Post for Monday, May 22, 2017

The MilkmaidCeleste Brusati borrows from Svetlana Alpers and views art, particularly seventeenth century Dutch art, by using the perspective created by the artist to create active looking and regards the work as a pictorial experiment. By doing so Brusati allows the art to be seen not only how the viewer naturally sees it, but also how the artists intended for it to be seen in the most ideal setting.This contrasts with my personal way of looking at art because I tend to observe a picture as a whole first, and then slowly break it down and look at technical elements, such as perspective, last. However, I do see the merits in approaching art this way and think that it could provide me with new ways to approach works I have become familiar with. Berger’s methods of analysis resonate with my own, particularly with the providing of social and political historical context. I believe that is extremely important to understand the historical context of a painting when one is attempting to decipher the meaning of art. I also appreciate how he incorporated counterpoints to each of his propositions, because, no amount of theorizing by art historians can ever equal having the artist explicitly state their intention. I think that Brusati’s and Berger’s methods of analysis differ in their focused centrality, Brusati on technique and Berger on context, however, I do not believe that either would say that the others method is wrong or less effective than their own.


9 thoughts on “Post for Monday, May 22, 2017

  1. I agree with Professor Troutman that to strengthen your position in your essay, you’ll need to expand on this idea of viewing as a whole. You definitely know how you view pieces, but not only do you have to discuss it in your paper, you have to articulate it in a way that is formal yet accessible to the reader.

    In addition, you’ll want to layer several of the articles that you feel comfortable relating this idea to. That will help create the core of your argument.


  2. I really like your thoughts on the differing methods, and think that they provide a solid starting point for part of your essay. I’m curious what you think are the drawbacks of looking at the historical context of a painting, as your description seems, at least to me, as solely positive. Where would you describe a case where it would not be best to use a historical context method of analysis? Lastly, where does your method of viewing art differ from that of Berger’s, or is it the same? I think that based on your comments on the Beger reading that you have a solid basis, and I recommend using it as one of the readings in your essay.


  3. I like your push back to Brusati & the idea of seeing the whole first–but as Jackie points out, this raises further questions about what we might mean by “the whole”–formalistically or thematically? To understand this more fully, I’d like to see you play this method out on an example from the Rijksmuseum website. What are the stages or layers of your own interpretative method and how do those differ from Brusati’s?

    I wonder if Brusati’s method only works for looking at art when the artist was doing what she says they were in her examples? Or perhaps her approach still helps us look for the ways artists might be playing around with us a viewers even when there may be a more literal meaning–as in a historical scene or portrait?

    On the other two articles, what specifically do you see in their methods that adds to Berger’s general historicist method? What does it mean to analyze portraits for their “theatricality”? Does this apply to other kinds of paintings, or just portraits? What historical context do we gain from Protschky? How does she come to “see” that context in the paintings? What would viewers at the time has seen consciously? What elements here were unconscious to them, part of the colonial set of assumptions they had about the world? Does that method apply to, say, Vermeer’s domestic scenes as well? Or Rembrandt’s Night Watch?


  4. This is a great start to the essay. Because you enjoyed Protschky’s and Berger’s articles, maybe focus on those, adding Brusati and your own method as a counterpoint. Possibly expand and explain your method more, it seems like a very basic method to viewing art. What are the pros and cons? Which method is best for viewing Dutch art? Does one get the whole message across or do they all bring something to the interpretation of the painting?


  5. After reading both “Dutch Still Lifes and Colonial Visual Culture in the Netherlands Indies, 1800-1949,” and “How to Become a Picture: Theatricality as Strategy in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Portraits,” my original thoughts have expanded but not necessarily changed. I still believe that I align with Berger’s method of analysis the most. After learning about the history of still life’s in the Netherlands during and after the seventeenth century, although I do think there is merit in Brusati’s method, personally I think I would learn more by following an approach much more similar to Berger’s. In response to the comments above, I do look at separate parts of a piece of art when I am analyzing it, and certain parts of a piece do draw my attention. However, overtime I have learned that I am best able to analyze works of art when I look at it as a whole first, then part by part, and then as a whole again. By analyzing each component separately and then putting everything that I have learned together, and adjusting my thinking accordingly, I believe that I get the most out of the piece.
    I also really enjoyed the article “Dutch Still Lifes and Colonial Visual Culture in the Netherlands Indies, 1800-1949,”and felt that the historical context it provided really opened my eyes to how, and more importantly, why, certain objects are portrayed the way they are in art.


  6. I agree with Jen’s comment above about how the methods often fit better with certain pieces dependent upon their contexts. I am in a way biased in favor of Berger’s method because even a focus on a domestic scene can reveal a lot about an artist’s biases and intentions.

    Also in accordance with Jen, I think you can further your thought by discussing how this affects the way you view art in the future. You might want to try forcing your self to look at the separate parts of a piece just to vary how you approach the way you view art. This could really change your perspective, and at least encourage you to think in a different way.


  7. It is interesting to me how you describe viewing a piece of art. When you observe a piece as a whole are you meaning to understand the piece as a whole, understand the intent of the artist as a whole, or looking at the technical elements of the piece as a whole? To me, I think that it is nearly impossible to look at a piece of art holistically without first observing its separate parts. When one encounters a painting something draws the viewers eyes first, your eyesight does not allow for a holistic perspective. But what is it that draws the eye? Is it the symbolic iconography seen in The Night Watch and analyzed by Berger or is it the optical perspectives that seem out of place and draw the eye? Your comment yields a lot of questions for me and I look for to discussing it with you!


  8. Hello! I agree with with your last statement about how Berger and Brusati differ with methods of seeing/viewing but that both work. I feel that while both methods work, they do not work universally with all art, Berger’s method tends to work more for historical portraits and scenes while Brusati’s method works for paintings with a lot of domestic and architectural scenes.

    You can further your thoughts by looking at your own approach to viewing art. What new thoughts and interpretations does this method/approach bring to the Dutch art that Berger and Brusati look at? What are the pros and cons to this method/approach?


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