[JG] Celeste Brusati in her article Perspectives in Flux: Viewing Dutch Pictures in Real Time analyzes the active engagement and exploration of perspective in seventeenth century Dutch paintings. Reading her article, Brusati makes a strong and valid argument toward artist technique to stimulate viewer response activating close looking and longer interaction between the viewer and the image. Today, it is noted that people spend no more than 20 seconds reading the label to a painting, and similarly, less than a minute on the painting itself. With this short attention span, how can a painter extend the engagement of the viewer? Dutch painting in its desire to sustain visual attention uses techniques like dramatic foreshortening, anamorphic elements, and manipulation of perspective through wide viewing angles and close vantage points to engage the viewer. Through this the artist multiplies perspective spaces and disperses visual attention through out the painting mobilizing the eye and body of the viewer to create a longer and more attentive visual experience. In the end, Brusati’s analysis of Dutch viewing techniques and active involvement by the viewer links closely with my method of viewing.
As an art history student, we are required to spend hours looking at all types of art, sometimes focusing on just one piece. It is our duty to look at art through different perspectives in order to fully understand the artwork and see how the features of the art may change based on these different perspectives. While Dutch artists simulate active seeing through their techniques, it is also the viewers job to simulate their own active viewing on pieces that do not hold the same illusionist, multifocal perspectives. Personally, viewing art is a two way street. The artist had a job in creating art that would initiate a response from the viewer, and the viewer has a job to actively engage in what that artist is attempting to show or say. Beyond this active and close looking, there are other ways of analysis and engagement with art. Harry Berger Jr.’s article Supposing Rembrandt’s The Night Watch involves a more historical approach to viewing art.
Berger analyzes The Night Watch using a historical context. First, he describes the military, political, and administrative powers of the Dutch around the time when the painting was being worked on and completed. Then he delves into the history of militia portraits, comparing The Night Watch to other pieces of similar portraiture. Finally, Berger analyses not only the intent of Rembrandt but that of the patrons and sitters of the painting, questioning how Rembrandt wanted to depict the sitters and consequently how the sitters might have wanted to be depicted, and how they responded. Berger’s analysis is very different from that of Brusati. One is focused on the evidence of perspective within the painting and the interaction between the viewer, the other on the interaction between the painter, the sitter, and his environment. The Night Watch responds to social and political ideals of the time, whereas the perspective painters by Dutch artists yield work that has a timeless observance, we can look at their work today and regard the painting with similar intent to the origin date.
Looking at and viewing art is a completely subjective experience. There is no correct way to view a piece or a required amount of time, or detail of depth in which to analyze it. These two articles give an interesting comparison on two different ways one might approach looking and analyzing art. While one can still go to a museum and look at a piece of art in under one minute, perhaps developing a historiographical approach to viewing art may yield more of a gain for the viewer enhancing their experience.