Theories of Art

Theories of Art
What is the purpose of Art? Art Historians have looked at the whole history of art and
noticed that all artistic production can be justified by 3 primary reasons or theories. Works
of art can either be justified by one theory or by a combination of theories.
1. Imitationalsim
2. Emotionalism
3. Formalism
1. Imitationalism
• The purpose of Art is to imitate/recreate
– Many artists throughout history have sought this as one of the primary
intentions of their work.
– The Artist must recreate the world around him/her. The artwork must
mirror reality.
1. Examples of Imitationalism
Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa, 1503-05
Leonardo da Vinci, Self Portrait, 1512
1. More Examples of Imitationalism
study for Virgin and Child with St. Anne
Leonardo da Vinci, Virgin and
Child with St. Anne, 1510
2. Emotionalism
• The purpose of art is to express the artist’s
emotions, beliefs, feelings, and/or political
– Many artists throughout history have felt that the
primary purpose of art is for expression and
– The resemblance to reality in an artwork is only
secondary in importance to the actual expressive
quality of the work.
2. Examples of Emotionalism
Pablo Picasso, Guernica, 1937
2. More Examples of Emotionalism
Edward Munch, The Scream, 1893
Vincent Van Gogh, Trees in
the Asylum Garden, 1889
3. Formalism
• The purpose of art is to create forms and
images that are pleasing to the eye.
• Art must be an aesthetically pleasing
arrangement of the elements (ingredients) of
• The artwork is a beautiful object. Expression
and the resemblance to reality are only
secondary to its beauty and design.
3. Examples of Formalism
Wassily Kandinsky, Black and Violet, 1923
Piet Mondrian, Composition
with Red Yellow and Blue, 1921
Which theory?
Which Theory?
Which theory of Art do you think most
influences the techniques you have learned?
The techniques you have learned up to this
point are influenced by the theory of
Imitationalism. The other two theories will be
investigated in later projects during the
second semester.
art should imitate nature
• Artists of the Italian Renaissance (1400’s –late
1500’s) mastered many techniques to achieve
the goals of Imitationalism.
• These artists really sought to understand and
recreate the world around them in their
paintings, drawings, and sculptures.
• They constantly studied their environment
and the people and things within it in order to
understand how to recreate it.
Italian Renaissance
(1400’s –late 1500’s)
• Began in Florence Italy
• Eventually Spread throughout all of Europe
• This period was characterized by new discoveries in the
scientific study of the natural world.
• the study of anatomy and nature allowed artists to
achieve new heights in portraiture, landscapes,
mythological, and religious paintings.
• New discoveries in science and the exploration of other
continents boosted man’s belief in himself and his
abilities. They no longer saw themselves as hopeless
beings in a cruel punishing and scary world.
• They strived to fully understand and master the
world around them.
• These new understandings caused artists to want
to turn their flat canvases into windows into
another world.
• Trompe Loeil: “to fool the eye.”Every artist
during this period, wanted to achieve Trompe
• Three techniques mastered during the
Renaissance allowed artists to create the illusion
of depth in their paintings:
– Chiaroscuro
– Linear perspective
– Atmospheric perspective
• Chiaroscuro: (Key-arrow-Skew-Row) a
method mastered during the Renaissance. It
allowed artists to create the illusion of form
on a flat surface with the use of light and
• Linear perspective: creates the illusion of
space by using a horizon line, receding angles,
and a vanishing point. This works on the
premise that parallel lines receding in space
meet at a vanishing point.
• Atmospheric perspective: this method creates the
illusion of depth by placing more emphasis and detail
on objects in the foreground. AS objects recede into
space they lose detail and are covered with more
atmospheric haze.
Leonardo Da Vinci
Known as the true Renaissance man.
A painter, architect, inventor, writer, poet, and sculptor.
Meticulously studied everything he can through
sketches and drawings. Some were used for later
paintings while most were compiled into journals and
• He combined the practices of scientific study and
artistic production, and has become the icon of this
• Constantly distracted by other projects. He left many
projects unfinished because would constantly begin
new projects or jump around between several projects
at a time.
Leonardo Da Vinci
Leonardo’s The Last Supper, 1495
You will be applying these
techniques to:
• Portraiture: a work of art that depicts a
human subject and his/ her identity as its
subject matter. Self portrait-the artist is the
• Still Life: A work of art that depicts inanimate
objects as its subject matter.
• Landscape: A work of art that depicts an
outdoor scene of nature as its subject matter.
You must never:
Run with scissors.
Play in the streets.
Drive and text.
Throw sharp objects.
Eat undercooked chicken.
Use hateful language.

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