Modern Art, Music, Film and Media

Public Art

Although all art is inherently public—created in order to convey an idea or emotion to others—“public art,” as opposed to art that is sequestered in museums and galleries, is art specifically designed for a public arena where the art will be encountered by people in their normal day-to-day activities. Public art can be purely ornamental or highly functional; it can be as subtle as a decorative door knob or as conspicuous as the Chicago Picasso. It is also an essential element of effective urban design.                                                                                                                                                   The more obvious forms of public art include monuments, sculptures, fountains, murals, and gardens. But public art also takes the form of ornamental benches or street lights, decorative manhole covers, and mosaics on trash bins. Many city dwellers would be surprised to discover just how much public art is really around them and how much art they have passed by without noticing, and how much impact public art has on their day-to-day lives.

The Persistence of Memory is a painting by artist Salvador Dalí and one of the most recognizable works of surrealism. It was made in 1931, and since 1934 the painting has been in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The painting is sometimes referred to by more descriptive titles, such as "Melting Clocks", "The Soft Watches" or "The Melting Watches".                                  

Some have suggested that the watches on the painting refer to Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Dalí denied this, saying that a Camembert cheese he had seen melt in the sun was used as the inspiration for this central motif.

It is possible to recognize a human figure in the middle of the composition. Some believe that Dalí used this to represent himself. The creature seems to be based on a figure from the Paradise section of Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights.

 The orange clock at the bottom left of the painting is covered in ants. Dalí often used ants in his paintings as a symbol of decay. Another insect that is present in the painting is a fly, which sits on the watch that is next to the orange watch. The fly appears to be casting a human shadow as the sun hits it.

 The rocks to the right represent a tip of Cap de Creus peninsula in north-eastern Catalonia, whose landscapes inspired many of Dalí's paintings.

The Starry Night is an oil-on-canvas painting by the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh and one of the most recognized paintings in Western art. It is a post-impressionist painting that depicts the view from the window of Van Gogh’s asylum room near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, just before sunrise, with the addition of an imaginary village.  The Starry Night has been in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City since 1941. 

The painting is based on Van Gogh’s direct observations as well as his imagination, memories, and emotions. Blue dominates the painting, blending hills into the sky. The little village of the painting is represented in brown, grey, and blue tones. The yellow and white of the stars and the moon stand out, drawing attention to the sky. 

Vincent van Gogh painted Starry Night in 1889 during his stay at the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole where he was because of his emotional suffering. He had been diagnosed with epileptic fits. It seemed his mental health was recovering, when he relapsed into paranoia. Accordingly, there was a tonal shift in his work. He returned to the darker colors that he had been using at the beginning of his career and Starry Night is an example of that shift.

The Son of Man is a painting by the Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte, made in 1964. Magritte painted it as a self-portrait. 

The painting consists of a man in an overcoat and a bowler hat standing in front of a low wall, beyond which are the sea and a cloudy sky. The man's face is hidden behind a green apple. However, the man's eyes can be seen peeking over the edge of the apple. 

This painting features some of Magritte’s recurring motives such as apples and bowler hats. He uses apples in many of his works. He used this apple to hide his real face, encouraging human desire to see what's hidden behind the visible. As for the bowler hat, it refers to Magritte’s style of clothing. 

Another Magritte’s distinct feature we can see on the painting is that the man's left arm appears to bend backwards at the elbow. Other surrealist artists mixed dreamlike images with abstract shapes. Unlike them, Magritte’s works included normal images, but he placed objects together in an unusual context, just like this arm. 

There have been various interpretations trying to uncover The Son of Man's meaning. Some suggest religion, because the title of the painting is an expression for Jesus used in Christian writings. Others suggest that the painting shows hiding who you truly are, and the conflict that exists between the visible and hidden aspects. This is based on something Magritte once said for his work of art.

The Gray Tree is an oil painting by Piet Mondrian. This painting was made in 1911 on canvas. It is 78.5 cm tall and 107.5 cm wide. It is now exhibited at Gemeentemuseum Den Haag in Hague.

The work came at a time when Mondrian was beginning to experiment with cubism. In cubist artwork, objects are analyzed, broken up and reassembled in an abstracted form. In this painting we can see this in the interlocking blocks, which form together the shape of a tree, its foreground and background elements are intermingling and the tree is oval in form. The Gray Tree is one of the first paintings in which Mondrian applied the principles of cubism to a natural subject.

However, Mondrian’s use of cubism differed from his contemporaries. Mondrian believed that spirituality was tied to nature and his goal was to portray the relationship between these two. He moved away from portraying the realistic and the naturalistic. Therefore, his work was more abstract than works of other cubism artists.

This painting is also the second one in the series on the Tree theme, first being the Red Tree of1908. The version of 1908 was a luminist artwork with its bold red and blue, while the cubist one of 1911 uses a limited palette of grays and black.

In this painting, form and rhythm dominate. The qualities of the tree are converted into a rhythmic play of lines.

Impression, Sunrise is a painting by Claude Monet. It depicts the port of Le Havre, Monet's hometown. Monet visited his hometown in 1872 and created a series of works depicting the port, one of which was Impression, Sunrise. It is now displayed at the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris.

This painting belongs to the impressionist art movement which was characterized by relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, and emphasis on accurate depiction of light.

In the painting, near the middle left foreground, there are three rowboats. The one closest to us is darker. Behind is another in a lighter shade of gray. This is followed by a third boat that is blurred in the distance. In the distant background we can see the rest of the blurred landscape that could possibly be the rest of the city. There are thick clouds of smoke rising into the sky from the ships. The water leads to the orange-red rising sun, which is positioned slightly towards the right and almost in the central background.

The main colors Monet used in this piece of art are cooler blue-grayish tones, which are contrasted with the orange color. The orange from the sun becomes a dominating factor and it catches our eyes. Brushstrokes are rushed and they could suggest that he wanted to create a scene that simply represented a quick “impression” of the harbor.

Swan Lake is a ballet composed by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1875. The ballet was premiered on March 4th in 1877 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.

 The writer of the original libretto and the idea for the plot are not known. Russian and German folk tales have been proposed as possible sources for the inspiration of the plot. Some people believe that the prototype of the Prince Siegfried from Swan Lake is actually Bavarian King Ludwig II. They thought of this considering Tchaikovsky’s great interest in the life story of this king, whose life had supposedly been marked by the sign of Swan. 

The ballet tells the story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer's curse.  The spell can only be broken if someone who has never loved before swears an oath of undying love and promises to marry her. Prince Siegfried declares his love to Odette and swears to be loyal forever. He is then tricked into asking another girl to marry him thinking that she’s Odette. Since he broke his vow the curse wouldn’t be able to be broken. The prince and Odette decide to die together, so they throw themselves into the lake. 

The première of this ballet was not well received. Though there were a few critics who liked this piece, most of them considered it to be far too complicated for ballet. It was labelled "too noisy, and too symphonic." The critics also thought choreography was "unimaginative and altogether unmemorable." The German origins of the story were "treated with suspicion while the tale itself was regarded as 'stupid' with unpronounceable surnames for its characters." Despite its initial failure, Swan Lake is now one of the most popular ballets of all time.

Perhaps the most striking quality of satiric literature is its freshness, its originality of perspective. Satire rarely offers original ideas. Instead, it presents the familiar in a newform. Satirists do not offer the world new philosophies. What they do is look at familiar conditions from a perspective that makes these conditions seem foolish, harmful, or affected. Satire jars us out of complacence into a pleasantly shocked realization that many of the values we unquestioningly accept are false. Don Quixote makes chivalry seem absurd; Brave New World ridicules the pretensions of science; A Modest Proposal dramatizes starvation by advocating cannibalism. None of these ideas is original. Chivalry was suspect before Cervantes, humanists objected to the claims of pure science before Aldous Huxley, and people were aware of famine before Swift. It was not the originality of the idea that made these satires popular. It was the manner of expression, the satiric method, that made them interesting and entertaining. Satires are read because they are aesthetically satisfying works of art, not because they are morally wholesome or ethically instructive. They are stimulating and refreshing because with common sense briskness they brush away illusions and secondhand opinions. With spontaneous irreverence, satire rearranges perspectives, scrambles familiar objects into incongruous juxtaposition, and speaks in a personal idiom instead of abstract platitude. Satire exists because there is need for it. It his lived because readers appreciate are freshing stimulus, an irreverent reminder that they live in a world of platitudinous thinking, cheap moralizing, and foolish philosophy. Satire serves to prod people into an awareness of truth, though rarely to any action on behalf of truth. Satire tends to remind people that much of what they see, hear, and read in popular media is sanctimonious, sentimental, and only partially true. Life resembles in only a slight degree the popular image of it. Soldiers rarely hold the ideals that movies attribute to them, nor do ordinary citizens devote their lives to unselfish service of humanity. Intelligent people know these things but tend to forget them when they do not hear them expressed.

The Winterthur Museum is a collection and a house. There are many museums devoted to the decorative arts and many house museums, but rarely in the United States is a great collection displayed in a great country house. Passing through successive generations of a single family, Winterthur has been a private estate for more than a century. Even after the extensive renovations made to it between 1929 and 1931, the house remained a family residence. This fact is of importance to the atmosphere and effect of the museum. The impression of a lived-in house is apparent to the visitor; the rooms look as if they were vacated only a short while ago whether by the original owners of the furniture or the most recent residents of the house can be a matter of personal interpretation. Winterthur remains, then, a house in which a collection of furniture and architectural elements has been assembled. Like an English country house, it is an organic structure; the house, as well as the collection and manner of displaying it to the visitor, has changed over the years. The changes have coincided with developing concepts of the American arts, increased knowledge on the part of collectors and students, and a progression toward the achievement of a historical effect in period-room displays. The rooms at Winterthur have followed this current, yet still retained the character of a private house. The concept of a period room as a display technique has developed gradually over the years in an effort to present works of art in a context that would show them to greater effect and would give them more meaning for the viewer. Comparable to the habitat group in a natural history museum, the period room represents the decorative arts in a lively and interesting manner and provides an opportunity to assemble objects related by style, date, or place of manufacture.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel by the American author Harper Lee. It was published in 1960 and was instantly very successful. In 1961 it won a Pulitzer Prize. The plot and characters are based on Lee's observations of her family, her neighbors and her father’s unsuccessful defense in 1919 of two African American men convicted of murder. 

The novel is about children growing up. It is both a young girl’s coming-of-age story and a darker drama about the roots and consequences of racism and prejudice. Despite dealing with serious issues, the novel is characterized by warmth and humor. 

To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in the fictional town in Alabama, during the 1930s. The protagonist is Jean Louise Finch, an intelligent and unusual girl who ages from six to nine years old during the course of the novel. She is raised with her brother by their widowed father, Atticus, who is a lawyer. He teaches them to be empathetic and just and tells them that it is “a sin to kill a mockingbird,” because birds are innocent and harmless. Therefore, the mockingbird of the title can be seen as a symbol of innocence. Atticus is a parent who encourages his children to question and find out for themselves what the truth is. He represents both their father and teacher.

 When one of the town’s Black residents, Tom, is falsely accused of raping a white woman, Atticus agrees to defend him, even though the most of the residents are against Tom. The children, meanwhile, become interested in a neighbor who is a local legend. Much of the book details the anecdotes of the children and the lessons they learn from their experiences as well as from their father.

Decoupage or découpage is the art of decorating an object by gluing colored paper cutouts onto it in combination with special paint effects, gold leaf, and other decorative elements. Commonly, an object like a small box or an item of furniture is covered by cutouts from magazines or from purpose-manufactured papers. Each layer is sealed with varnishes (often multiple coats) until the "stuck on" appearance disappears and the result looks like painting or inlay work. The traditional technique used 30 to 40 layers of varnish which were then sanded to a polished finish. 

Three dimensional decoupage (sometimes also referred to simply as decoupage) is the art of creating a three-dimensional (3D) image by cutting out elements of varying sizes from a series of identical images and layering them on top of each other, usually with adhesive foam spacers between each layer to give the image more depth. Pyramid decoupage (also called pyramage) is a process similar to 3D decoupage. In pyramid decoupage, a series of identical images are cut into progressively smaller, identical shapes which are layered and fixed with adhesive foam spacers to create a 3D "pyramid" effect