Overview and introduction
Art, by its nature, asks questions and holds meaning. It explains ideas, uncovers truths, manifests what is beautiful, and tells stories. Up until now we have been looking at artworks through the most immediate of visual effects: what we see in front of our eyes. In this unit, we will begin to break down some barriers to find specific meaning in art, including those of different styles and cultures.
|“||There is only one thing in a work of art that is important: it’s that thing you can’t explain.||”|
Even though Braque’s enigmatic quote cloaks works of art in mystery, art, by its nature, holds meaning. It explains ideas, uncovers truths, manifests what is beautiful and tells stories. It is at once a form of visual expression and non-verbal communication. Many times an artwork’s meaning, or content, is easy to see. Two examples are the freshness of an Impressionist landscape painting or the identity inherent in a portrait photograph. But sometimes the meaning in a work of art is hidden, deciphered from signposts and clues imbedded in the work by the artist. In this module we will see how formal properties, subject matter, iconography and context team up to help interpret meaning in art. Let’s approach these four terms as different levels of meaning we can examine to get a more complete understanding of what we are seeing.