The examples in this module illustrate how artists may manipulate the style of their works to communicate specific narrative concepts. The amounts of naturalism, abstraction, and symbolism alter the way we perceive the individuals portrayed - if we see them as human (the man next door), as mere concept (reduced into shapes), or as a symbol of something greater than themselves (elevated to the status of divine monarch).

 

 

ADD INTO THIS BOX THE IMAGE

FROM MODULE #1 “VanEyck’s Arnolfini Wedding”

 

 ADD INTO THIS BOX FROM THE NEW IMAGE LIST “Mr. & Mrs. Andrews”

 


 

 

CAN THIS IMAGE BE TILTED TO CUT OFF THE BAD EDGES?

 In a comparison between Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Wedding, 1434, with two other works, Gainsborough’s Mr. and Mrs. Andrews , 1749, and from Africa, the Dogon tribe’s Seated Couple, c.1900, it is evident that the degree of naturalistic details, abstraction, color choices, and physical distortion imply diverse narratives. Though all three represent a male and female bonded in a romantic or matrimonial situation, Van Eyck’s painting focuses on the documentary aspect of art as an historical record, including many small details to make the viewer feel as if s/he were there. The man and woman are naturalistically portrayed (faces (he was not the most attractive of men), body shapes, clothing choices, etc); nothing was abstracted or stylized – totally disegno esterno. Gainsborough’s double portrait is similarly accurate as a depiction of the two people, including their clothing, garden bench, hunting dog, and the extensive back yard on their estate. However, Gainsborough may have simplified the anatomy of the figures. They look very doll-like; their faces are perfectly oval, eyes round and hands and feet very delicate. Like dolls, we loose sense of their bodies beneath their clothing. Why the stylization? Perhaps the artist was more interested in representing the Andrews as fashionable and elegant as they casually enjoy their garden. Clearly, an ideal of beauty has usurped the naturalistic truth of these two people. The Dogon example is the most abstract of the three; it is difficult to distinguish the male from the female. But the man’s arm around his wife’s shoulders and both figures’ hands framing their sexual parts reinforce the artist’s intent to create a symbolic work which conceptually focuses on the sexual order of marriage. Through the use of abstraction, the African image is not of two specific individuals – like the Arnolfinis or Andrews – but of a couple that represents all heterosexual unions in the society, nation, or world. They have been taken out of the realm of the specific and placed into the universal.