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Purposes of Art: An Introduction to the History and Appreciation of Art

by Albert Elsen

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1281215,981 (4.17)1
Purposes of Art: An Introduction to the History and Appreciation of Art was written by art historian Albert Edward Elsen. This work delves into the visual arts such as painting, drawing and sculpting. In Purposes of Art the author has opted not to simplify the discussion in order to attract a larger audience. Rather, Elsen's work is intended for those with a keen interest in art history and who thus have a base of knowledge in the subject matter. The book is not organized chronologically, as many books of art history are, but rather thematically. Each theme contains an examination of a number of different works, often from very different time periods. Examples of themes discussed include images of Gods, heaven and earth in fifteenth-century Italian art, images of authority, nature, and many more. Some chapters are narrower in their focus, including several detailing the work of a single artist, such as Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Picasso. Black and white photos are reproduced as part of the text, and have generally maintained a reasonable level of quality. Albert Edward Elsen is a knowledgeable and passionate art historian, and this work demonstrates the depth of his expertise. The writing is concise yet illuminating. The thematic approach to the subject matter is appropriate and makes this an eminently readable volume. Purposes of Art: An Introduction to the History and Appreciation of Art is a well crafted overview of art history. Elsen's work does not break new ground, however it is an accomplished treatise of the subject matter. Readers interested in the appreciation of art will certainly find this book to be a worthwhile addition to their library. About the Publisher Forgotten Books publishes hundreds of thousands of rare and classic books. Find more at www.forgottenbooks.com This book is a reproduction of an important historical work. Forgotten Books uses state-of-the-art technology to digitally reconstruct the work, preserving the original format whilst repairing imperfections present in the aged copy. In rare cases, an imperfection in the original, such as a blemish or missing page, may be replicated in our edition. We do, however, repair the vast majority of imperfections successfully; any imperfections that remain are intentionally left to preserve the state of such historical works.… (more)
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The Preface modestly explains that the "Purposes of Art" was conceived as an alternative to the linear, chronological history of art, and art appreciation books that dissect works of art into "elements," reducing unified expressions into piecemeal exposures. Consequently, this book is not structured chronologically. Art's history is presented as a mosaic of both themes and chronological evolution. Each work of art is treated as an integrated whole of meaning and form, set within the various historical and topical contexts. These works illustrate the book's essential premise: The great purpose of art has been to assist individuals in mastering their environments and liberating themselves. "Thus, art takes its place along with science in the civilizing of humanity."

Readers will find this work useful for evaluating the uses to which Art has been placed in service of Authority and Religion, as well as aesthetics.
With Index (which does not include DaVinci...).

Gems:

Gothic Cathedral: "The master builder's rich inventiveness with three-dimensional form and the various adjustments, alterations, and additions he made beyond a concern for structural necessity have occasioned
the opinion that in the Gothic cathedral it is function which follows form." [82]

The Le Corbusier Chapel at Ronchamp: "Unlike the reception accorded many other modern churches, the chapel at Ronchamp has been well received by pilgrims and by those living in the area. It continues to function
successfully as a religious structure. Le Corbusier has produced one of few modern religious structures that has the dignity, power, and beauty which bear comparison with the best of the past. He is a rare reminder that a modern architect, drawing from his own inspired imagination, can meaningfully symbolize the Virgin as well as the dynamo. In his own words, "I have worked for what men today most need: silence and peace."
Le Corbusier was not a believer or a Catholic [83], but he understood the essentials of Religion at its best.

"Christ is the only god who has the book as one of his principal artistic attributes, and in some respects, Christianity is itself a book-oriented religion". [87]

Medieval art. "Beauty was equated with God." [88]

Illuminated Manuscripts: "The key to understanding the reverence
accorded the medieval illuminated Bible lies in the meaning of the phrase "the Word." The Gospel of St. John begins thus: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The words of
the Bible were therefore sacred, and it was the task of the artist,when commissioned by royalty, to "clothe" the word in the richest and finest
manner of which he was capable. Many manuscripts contained gold or silver writing on purple-dyed parchment. In a German book written at the end of the tenth century are the words, "May the Lord clothe your heart with this book." The precious nature of the materials and the care lavished on the book were in a real sense gifts to God from the faithful."[88] For the medieval public, "the book was Christ". [89]

Between the 2d and 4th centuries, vellum (lambskin) gradually replaced the more expensive and less durable papyrus. With the book form ("codex"), the scribe/artist was offered an almost framed picture "page" to elaborate as desired. Both sides could be worked without flaking, as happened with scrolls.

Scrolls were used for reading--essentially a hearing experience. The book became both aural and visual. The authors include an example of an Odyssey Roll of the 3rd century BC. The vellum illuminated codex became a sustained imaginative development. [90] By the 12th century, an enormous quantity of illuminated books was produced in Europe. [90]
"The historical worth and intrinsic beauty of the medieval manuscript are insufficiently recognized by the general public today." [87] Brilliant detailed explorations of the influential "Mouth of Hell" [Psalm 102, Fig 120] in the Utrecht Psalter, and the Golden Codex of Echternach ["among the finest story-tellers in the history of art" 98-99] produced by monks during the Ottonian Empire of the 11th century Germans.

So much more. The mouse-trap on the table in the Campin "Joseph in His Carpetry Shop" [Figure 130, p 105]. The cloak held in the teeth of the man lowering Christ in Ruben's "Descent from the Cross" [Plate 19]. ( )
  keylawk | Aug 30, 2015 |
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Purposes of Art: An Introduction to the History and Appreciation of Art was written by art historian Albert Edward Elsen. This work delves into the visual arts such as painting, drawing and sculpting. In Purposes of Art the author has opted not to simplify the discussion in order to attract a larger audience. Rather, Elsen's work is intended for those with a keen interest in art history and who thus have a base of knowledge in the subject matter. The book is not organized chronologically, as many books of art history are, but rather thematically. Each theme contains an examination of a number of different works, often from very different time periods. Examples of themes discussed include images of Gods, heaven and earth in fifteenth-century Italian art, images of authority, nature, and many more. Some chapters are narrower in their focus, including several detailing the work of a single artist, such as Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Picasso. Black and white photos are reproduced as part of the text, and have generally maintained a reasonable level of quality. Albert Edward Elsen is a knowledgeable and passionate art historian, and this work demonstrates the depth of his expertise. The writing is concise yet illuminating. The thematic approach to the subject matter is appropriate and makes this an eminently readable volume. Purposes of Art: An Introduction to the History and Appreciation of Art is a well crafted overview of art history. Elsen's work does not break new ground, however it is an accomplished treatise of the subject matter. Readers interested in the appreciation of art will certainly find this book to be a worthwhile addition to their library. About the Publisher Forgotten Books publishes hundreds of thousands of rare and classic books. Find more at www.forgottenbooks.com This book is a reproduction of an important historical work. Forgotten Books uses state-of-the-art technology to digitally reconstruct the work, preserving the original format whilst repairing imperfections present in the aged copy. In rare cases, an imperfection in the original, such as a blemish or missing page, may be replicated in our edition. We do, however, repair the vast majority of imperfections successfully; any imperfections that remain are intentionally left to preserve the state of such historical works.

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