The rise and fall of art

Da Vinci and Michelangelo

A good book to own, in my opinion, is 'crash course in art' by Eva Howarth, and I must say, it's an eye-opener. The book begins with several outstanding medieval paintings - mainly angels in gilded frames - and moves through the stunning works of Michelangelo - which we have all wondered at - onto the famous artists of the Romantic era, where animals battle in fierce combat and seem to storm out of the pages, where ladies sit with skirts ruffled around them, where lords recline in elegant homes. Things go downhill a little at the end of the nineteenth century, where beautiful realism becomes harsher brush-strokes, but it's still beautiful art.

Sleeping girl, Domenico Fetti (Renaissance)

And then, at beginning of the twentieth century, there's a bit of a wobble. Colours become garishly bright, form unclear, paint just in unrefined blobs on the page. Human beings look more like stickmen, though they don't resemble the human form quite so well.

I'll give cubism a chance here, because I can see an art in creating nature's flowing lines out of hard flat shapes (kind of). There are some nice cubism paintings.

Cubism Example

Look at that one! It does show form and shape, and there's clear skill in the image. Unfortunately, not all cubism paintings are quite so... Expressing of talent. Regardless, cubism was co-founded by Picasso, and I suppose the positive spin the previous artist put on cubism makes it a not-so-complete disaster. Even if Picasso's view on cubism was more like so:

Picasso's cubism

Okay, sweet. I see some lines, a couple shapes, some colour. Is there any meaning to it, though? Anything that makes it more than just 'different'?

Picasso achieved being 'different' alright. He pushed the masterpieces of the Michelangelo and Da Vinci and the Romantics, full of life and meaning and painstaking detail, into a battle for who could make the most random thing and stick a big price on it.

I mean, really? It's ridiculous. And there's far too many examples of it.

A piece of paper with seven vertical lines cut into it - sold for $1.5 million.

A green trapezium on a white piece of paper - sold for $1.6 million.

What looks like a chalkboard with loop-the-loop scribbles all over it - sold for $69.6 million.

Let's not forget the famous upside-down urinal and dirty bedroom 'artworks', too.

Honestly? I don't want to befoul my search history - or your eyesight - by putting pictures of them here.

What has happened? What has happened to people spending weeks, months, years getting a painting just right, imbuing it with passion and meaning and life?

Why do we remember these five-minute artists like Picasso, and disregard the true masterminds of art?

Picasso is not an all bad artist, I'll grant you that. There were about three pieces in his museum which interested me - though quite frankly, I'd have rather spent my money on an ice cream and never wasted my time looking at a selection of his finest scribbles.

It feels like a ridicule. The old masters spent their entire lives working towards bettering art and creating masterpieces. Picasso, at a still early age, threw away a promising art career, and did something 'different'. Being 'different' cost him an hour. Being talented might have taken him years. He took the easy way, the shortcut, the cheat.

Yet somehow, his shortcut worked. People fell for it. He's almost more famous than Rembrandt. Some people say humanity is attracted to beauty - and if that is true, I'm fairly sure that the majority of 'humans' have evolved away from that frame of mind. The art of Picasso is many things, but it is not beautiful.

People still love Picasso. Many, many people adore his works; they visit his museum, praise his genius, attempt to replicate him. I don't get it, I don't agree with it, I don't like it. 'Different' is not always skilled. 'Different' is not always praise-worthy. 'Different' is not always beautiful. 'Different' alone should not be what art has descended into, but 'different' alone is what it has become.

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Olivia H
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