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Desc:Art critic Robert Hughes is somewhat unhappy about the commodification of modern art.
Category:Arts, Classic TV Clips
Tags:andy warhol, mona lisa, Damien Hirst, Robert Hughes
Submitted:deadpan
Date:08/10/12
Views:2926
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Comment count is 22
Ursa_minor - 2012-08-10
Grumpy Old Men II : Curse of the Mona Lisa
gmol - 2012-08-10
Representational art is difficult and time consuming to produce...I think there is no reasonable way that one can assert the rise of modern art had nothing to do with throughput.

The Mona Lisa is certainly a good painting, but I am pretty sure that the only reason why I think it is one of the "best" paintings is because I've been conditioned to do so.
Bort - 2012-08-11
I just looked this up myself and posted a quote on the other "Mona Lisa Curse" video:

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The Mona Lisa revolutionized painting. The pose itself broke tradition--previously, portraits were invariably full length. Leonardo introduced the waist-up, hands-folded-on-lap approach, which allowed for a much more intimate treatment. The pose was imitated immediately and became fashionable for portraiture by such painters are Raphael. The background is painted in a gradation of lights and colors, losing details in the distance, instead of the traditional approach in which foreground and background are equally distinct. Mona herself is rendered with extraordinary vividness--one has a sense of viewing the living woman. (The effortless realism of photography has perhaps diminished our capacity to appreciate this.) Leonardo displayed in this work a mastery of technique that was unknown at the time, profoundly impressed his contemporaries, and has seldom been equalled since.

gmol - 2012-08-11
That reads a lot like a vacuous curator's blurb. "Rendered with extraordinary vividness"...well ok sure, but there are a lot of people that can render well, even today.

Realism training today probably looks a lot different than it did in Leonardo's time, but take a look at what people are doing at ateliers like Grand Central Academy...people today aren't half bad (and there are a whole lot of them).

Many of trained artists will go on and on about how beautiful they think the Mona Lisa is, these types of people can be very good trained artists, but not necessarily critical thinkers.

If you talk to the type of artist that is not only a damn good painter, but also has some experience with industrial production and even a modern understanding of things like color spaces and computer graphics techniques; I've found that they generally agree with my sentiment that "the Mona Lisa is a great painting and obviously a product of the Renaissance...difficult to say if it would draw such a crowd a the Louvre if we all didn't know it was the Mona Lisa". There is no set of objective features that obviously set it apart from comparable paintings of that time (anatomy, realistic accuracy, color span, pigments used, brush stroke length etc.).

I can't find a source right now, but I have heard anecdotes about how Leonardo did a lot to promote this particular painting, which might have been all that was needed to bestow its legendary status. I really need to find a source for that.

Painters can often be the last people to encourage people to think critically about what makes a painting "good". Myth an superstition are pervasive, even in realism, just take a look at people who talk about "primary colors" and the meaning of the golden mean...

John Holmes Motherfucker - 2012-08-11
>>The Mona Lisa is certainly a good painting, but I am pretty sure that the only reason why I think it is one of the "best" paintings is because I've been conditioned to do so.

maybe even a few bad ones.No doubt, but there are good reasons why you've been conditioned to do so. And

I am reminded that when I was a child, the Mona Lisa haunted me in a way that I've almost forgotten. That scenery is unforgettable. Freud (who ought to know) described it as "dreamlike".

Anyone remember Sister Wendy? I'm looking for a clip of Sister Wendy's discussion of this paininting. She had Mona Lisa smiling over a private joke. What she said was too mind-blowing for me to try to repeat here.

There's no such thing as the "Greatest Painting of All Time", but this is probably a good candidate. There's so many ways of seeing this. It's realistic. It's surrealistic. It's provocative. It's bland and placid.

gmol - 2012-08-11
I am willing to consider your proposition that the Mona Lisa is (at least) "one of the best paintings of all time"...but tell me why it is true.

"Surrealistic", "provocative" don't sound like very concrete things to me...do you really believe you be able to say the Mona Lisa is a better painting than, say (google image searching an Renaissance portrait):

http://www.terminartors.com/artworkprofile/Pinturicchio-Portra it_of_a_Boy

Or imagine sticking some background onto this contemporary portrait:

http://www.artistsnetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/tam_m ay08_vavagiakis4.jpg

Are you sure your haunting wasn't merely a matter of precedence and exposure rather than some intangible quality of the painting itself?

Bort - 2012-08-11
"That reads a lot like a vacuous curator's blurb."

I don't have a whole lot of experience with curators, but it didn't sound all that vacuous to me. What I got from that was, the Mona Lisa introduced techniques that were innovative for their time, and that's why it's important. Kind of like how "Citizen Kane" and "Birth of a Nation" were important for introducing cinematic techniques that we take for granted today, and have even improved upon.

gmol - 2012-08-11
@Bort,
Can you tell me what those techniques were? It isn't obvious ot me looking at the painting.

Something that would be obvious to me would be, say, the use of value to render volume when comparing a Rajasthani painting to something from the Renaissance....

I can't see an analogy when comparing "good" Renaissance against other good Renaissance work...

baleen - 2012-08-12
Velasquez could paint circles around almost any realist working today. Talent like that is transcendental and comes once in a century from outer space.

gmol - 2012-08-12
Valesquez is unreal, and I think this is obvious to most people.

I don't have to use nebulous terms like "provocative" etc. I think the level of detail and range of value and complexity of subject could be easily and objectively measured.

Bort - 2012-08-12
@gmol: baed on what the vacuous curator said, both the pose and the treatment of the background are innovative, while the woman herself was exceptionally realistically painted. I'm not an art historian so I am not in a position to verify how those things stand up to what came before, but assuming the vacuous curator was at least accurate, that's enough to make the Mona Lisa an important part of history.

Probably not enough to make it "the best painting ever" or whatever, though. "The Birth of a Nation" may have introduced half the filmmaking techniques we take for granted, but that doesn't make it the greatest film of all time.

gmol - 2012-08-12
See this is what I don't get. The Mona Lisa is certainly a product of the Renaissance, but it doesn't seem like an achievement in realism (as compared to contemporary works).

You can surely clearly see that the Mona Lisa doesn't look like a real person, she is stylized (like most work at the time). I still haven't found a good answer as to why Renaissance paintings don't look more like today's (very common) realism. I mean, they figured out the hard part (anatomy, turning form etc.)...why were they still stylized? Surely it isn't a matter of technology...we are still painting with more or less the same tools that we had long ago (oil, dirt, hair and paper).

Take a look at my response to JHMF below, if this thread is still of any interest to you.

Maggot Brain - 2012-08-11
So fucking good...

For the longest time I wounded why peoples would go though the risk of producing and purchasing art forgeries.
GravidWithHate - 2012-08-11
You know, Damien Hirst actually works if you view his entire career as a piece of nihilist performance art about the impossibility of meaningful communication through art in an era where people's interest and attention is a valuable commodity.
John Holmes Motherfucker - 2012-08-12
>>I am willing to consider your proposition that the Mona Lisa is (at least) "one of the best paintings of all time"...but tell me why it is true.

It's true because most people think it's true. I'm sure that doesn't satisfy you, but when did satisfying YOU become so important? Why is the burden of proof on ME to prove to YOU that the whole world is RIGHT?

And what are you offering in return? Saying that something "reads a lot like a vacuous curator's blurb", or "doesn't seem very concrete" Well... that's not an actual argument, is it? That's pretty fucking lazy, actually. But to me you assign homework. You want specifics about why painting X is better than painting Y, (assuming your links had actually worked) and I don't think I want to do that.

>>I am willing to consider your proposition that the Mona Lisa is (at least) "one of the best paintings of all time"...but tell me why it is true.

My WHAT? All I've ever asserted is that calling the Mona Lisa one of the world's greatest paintings is a credible statement. Sure it's subjective. OF COURSE I can't prove it.

Could the whole world be wrong about this? Sure; it's happened before. Thanks for that insight; I can tell you're really deep.

>>Are you sure your haunting wasn't merely a matter of precedence and exposure rather than some intangible quality of the painting itself?

Pretty sure. I think precedence and exposure are why I no longer have the same reaction decades later.
gmol - 2012-08-12
(this links work just fine, you are just getting an extra space from the newline..take care to remove it)

Just because most people think something is true doesn't make it true, unfortunately. Lots of people believe Stradivarius violins have a superior sound than all other (even modern) violins. No one has ever been able to demonstrate this "fact" though double blind studies.

Take a close look at what you are saying, you seem angry. I am not assigning you any homework, just asking you to articulate your thoughts in a way that could teach me what you think is so beautiful about the Mona Lisa. What you wrote wasn't terribly convincing, and clearly not written by someone experienced in drawing and painting (tell me if I am right here). If you were, you'd understand that questioning the "bestness" or even the "reallyreallygoodness" of the Mona Lisa is actually a very interesting question, and one that few people can provide good answers for.

All I am offering to you is, perhaps, is that some of your perceptions may be mere preceptions, not supported by evidence and the product of "received wisdom".

John Holmes Motherfucker - 2012-08-12
Someday, if you even remember this, you're going to be embrassed. Not because you dared to question the reputation of the Mona Lisa, but because you came on as if this was an original, interesting thought.

It's a picture of a lady. How could anyone go through life without ever questioning whether she's everything she's cracked up to be?
gmol - 2012-08-12
I said it was interesting, not original. How coukd it be original when I've discussed it with others before, and they thought about the answers before?

That was my point in the first post. Some good painters have agreed with me(having thought about it before), that they thought the Mona Lisa was good because everyone has been saying that their whole lives. In spite of being very practiced realists they aren't sure they would think it was that good if they didn't have that exposure.

That is all that is being said..not sure why you are angsty.

John Holmes Motherfucker - 2012-08-12
Really?

Look, I'm not terribly angry, but don't you think it's just a teensey bit douchey to assume that all of my opinions on this matter are recieved wisdom, that I've never actually thought about it? That's what you keep suggesting, guy on the internet I've never met.

And you're expecting me to prove othewise. I can't just tell you my opinion in internet forum generalities. You're demanding a detailed arguement, while not making much of an argument yourself, while putting words in my mouth. It's annoying, and it's especially annoyong because if I do the homework, It's just going to slide off the page. Unlike Poe-News, which I miss more than I ever would have expected, this is no place to have a real argument.

Here's something interesting:

http://tinyurl.com/cw578w9

Freud's book on Da Vinci, which I read thirty years ago. It turns out that when Freud describes the setting as "Dream-Like" He's quoting someone else. Here's the complete quote:

Muther states:[51] "What fascinates the spectator is the demoniacal charm of this smile. Hundreds of poets and writers have written about this woman, who now seems to smile upon us seductively and now to stare coldly and lifelessly into space, but nobody has solved the riddle of her smile, nobody has interpreted her thoughts. Everything, even the scenery is mysterious and dream-like, trembling as if in the sultriness of sensuality."

Once again, I'm going to try to find a clip of Sister Wendy's interpretation, and post it. It's a hoot!

Do a little googling, and what you'll learn is that the reputation of the Mona Lisa is not receieved wisdom in all cases for all people. That's the best argument I can give you. My own opinion is not well-formed, but I know that someone like Sister Wendy or presumably Robert Hughes (still haven't seen the documentary) will be able to give good solid reasons for why the Mona Lisa is the Mona lisa of painings.

This isn't my field, so I may be about to say something incorrect.

When you look at medieval painting, and even the illustrations of classical times, It appears that the painters of the Renaissance invented realism in painting. And that wasn't just an artistic accomplishment, it was also a scientific achievement. It would make sense that Leornardo would have made a major contribution to that achievement.

gmol - 2012-08-12
See out of thread reply below

gmol - 2012-08-12
I wasn't trying to to denigrate your opinions, just taking an obviously contrarian (though not original) stance to a popular opinion; for the purpose of seeing if there really is something I don't know. I'll respond in points to show you that I am presenting some very valid evidence. I need to start by saying that it is obvious to most artists that ML is a product of the R, and is an excellent portrait that is clearly painted by a master. It is hard to run the experiment double blind, but the level of detail alone is (I believe) sufficient to show this. But is it the breathless piece of work that is described by so many?

-None of the quotes presented as evidence so far have come from artists. Hughes himself was not a painter (AFAICT). I don't why I would consider Freud's opinion, so much of his thought has been debunked. Many of the quotes come from people who have a financial interest in advertising art. That suggests something about their credibility about the matter.

-You can find artists (of the first type referenced in my earlier posts) that will use the same nebulous descriptions of why the ML is *the* painting. Anecdotally, I've found that these artists (who can be very good) aren't necessarily critical thinkers with skeptical mind sets.

-Painting is full of silly myths ("primary" colors, golden mean, "never use black" etc.). I've that such painters often subscribe to these myths, and don't like being told that they are myths.

-I do know a few (damn good) painters who also have some experience with computer graphics and production. Anecdotally when I pose the question about the ML to them, they suggest that yes, it isn't obvious what sets the ML apart from its contemporary work.

-These painters generally acknowledge the myths of painting and have the attitude "hey if it looks good and works, do it".

-Take a look at this (random) Titian painting:
http://pictify.com/93031/portrait-of-clarissa-strozzi-by-titia n

Clearly realistic. Can we not say the same things about the smile as we do about the ML? I mean just take a lot of the ML descriptions and apply them to this painting. Don't they still work?
gmol - 2012-08-12
Addendum: The invention of atmospheric perspective is commonly attributed to Leonardo...it was invented earlier by Jan van Eyck and popularized by Leonardo.

Not to diminish his skillful use (which is an obvious contribution), but we can't attribute the invention to him.

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