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During the six or seven hundred years of the western tradition of naturalism in art - and sometines in antiquity and in the orient - many artists have set out to unlearn traditional ways of - and seeing and to represent objects with such precision that the reproduction will seen to be the reality itself. Yet when we look back on these attempts to find an "innocent eye" we see the artist's own tradition influencing his vision, even when he is most determined to escape fron it. Aaron Scharf, Professor of Art History at the Open University, discusses this thesis in a programme illustrated by works of art fron Giotto to Constable; from primitive cave paintings to Victorian portraits and from Japanese drawings to advertisements of the early twentieth century. He refers to the work of Professor Rudolf Arnhein and Ernst Gombrich and discusses the implications, for art history, of the findings of modern psychology in the field of perception.
Metadata describing this Open University video programme
Module code and title: A100, Humanities: a foundation course
Item code: A100; 11
First transmission date: 24-03-1971
Published: 1971
Rights Statement:
Restrictions on use:
Duration: 00:23:55
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Producer: Alasdair Clayre
Contributors: David Mace; Robin McGee; Robert Mill; Aaron Scharf
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): Painting; Perception; Psychology; Realism; 'Rorschach test'
Footage description: Shot of Van Eyck's "Wedding". Scharf discusses the effect of tradition on the artist. Does the artist depict what he really sees or only what he thinks he ought to see? Shots of paintings by Giotto, Masaccio, Raphael, Velaquez, Le Nain, Manet are shown to point out that the artist is bound by the conventions of his trade, in creating his illusions of reality. Scharf introduces concepts from psychology projection, expectancy, mental set. He takes up "projection" and discusses the Rorschach test. Several distorted shots of a young girl are shown to demonstrate that people see things as they ought to be. Some of the paintings of Courbet and Hokusai are examined. Both called themselves realists yet these paintings are quite different. Shots of paintings of fruit by both painters illustrates the point. Shots of several, other paintings by these two artists. Scharf suggests that they could not help being influenced by their contemporaries and the artistic tradition of their cultures. Scharf shows a spatial perception puzzle (Pear's 19th century picture-puzzle). Shots of painting by Ben Nicholson which shows a 3 dimensional effect. Scharf uses these to show that things are seen as we think they ought to be rather than as they are and that without sufficient they cannot be made out at all. A. Scharf examines John Constable's philosophy of art. He discusses Constable's techniques. Shots of cloud studies by Constable. Shot of Constable's Hampstead Heath. Shot of Constable's Uedliam. Shots of paintings by Elsheimer and Lorraine, shown to illustrate the stylistic genealogy of which Constable was a part. Scharf discusses Durer's woodcut of a rhinoceros (1515) as an example of stylistic influence in art over a long period of time. Shot of Durer's woodcut. Durer's influence is shown in a series of illustrations of rhinoceri over a period of 200 years. Shots of rhinoceri by other artists. Can the artist ever achieve a truthful representation of nature?. Scharf shows several examples of paintings that were thought, in their time, to have achieved this. Shots of paintings by Giotto, Masaccio, Raphael together with commentary by Scharf. Scharl takes up Oscar Wilde's ideas on art as expressed, in Wilde's essay "The decay of lying". Shot of Oscar Wilde. Shot of Dante Gabriel Rosetti's painting of a woman. A quotation from Wilde's essay accompanies the shot of the painting.
Master spool number: 6LT/10058
Production number: 00520_1311
Videofinder number: 2369
Available to public: no