Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Through the Portico

You would think that by now I’d be tired of visiting museums. In the past two and a half weeks we’ve stopped and meandered through at least five or six. However whether it be ancient artifacts or priceless works of art I seriously cannot get enough!

At first it hadn’t occurred to me that the National Gallery was home to one of the largest collections of European Art. Although mentioned countless of times in my introductory Art History courses it hadn’t fully clicked until we made our way into the first gallery. Exhibiting some of the world’s most renowned oil paintings from the 16th century this collection of rooms held nearly all the paintings discussed in class. I can’t emphasize enough how much of a difference there is between seeing it in a book/ studying it’s basic information and experiencing it in real life.  For instance one of my long time favorite oil paintings has been Francois-Hubert Drouais’ Madame de Pompadour at her Tambour Frame. To my surprise I found it hanging in one of the galleries. Larger than I remembered and much more detailed than the photo in my Art History Book. I can’t shake the detail of the lace in her dress.

John Berger discusses this phenomenon in his novel Ways of Seeing (1973).  He argues that after the invention of the camera in the 1800’s the way people viewed oil paintings could be distorted. With the ability to easily reproduce mass quantities of these images they in turn become more accessible to the general public. Berger states, “The painting now travels to the spectator rather than the spectator to the painting.”(20) With this comes a series of new perspectives. People are now able to cut, copy and play with these reproductions and in turn change the original message intended by the artist. Even if the image is not intentionally distorted just a change in the area in which it is viewed Berger argues (i.e. from museum to living room) can also alter its meaning.  Through reproduction oil paintings have now become the commodities they used to depict. In the early days of oil painting up until Seurat and Picasso changed traditional standards with Impressionist work, a lot of their work depicted sitters with prized possessions.

Things, there has always been a constant desire to own and through these paintings, people were able to choose how they wanted to be seen.

Although Berger makes

To be cont…

Full title: Madame de Pompadour at her Tambour Frame
Artist: François-Hubert Drouais
Date made: 1763-4

A Berger Continuation…

Constantly aware of what the viewer makes of her, a woman depicted in 17th century oil paintings is defined by how the men surveying the piece will depict her. In a world were the male opinion is the only opinion a women even of higher social class, (actually some could argue especially ones in a higher social class) must constantly consider how others might judge her. Royal Mistress Marquise de Pompadour is no different. Unlike a large category of European paintings Louis XV mistress is not depicted nude. Dressed in highly fashionable clothes trimmed with delicate lace you can tell she cares a great deal about her outward appearance. Upon doing further research it’s known that she was a woman who cared and knew a great deal about fashion. Under constant scrutiny by her male peers Marquise de Pompadour wants to make it well known that she is an educated confident woman. Peering directly towards the viewer and surrounded by books held up by gold leaf furniture she is seen as she wants to appear, educated and well dressed.

No comments:

Post a Comment