Art History Essay

1192 words - 5 pages

The history of Art has continuously changed over time, and will continue to do so as long as humanity continues to evolve and time continues to go on. The author of Art History, Marilyn Stokstad, eases the reader into this mindset very early on. She explains that slight changes in the economy, climate, what is expected socially or cultural differences can shift the way Art is viewed and created forever. Early African Art and Gothic Art, both of which Stokstad clearly and concisely summarizes within two enthralling chapters, are both two unique genres, so different from one another that it seems nearly impossible to relate the two at a first glance. The way they structured architecture and artwork are vastly different, and are from incredibly different times yet somehow it is still incredibly to link the two together - whether it be through similar aspects of art or their subtle differences, these two styles are connected in more ways than one.

African Art has played a significant role in shaping the culture and history of the world around us. Stokstad describes the belief that Africa is the cradle of history of mankind and how that belief is quite unshakeable. Origins of African art date back long before recorded history, and is many centuries old. The basic subject within African art is the human figure. The art aspect of this culture deals with strong formal qualities which were exhibited with the strong design features that create balance and harmony, as seen in almost all pieces of work from this time. There are quite a few subgenres to African Art, which Stokstad demonstrates as the chapter progresses, and the earliest art form in Africa goes by the title of Rock Art1. Africa contains the oldest and greatest amount of Rock Art on Earth. The Saharan Rock art is located in central Sahara contains images that span a period of thousands of years. The earliest work of rock art is thought to date from at least 8000 BCE.

Rock sculptures are also incredibly significant to the history of African art, and the earliest sculptures known are the remarkable Terracotta pottery heads. Stokstad explains how most of these sculptures are now only mere fragments of figures, and come from the Nok culture of Nigeria. They are dated around 500 BC through 200 AD2. But these pottery sculptures aren't the only figures that derive from African art - the Igbo Ukwu Metal Sculptures and carvings also fall within this category. They are made of cast metal, as it is the only material that withstood the continents termites. They are found mainly in Eastern Nigeria and date back to the ninth and tenth century CE. Many of these figures are life-size heads and masks or smaller full length figures which achieve realism and reflect the utmost respect and quality that we, now looking back, admire in traditional African sculpts.

While Stokstad refers to African art as being the beginning of all art, it is not the only significant or important art style which helped...

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