Thursday, August 1, 2013

Claude Monet, Impression,Sunrise

Claude Monet, Impressions, Sunrise (c. 1872)

I have always believed that when you start something, you should start it from the very start. You don't start a marathon seventeen miles in; you don't watch a movie after skipping through the first half hour, you miss some character development and such. So when we talk about Impressionism, lets start at the beginning. Claude Monet made a real impression (#punsareawful) with this painting. The title of this work would be worked into the title of the entire artist movement. The significance of this painting cannot be under stated. It was one of those landmarks that allowed for the progression of the arts. Monet made this painting for an art critic, and the critic insulted the group of artists that made paintings in this style ( people like Renoir or Degas) by calling them the impressionist, and saying that the painting was little more than graffiti. Taking this as a challenge, these men called themselves the impressionist. They led a revolution in the art scene. Cultural impact aside, Monet's work is quite beautiful. The scene appears to be a boat on a lake with some fog, trees and the sun rising in the background.  It is ironic that such a serene scene would cause a revolution.  The use of complementary colors makes the work particularly stunning. It currently resides in the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris, France ( eat your heart out Paris, Texas). Monet's work has belonged to this collection for much of it's existence, excluding a small sabbatical the painting spent after being stollen in 1985, along with eight other Impressionist paintings. Impression, Sunrise was thankfully recovered five years later, and was returned to the museum.

Biography on Monet

Other works by Monet

A video of Monet painting (c. 1915)

A New York Times article about the theft

More information on Impressionism


Dogon peoples of Mali, Seated Couple

Dogon peoples of Mali, Seated Couple

Gender roles are an interesting subject. They change over many geographical lines and have been in transition since the creation of man. This 28 3/4 inch statue shows a culture that valued both genders the same. This can be seen be the fact that the statues are shown to be relatively the same size. You can see a quiver on the back of the guy and there is a baby backpack thing on the back of the woman. This shows the responsibility of both genders. Neither is played as more prominent than the other, further reinforcing that equality of the genders. Both roles would have been seen as important to Dogon society. A high infant mortality and the desire to survive in the tough African landscape would have made this an absolute necessity. This balance and equality is a central part of the Dogon mythology. The man's arm is over the woman in the statue. This could be because of the man's role as the protector or the slight dominance the man had in the relationship, as the man was the one that could own land in their society. 
There are small figures on the base of their stool.  They are believed to represent the ancestors, who played a heavy role in their society. Despite the ancestors presence in the artwork, this was not meant to be an addition to shrine for the ancestors. This type of statue would have been displayed at funeral sessions. The smoothness and elegance of the seated couple, and the fact that it has survived to the present, suggests that this particular piece would have been made for the funeral of an important figure in the tribe; perhaps a chief. This wood and metal structure looks amazing and is clearly fit for the funeral of a powerful figure in the society. It was given to the Metropolitan museum in 1977 by Lester Wunderman. If you go now (like right now; I'd suggest United Airlines; here are the Met's hours {}) this statue is in gallery 350.

Other examples of Dogon art*&who=Dogon

Information on the Dogon people

Gender roles in Africa


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People

Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People (c. 1830)

Never has an image been so widely associated with a conflict, then this image showing the July Revolution. While many envision this painting when thinking about the French Revolution, their revolution was not as singular as the American one. There were quite a few changing of the keys and this painting was made to honor one of the later revolutions. There were so many that revolting seemed to be the french version of baseball: their national past-time. Fortunately, the government of France has gotten more and more stable over the years. Their last attempted revolution was in 1968, and involved almost a quarter of the french population. The main character of the painting caused a stir with the aristocrats at the Salon of May 1830. Despite the fact that "Liberty" is more or less topless and there is a heavily armed twelve year old next to her, the reason for their outrage was the fact that she showing her unkempt under arm hair. Despite the fact that this was before women shaved there, and I don't really see any other dramatic way of holding a flag. The painting was so offensive that the royal family wouldn't pay for it, and the minister of the interior had to give a relatively small fee of three thousand francs and a medal. Yeah, they gave him a medal and told him to leave.  Liberty is another example of a reoccurring use of the image of a woman leading a group to represent france. The women is commonly known as Marianna. Meaning that Liberty is really named Marianne. Despite this trend, like the United States, France has never had a female president. Delacroix is show in the painting holding a rifle and wearing a classy top hat. It is to be known that he did not actually participate in the revolution. He wrote to his brother that "if i haven't fought for my country at least I'll paint for her". This is a painting of a barricade that had to be constructed during the rebellion. Several revolutionaries had fallen during the fight. With the revolution being less than a year before this bad boy was made, the viewers would have been able to connect with the fighters. Got to say that this work is just shear amazing and I invite everyone to go see it at the Louvre if you are find yourself in Paris, France.

Biography of Eugène Delacroixène-delacroix-40979

More information on Marianne

An analysis of the revolutions of the time

The Louvre Museum's website's account of the painting


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Unknown Aztec artist, Codex Mendoza

Unknown Aztec artist, Codex Mendoza (c. 1542)
This codex was made with the mission to show the Holy Roman Emperor and king of Spain, Charles the 5th, the culture and history of the people that had recently be conquered by the spanish conquistador  Herman Cortez. I find this to be a valiant effort in line with the Alexander the Great or Akbar of the Mughal leaders on India. The book is named after Antonio de Mendoza, first Viceroy of Mexico, who is believed to have commissioned it.  Learning about the culture might have allowed the king to better govern his subjects in the new world, provided that they could overcome their sense of superiority based on race. I only say might in this situation because the manuscript never made it to the king. French privateers raided the ship carrying the codex, and eventually the document made it to the hands of the cosmographer of the french king. This man's name was André He sold the codex to another man for 20 French Francs. Some time later it was passed to a man actually named Samuel Purchase. After the death of Purchase's son, the codex was given to the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. The codex show a highly advanced society. Their society was incredibly advanced. Kings were selected by a council of nobles to insure that the best person could rule; Aztec made obsidian blades were the sharpest in the world and are still used by surgeons to this day. The Codex Medoza validates this by showing some of the tools that aztec used to make their lives better, some of which can be seen below.
The codex also shows details about the life before the Spanish took over. A long line of kings and their military history is show. The religion of the aztecs is highlighted as well. 

More information on Aztec art

English analysis and reprint of the Codex Mendoza

Information on other aztec and spanish codexes

Some Aztec poetry


Monday, July 29, 2013

Mossi Doll


This is a picture of what is known to be a Mossi Doll or Biiga (Child).  This wood doll is approximately 11.25” tall and is formed from a single piece of wood standing on a broader base. These dolls are traditionally made by a male blacksmith and given to female children. They are depictions of adult woman, suggestive features include, facial features, elaborate hairstyles, and usually mature breasts to represent the fulfillment to motherhood.

Mossi dolls are also the focus of rituals associated with motherhood.  At festivals if a girl gives her Biiga doll to an older woman is customary for the woman to respond “May God give you many children” and when the doll is returned to the child she also gives the child a small gift.  Rituals that use this doll as a focal point are for fertility in a marriage, signified by giving the doll a name, and caring for the doll to ensure the survival of the future children.

Another ritual associated with the dolls includes bringing the doll back to market before marriage.  A few days after marriage the woman is given some straw in place of the doll and is asked what sex her first child will be.  The doll is then returned to the woman so she can give the doll the first few drops of milk after a child is born and is carried on the woman’s back before the child does for the first time.  Additionally the doll is then passed down through the female generations for the ritual to repeat itself. 

Anthropologists speculate that these dolls where believed to ensure the newborns soul enters the world (the real world of the parents) called Yisa Biiga (to call the child), and to prevent it from returning (to the world of the ancestral spirits) called gidga ti da biiga lebera me.


Roy, Christopher., The Art of the Upper Volta Rivers, 1987.

Roy, Christopher & Thomas G. B. Wheelock, Burkina Faso Land of the Flying Masks. The Thomas G. B. Wheelock Collection, 2007