My senior year of High School, I took a couple of AP and advanced classes because I just haaad to challenge myself. One of those AP classes was worth it though: AP Art History.
I fell in love with History during High School. I gotta say, my teachers were a huge reason for that. Every History teacher I had in High School was passionate, loved to travel the world, and was an excellent story teller. My AP history teachers were extra special; they had traveled over 40 countries and could speak of each moment of history as though they had been there. To me, History is the closest thing we have to time-traveling.
Okay, okay, so I took harder classes because I learned how much I liked to challenge myself. AP Art was perfect for me! I learned things from the Stonehenge all the way to James Pollock. My Bible-trained knowledge brought the ancient Art and Architecture to life! I learned about all kinds of architectures, the origins, and why. I learned about the color wheel. I learned about point and areal perspectives, where they were invented, lost, re-invented, then rediscovered. I learned about the painters, their patrons, the art movements, the art functions…etc. To me, the most interesting thing about each piece was their context: the interpretation of how each piece was expressed in relation to the events that transpired in the world. You see, with regular history you get the story, the facts, the reasons, statistics and dates; when you add the Art factor to it, you learn about the emotional and more humane side.
Humans are versatile, dynamic and changing. We go through individual changes, but also experience collective changes, constantly stimulated by the world that encircles us. We are all subjected to our own individual experiences and knowledge while also affecting each other. When you can create something that can affect and stir something in other humans, it makes our human experience that much more gratifying. To me, Impressionism does just that.
Impressionism began in Paris lead by Claude Monet. Paris was the place to be in the 19th century if you wanted to be an artist. It was where Art expanded, grew and stretched in all sorts of directions. Impressionism was an unconventional form of art because up to this point, people were trying to make art more and more realistic. Impressionism was less about being visibly realistic and more about the colors, light and brushstrokes. There was a bigger emphasis on the colors and how much they can really affect your emotions and experience. It was in learning about this great movement, that I was introduced to the story of Mr. Vincent Van Gogh.
I had seen Van Gogh paintings growing up and I honestly never paid much attention to them, not until this class. He was known for his intense brushstrokes and use of so much paint. I remember the first time I truly paid attention to one of his paintings. It was on a poster that hung on the projector stand.
The Mulberry Tree
Just a tree to some, but, don’t you see it moving? Can you feel the wind rushing through it’s branches and swaying the leaves? Can you hear the rustle of the leaves as you watch the grass beneath it move? The large rock by the tree doesn’t stop it from growing. The orange Autumn leaves remind me of the Red hair that Vincent paints himself with in other self-portraits. He clearly sees himself as this tree! Many sources explain that he painted this during a time of ups and downs. There’s so much that can be analyzed from this painting! Perhaps the winds flowing in all directions represent how he felt about life moving in all directions. That rock seems to stabilize the tree somehow. Who was his rock? Perhaps his brother, Theo? These are things I love about art; you can analyze and learn so much about the painter, but also yourself.
Next, I learned about his most iconic painting of all: Starry night.
While it’s visibly stunning, the way this painting looks isn’t what made me fall in love with it; the context and the way it was presented did it for me.
That dark image to the left is the top part of a very large tree. It is believed that Vincent saw himself as that tree: an outsider looking in at the town beneath. During this time, people were so caught up in their own lives and routines. New inventions were being made, and life was changing fast. Vincent saw the world differently from others and we can see what he saw with this painting. He captured just how small we truly are and how insignificant. There’s a frustration that comes with all of this: how most people can be so caught up in their own lives and day to day motions, that there could be the absolute most stunning night sky happening above, and it would go unnoticed. This painting has influenced my motivation to always take a moment to notice the stars at night.
Van Gogh paintings bring me joy because they look like they’re moving to me. It isn’t realistic looking, but the movements of the brushstrokes and intense colors bring them to life. Another modern painter who brings out a similar energy was Lenoid Afremov. I guess most Impressionist paintings really bring me that joy. They’re so passionate!
A dear friend asked me once about my fascination over Sunflowers. When I was a kid, my mom always dressed me up in a Sunflower dress and for most of my childhood, I genuinely believed that they were the original flower. When anyone doodles a flower, to me, it always looks like a Sunflower. Sunflowers are bright and joyful! They always look toward the sun; they literally choose to focus on the brighter side and will even face each other at times. They’re just so animated and still hold so much beauty even when they’re dying.
Finally, if you made it this far, thank you for reading along to my “nerding out” on Art History.