Art Anthropologists

Art history dates back as far as mankind: the cavemen paintings that adorned their humble cave dwellings offer great insight for modern man in the journey to learn more about the history of our species. This is still true as we create new art in the 21st century for our descendants to view for centuries to come. Art is a great peephole inside the human psyche past, present and future.

Non-verbal techniques of communication, including art, can speak many more volumes than the printed or spoken word. Art paintings and sculptures stand the test of time because they are a physical remnant as opposed to speeches and ideas expressed between individuals. Art is an effective, concrete tool for looking at the socio-cultural norms of a time period.

Art anthropologists believe that art should be looked on as a meaningful piece that is applied to a larger picture; that picture is the environment and time period in which it was created. Throughout history, man has recognized the need to preserve art. This is true even in primitive times. We look to painting and other forms of art for a glimpse of fashion, pastimes and trends. There is an underlying social message that goes with art.

Cultural traits such as behaviors, beliefs and symbols are all expressed on the canvas or whatever medium the artist prefers. Michelangelo’s David was a masterpiece from an artist’s perspective. It was also a powerful depiction of perfection in physical beauty. This coincides with the common theme of the Italian Renaissance that beauty is the ultimate aesthetic.

Claude Monet, the Painter

Impressionism was a 19th century art movement that was characterized by small, thin yet visible brush strokes, an ordinary subject, the accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities, the inclusion of movement as an important elementof human perception, and strange visual angles. It was popularized by the French painter Oscar-Claude Monet and the word was coined by art critic Louis Leroy after looking at one of Monet’s paintings called Impression, Sunrise. Many of Monet’s works carry the theme of French impressionist painting, mainly expressing one’s perceptions before nature.

Born on November 14, 1840 at the 5th floor of 45 Rue Laffitte, Paris, Monet was the second son of Claude AClaude Monetdolphe Monet and Louise Justine Aubree Monet. Although he was baptized as Oscar-Claude his parents called him Oscar. In 1845, they moved to Le Havre in Normandy. His father wanted Monet to continue the family grocery business but the latter wanted to become an artist.

In April 1851, Monet entered Le Havre Secondary School of the Arts where he was known for his charcoal caricatures that he sold for 10 to 20 francs. He learned drawing from Jacques-Francois Ochard, a former student of Jacques-Louis David. Later on the beaches of Normandy, he met fellow artist Eugene Boudin who taught him how to use oil paints and outdoor techniques for painting. When his mother died in January 1857, 16-year-old Monet left school and lived with his widowed childless aunt Marie-Jeanne Lecadre.

While visiting Paris, Monet saw many painters copying from the old masters. Instead of doing the same, Monet sat by a window and painted what he saw. Later he met other young painters who joined him in popularizing Impressionism. His art career was cut short when he joined the the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry in Algeria in 1861. After contracting typhoid fever two years later, Monet was convinced by his aunt to leave the army to complete an art course. Disillusioned with what was taught at art schools, Monet studied with Charles Gleyre in Paris in 1862 where he met other artists like Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frederic Bazille and Alfred Sisley. Together they created new approaches to art and painted the effects of light with broken color and rapid brushstrokes – the trademarks of Impressionism.

Monet’s first painting that brought him fame was Camille or The Woman in the Green Dress that he made in 1866. It was also one of the many works that featured his future wife Camille Doncieux who served as the model for several of his paintings. In 1872, Monet painted Impression, Sunrise depicting a Le Havre port landscape. This became part of the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874 and now hangs at the Musee Marmottan Monet in Paris.

Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams was a photographer and environmentalist, capturing both passions through his lens.

Born on February 20, 1902 in the Western Addition of San Francisco, California, to Charles Hitchcock Adams and Olive Bray Adams. He was named after his uncle Ansel Easton. Although he was sickly and had few friends, his family home and surroundings sparked his interest in nature and later photography.

Ansel AdamsMoon and Half Dome – by Ansel Adams

Adams is best known for his black and white photographs of the American West, especially in Yosemite National Park. This was the setting for one of his most famous photos – Moon and Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California.
Together with fellow photographer Fred Archer, Adams developed the Zone System – a photographic technique to determine proper film exposure and development. This led to the clarity and depth of Adams’ photographs that were also found in other photographers who learned the system.

For this technique, Adams used large-format cameras that were bulky, heavy and used expensive film. However, their high resolution made sharp pictures. Adams also founded the Group f/64 along with fellow photographers Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham. The group created the Museum of Modern Art’s Department of Photography.
Among his many photos, The Tetons and the Snake River was one of the 115 images recorded on the Voyager Golden Record aboard the Voyager spacecraft. These images were chosen to spread information about humans, plants, animals, and geological features of the Earth to an alien civilization.

Famous Statues Around the World

Statues have long depicted the human race: from religious figures to political gifts, some of the best statues of the world have stood for thousands of years and continue to draw masses to admire them. While there are hundreds of famous statues around the world to visit, here are the top five that should be on the top of everyone’s list:

5. Statues of Liberty – New York, U.S.A.

This statue was a gift from France to the United States and remains one of the most famous symbols of the world. Despite its popularity, seeing it in person changes the perspective of the iconic figure significantly. Additionally, it has interesting history.

4. David Statue – Florence, Italy

Art lovers and tourists visit this famous sculpture by Michelangelo. It was completed in 1504 and a trip to see it includes a history lesson and a chance to check out a variety of art in a beautiful city. It stands 17′ tall and portrays the Bible King in the nude, as it remains a symbol of art and religion.

3. Olmec Heads – Veracruz and Tabasco, Mexico

These enormous heads are all that remain of an the Olmec, an ancient civilization from the tropical lowlands of Mexico. The heads were built as long ago as possible 1500 BC and a trip to visit them would culture a person about a civilization that stood long before Columbus made it to the Americas.

2. Great Sphinx – Giza Plateau, Egypt

This is one of the oldest and largest standing statues in the world. It is surrounded by mystery, in how it was built and who the face is of, and dates back to possibly 2500 BC. It is considered one of the world’s greatest statues because it has remained standing for thousands of years and continues to draw hypothesizes from scholars worldwide.

1. Moai Statues – Easter Island, Chili

Located in one of the most difficult places to reach on earth, the Moai statues rock carvings of human figures were created around 1250 AD. There are total of 887 statues, and though in a minimalistic artistic approach, are considered amazing creations considering the difficulty to build them with limited resources. Though there are some theories on how they were built, by who, and why, most of their history remains a mystery.

The Beginning of American Art

Native Americans made most of the North American art in the 1500s and 1600s AD.

Thus, affluent families in the Pacific Northwest owned enormous carved totem poles to represent their importance. People in the Southwest made use of pottery decoration to depict the family they were from; western people recorded their history upon bare rocks through complicated paintings.

European settlers started to create their own art using the styles of the places they had come from by the 1700s. Native Americans learned new techniques and ideas from the Europeans and continued creating new art, the Navajos in the Southwest learned to use colors and patterns to weave sheep wool blankets. Oil paintings were experimented with in the techniques of both Native American tradition and in European art styles. Slave ships also brought African art ideas, such as batik, quilting and musical banjos.

American art became more influenced by European culture as steamships made travel between the two places easier. Numerous Native American artistic traditions were lost as European people insisted Native American children grow up in their culture. Many African art traditions were lost as well as they were forced to work as slaves and did not have time for creating art.

In the 1900s, European art styles remained popular in North America. As prestigious European artists, such as Picasso, showed interest in using styles from Asia and Africa, North Americans did too. People began to realize that it was a mistake to lose art traditions from these places.

The Last Supper

Jean-François is the son of Jean-Louis-Nicolas Millet and Aimée-Henriette-Adélaïde Henry, born inlast-300x158 Sainte-Croix-Hague into a family of wealthy farmers. He was the second of eight children. Jean-François Millet was his godmother and his grandmother, who was also a “puritanical Catholic” and was heavily involved in his education.

Jean-François spent his childhood on the family farm. At twelve, he began his catechism and learned Latin from the Herpent vicar at the Church of Greville. Yet Jean-François is not known for his history, but his art. Blair Stover has the rest of the details on how Jean-François became the artist he is known for today.

Gifted in drawing, Jean-Francois, at 18, leaves his father for Cherbourg, searching the local bourgeoisie in search of a master. He realizes the opportunity to show his two designs, the first representing two shepherd’s jacket and shoes, one playing the flute at the foot of a tree, the other listening near a hill where sheep grazed; the second representing a starry night effect, a man eating bread. He presents them to local painter Dumoucel Good, who struggles at first to believe these works to be in the young man’s hand. Initially, Good refuses to give Jean-François advice but did make copy prints drawing from the bump.

The sudden death of his father on November 29, 1835 forced Jean-Francois to assume the role of head of the family in the family business, but his grandmother persuaded him to return to Cherbourg pursue the trade of painter.

At the Salon in 1857 he exhibited “The Gleaners”, which he started two years before, where three women are forced to glean ears of corn to survive. Realistic without misery, the work divided critics on both its aesthetic qualities, as well as the political, some seeing it as a symbol of popular revolution threatening other rural impoverished qualities by Napoleon III. Bought for 2000 francs by M. Binder, Isle-Adam, on the advice of Jules Dupré, it was donated to the Louvre in 1890.

Meaning of Symbols of the Saints in Art

Particular symbols are assigned to each Catholic saint through artistic tradition. The symbols each saint is assigned are representative of the circumstances of the saint’s life, miracles or martyrdom. The saints are often identified through these symbols and a saint’s actions and spiritual ideals are often better remembered with use of such.

Christian art utilizes these symbols along with other context, to link a saint’s definitions under the Christian symbolism. Many of the saints are considered invented or legendary in their existence and circumstance. Thus, many spiritual teachings use the stories as metaphors.

Some examples of saints and their symbols include St. Agnes, a martyr. In her symbolism, she carries a lamb to represent the virginity that she died with in order to protect. She is also seen depicted with covered in hair. This symbolizes a covering, which protected the virgin saint from being savaged by her executioners.


Another popular image containing symbolism is that of St. George. St. George killed a terrifying dragon in order to rescue the king’s maiden daughter. He is typically depicted wearing the dress of a knight while battling a dragon. On occasion, he is shown sitting with a leg on each side of a unicorn. The unicorn symbolizes purity. St. George’s lance is usually shown broken, the metaphor being St. George struggling with the dragon of a person’s sinful nature to rescue the soul.

While aiding numerous people across an engorged river, St. Christopher, unbeknownst to him, carried the Christ Child across. Because of this, his depictions are of him bearing a little child through water, equipped with a palm-tree staff.

There are many saints that have their own symbolism in art, including well-known saints to minor martyrs. The best way to identify each saint is to note what they are holding, wearing, or doing, and do some research from there. Often you can find comprehensive lists online or in religious art history books.

Who is Jackson Pollock?

Jackson Pollock is often remembered as a pioneer of Abstract Expressionism alongside fellow

Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock

artist, Mark Rothko. Before his association with this movement, he was already making waves in the New York art world. At the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, Jackson Pollock’s work was shown in his third solo show from May 2 to June 3, 1944. This exhibition was part of Peggy Guggenheim’s “Art of this Century” exhibit called “Spring Salon for Abstract and Surrealist Artists (Under Forty).” This event prompted Clement Greenberg to describe Pollock as the “most original contemporary easel painter under forty.”

Paul Jackson Pollock was born on January 28, 1912, in Cody, Wyoming. He studied art under a theosophist artist while in high school in Los Angeles. At the age of 28, he joined the Art Students League in New York City after following his brother there. His early training included 2.5 years under the guidance of painter, Thomas Hart Benton. Pollock’s genius in painting was controversial over his short lifetime. In the 1940s, he created many drawings and mixed media pieces. A sizeable collection of drawings and paintings by Pollock are permanently housed in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy.

One example in the P. Guggenheim Collection in Venice is the oil on canvas – “The Moon Woman” (1942). Pollock uses a combination of brilliantly contrasting colors, lines, and shapes, including abstract and geometric forms. “The Moon Woman” reflects the influence of Cubism (ala Jean Miro and Pablo Picasso) and Surrealism. His works by the 1940s also reflected his investigation of the inner realms of the human psyche and the themes of the mythical, spiritual, and occult. In “Tondo” (1948), composed of oil and enamel on metal, Pollock follows the tradition of Caravaggio and the Florentine Renaissance painters with a beautiful circular painting. In “No. 5” (1948), Pollock’s masterpiece of Abstract Expressionism combines a balanced composition of paint splatters in many colors. This work became the most valuable piece of art in the world when it sold for $140,000,000 in 2006.

Pollock met an early end due to alcoholism. On August, 11, 1956, he was driving a car while intoxicated with alcohol and crashed his personal vehicle near his home. This accident resulted in his death and the death of a passenger. A third passenger survived. His wife, Lee Krasner, was also an artist who managed his interests after his death. Together, this husband and wife team represented the attempt in the mid-20th century to help artists break free from traditional art styles and customs.

Donatello: The Artist

"St John the Evangelist", by Donatello

“St John the Evangelist”, by Donatello

Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi, or Donatello, was a sculptor of Florence’s Early Renaissance in art. He was born around 1386 in Florence, Italy, the son of a professional wool crafter. One of the earliest records of his artist career was his work as the assistant of Lorenzo Ghiberti. They worked on the first bronze doors of Florence’s Baptistery. At the time, Ghiberti was a leader of the art movement, International Gothic.

During the early Renaissance, works of art, architecture, and sculpture were paid for in part by newly rich, middle class families gaining power in Italian cities. For example, the Medici family rose to power in Florence and contributed two Popes in the Renaissance period. Many of Donatello’s works were financed by commissions from families like the Medici clan.

Donatello later completed more works for the area where the Florence Baptistery is located. This center was important to Roman Catholicism in Florence. Donatello completed five statues for Il Duomo’s campanile, or belltower. Il Duomo is situated directly across from the Baptistery.

Two of Donatello’s early works were statues of St. Mark and St. George finished around 1413. St. Mark is a statue occupying one of two niches outside the Orsanmichele church in Florence. The other statue is St. George, which was eventually replaced by a copy in the Orsanmichele church. The original of St. George now resides in Italy’s Museo Nazionale de Barge. Donatello also completed a statue of St. Louis of Toulouse for the same church.

In keeping with the power and spirit of the Italian Renaissance, Donatello developed relationships with the Medici family. For example, Cosimo di Medici nominated Donatello to produce a tomb for Pope Baldassare Cossa, for inclusion in the Baptistery. The funding for this project was provided by Cosimo and his father. For the top of the tomb, Donatello composed a bronze version of the dead Pope.

Later in his career, Donatello created the Equestrian Monument to Gattamelata (1445-1450) in Padua. This monument is another example of naturalism. In making people and animals that were true to life, Donatello broke from the Gothic style of Mannerism. One of his final projects was a statue of the penitent Mary Magdalene, also for the Baptistery.

In his lifetime, Donatello sculpted friezes such as the Lamentation over the Dead Christ in bronze, a Roman Catholic theme more interpretative than sculptures of saints or dead Popes. The principal work for this project was completed by his assistant, Bertoldo di Giovanni (c. 1430-1491). Donatello died in Florence in 1466. In all of his works, the artist demonstrated how he could sculpt just about anything and achieve the effects of realism and emotion.

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)

Frida Kahlo (self_portrait)

Frida Kahlo (self_portrait)

Circumstance and irony would lead a young girl who once suffered from polio to become one of Mexico’s most illustrious artists and famous women. Born in 1907 on the outskirts of Mexico City, Frida Kahlo has frequently been associated with the surrealist movement, but her art is equally a reflection of her homeland. The folk art of Mexico inspired Kahlo’s work and it was her unique style that led to her world-side fame.

As a young girl Frida suffered from a weak leg, an effect of polio. Her slight handicap induced her parents to encourage her to study science and the natural world as she could not participate in many physical activities. Her use of a cameral and early bout with photography would eventually have a profound impact on her later art. Frida was not an art student when she first met Diego Rivera who visited her high school to paint a mural. However, they would later remember an early meeting there.

In 1925 Kahlo was involved in a serious bus accident that would result in lifelong pain and many operations. It was this event and its necessary stays in bed that led Kahlo to take up art. While her initial works reveal an influence of great European artists like Botticelli and Modigliani, her admiration of Rivera and similar nationalist artists as well as her innate passion for folk art would lead her to become one of Mexico’s most celebrated artists.

Early in her development as an artist, Kahlo visited Rivera in his studio. Their mutual admiration led to a tumultuous marriage with a brief interlude caused by infidelity on both sides. Rivera, twenty years her senior, had significant influence on Kahlo’s development, but art historians credit her work as far more personally evocative. Kahlo’s many self-portraits reveal her bouts with physical and emotional pain. Her marriage, miscarriages, and personal events in her life often appeared in work that also reflected her profound preoccupation with Mexican indigenous life.

Kahlo was believed to have many liaisons including one with Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. Her association with a famous husband and national and foreign revolutionaries has made her a legendary figure of her nation. Yet, Mexico and the world know her best for her works and singular artistic style. Some of her most famous paintings include Frida and Diego Rivera (1931), The Two Fridas (1939), and Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair (1940). These are just three of the more than forty self-portraits that Kahlo painted.

Official records indicate that a pulmonary embolism was the cause of her death in 1954. Because Kahlo was viewed as the wife of a famous artist, she did not obtain critical fame in her own right during her lifetime. In fact, critical acclaim would not find her work until the early eighties when it was rediscovered during Mexico’s Neomexicanismo art movement. Her life was recently depicted in the award-winning film Frida (2002) that starred Salma Hayek. An extraordinary artist, Kahlo’s work can be found in the world’s great museums such as Mexico’s Museo Nacional de Arte, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and Musee National d’Art Moderne in Paris.