To those of us who do not thrive in or commonly affiliate with the arts, Renaissance art is probably a lot easier to understand than what is considered “modern art”. Modern art can be really confusing and sometimes appear easy to replicate, while Renaissance paintings display mastery of brush strokes and replicate human action and expression. John McKay informs us in A History of Western Society that “men achieve perfection in the arts” during the Renaissance, as the time period “bore witness to dazzling paintings, architecture, and sculptures” (McKay 421).
Summer, painted by Pieter Brugel in 1570, is a really good example of what McKay explains. Even though I’m not an art critic and I don’t know exactly what constitutes “good” art, I can tell that this painting is an exceptionally skillful specimen. I can immediately depict what the scene is showing because the farmers and the background really look like what they are. The intensive detail of the laborers, houses, and trees is also incredible. Jacob Wisse from the Metropolitan Museum of Art resolves that “Bruegel brought a humanizing spirit to traditional subjects and boldly created new ones” over the course of his career (Wisse). With Summer, Bruegel not only does a great job of illustrating human characteristics, but he also integrates some symbolism for Renaissance agriculture. On the online exhibit page, Wisse explains that the painting includes activities that are “traditionally associated with the summer months: fruit picking for June, hay harvesting for July, and corn harvesting for August” (Wisse). To sum up Summer, Bruegel uses lots of elements in his painting such as humor (the parched man vigorously drinking), social commentary (the distracted laborers), and detail all while demonstrating his expert technique to create a masterful piece. It doesn’t take an art critic to make this simple analysis.
With many pieces of modern art, an art critic would definitely come in handy. There are so many pieces of “world class” modern art that simply do not make sense to me, and may not make sense to you either. One example is prominent modern artist Martin Kippenberger’s 1983 Lonesome? that he made using oils and spray-paints. Now is it just me, or did I make the same thing in second grade? Lucy McKenzie, an art critic from the Saatchi Gallery in London, writes that the portrait is “sparky and boyant” and that Kippenberger was able to create it in “a few seemingly casual brush strokes” (McKenzie). Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did make it in just a few casual brush strokes! Where is the intensive detail and the symbolism that makes Summer such a work of art?
Mckay, John. A History of Western Society. 4. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008. 422-424. Print.
“Pieter van der Heyden after Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Summer (26.72.23)”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/26.72.23 (October 2006)