Back To Course10th Grade English: Credit Recovery
17 chapters | 164 lessons
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Jacob has his master's in English and has taught multiple levels of literature and composition, including junior high, college, and graduate students.
It's fairly likely that you don't listen to a lot of the same music you did four or five years ago. In fact, if you think about it, you might even feel a bit embarrassed by your old music preferences. It's only natural that our tastes change over the years, and this might be simply because you've heard different types of music or other styles have become popular.
But this might also have something to do with the fact that you've realized that some art, whether it's music or sculpture or painting, requires more skill and understanding than others. While there is nothing wrong with liking a book or a song or a painting simply because you happen to enjoy it, bringing the proper knowledge to a work of art can really help you appreciate it in and out of school.
In this lesson, we'll consider the ways that understanding the context and process behind a work is critical for offering a good interpretation of art.
One of the great things about art is that it can respond to and explain the events and experiences of the time in which it is created. In fact, many historians and academics look to art as one of the main forces behind changes in society. However, if you're not familiar with the context of a piece of art, it's fairly easy to miss out on its significance. In fact, understanding the events that were occurring when an artist was working can make us think radically different about a painting, song, sculpture or any piece of art.
You've almost certainly seen a painting by Pablo Picasso before. While you may hate it, love it or simply be confused by it, knowing the historical context behind Picasso's work will have a large influence on how you understand his work. Picasso was generally painting in the early 1900s, a time when war and philosophy were challenging people's basic assumptions about truth and reality. His fractured painting style was an attempt to represent how reality was not as straightforward as we might imagine. Obviously, knowing this sort of information will greatly change how you understand and experience paintings like this:
And, in addition to understanding one artist or one work of art, knowing the context of one artist can help you better understand and enjoy other sculptors or painters or musicians. For example, you may have heard of Woody Guthrie before. Even if you pause to listen to his lyrics, when you hear his music, you might assume he was an old, conservative and patriotic songwriter. In fact, Guthrie was actually politically radical. In a time when America was growing more powerful and nationalistic, Guthrie was challenging many ideas that were extremely popular throughout the U.S. And it was this quality of his music that helped him have a huge impact on other musicians, like Bob Dylan and John Lennon.
With this in mind, more than simply speaking to or about society, artists inspire and influence other artists, meaning that many musicians, such as Dylan or Lennon, would sound very different if it weren't for others like Guthrie. While knowing this fact may make you like Guthrie's music a little more or make it sound a little more exciting to you, understanding this context can also help you begin to appreciate his and others' work.
And this doesn't go only for the past. Many people fail to correctly interpret art that is being made right now. There are all sorts of films, dances and styles of music that are frequently dismissed because people don't understand the culture it is coming from or what it is responding to. And those in the future who really want to understand the music we listen to today are going to consider the events that were happening in our own lifetimes.
How was it made? Another aspect of art that is easy to overlook is the process behind the piece. One great way to see how tempting it is to overlook process is to look at painting, an art form that often requires extensive time and energy.
Consider this work by Georges Seurat, which is created in a style called 'pointillism':
Pointillism is the practice of painting using only very small colorful dots in patterns. While a quick glance at this work might reveal that Seurat didn't use traditional brush strokes, the painting might still seem fairly standard. However, this labor-intensive painting took more than two years to complete. While the amount of work is obviously impressive, the process behind the work is more than simply dedication or an attempt to do something new - it was a result of his philosophy of art and color.
Seurat was trying to illustrate how people's experiences are different from how much previous art had treated them. Breaking down brush strokes and including individual dots of bright color allowed him to show how complicated and difficult an individual's experience of the world is. With this in mind, knowing the process an artist is engaged in changes not only your appreciation of a work of art but your understanding of what the work means. In the case of the paintings we looked at, for example, the artist wasn't merely painting interesting images; he was attempting to challenge the viewer to think about this type of scene by using a new process.
So, what does it mean? At this point in the lesson, we've seen it's important to realize that experiencing art as enjoyable or not is totally worthwhile, but a real understanding requires bringing some knowledge to art.
Now that you know that the context and process behind creating a piece of art are key to understanding its meaning, the next step is to put them together to correctly interpret the work. You might try asking yourself the five 'W' questions: who, what, when, where, and why. More often than not, knowing context is merely a matter of looking at the time and place in which an artist worked and considering what was happening at the time.
Once you've considered the context, you can move on to the process, asking 'How was it created?' As we saw before, exploring the process behind a piece can certainly help you appreciate it more, and it can help you understand exactly what it means.
Considering the process and context behind a work is a great place to really understand a work of art. Keep in mind that looking at the details is a great way to make sure you don't overlook potentially important elements of an artist's work. Ultimately, understanding the context and process behind a work of art will not only help you better interpret it but will also help your experience be more enjoyable and fascinating. And, as we saw, understanding one artist will in turn help you understand the work of others.
In this lesson, we considered the ways that understanding what's behind a piece of art can help us better experience and interpret it. While there is nothing wrong with experiencing and enjoying a piece simply because it looks, sounds or seems interesting to us, we saw it's easy to miss out on the meaning of art if we don't understand its context. Additionally, we looked at the creative process behind a piece of art and realized that we can also develop appreciation and respect for art by looking at the process behind it. Finally, we considered that combining our understanding of context and process will help us interpret and enjoy a work of art.
After you've completed this lesson, you should be able to:
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Back To Course10th Grade English: Credit Recovery
17 chapters | 164 lessons