Picturing Picasso’s Aesthetic

Woman with a Book Pablo Picasso 1932

When I was visiting Los Angeles, I had the pleasure of seeing a collection of art consisting of the pieces of many renowned artists. I was particularly drawn to the creations of Picasso, and I believe this particular painting, Woman with a Book, represents Schiller’s aesthetic experience especially well. Picasso was one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, famous for greatly influencing the art movement known as Cubism. Cubism consisted of analyzing natural forms and reducing them into basic geometric parts. Picasso had an eclectic attitude to style, and while his pieces normally focused on one dominant approach, he often moved interchangeably between different art styles, such as Surrealism, throughout the course of his career. The woman of his focus, depicted in soft, disproportional shapes, and with an unnatural assortment of colors, provokes a feeling of melancholy, with her pensive gaze, open book, and head resting heavily on one hand. The head casts a prominent shadow on the back wall, making one who looks at this painting feel a sense of desolation. The expression on the woman’s face, along with the mostly cool palette, indicate serious and deep reflection. The emotions produced when one looks at this painting additionally inspire an intellectual response. When one looks at the strokes and the thickness of lines Picasso utilizes, one can visualize what his intentions of the painting were, and thus gain greater insight to his work of art. Thus, paintings are a great method of merging the sensual and intellectual in order to create Schiller’s aesthetic experience. Additionally, this painting can help us to be morally better. As an artist, Picasso is an example of committing to an absolute: loving an absolute quality of his subjects and sharing them through different styles of painting. When we view works of art such as this, we can appreciate Picasso’s commitment, and we can apply that commitment into our everyday lives, becoming inspired to follow a set of morals or standards to keep yourself accountable. Thus, Woman with a Book is a perfect example of Schiller’s aesthetic experience, blending the intellectual and sensual and inspiring individuals to become morally better.

She is beauty; she is grace

This famous photograph was taken by Dorothea Lange during the Great Depression period. I thought this caption this week’s theme as it appeals to both the sensual and the intellectual. When I first saw this photo, I was both in awe of the photo’s beauty but it also ignited sadness in me because of the look on the woman’s face. It appeals to the sensual due to the emotion it provokes in the viewer. But it also triggers the intellectual because one begins to wonder why the woman is so sad, if the people on her shoulders are her children, or what she is thinking.

This photo shows how we should live morally in that it ignites sympathy in the audience. It motivates us to want to treat others with respect and help other human beings in need.

Survival of the Traitorous

Fat Mouse, Pawel Kuczynski, 2013

This painting perfectly communicates the idea Schiller was getting at in On the Aesthetic Education of Man. The cat attacking the mouse appears to be a common occurrence. However, there is also a well-fed and well-dressed mouse sitting on top of the cat, dangling the other mouse in front of the cat’s face. Replacing the animals with people, the real monster appears to be the mouse who sacrificed the other one, not the cat itself, which is expected to attack the prey that’s being dangled in front of it. Without any words, we can see the artist’s communication of the idea that in order to get ahead, people would sacrifice others that they have a lot in common with, because they care only about themselves.

This merges the sensual, how we visually see the cat and the two mice, and the intellectual, how we perceive all of them in relation to one another. The fact that this image makes us feel disgust toward the happy mouse sacrificing the other one molds our conscience: we are more conscious of our own actions and not using others, to their detriment, for our benefit. We realize that cooperation and kindness are most important, not being on the top at the expense of others. The artist intends to make us reflect on our actions and this in itself makes us better morally.

Why CARE-avaggio About Art?

Caravaggio’s Narcissus

Narcissus’ famed tale, as realized through Caravaggio, shows a harmony between the sensual and intellectual due to his masterful artistry. In consideration of its complexity, Caravaggio’s Narcissus will be addressed through two details which which reflect the reconciliation of sense and intellect: the stark, visual difference between Narcissus and his reflection, as well as Narcissus’ posturing over the pond which yields his reflection. In uncovering the significance behind these features, the audience would enjoy the artwork from a perspective marked by a more complex understanding of the warnings the artwork purports. That is, the danger in excessive self-love.

In assessing the difference between Narcissus and his reflection, it is first important to note the similarity between them: the pool does offer a mirror to Narcissus, and thus both figures are inherently similar. However, it is in this similitude through which the contrast between them is enhanced. Narcissus himself is painted with the pederastic, aesthetic standards of Greek mythology: he has a supple build, ivory skin, and feminine features as seen through his hair. In essence, Narcissus fulfills the beauty expectations of his time, and he executes these while maintaining a vibrancy to him. In stark contrast, his reflection is dimmer, with certain features becoming swallowed up by the water’s darkness. In noticing this, there is a contrast that can be extrapolated which exists within the same person: despite Narcissus’ lively, outer appearance, in reality he is a somber, pitiful being due to his self-obsession. Our senses allow us to see the contrast between Narcissus and his reflection: our knowledge of the myth allow us to know that this artwork attempts to visualize the tragic end of excessive self-love. In specific, this ‘end’ is the inevitable demise of becoming too pre-occupied by oneself: Narcissus does indeed die due to his narcissism.

In observing Narcissus’ physical positioning, one will see that his posturing might be abnormal. When enamored by one’s own reflection, one might visualize a narcissist simply laying bellow-down, cradling their head in their hands as they dreamily watch their own reflection. This however, is not the case in Caravaggio’s work: Narcissus is hunched over, kneeling, and with hands, flat on the ground, supporting a frame weighed down by egotism. By using one’s intellect to interpret the art in this way, one might see that Narcissus is in fact not enjoying his pulchritude: he is slaving over it. Narcissus’ act of adoring himself then stops becoming a romantic daydream, but a perilous trap that is equal parts alluring and consuming. This idea of self-love as an exhausting, self-destructive force then becomes a message that rises from the artwork. From this potential conclusion, it becomes easy to understand how art, by merging the sensual and intellectual, can yield insights into how one ought to live, how one ought to behave morally.

2 Different Worlds on the Same Planet

In general, most people believe that we should explore more outside of this planet to places like Mars, Jupiter, etc. However, the ocean often goes under looked when we realize that we haven’t fully explored all of it and it covers the majority of our own planet. When we take a look at this picture, we can see the two contrasting worlds just separated by the surface of the water. On the top, we have the industrialized, modern world while below the surface, we have the natural, wild and free ecosystem of marine life. Schiller argues that this beauty is it’s own authority in the sense that mankind’s ideals can not affect or corrupt it’s ideal. When we begin to admire what the art displays, it demonstrates its sensual experience of observing the contrast between both worlds. Then we begin combine that beauty with our intellectual sense as mankind and make judgement where we can question and challenge art and man’s ideals. This composes the aesthetic experience when we have a free play between our sensual and intellectual experiences.

Our aesthetic experience of learning about the distinction between the industrialized and natural world integrated with our intellect can “ameliorate” the fractured state between the contrasting ideals that each experience teaches us. We can begin to be morally better when we understand both worlds and respect the differences to preserve the beauties that both worlds exclusively have from the aesthetic experience we undergo when viewing this art piece.