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Masterpieces 1: The Scream

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Masterpieces 1: The Scream

Postby Diana » Fri Oct 28, 2016 9:54 pm

I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature
--Edvard Munch

The expressionist period of art is typically characterised by the use of dynamic, distorted or fantasy shapes, and acidic colours. This style came about in a great series of “isms” in the early twentieth century, directly following, and often considered a reaction to, impressionism-- the style of art focused on capturing light and the feeling of the visible world. Expressionism marked a period where art was to come from within the artist, and was to be judged based on the artist’s feelings, not the piece’s skill or composition.

Edvard Munch was one of the most famous master artists of the expressionist movement, but his main style is considered post-impressionist. Having studied in Paris during his early career, Munch was heavily influenced by impressionist and post-impressionist artists such as Monet, Manet, and Van Gogh. However, Munch’s subject matter definitely falls under the Expressionist movement, and can be further classified as the style known as “symbolism”. His paintings focused on the emotions and ideas, the internal views of objects, instead of the observable natural world. Symbolism represents a synthesis of form and feeling, of reality and the artist's inner subjectivity.

In 1893, at 30 years old, Munch created his most famous masterpiece- Der Schrei der Natur, or more lovingly known, The Scream. The Scream was originally created with tempera (a paint made by mixing pigment and eggs) oil paint, and crayon on cardboard, but Munch re-created the famous work with pastels in 1895. He claims his original inspiration was a particularly neurotic day he had wrote about in his diary - the entry was later turned into a poem to accompany his recreation of the work (see above).

According to, the second rendition (pastel-on-board) of The Scream auctioned for $120 million US dollars on May 2, 2012, and now holds the record for the most expensive work of art sold at auction.

After Munch died in 1944, all works remaining in his possession were donated to the Norwegian government. Some pieces were distributed to museums around the world, but many can still be seen today in the Munch Museum of Art, or in the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo Norway.

Notes from my art history class

The Scream is the first in Windlyn's new Masterpieces collection. You can pick up your very own copy from The Lazarus!
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Re: Masterpieces 2: The Birth of Venus

Postby Diana » Mon May 14, 2018 9:58 pm

The Birth of Venus, created by the Italian painter Sandro Botticelli in 1484 depicts the arrival of Venus on her homeland, the island of Cyprus. Critics agree that the story of Venus that Botticelli painted is inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses, reflecting the contemporary literary culture.

There is debate over aspects of the work, such as why it was painted. Many believe that it was commissioned by the Medici family. The Birth of Venus depicts orange trees which are considered an emblem of the Medici dynasty because of the similarity between the Medici family name and the name for the orange tree at the time - ‘mala medica’. The idea that the painting was commissioned by the Medici family is strengthened by the fact that they owned and displayed some of Botticelli’s other works, perhaps commissioned at the same time. The pose of the woman in Botticelli’s painting mimics the ancient greek statue of the chaste Venus, or the Venus Pudica, later dubbed the Venus Medici because it was found on display in the Medici family’s collection.

Venus’s nude depiction is significant and strange, given that almost all artwork in the 15th century represented a Christian theme, and nude women were hardly ever portrayed. The goddess of love is still presented in a chaste, beautiful manor. Botticelli believed in Neoplatonism, a current of thought that tried to connect the Greek and Roman cultural heritage with Christianity. It focused on the perfect fusion of Spirit and Matter, Ideas and Nature. His ideas showed through in his early style, which emphasized the human figure and the symbolism in his work. He was never fully committed to naturalism and used shallow perspective, impossible poses, cartoonish anatomy, and sharp, dark contours around his figures that make it clear his images are fantasy. The Neoplatonic philosophical meaning The Birth of Venus is considered to symbolize is the birth of love and the spiritual beauty as a driving force of life.

The material makeup of this Masterpiece is a major point of interest. The birth of Venus was painted with a mixture of egg yolk and light paint (tempera) that makes it look like a fresco (painted plaster). However, it is actually the first example in Tuscany of a painting on canvas. The Primavera and The Birth of Venus are considered to make up Botticelli’s “serene period,” as they have the same mood and similar subjects; even though the Pimavera was painted just two years prior, it was made on a wood panel. Wood panels were the most popular surfaces for painting in the 15th century and remained popular until the end of the 16th century. Unlike canvas, wood tended to warp in humid regions, such as Venice, so painters saw canvas as a cheap but sturdy alternative. At the time, canvas was considered appropriate for paintings that were shown in less formal, non-official locations. Botticelli took this cheap material and used a very expensive and unusual materials on top of it. He used alabaster powder, which caused the colours in his painting to be bolder, brighter, and “timeless”. He also used gold to accentuate some details. The extreme care taken in the creation and preservation of The Birth of Venus has helped it survive the centuries, and the painting remains firm and elastic with very few cracks.

The Birth of Venus currently resides at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, alongside many of Boticelli’s other famous works and the Venus Medici.

References: ... q50LABEBVg ... otticelli/ ... botticelli

The Birth of Venus is part of the Masterpieces collection which is found only on Windlyn. You can pick up your very own copy from The Lazarus until the end of June!
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