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Art, Culture and Time

Art is a product of a people’s culture. It is also influenced by the time when it is created. Different pieces of art explain about the time when they were created, and the people’s culture. To create their art pieces, artists rely on locally available material, hence one can easily tell a lot about a culture and time from analyzing a piece of art. Art reflects the transformation and change of a society. In this paper, three pieces of art will assist in the depiction of the culture and time of the generation when the art was created. These art pieces include; the Calling of St. Matthew by Michelangelo Merisi (Caravaggio), Liberty Leading the People by Eugene Delacroix, and Merode Altarpiece by Robert Campin.

The Calling of St. Matthew

Michelangelo Merisi (Caravaggio) painted this piece of art from 1597 to 1601 using oil on canvas. In the painting, one can barely notice Jesus. It only the almost invisible halo on his head that differentiates him from the others. He looks young, wears ordinary clothes and has no shoes. He is depicted entering behind St. Paul. There is a light coming from unseen opening and he stretches his arm to Levi, who after conversion is named Matthew. This light depicts his divinity. His escort and posture expresses nobility. During the time when the painting was created, the society and the church expressed Jesus as the second Adam. Although Adam had committed the original sin, Jesus had come to save mankind. The painting depicts the saving of Levi and conversion to Matthew. Levi sits in a tavern backroom whose walls are grimy and barren and window are covered in soot. Only two of the tax collectors in the company of Levi seem to notice Jesus. The others focus on counting the money on the table. Since it is a backroom, it is possible to insinuate that the money was earned illegally.

Levi points at himself in disbelief that Jesus could be calling him. The tax collectors are dressed in expensive clothes. The conversation between Levi and Jesus expresses the change in time for the church and the art scene. This is an essential aspect of the Baroque period. During the period before the creation of painting, the Lord, divinity, and spirituality was portrayed as untouchable. Even during the Baroque period, the savior is not portrayed to be close to the common human being. However, this painting depicts him to be accessible to the common human being. He is in a common place where he will definitely interact with ordinary patrons. Caravaggio depicts that Jesus is accessible to anyone and can relate to a single individual in a group of people.

Liberty Leading the People

Liberty Leading the People was created in 1830 by Eugene Delacroix. The 18th Century was known as the enlightenment age as people were in pursuit for knowledge. It was also characterized by physical materialism, industrialism and neo-classical art. The changes and events of this generation resulted in the creation of romanticism. In this painting, the painter utilizes romanticism as the art style depicts. War combines terror, heroism and violence. Therefore, war is ideal for depicting romanticism. This can be seen in the painting as it portrays the July revolution of 1830. This piece of art communicates feelings of greatness, intensity and magnificence. Bold strokes of brush and dark colors are involved in the piece of art. It reflects the values of the society involved in the Romantic period. The loosely clothed woman has a musket and a French revolutionary flag in her hands. The woman depicts purity of the causes of the French revolution that overthrew Charles X. She depicts the values that the French people held high. She walks over the army with ease. It reflects the radical idea that instigated the French revolution.

Merode Altarpiece

This painting was created by Robert Campin between 1425 and 1428. It has three panels. It depicts on a patron and his wife, the Christianity theme. It also shows some guests who are privileged to witness the annunciation of Mary. The art depicts a setting in the man’s home with Flemish furniture, utensils and accessories. The candle, bench and fire screen show Mary’s divinity and purity. It also depicts Joseph making a rat trap which could be a representation of the tradition where Jesus brings the trap to the world to catch the devil. The ax, rod, and sword also depict religion. The painting depicts the world issues around time and religious beliefs. The society required reinforcement in the understanding of the purpose of Jesus coming to the world to trap the devil and save the sinners. Mary being an ordinary woman, the Lord uses her to bring the savior to the world. This gives the idea of the ordinary people relating to the savior. The visitors at the door depict the ordinary people who needed to witness about Jesus Christ in order to understand and believe. Therefore, the painter displays a time period when the faith of people required reinforcement.