Do this exercise a week or so before your exam, using material already covered in class so that it is related to the material on which you will be tested for that exam.
First, read some blogs about art history. Check out Masterpiece Cards website where there are many images of interest to art historians. Under the “Blog” tab, you'll find the “Famous Painters Blogroll” that lists many excellent blogs there.
Now, choose a few pieces of art that you like or are curious about – maybe you like the colors or the theme of the piece. Once you have selected several works of art, think about which two have similarities: is it the subject matter? the colors? the size? texture? Are they both sculptures,or both landscape paintings, for example? Perhaps they both manage to evoke a particular feeling in you. It’s important that you choose two that you are interested in personally for some reason. They should “speak” to you – not just emotionally, but intellectually as well.
Here’s an example of a compare-and-contrast essay <http://academichelp.net/samples/essay/compare-contrast/two-art-periods-major-works.html> using two works from the Renaissance and Neoclassicism eras: Michelangelo’s David and Antonio Canova’s Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss. Notice that these two pieces were chosen because they both are considered by scholars to be representative of their time periods and that both of the artists used unconventional ideas in their depiction of the current political and social conditions of the day. It’s important that you choose two pieces that allow you to make appropriate comparisons relating to the concepts you are learning in your art history class. This is an important first step as you prepare to write an effective essay that covers multiple main issues covered in class.
Now that you’ve chosen your two art pieces, be sure and write down the most important ways by which you want to identify them. You can use a local library and online museums (check out, for example, the ArtCylopedia's Art Museums Worldwide website) to get this information:
Artist’s full name
Title of the art piece
Year of production, country/location/culture
Size of the art piece
Materials/medium used to create it
Formal elements such as line, color, composition
Art style or school the piece comes from (with some basic descriptors of the hallmarks of that art style in general)
Subject matter of the piece
Renaissance and Neoclassicism are two major periods in the history of art, during which different forms of art including architecture, painting, music, and visual arts significantly progressed. During these eras, many artists gained enormous fame as a result of the masterpieces they produced, reflecting how the ideologies and artistic philosophies evolved during that time. This essay compares and contrasts these two art periods with respect to the major works created by prominent artists. In this regard, the masterpiece David, created by Michelangelo has been compared with Antonio Canova’s statue Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss. Both of these works reflect the artistic progression of their ages. David represents Renaissance art by reflecting the political situation of that time, whereas Psyche Revised by Cupid’s Kiss depicts the artist’s focus on classical Greek and Roman styles.
The Renaissance Era refers to a period of rebirth in art. It was a cultural movement that took place between the classical and modern periods of art (Johnson, 2005). During this phase, there were significant developments occurring within different art forms. The artists widely reflected the culture, social conditions, and political structure of their societies. They went beyond the boundaries of classical art, and created art with unconventional ideas, and depicted the political and social conditions of their societies (Earls, 1987).
Neoclassicism, also called the Era of Enlightenment, is the period after the Renaissance, during which artists mainly focused on exploring and recreating classical art, especially Greek and Roman styles. During this period, the artists widely emphasized reviving the classic antiquity that highly inspired the art pieces created during this period. It was in reaction to peoples’ opposition to Romanticism (Bietoletti, 2009).
There are some renowned artists who made major contributions in the emergence and development of Renaissance art. For instance, Michelangelo is a notable name in the history of art, playing a vital role in the fruition of Renaissance art. He was an Italian painter, sculptor, and poet who adopted several unconventional styles of art and significantly contributed towards the progress of western art during this period. He introduced versatility within the art forms, and created several masterpieces that truly represent Renaissance art by depicting certain social, cultural, and political issues.
An important creation of Michelangelo’s during the Renaissance phase was the marble statue of a nude standing male named David. The statue was made to represent the biblical hero David who was one of the most favored subjects within Florentine art. The statue David depicts the political situation of the country. With a warning glare in the eye turned toward Rome, the statue symbolizes the defense of the civil liberty of the Florentine Republic that was threatened by the surrounding powerful states during that time. The statue is an excellent and renowned example of the Renaissance Era because it reflects the political and social conditions of that time.
The Neoclassicism Era also gave birth to many exemplary artists (Chilvers, 2004), including Antonio Canova, who was an Italian sculptor from the Republic of Venice. His art pieces indicate the return of art towards classical refinement. His statue Psyche Revised by Cupid Kiss is an important example of neoclassical devotion to love and reflection of intricate emotions. The statue shows the love god Cupid at the heights of tenderness and affection, kissing the lifeless Psyche to make it alive. The statue reflects the Roman style of portraying delicate emotions within art, for which it has been regarded as an example of the Neoclassical Movement.
Earls, I. (1987). Renaissance Art: A Topical Dictionary, London: ABC-CLIO, 1987.
Bietoletti, S. (2009). Neoclassicism & Romanticism. NY: Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.
Johnson, G.A. (2005). Renaissance Art: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Jul 28, 2005.
Chilvers, I. (2004). The Oxford Dictionary of Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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