting, verses ‘recession,’ in which works of art contain a defined, diagonal depth. Then, composition defines whether a painting has an open or closed form. ‘Open form’ in a painting suggests that the scene being depicted extends past the edges of the work of art; to the contrast, ‘closed form’ suggests that the scene being depicted does not extend past the edges of the work of art and does not necessarily inspire curiosity in the viewers as to what an artist may have intended to occur beyond the edges. Next, ‘multiplicity’ in art is when specific elements of the work of art have an expressed independence, while ‘unity’ in art is when all of the elements in the composition have a feeling of harmony. Finally, ‘clearness’ and ‘unclearness’ refers to the distinction where light defines form in detail or there is an attempt to evade clarity.
To apply Wölfflin’s theory, two paintings will be analyzed: Andrea Mantegna’s tempera painting on wood, Judith and Holofernes, and Caravaggio’s oil painting on canvas, Judith Beheading Holofernes, both of which refer to the story of Judith and Holofernes from the Old Testament Apocrypha. In the story of Judith and Holofernes, the “Israelite widow Judith went into the enemy camp of Holofernes” to attempt to win his confidence (Liukkonen). “During a great banquet Holofernes became drunk and later in his tent; Judith seized his sword and cut off his head. Their leader gone, the enemy was soon defeated by the Israelites” (Liukkonen). In the painting, Judith and Holofernes, by Andrea Mantegna, the artist depicts the moment...

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