Contextual Studies 1: Introduction

1.The importance of fine art in wider visual culture:

Piet Mondrian:

Piet Mondrian was a Dutch painter, born in the Netherlands in March 1872.  He studied painting at Amsterdam Academy and all his early painting’s were of landscapes that accentuated windmills, fields, and rivers as he was painting what was around him at the time in the surrounding landscapes of Amsterdam.

In 1911, Mondrian moved to Paris were he was influenced by the ‘Cubist Style’ of Picasso and Braque. Evolving from Picassos painting in the style with bright colours and angular polygons and triangles, to Braque’s abstract pieces, also with bright colours, it is easy to see the association to how Mondrian’s art work is influenced in such an aesthetically pleasing manner.

In 1914 he then moved back to the Netherlands until 1919. During this time he met artist Bart Van Der Leck who was also a Dutch painter and used only primary colours in his paintings. After meeting each other they founded the ‘De Stijl’ art movement, along with Theo Van Doesburg an artist who was the main founder, also from the Netherlands who was influenced by the work Vincent Van Gough and Piet Mondrian.

After the first world war he decided to return to Paris and this is were he developed his grid-style abstract paintings and his work flourished.

Later spending two years in London developing his new technique, using paper and tape to create black horizontal and vertical lines and painted the rectangles with colour. He restricted his painting to three primary colours which is named ‘Neo-plasticism’.

Mondrian then made his eventual journey to New York, Manhattan were he became more colourful with his approach, also creating coloured lines.

New York City I- Peit Mondrian, 1942

New York City I- Peit Mondrian, 1942

2. Things to consider when looking at art:

When analysing an artist’s work it is important to firstly form an analysis, then look for interpretation, style and context to finally form a judgement. The analytical process can be broken down into the four main areas and other elements of consideration.

There are four main areas to consider;

  • Scale–  how big is it, how tall, how wide, get close.
  • Colour– bright, dim, look at the use of colour in detail.
  • Texture– how does it feel, what material is it on, how is it made, imperfections.
  • Place- where is it, how is it positioned on display.

Other elements to consider are;

  • Structure- similar to texture but more concerned with construction.
  • Composition- the positioning of the elements within the piece.
  • Dynamics– does it move? If so, how? Why?
  • Context– does it match its surroundings? what is its natural environment?
  • Form– similar to scale but based on shape such as curviness, and angularity.
  • Space– how does it fill the scene? Is it hollow? is it solid?

All these elements can be combined to form a subjective analysis or opinion on any art work. I will try to implement this method further in my studies, and when evaluating any artist’s work.

Aesthetics describes a set of principles relating to appreciation of beauty or taste. Within fine arts, and photography it captures the viewers visual senses and is a judgement of their perception that creates emotion of aesthetic value.

In photography, aesthetically pleasing images can be defined by composition, lines, depth of field, space, contrast, balance, movement, focus and sharpness etc. of the viewed image provoking a response.

Research has found that looking masterpieces such as as a Constable, Botticelli or Turner can give you the same pleasure as being in love.  Professor Semir Zeki scanned the brains of volunteers as they looked at pictures scientifically proving that looking at artwork provokes a feel good chemical called Dopamine to be released bringing an intense feeling of pleasure, such as falling in love. (The Telegraph).


References:, Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Cambridge Dictonaries Online and





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