Blog Post 7

Expressionism, Fauvism, & Early 20th Century.

Marc Chagall (1887-1985).

Only love interests me, and I am only in contact with things that revolve around love.

Marc Chagall had first hand experience of the simple life growing up in a small provincial city in Russia with his traditional Jewish family and leaving for France before the First World War. He incorporated his childhood memories of village scenes in Russia with modern experiments even after moving to Paris and created modern works of expressionism and cubism. In 1910, he went to study art in Paris and was influenced by the poets and painters and developed his own emotional and poetic form of art. He claimed that his “homeland exists only in my soul” and incorporated Jewish themes and life in Russia into his abstract Parisian scenes.


“I and the Village” (1911), oil on canvas

“I and the Village”, one of Chagall’s early works, depicts cubism and fauvism through the use of strong colour and inaccurate representation of colour or size. He overlaps whimsical images in a cubist method which creates a soft and playful depiction of the Russian countryside which he grew up on. Through abstraction he integrates Eastern European folklore and Yiddish culture through the story of a cow dreaming of a milk maid and a man and woman working in the fields.


“Bella with White Collar”, 1917, oil on canvas

Chagall’s first wife, Bella, is depicted in the image above, which stands out as a sort of love letter to his wife. She is shown standing above a vibrant landscape with a much smaller Chagall and their young daughter, Ida, at the very bottom. The expressive composition is similar to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary which could further express Chagall’s complete love and adoration for his wife Bella.


 “Green Violinist”, 1923-1924, oil on canvas

Chagall’s connection to his childhood roots in the Russian countryside and his devotion to his Jewish heritage is shown in “Green Violinist” which was completed in Paris after his return from his homeland. The green violinist, believed to be prophet Elijah due to Chagall’s continuous references to the Hebrew Bible, is shown to be the support of this community by extending him from the rooftops and depicting him in communion with God through his rhythmic stance and violin. Geometric shapes stemming from the rooftops connect to the violinist’s pants and clothing.









In his last 30 years, Chagall mastered the art of stained glass and even designed windows for the Cathedral of Metz in France and the synagogue of the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem. He worked in set and costume design for the Paris Opera and the New York Metropolitan Opera. His abstract, expressive and cubist art was extremely personal which I admire. His work is layered with stories and personal meaning, whether from the Bible, his childhood, or his love for his wife. His nostalgic pieces, especially ones regarding his homeland, feel melancholic and bittersweet to me since he was evidently happy in France but was still devoted to Russia and his Jewish heritage. The pieces of his wife really captivate me because I sense his immense love for his wife, Bella; the unfortunate early passing of Bella makes Chagall’s work very bittersweet to me and although his work is generally whimsical, the pieces he created after her death are an ode to her existence. Personally, I admire the symbolism and story he is telling more than the physical art itself, but I do admire how his style beautifully compliments his outlook on life.




Gombrich, E.H.. The Story of Art. New York: Phaidon Press Inc, 1995.–1914)

Space and the commies (Survey 8: 1915-1925)


Charlestons and communists: science

Cecilia Payne at Harvard.

Cecilia Payne born on May 10, 1900 in England had an arduous path to becoming a prolific scientist in a male dominated field. In 1925, she became the first person to have a PhD in astronomy from Radcliffe College. Her thesis during her doctoral degree in astronomy called “Stellar Atmospheres, A Contribution to the Observational Study of High Temperature in the Reversing Layers of Stars” included calculations on chemical elements from stellar spectra. She used the ionization theory, developed by Indian physicist Meghnad Saha, to relate spectral classes of stars with their temperatures, meaning stars could be classified by their temperatures found. Meghnad Saha’s work from 1920 explained the thermal ionization of atoms by using an equilibrium equation that explained many properties of the stellar atmosphere which Payne had referred to in her thesis and studies. Through her studies, she supported the common belief that the Sun’s spectrum consisted of silicon, carbon, and common metals which was the same amount found on Earth. However, she discovered that helium and especially hydrogen were much more abundant, and that hydrogen was the most abundant element in the universe. Unlike Earth, hydrogen and helium are dominant elements of the sun and stars. However, since her thesis went against accepted wisdom of their time, astronomer Henry Norris Russell convinced her from including this discovery in her thesis but found out 4 years later that she was correct.

Physicist Doctor Meghnad Saha who developed the ionization theory
astronomer Henry Norris Russell who is often credited for the conclusions Payne reached in his publication

After her doctorate Payne studied stars to understand the structure of the Milky Way and produced a second book, “Stars of High Luminosity”, in 1930. This book consisted of over 3 million observations done by her and her assistants of variable stars. Payne-Gaposchkin, after marrying Sergei Gaposchkin, spent her whole career at Harvard. She worked without an official position and thus considered leaving due to the low recognition and in 1938 she was given “astronomer” as her title. In 1956, after Donald Menzel become the Director of the Harvard College Observatory in 1954, Payne-Gaposchkin became the first woman to become a professor in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard and later became the first woman to become department head at Harvard.

Harvard College Observatory








Blog post 6

Impressionism & post-impressionism.

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947).

Pierre Bonnard was known to be one of the founder members of the post-impressionistic group, “the Nabis”, in which they abandoned three dimensional modelling. Born in France his work was appreciated early on during his career especially his talent in capturing “fleeting poses”; his first show was at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in 1896. Bonnard was personally an ‘intimist’ since he was more interested in the daily tasks of a simple life and many of these art works include his wife Marthe de Meligny. In general, he was interested in intense colour palettes by building up small brush strokes on these areas. He was more concerned with capturing the essence of a moment through memory rather than accurately portraying it thus giving his work a dream-like quality; his work was not quite accurate to reality yet was immersive and charming. He preferred to work on multiple pieces at the same time in his studio. Personally I admire work that is “narrative” through simple storytelling, whether that be a woman sitting alone in a cafe or everyday people in the street. His use of soft colour palettes and strokes add a tenderness, similar to Bonnard’s personality.

“The Letter” (c.1906), oil on canvas
“Woman Dozing on a Bed”, c. 1899


“Nude in the Bath”, c. 1925


“Self Portrait with a Beard”, c. 1925


“Man and Woman”, c. 1900



resources and photo resources:

The giant pot of peacock feathers and ornate furniture (Survey 5: 1850-1895)


Painters and posters: culture

In North America, industrial America was the hub of cultures mixing together through immigration and assimilation of people looking for new economic opportunities to support themselves and their families. Immigration hugely consisted of Europeans from Germany, Ireland, Britain, Italy, Poland, and other Slavic-speaking countries.

Urban culture consisted of minstrel shows which consisted of dances, skits, and songs that were originally based on stereotypes and racism and were popular even among the immigrant population; they primarily mocked people of African descent and included people dressing up in black face. Vaudeville, originating from the Parisian boulevard theatre, was another form of entertainment that consisted of many acts such as burlesque-styled dances and comedy, juggling acts, and magic shows and were popular in beer halls. Varying from raucous to elaborate they later became more respectable and family oriented. World fairs were starting to be held in cities to showcase their cultural and technological achievements, an example being The World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, known as the railroad center, in 1893 which undermined the Indigenous and celebrated Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World in 1492.

Shows consisted of about 10-12 acts including dancing, singing, juggling, magic shows, and comedy skits
A “Hurly Burly” extravaganza.











Advertisement of racist minstrel show with white actors and their black characters

Immigration not only brought new cultures, customs, and traditions, but also new tensions. Immigration was sometimes viewed as a problem by native-born Americans and the anti-immigrant attitude was stemmed from racist or ethno-centric attitudes. The Roman Catholic Church played a confusing role for Catholics by wanting to preserve the values of old country yet aiding in assimilation in America. For example, in North America bishops pushed for standardization by unifying the catechism, an introduction to the teachings of the Catholic Church, and control. Many native-born Americans however failed to notice that immigrants were assimilating and attempting to be a part of the broad ‘American culture’ and were an essential part of the working class.

Jewish market in the Upper East Side of New York, N.Y.

In order to combat this ‘threat’ of new cultures by immigration the upper class in society pushed for ‘high culture’ by combining art, classical literature, social sciences, and philosophical ideas and ideas of government based on western Europe. This was spread through museums, libraries, and universities. Opera, orchestral music, and theatre such as Shakespeare was moved from a casual vaudeville-setting into the stage where only the elite and educated could have the experience; opera houses, halls and nuseus alike were built and sustained by private patrons. This helped American cities transform into centres of high art and therefore become culturally distinct through the perceived threat of new immigrants.

The Metropolitan Opera House on Broadway in New York





“Colonization of the Americas” (Survey 3 blue design spread)


For my comparative design spread this week I wanted to embody how the Europeans set out to other corners of the world. I used a map template to not only create a sense of ‘adventure’ during this age of enlightenment but also help indicate where the Indigenous where inhabiting during the voyages of Christopher Columbus and Jacques Cartier and the settlement of Europeans. I kept the map simple as to not take away from the information but added enough details such as a compass, mountains, water ripples, and a tanned background to create an old look from the 16th century. This helped make make my spread engaging and appropriate to the assigned time period.

I highlighted the locations where the voyagers and settlers arrived in the colour red and also coloured the sails of the ships the same colour to help add a connection.

I’ve also placed central America and the Caribbean on one side of the spread because it made more sense and had a better flow and balance as opposed to just connecting North America, central America, and the Caribbean as one in the middle of my spread which would probably make it look awkward and illogical.

In general, I tried to clearly indicate where European settlers and voyagers arrived and explain how the Indigenous of these areas were overall effected.


I would give myself an 8 out of 10. I could improve by making the map more colourful and dynamic and making the text look less “boring” or plain, however, I believe I’ve communicated what I wanted to in an interesting and engaging way through a map.


Blog Post 5

Realism, Pre-Impressionism, & Pre-Raphaelites.

Winslow Homer (1836-1910). 

Homer began his journey into art with the encouragement of his mother, an amateur watercolour artist. During the American Civil War Homer captured everyday camp life during the battles unlike many who dealt with scenes of battle (fig.1 ). During the summer months he would travel away from his New York Studio and bask in nature where he would camp, hunt, and happily sketch. While his watercolour work had given him some recognition (fig. 2), his career began to kick-off when his central theme became the sea. In 1883, he returned to America with a new intensity in his art after a two year visit to Cullercoats, a remote fishing port in England, where he spent his time depicting the daily lives of women and the wives of the fishermen (figures 3 and 4). He spent most of his time in his studio in Prouts Neck after moving to the coast of Maine to seek absolute solitude. In a famous piece called Fog Warning, Homer portrays a  lone fisherman in the middle of the sea making his way back to his ship, and beautifully captures the eeriness and sense of urgency and vulnerability of the man. His later works were inspired by the struggle of people against the forces of the sea and nature (fig. 5); he then primarily focussed on the strength and beauty of the sea itself, rather than the lives of the seamen and women. His rough and textured brush work gives a sense of danger and action and brings his seascapes to life. Not only do I admire his textured brushwork and the contrast of his waves but also how he went from portraying conventional and poised women to strong willed and resilient women.

fig.1: Prisoners from the Front (c. 1866). Painting depicts real life Union officer who captured several Confederate officers on June 21, 1864
fig. 2: watercolour, “On the Stile”, c. 1878


fig. 3: “Watching the Breakers”, c. 1891
fig. 4: “A Fresh Breeze”, c. 1881







fig. 5: “The Fog Warning”, c. 1885. One of his most famous paintings.


fig. 6: “The Gulf Stream”, c. 1899, oil on canvas. Painted in Prouts Neck, Maine, after one of his visits to the Bahamas.



Gombrich, E.H.. The Story of Art. New York: Phaidon Press Inc, 1995.


picture references:

Blog post 4

Neoclassicism, Romanticism, & Rococo.

Thomas Gainsborough. 

The well-known rival of  Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, was talented in rendering textures and surfaces and was the leading portrait painter in England during their time. He grew up in the countryside in Suffolk and trained in London, then moved to Bath in 1759, where he attracted many clients for his portraits that had rich tones and feathery brushwork. He was known to be “self made” and unlike Reynolds, didn’t go to Italy to study under the great masters and didn’t go by rules and theories of tradition. His style consisted of straight-forward and somewhat rough brush strokes, similar to Frans Hals, which added a spark to his work, however, his work also remained refined and delicate. Gainsborough didn’t beat around the bush in his work and captured the grace and charm of his subjects. In his work, “Miss Haverfield”, Gainsborough enamours us by bringing life into his subject’s simple yet graceful movement of tying her bow against a fluid landscape background (fig. 1). However, in his letters it’s also revealed that he didn’t beat around the bush about the fact that he didn’t like being commissioned for portraitures, and instead preferred landscapes and rustic scenes, specifically those set in the countryside (fig. 2). Unfortunately, he didn’t get as much commissions or buyers for his landscape work, his landscape work would usually just be sketches of composed landscapes that captured a mood. Personally, although Gainsborough has a certain feel in his rough brushwork that is similar to Frans Hals, I still prefer how Hals added a sense of lighthearted humour into many of his pieces and fleshed out each of his subjects. I still admire Gainsborogh’s ability to capture the essence and fluidity of his subjects, such as the portrait of his daughters (fig. 5) chasing a butterfly. His work isn’t too rigid and binding but at the same time also has a delicate, lifelike detail which makes it warm and personal.

fig. 1: “Miss Elizabeth Haverfield”, c. 1782


fig. 2: “Landscape in Suffolk”, c. 1748


fig. 3: “Blue Boy”, c 1770. This is Gainsborough’s first attempt at full length “Van Dyck dress” (known to be a homage to Van Dyck and his portrait of King Charles I as a child c. 1637)


fig. 4: Mr. and Mrs. Andrews (c.1750), known for its charm and freshness. What is unique is that it’s not only a double portrait, but also a landscape painting.


fig. 5: The Painter’s Daughters Chasing a Butterfly (c.1756), captured the swift movement and fleeting moment of his two daughters


Gombrich, E.H.. The Story of Art. New York: Phaidon Press Inc, 1995.


picture references:

Romance is in the air, along with pollution (Survey 4: 1750-1850)

Lecture summary.

As humanists emerged into society,  the Age of Enlightenment began and romance began to blossom. Many new inventions, most importantly the steam engine which was improved by James Watt in 1769, made life easier and enabled more time for people to have time and money to read. As the number of literate people increased, printing technology had to keep up with their demands. Lithography, or planographic printing, was invented in 1796 by Alois Senefelder which used stone printing and small incisions. Using wax pencil to illustrate on the stone, acid was used to dissolve everything around and create an image and text, most popular being maps. To keep up with demand and avoid expensive ways of printing “jobbing printers” were invented; this resulted in misused   and overused typefaces resulting in disorganized posters. Typefaces such as fat-face, slab-serif, and sans-serif were jumbled together in an attempt to capture their audience. In our discussion it was mentioned how although the tools for making posters were available, it didn’t mean they were used correctly, similar to how even though photoshop is available today not everyone knows how to use it to it’s potential.



Steam and the speed of light: fashion

Fashion was making its breakthrough around the world. From France to Japan to India, globalization and trade spread trends and goods to opposite ends of the world. The Muslim dynasty in India brought in Mughal influence which consisted of intricate patterns and extravagant jewelry that beautifully complimented their interest in poetry and art.

Luxurious fabrics were primarily made of muslin, silk, velvet, and brocade. Muslin, named after the city Mosul in Iraq, was a versatile cotton fabric that ranged from sheer to coarse; it was eventually imported into Europe from Bengal in the 17th century. Ab-e-rawan, daft hawa, and shabnam were common types of muslin poetically named after “running water”, “woven air”, and “evening dew” respectively due to their delicate nature. Elaborate patterns consisted of dots, checks, waves, and intricate embroidery done in silver and gold thread. The fabrics were dyed bright using long lasting natural dyes such as carmine, which is derived from the scale insect called cochineal.

Woman adorned in jewelry, wearing fine muslin from Bengali region in 18th century, painted by Francesco Renaldi.


Gold-threaded floral pattern on silk.

Jewelry was an integral part of lifestyle among men and women, and even horses, and showcased their rank in society. Women would own varying pieces that would adorn themselves from head to toe such as 2-inch armlets that were worn above the elbows, bracelets or strings of pearls, rings, and anklets. Ornaments in the shape of suns, stars, flowers, and moons were worn in the middle of the forehead as well as nose ornaments.

The ghararais a traditional outfit originating from the north of India during the era of the Nawabs who were originally from Iran and ruled from the 18th to 19th centuries. The outfit, usually made from silk brocade, consists of a tunic reaching the mid-thigh, called a kurti, a veil, called a dupatta, and loose pants that are pleated at the knee to make the pants flare out. At the knee, there are intricate patterns embroidered in fine gold or silver thread called zari.

Silk brocade.


Traditional Gharara outfit worn by woman in Lucknow, India.


Gharara outfit worn by woman during her wedding. “Zari”, or elaborate embroidery in gold or silver thread along the knee, is shown.



Columbus is coming (Survey 3: 1450-1750 CE)

Lecture summary.

The 1500’s to 1700’s revolutionized the world by boosting exploration and unearthing scientific discoveries that would change the world forever. In 1514, for example, Nicolaus Copernicus boldly claimed that the sun and not the earth was the centre of our solar system. He published his heliocentric theory, the theory that the centre of the solar system is the sun,  called, “De revolutionibus orbium coelestium” or “On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres” in 1543. Unfortunately, this astronomy book was banned in 1616 by the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation of the Index  due to it questioning the teachings of Christianity where earth is the centre of the universe; on the other hand, the publication of this book is awarded to mark the beginning of the scientific revolution. It’s very interesting seeing how divided people such as scientists and the church were in regards to the answers of our universe. While both claimed that they were correct, scientists such as Galileo Galilei who is regarded as the “father of observational astronomy” and discovered that Jupiter has four moons, known as the Galilean moons, and Hans Lippershey, who invented the telescope in 1608, dauntingly testified against some teachings of the Vatican.



Block books and Baroque: geo-political

World exploration was on the rise in Europe and with new discoveries came globalization and colonization. The Indigenous of Canada and the Americas were greatly affected by the Europeans and their quest to take resources for their home land. Before colonization, it was common practice for Indigenous peoples to enslave captured people in war. War captives were killed, enslaved or adopted ritually into their kin; males were usually enslaved or exorcised by means of torture whereas females were usually enslaved. Formally adopting war captives was a means of replacing those lost in battles and keeping integrating new kin. The mindset of many Indigenous was usually kin versus outsiders or other clans. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy (Iroquois), for example, consisted of sixty percent war captives that were integrated into their lineage in the 1660s. However, as the age of exploration dawned during the 1400s and the 1500s, Indigenous were captured, killed, and torn apart from their culture and families.

Family council being held regarding important matters.


The Spanish, most knowingly Christopher Columbus, captured and shipped the Indigenous of present-day South and Central America to Spain to gain political clout in 1493. This helped fuel the slave trade by the Spanish in which their settlement in the New World was fueled by the forced labour of many Native Caribbean people during Columbus’ four voyages and caused the spread of disease and death among many of the Indigenous.

The four voyages of Christopher Columbus.
A depiction of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Bahamian Islands, not in Asia as he initially intended.


Jacques Cartier, a navigator from France also called the “founder of Canada”, led three expeditions to the Canadian maritime and into Québec while accurately mapping the interior of the St. Lawrence River. His first voyage consisted of reaching the provinces that’re known now as Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. He also encountered Iroquois-speaking Indigenous in today’s Québec, the Haudenosaunee, in which they had contact and negotiated resulting in two of the chief Donnacona’s sons being brought to France as well as abducting several Indigenous in 1534. The second voyage, from 1535 to 1536, consisted of more men and ships and with the guidance of Donnacona’s sons they travelled the “Canada River”, later named the St. Lawrence River, to what is now Québec City. Although relationships were weak between the Indigenous and French, they survived the scurvy during the winter by the help of the Indigenous and their use of evergreen trees. Come spring, Cartier abducted Chief Donnacona himself, his two sons and sever other Haudenosaunee people and brought them to France in 1536, where they all died. Among the Indigenous, war broke out between the Haudenosaunee and the allies of the French; Iroquois clan leaders captured enemies to be adopted into their clan as replacement for those lost in battles. By the 1660s, about sixty percent of the Haudenosaunee consisted of adopted war captives.

A romanticized portrayal of Indigenous and French contact.



Early History

“Fighting for Justice on the Coast”,  John Price, University of Victoria

Blog post 3: Baroque

Frans Hals

Frans Hals, considered “the first outstanding master of free Holland”, knew how to capture the sprit and life of an occasion and translate it into his portraits without making it look “staged” and “stiff”. For example, in his portrait of merchant Pieter van den Broecke (Fig. 2), Hals perfectly captured his liveliness and sense of adventure by making the portrait asymmetrical. Achieving balance without symmetry was unique to many artists in the Baroque period, and Hals used this as well as using light and “fleeting” brush stokes to make his portrait look more like a snapshot than a posed portraiture. Although the head is slightly tilted and oriented more towards the left, the arm which sticks out and rests on his hip as well as his hand which reaches out to balance on his cane bring a sense of effortless balance since they’re oriented towards the right side of the canvas. Personally, I greatly admire how Frans Hals fleshed out the personalities of the people in his work; I feel intrigued and somewhat connected to these people through their smiles and casual poses.


Fig. 1: “Buffoon Playing a Lute” from 1623.


Fig. 2: “Pieter van den Broecke” c. 1633


Fig. 3: “Malle Babbe” or “Hille Bobbe” depicts a laughing “mythical witch” from 1635


Fig. 4: “The Banquet of the Officers of the St George Militia Company” in 1616 depicts each man with his own characteristic portrait.


Fig. 5: “Gypsy Girl” 1628-1630. Depicts Hals’ visible brushstrokes giving his work an effortless and somewhat rough feel.







Gombrich, E.H.. The Story of Art. New York: Phaidon Press Inc, 1995.