Monday 9/10/12 – Mona Lisa & Nighthawks

During Monday’s class, we discussed Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. While analyzing the Mona Lisa, we paid a good amount of attention to the background of the painting. Now, I’d seen the painting hundreds of times before, but I don’t think I’d ever really taken the time to really notice what was going on in the background. All I’d ever paid attention to was Mona Lisa herself, as she is the subject of the painting.  Admittedly, I’m no artist, and I’ve always known that it takes talent to be able to draw or paint something well, but at first glance, the Mona Lisa just seems so simple. However, after really looking at the background of the painting, I started to truly appreciate the masterful work Da Vinci did. It’s so intricate; it actually made me think. What’s back there? A few things were pointed out in class: there is a bridge on the right side and there is a forest along the river behind her. It seems like there may be an island behind her. But for all the intricacies and complexities of the background, Da Vinci seems to have left the foreground, Mona Lisa herself, rather simple. And in many ways, she is. Her clothing is dark, not a swirl of colors like the top half of the painting seems to be. Her hair seems neat and orderly. But the real intrigue of this painting, I think, is the expression she’s wearing. I can’t really tell what that expression is. Her mouth is slightly curved upwards, giving the impression of a smile. So is she amused? One might think so, but then after looking at her eyes, it becomes a mystery. She looks rather serious, if you cut off the bottom half of her face.

We moved on to Nighthawks after analyzing the Mona Lisa, and once again, we were greeted with a simple picture. But after thinking about it, there is even more mystery. Why is the street so empty? Who are these people and where are they coming from? Why is there one man sitting alone and are the man and woman who are together in a relationship or not? So many questions are raised right at the first glance. One thought I had about this painting had to do with the title – Nighthawks. If you look closely, you see that the man who is alone is seemingly staring at the “couple” who are sitting at the bar. Is he a nighthawk? Maybe the message Hopper was trying to get across was that at night, we are constantly being watched by “nighthawks.”

What I really took away from the class was that art can really make you think. Something may seem simple at first glance, but if you really take the time to truly analyze art, you may find complex things – things that provoke thought.


Mona Lisa and Nighthawks

In class on Monday we observed and discussed two paintings; the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci and Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. Nighthawks reached out to me in a peculiar way. At a glance it appears to be a snapshot of an ordinary diner or bar, but it tells a deeper story. It tells one of struggle, exhaustion, and loneliness, yet radiates  a sense of comfort and companionship in the lonely night. The painting is set in a dark deserted street with four characters. Each one has their obvious differences but also overwhelming similarities. They all seem strung out, particularly the man sitting alone and the bartender. The bartender appears to have been working for years behind that counter, and is used to spending time with lonely souls such the single man. They probably stopped in for a bite to eat and some coffee after a grueling day of work. The picture represents an American theme to me. That theme is the struggle of the working class to make a living in the city. The image shows these working class people taking an opportunity to relax, even at odd hours of the night. I believe the painting is titled “Nighthawks” because of the characters who are seizing the night, compared to a hawk that seizes its prey. Mona Lisa is a very interesting painting. I was never too impressed by it until this year, when we began to look deeper into art, beginning with our night at the museum, through Ways of Seeing, and in this class. It is a puzzling work of art to say the least. From the woman’s subtle facial expressions and piercing gaze, to the extravagant landscape in the background. The background is very appealing to me. It is a natural environment which appears to be a river surrounded by mountain ranges and a quarry. The woman’s eyes are the focal point of the picture which stare right back at you. It is the first thing you notice and I find it incredible in the way the artist captured such realism. The portrait holds a mysterious essence that is difficult to pinpoint, given its normality.

Stephanie Solanki, Seminar 9/10/12

Today in class we looked at the Mona Lisa. We actually gazed at the Mona Lisa and the background. We said in class how it looks like a desert, and a scary forest. I thought it looked like a mix of different landscapes, which adds to the fact that the painting is so dynamic and deep. Most people in the class saw different things, and very seldom were too opinions exactly alike. I think that is the allure of the class, that we can all experience art in New York but we all experience it in different ways. I think it’s interesting that the the background is so complex, yet I haven’t noticed it since before looking at it in class.

I think it’s interesting and very telling of the time period that Mona Lisa is painted with perfect skin, hair, and clothing. I think that maybe this woman was a patron of Da Vinci’s, so he was forced to idealize her. This also shows that the Renaissance woman was ideal and perfect.

It’s interesting that this painting is part of the “Big Three” most famous paintings. I like that it’s so simple at first glance, but one I start gazing at it I see so much more. I notice the oval patterns in the painting, and I now see a connection with the “Last Supper” in which Da Vinci painted many triangles.

This same principle applies with Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. I learned how to see patterns in paintings like the rectangles on the building in the back, and the rectangular shape of the diner itself. I now see the language of painting, that there are patterns and different ways of expressing an idea.

A connection I thought of between the two paintings is the use of light. The background in the “Mona Lisa” is darker than her face and skin, which is done on purpose to draw attention to the face. The same thing is done in “Nighthawks” with the woman in red, because the painting is done so that it seems that the lighting fixture is directly on top of her. It really works to grab attention and make that portion of the painting stand out more.

Seminar 9/10

Today, we took time to analyze the background of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and Hopper’s Nighthawk. Normally I do not analyze an entire painting. When I see a piece of artwork, my eyes skim the surface of it, and I move on. Today I learned that if you take time to look at a painting and analyze it, you begin to see many hidden meanings in the painting, and it becomes more complex. I also learned that when you look at a painting closely, you can also create a story from a painting.
So today it was interesting to look at art in a different way. I saw that in both of the paintings, there are many levels of complexity, and it is up to us as the viewers, to try and put ourselves in the mind of the artist and figure out different aspects of the painting. Some of these aspects are easy to decipher, while others are more difficult. For example, a simple aspect of Da Vinci’s work would be the river in the background. The river was painted there to bring the viewer’s attention to Mona Lisa’s eyes. When you look at her eyes, you find a more complex aspect of Da Vinci’s work to decipher because her eyes convey many different expressions.
In Hopper’s work, there are fewer complexes than Da Vinci’s work, and you can create more of a story from this work. The different emotions that you get from each of the people in the work, allows you to create a story out of it. For example, you get a sense of loneliness from the man that is separated from the rest of the people. Hopper sort of painted him into the darkness of the background, so he has a depressed feeling about him as well. Maybe he lost his job. Maybe he had a fight with his wife. Who knows? The story of the man is left open and for us to decide. The second man, and the bartender, seem to be deeply immersed in conversation and could be conversing about an important topic, since the painting was made in 1942, it could something about the war that is going on. We don’t know for sure, but that is the interesting part in analyzing an artwork like this, and the artist keeps us guessing.

Monday September 10, 2012 – Mona Lisa & Nighthawk

After reading “Ways of Seeing,” by John Berger, my entire outlook of the world around me was altered significantly. Not only did my immediate perception about the way I analyze and interpret different things change; but also, more importantly the way I saw my future and all it encompasses was drastically modified. For example, in our Monday class, we interpreted the Mona Lisaby Leonardo Da Vinci. At first glance, it seemed to me as if the subject painted and the background contrasted greatly. This is because the colors and shades used didn’t exactly flow coherently with one another. However, I quickly began to look at the particular painting as a whole, instead of critiquing minuscule fragments of the artwork.  Therefore, there is deceptiveness when comparing the complexity and simplicity in both the person and the background because they do embody characteristics of being plain as well as being quite arduous to fully comprehend. The focal point in this piece of work is her eyes, which divides the background. It left me quite puzzled as to what occupies the space next to her left shoulder. Personally, I perceive it as a miniature cliff of some kind and the river flows around it connecting the line back to her eyes. By doing this, it makes the subject’s eyes even feel more central. It’s ironic how the background of the painting is as mysterious as the person herself. The audience is quite befuddled when asked the question if she is smirking, frowning, or even smiling. However, something clearly that I noticed was the common geometric shape which happened to be an oval. For example, her body, her eyes, her hand shape, and even the shapes below the bridge all epitomize an oval.  Akin to all magnificent works of art, music, and dance a formula must be followed and once the foundation is laid, imagination must take over, expanding one’s horizon. The Mona Lisa is a clear-cut example in which at first glance, it seems quite prosaic and dull; but when I delved deeper into it, I formulated various conclusions, assumptions, and contrasting ideas concerning the background and the subject painted.  The next artwork we looked at was Nighthawk by Edward Hopper. Contrasting greatly from the Mona Lisa, the overall geometric shape present was a rectangle. The idea of the difference between light and dark, I believe was the foundation for painting this piece of artwork. The reason I feel that way is because the light that was beaming on the middle-aged woman made her look quite unappealing and clownish due to the heavy eye makeup and bright red lipstick. This tells me, as the interpreter, that maybe the artist wanted to assign a negative light on women during this time. Clearly, the men portrayed represent a positive persona, in which they are conversing with each other and epitomize a mysterious side to them. All in all, after reading Mr. Berger’s book, the way I see and think is like never before. I begin to make connections I never thought of before, which definitely will benefit me later on in life.

Seminar Class 09/10/12

Yesterday’s seminar class was spent discussing two famous paintings. The first painting that the class analyzed was The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. The Mona Lisa probably the most known painting in art history. Almost anyone could look at the painting and automatically distinguish which one it is. I was always a fan of The Mona Lisa and yesterday’s class helped me realize and analyze the true beauty of the full painting. When I  used to look a the painting I never payed any attention to the background of the painting. To be honest, I never even knew there was a background to the painting. When the class discussed the background of the picture, we all noticed that there were two different types of scenery. The background towards the top of the painting included a river and forestry while the background towards the bottom of the page seemed almost desert-like as if a wildfire had occurred. We also discussed the complexity of her facial expression. Her eyes look very serious while she has a slight smirk on her face as well. Her eyes, however, are the true focal point of the painting and are usually the first things a person looks at while viewing this famous painting. As a result of analyzing both the woman and the background, the class agreed that the background is just as mysterious as the subject.

We also looked at the painting Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. This painting was created in 1942 and seemed as if it took place in a bar in New York City. It shows three regular customers and the man who works behind the bar. There is one man alone while the other is sitting with the only woman as if they were a couple. Unlike The Mona Lisa, Nighthawks is easily identified as an American painting. Just by looking at the style of clothing and the decor of the bar, many can people can tell that this painting is based off of American culture. In reality, this painting symbolizes the typical American trying to achieve the American dream. The people in the painting seem to be at the bar late at night after a long day of work and providing for their family.

Even though i enjoyed discussing both of these paintings, my favorite of the two was The Mona Lisa. Analyzing this painting in class truly opened my eyes to the full meaning of the painting. Before this class, I always thought of this painting to be simple. Now I realize that it is very complex ad difficult to analyze.

Mona Lisa and NightHawks

Due to all the math and science I have to sit through in college, schoolwork tends to be monotonous at times.  However, there are two classes that I really look forward to, one being “Intro to Film.”  This class is longer than any other class I have but it never feels that way.  The lectures are interesting and the professor is young and socially connected with her students.  The second class is “The Arts of New York,” simply because it never feels like the typical college class.

The most recent class was about the way people see art, literally and metaphorically.  We started off with the Mona Lisa, Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece.  There were many interesting thoughts thrown around about the painting, especially about the background of the painting.  I never noticed until then that the background consisted of a river, a desert and even a bridge.  The fact that I never even thought about the background shows how much I have to improve the way I examine art.

Speaking of the Mona Lisa, I did have one thought about the painting I did not get to share. I always thought the Mona Lisa seemed as though she saw the viewer do something embarrassing. It may be a bit too comical, but the Mona Lisa’s face looked as if she caught the viewer do something wrong and only she and the viewer knew what it is.

The second work of art was Edward Hopper’s, Nighthawks.  This work brought out many opinions from the class but I never felt like the class nor I captured the essence of the piece.  Professor Kahan’s brief explanation of the art seemed the most accurate, especially her part about the war.  The art did seem as a depiction of a night during World War II.  The work had an irksome quality to it, specifically the depressing feeling an individual might experience when thinking of a war.  When I think of a war I am calm like the setting in the artwork, but my thoughts are as glum as the painting’s darkness.

I am eager to experience the next theme of the class, and I would not mind it being the same as the one we just had.  If I can, I would like to recommend the artworks of Salvador Dali.  His art is all over my house and his work is extremely complex and entertaining.

Mona Lisa & Nighthawks

Yesterday’s discussion of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” and Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” showed me the basic principle of all art forms. As different as both paintings may be, both painters were very detailed in their layout of the scene. Before it was brought to the attention of the class, I never even paid attention to the background of the Mona Lisa but this painting has a lot more to offer than the pretty woman in the very center. But after looking at the intense detail, I found myself understanding the true complexity of Mona Lisa. I felt that the background was used to highlight the impact this woman made on Italian society when and where Leonardo painted this piece. The background was calm and rough, bright and dark, bright and gloomy. The contrast in this ambiguity shows that Mona was found attractive because of the fact that nobody could clearly read her. At first look, she might just be a beautiful woman. But after analyzing her presence, the viewers might find that there is more to her than just her physical beauty. She’s ever so present in the painting but not really as seen through her eyes. They look like they’re telling a story and while she may be so present in the painting, her story is not known because nobody can ever tell what she thinking even if her gaze seems to intense. That too shows a contrast. Her pleasant expression seems soft but the intensity in her eyes makes her anything but soft. Leonardo made her eyes and face the focal point of the painting to get the viewers attention on purpose. He wants us to read us more closely and understand her complexity in comparison to her background.

Similarly, “Nighthawks” didn’t seem to tell much of a story at first. But the use of the various colors shows that the contrast from dark to bright is a way of bringing attention to the character’s stories. The bright dark color of the woman’s dress automatically brings attention to her, making it obvious that it’s not normal for her to be there in that bar at that time just like it’s not normal to wear a dress that color with a lipstick that color. Without knowing much about the background of the painter or his true purpose, I assumed that she was troubled because of the fieriness in the painting. The darkness shows that it is night and for someone to be out that late, adds more to my speculation of her role in society. The men also seemed troubled but in contrast to the woman. The clothing is darker and almost blends in to the night. Either way, the small number of people in the bar and their odd appearance, made me think their role in society was flawed and troubled. I’m not quite sure if my analysis is right but I created a fitting story out of the details laid out by the painting and I think that’s the sole purpose of paintings.

I was able to gather these educated assumptions with my classmates without the background knowledge which showed me that the background of paintings might not be so important when trying to understand the depth of the meaning. Before this thorough analysis, I would’ve never understood how much there is behind every painting. This was definitely different than my prior visits to paintings in which I would simply take a glance and not think much about the painting other than its physical appeal. But while I still might not be so fond of analyzing paintings, I definitely gained an appreciation for the emphasis the painters placed on details and the significance of each and every painting to these creators.

Seminar Class- Wednesday Sept 10, 2012

The Mona Lisa, one of the world’s most famous paintings, is also one of the most ambiguous. Scholars have tried for years to attempt to decipher the hidden meanings and mysteries behind this masterpiece.

I am very intrigued by this painting. I am a big mystery fan, so this is right up my alley. Some of the aspects that have been debated over the years are the background, the subject’s eyes and her mouth. I have often wondered what she was looking at while da Vinci was painting her portrait.

In addition to being one of the world’s most renowned artists, da Vinci was also a man of science, with a great curiosity of the natural world. Due to his background in the sciences and the human body, he was able to integrate some of his knowledge into creating illusions in his art.

I feel that this picture was created to make the viewer stop and ponder the painting. da Vinci made the piece visually appealing, yet multi-layered. On the surface, it can appear to be a women having her portrait painted, yet most people overlook da Vinvi’s odd choice of  background along with his choice of facial features and expression.

Like the Mona Lisa, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks is also a very familiar painting. I can not tell you how many times I have seen the painting Nighthawks before, not even realizing how famous the painting really was. I have seen this print all over thinking that it was a movie reference or advertisement, not realizing that it is a very famous work!

Today’s media producers do a great job of integrating old works into today’s culture. The painting is so famous that it has been parodied by various outlets including “The Simpsons,” “Seinfeld,” “The Fairly Odd Parents,” and “The New Yorker,” amongst many, many others.

Hopper, like da Vinci, leaves questions in the observers mind. Where is the diner’s entrance? Why are the walls so bare? What can the diners be thinking about? Many have even wondered and tried to find if that corner diner truly exists.

Mona Lisa & Night Hawks

Today in class, we analyzed Leonardo Da Vinci’s timeless piece known as the “Mona Lisa” in a perspective that I have never seen before.  Honestly, I loved it! Before this class, every time I looked at the Mona Lisa, I only saw her eyes. Now, I pay attention to the background of the painting. I try to make sense of the mysterious scenery and where it might be taking place. While many people in class find the background calm and peaceful, I actually find it violent. I feel as though the ground looks scorched as from a fire. It looks like a warzone. The small stream seems to be leading into the huge sea. Separating the two bodies of water, I see a rough terrain, like a scorched island.  On the left  side of the painting, there are mountains. The mountains have a pathway going through them, maybe a part of the steady stream of water. Overall, it’s a barren, rough terrain. She seems like she’s content with her life. As though there have been some rough times, but now she’s gotten through it all. She appears to be satisfied with her life, but not completely happy. The background is as mysterious as the subject, because nothing is known about either elements. After careful consideration, it also was obvious that the painting is drawn around imperfect ovals. The dullness of her outfit was contrasted by the diverse background.

After going through the “Mona Lisa” in such detail, I began to see art in a different perspective. Basically all of our opinions are correct, they simply express how we feel about the painting based on our understanding of life.

Next we looked at the iconic portrait known as “Night Hawks”. The painting showed a woman and three men. While the third man seemed completely indifferent to what was going on at all in the bar (or so it seemed), the other three figures seemed to be interacting in some way. The man and woman looked like they were a couple. The third man, who seemed like a hard working employee, was just listening and interacting with these frequent customers. The two characters sitting together seemed to be powerful figures in their town, whereas the other man just seemed indifferent. He just blended in with the room itself.