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A Peep into what goes into the Evaluation of Art

By Karan Jain 5 years ago 445 Views No comments

Evaluation of art is not a child's play; it needs a lot of knowledge of the subject, an observant eye and enough expertise to differentiate between the works of an amateur or a professional artist. It is not as simple as passing a judgment that you merely like or dislike a particular painting. There is a tremendous difference between an expressionist portrait and true-to-life portrait of a realistic portrait painter. This is where the role of a professional evaluator comes into the picture of pin-pointing (citing an example) why an expressionist painter is not focusing on visual objectivity, like any other realist portrait artist would.

As art forms are considered as the beauty of the brain, therefore, a whole lot of analytical activity is involved in assessing art (1) Knowledge of context of work. (2) What is the type/genre of painting? (3) What is the background and circumstances of the artist?

Knowledge of context of work

If we compare time-periods, we observe that in 1860s, before photography became popular, landscapes were slightly raw in appearance, and collapsible tin paint tubes were used to make a painting. Therefore, artists faced some difficulty in painting their thoughts, especially when compared to the artists belonging to the 1841 era. In addition to this, painters who made oil paintings before Renaissance used an expensive natural blue pigment called 'Ultramarine' that was made from grinding a mineral called Lapis Lazuli, but post Renaissance, painters could not afford the luxury of this raw material.

On delving deeper, there are some types of paintings that are composed on the basis of certain traditional rules and subject matter. This is applicable to Christian themes, like those of Renaissance and Baroque paintings, and religious art that contains holy figures obeying compositional rules. Some pieces of art belonging to the past, like the Portrait of Innocent X by Velazquez, were modeled by Francis Bacon's Screaming Pope; such paintings need critical and careful evaluation which only a thorough professional can manage.

What is the type or genre of the painting?

In 1669, the four famous European Academies, the Academy of Art in Rome, the Parisian Academie des Beaux-Arts, the Academy of Art in Florence, and the Royal Academy in London, ranked the various genres as per the criteria laid down by Professor Andre Felibien, who was the Secretary to the French Academy.

The genres were ranked in this order: (1) History Painting (2) Portraiture (3) Genre Painting (4) Landscape Painting (5) Still Life. This order pointed out the moral impact of each genre, as experts opined that historical pictures, portraits or genre paintings could represent moral messages more effectively than a still life or a landscape would.

Besides this, a painting can be sub-divided into four more categories: wholly abstract, organically abstract, semi-abstract and representational. Here, wholly abstract has no resemblance to natural shapes or forms and can be entirely non-objective art. The organically abstract ones have a likeness with natural organic forms, while semi-abstract paintings have figures and objects that are quite noticeable and the representational works deliver figurative and instantly recognizable content.

In addition to the above mentioned five kinds, we have some other pieces of art like marine and religious paintings, cityscapes, miniatures, murals, icons, and altarpieces. Additionally, illuminations, illustrations, caricatures, animal pictures, cartoons, poster art, graffiti etc are master pieces in their own right.

Therefore, information and knowledge of all these kinds of art is certainly essential for a professional evaluator, as just half-baked knowledge fails to deliver perfect results.

What was the background and circumstances of the artist?

Background information of a painter can influence the assessment radically, for e.g. the age at which the painter painted a particular painting also needs special consideration. Over a period of time, artists improve, incorporate new techniques and even reflect their mentor's influence or mind-set in their work. Apart from that, some artists create masterpieces by the time they get into their 40's, just like Raphael (1483-1520), Caravaggio (1571-1610), Isaac Levitan (1860-1900), Jan Vermeer (1632-75), and Jackson Pollock (1912-56); while some pass away without attaining recognition.

Over and above this, the level of difficulty in which the painting was made must also be analyzed before judging a piece of art. Not many know that Michelangelo had painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, an enormous area of 12,000 sq ft on wobbly scaffolding while trying to balance tremendously without any aid, for almost 4 years from 1508-1512. This masterpiece of Christian art was not created in the comforts of a studio; rather, it was made under unusual circumstances and took a pretty long period of time to complete.

Last word….

All these factors: genre, context of paintings, backgrounds and circumstances of an artist cannot be overlooked at any cost. These factors might seem insignificant and typecast to a layman, but to an evaluator they can prove to be essential tools in appreciating and assessing valuable work of art, as he is the master who unravels the story behind each painting…. before forming an opinion.