Posts Tagged ‘Photography’

Portraiture has long played an important role in American art. From early Colonial times to the present, portraiture evolved from a purely documentary art form into a means of addressing complex social and cultural issues. By taking a visit to the New Britain Museum of American Art, one can trace the evolution of this popular art form by viewing the many examples of portraiture the museum has to offer.

Lydia Lynde, ca. 1762-64. John Singleton Copley (1739-1815). Oil on canvas mounted on Masonite, 30 x 25 ¼ in. New Britain Museum of American Art, Stephen B. Lawrence Fund and through exchange, 1976.4.

Among the most formidable examples of portraiture in the Museum’s collection is the painting Lydia Lynde by John Singleton Copley. While early Colonial portraiture was painted by artists with rudimentary training, the next generation of artists (including Copley) was exposed to European artistic theories and methods. From an early age in his home in Boston, the artist experimented with engraving, drawing, while also learning a great deal from the British painters John Smibert (1688-1751) and Joseph Blackburn (1700-1765). Copley’s travels to Europe further on in his career provided him with a degree of technical expertise unparalleled by many of his contemporaries.

When Lydia Lynde commissioned her portrait from Copley in 1762, the artist had secured his position as New England’s preeminent portraitist. (more…)


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TV Cello, 1971. Nam June Paik (1932-2006). Video tubes, TV chassis, plexiglass boxes, electronics, wiring, wood base, fan, stool, photograph. Permanent Collection, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

A broad term that emerged in the 1960s and exploded onto the art scene in the 1980s, New Media ecompasses the fusion of traditional media such as film, images, painting, sculpture, music, and the written and spoken word with the interactive power of computer and communications technology, computer-enabled consumer devices, and the Internet. This new category of art includes digital art, animation, interactive and installation art, and computer graphics, among others. New media artists such as Nam June Paik (1932-2006) and Wolf Vostell (1932-1998) first experimented with video and sound art in the 1960s and many artists have since followed in their footsteps with further experimentation. A key concept of New Media is that the artworks produced are available to anyone at any time through the Internet and other digital frameworks. This digitization creates a universal forum for artists to share ideas with each other, and communicate with viewers directly. (more…)

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World Skin, 1997. Maurice Benayoun. Virtual Reality Installation.

As we become a society increasingly engulfed in computer technology, there seem to be changes in the art world, specifically in regards to digitalization.  Since the 1970s, art produced digitally has risen into the fine arts realm.  For example, as opposed to manual photography which catches chemical changes on film, digital photography uses electronic sensors that record the desired image as electronic data.  A major advantage of digital photography is the ability to manipulate the image using computer programs and software.  many different effects can be utilized, increasing the tools the artist has to express their vision.  Aside from digital photography, digital art contains multiple other forms, such as photopainting, digital collage, integrated digital art, virtual reality, hollogram, fractals, and more. (more…)

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Girl with Red Hair, 1962. Jack LeVine (b. 1925). Oil on canas, 32 x 26 in. New Britain Museum of American Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Davis, 2003.13.

We have, more or less, as an audience become used to the idealized depiction of women. Often, particularly in classical styles, they were portrayed as reclining nudes who were there for the viewer’s pleasure. With averted eyes, they touched themselves sensually, typically innocent and oblivious that there is someone painting her for all to see. When they weren’t sexual-fantasy fodder, they were servile and obedient–particularly in the 1940’s and 1950’s after the end of the strong women era of World War II. They wore their hair in perfect curls, with their perfect dresses and worked merrily away in their perfect kitchens.  In Jack Levine’s Girl with Red Hair  there is a shift away from the perfect, care-free woman that came before. Rather, nudity is embraced as an aspect of the woman’s power rather than the viewer’s object. (more…)

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Miss Mit, 1993. William Wegman (b. 1943). Color Polaroid, 24 x 20 inches. © 2005 William Wegman. Courtesy the Artist.

Who doesn’t know the cute and humorous photographs by “the guy with the dogs,”  William Wegman ?

Before Wegman started taking photographs of his dogs, he had been an accomplished conceptual artist. He earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in painting and only in the late sixties did he start creating photographs. In the seventies, he turned towards videos. His amusing and clever videos deal with more profound and thoughtful matters. But they also show a certain playfulness that tone down the satirical undertone of the work. (more…)

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Numerous artists have done self-portraits over the course of their careers and in the past thirty years, a variety of photographers have used self-portraiture as a means of artistic expression. These photographers chose to photograph themselves to comment on the human condition in contemporary society. One such example is the work of Cindy Sherman, who uses ritual and drama coupled with photography to create unparalleled images. (more…)

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Documentary photographers and socially concerned photojournalists have been working in the United States since the 1880s. At that time, Jacob A. Riis wanted to bring to light the atrocious living conditions in the lodgings, basements and back streets of New York City. Riis’s photographs were the proof that society needed to change. Thanks to advances in technology it was possible for the images to be reproduced and distributed to a wide audience.

Five Cents Lodging, Bayard Street, c.1889. Jacob A. Riis (1849-1914). Gelatin Silver Print. Jacob A. Riis Collection, Museum of the City of New York.


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