Museum Artworks

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Freshman (College 1st year) ・Art ・MLA

The first work of artwork I chose was ‘Tigers and Magpies’ by way of Walter F Brown. The work was completed between the nineteenth and early 20th Century. The second piece I selected was ‘Black-figure amphora (jar)’ by M. Denman, Jr. The work of artwork was created between 550-540 B.C. ‘Tigers and Magpies’ was created the usage of ink and color on paper while the ‘Black-figure amphora (jar)’ used to be created and paintings of Herakles drawn on it. Both pieces of artwork were about phenomena that were current in the society in which the artists who created them lived in. The ‘Tigers and Magpies’ was created in Korea during the Choson dynasty and is a drawing from of a Korean tiger in the wild. A magpie which is perched near the tiger continually distracts the tiger with its chidings thus eliciting reactions from the tiger. The ‘Black-figure amphora’ was created in Greece and Herakles is painted on one side of the jar fighting the Nemean lion while on the other side of the jar, a man playing a lyre presumably at the same Nemean games is depicted.

Tigers and Magpies

The work of art is a depiction of the Korean tiger showing different reactions to the sounds of the magpie. The tiger’s might and regal nature is captured with such fierce precision including the yellow color in its eyes. In one picture, the tiger can be seen smiling and playing around with a cub, presumably its own. In another, the tigershows surprise when the magpie chides it. The torment experienced by the tiger as the magpie sings can be seen in its facial expressions and the manner in which it bares its teeth. The magpie can also be seen to intentionally aim at tormenting the tiger as it continually chides directly in the tiger’s direction. The technique used to create the work is the use of ink and color in creation. In my opinion, the painting was created in black and white except for the tiger’s eyes in order to create the impact of the auspicious nature of the tiger while its portrayal in nature may have been to show the manner in which despite its auspicious nature, it can be affected by external interference but maintain its calm in the end. The cultural value system and religion can be seen trhough the use of the tiger which is considered an auspicious creature. The fact that the tiger is also depicted as being capable of being affected by factors in its environment show lessons which human beings can learn from the tiger to be calm in the face of adversity in life.
Black figure amphora
The material used to create this work was clay used to create the jar and paint used to depict the pictures on it. The aim of the artist in creating the painting on the jar may have been due to works of art at the time being drawn on other surfaces other than paper. The value system of the Greek society can be seen through the depiction of combats and a man playing the lyre in sync which shows that combat was used in the society as a means of entertainment. The story of Herakles also shows the belief of deities in the Greek society.

Section B: Personal Responses

I prefer the Black-Figure Amphora to the Tigers and Magpies. The paintings on the jar elicit a variety of emotions in me and as such, are a greater work of art, in my view. The picture of Herakles fighting the Nemean lion presumably in an arena as a sourec of entertainment creates in me a feeling of the imperfections in culture which create injustice for both man and animals. The man and the lion both did not have to be in the position that they are depicted in on the jar. The fact that such barbarity is colorfully surrounded in the orange color of the jar portrays the manner in which such games were considered fun and entertaining. Having looked at the manner in which the tiger in the Korean culture was revered, it makes me sad to notice the levels which some human beings go in the quest for gratification of their sensual desires, including endangering fellow human beings and animals for sport. The painting points me to the world today where animals are still killed in barbaric means in order to provide meat for human beings and the society whereby some people enjoy using goods and services made by human beings working under inhumane conditions in other parts of the world. Contrasted with the Tiger and the Magpies, this work of art shows the barbaric side of human beings which is prone to exploitation of others without regard for life.

Section C: Concluding Reflections

The works of art I selected are similar to artworks that are visible in advertisements from music to advertisements as they exploit the supernatural in order to understand human nature through activities that are popular in the society. The works of art just as modern art show a focus on human nature observed through interactions and belief in nature. An example is the use of nature in various music videos as well as the use of deities from all traditions in order in search of a value system. The belief in a deity or an auspicious phenomenon enables human beings to draw the line between acceptable modes of behavior and abhorrent activities although in some instances, the morality of actions within a society may not always be right. Just as the Black-figure Amphora shows the fallibility of the value system in the society; modern art in our culture also depicts vanity and indecency which seems acceptable in the society but is not necessarily moral. The similarities show the manner in which the 21st century, everyday culture shows the vain nature when it comes to the fulfillment of sensual desires. The use of sexuality in advertisements to promote products for example, shows the manner in which sensual pleasure takes precedence over a deeper understanding and reflection on the value system of the society.
Another insight that can be drawn about the 21st century American culture as depicted in the artwork in music, video and advertisements is the use of art to promote immoral or barbaric activities within the society in order to enhance tolerance. An example is in the number of children cartoon programs which increasingly expose children into violence and sexuality at a young age. Art is thereby used in order to enhance tolerance and acceptability of previously abhorrent behavior in a subtle manner. Art is used to promote liberal behavior and attitudes and to shun conservatives. The Black-figure amphora, for example, may have been used to make violence and animal cruelty tolerable in the Greek society. The lack of humanity is shown in the manner in which art is continually used to provide a selfish perspective whereby people are encouraged to indulge their senses at the expense of everything and everyone else.

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