The Meaning of a Work of Art

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By nature, human beings seek to understand and to be understood. We are curious about life. We want to express our personal interpretation of the world around us, and we want to know the interpretation of others to discover how it compares to our own. Art begins with the creator. An artist is driven to express his or her unique perspective be it a musical score, a painting, a literary work, or any number of other forms. There is satisfaction in the mere act of creating, but the work is fulfilled when it strikes a chord in the being of another. Art is a means of relating one specific insight to others by way of emotion, intellect, and the senses. Art is communication, and its greatness can be determined by the impact it has on both the artists and those experiencing the work.

We first learn of the world through the use of our senses, so it is natural for us to express our innermost concepts as sensory images. Thomas Cole explains the sensory experience he conveys in his painting Kaaterskill Falls saying, “The waterfall may be called the voice of the landscape, for, unlike the rocks and woods which utter sounds as passive instruments played on by the element, the waterfall strikes its own chords, and rocks and mountains reecho in rich unison.” (Gaudio) The painting gives us a tangible visual image of his subjective interpretation. Not only does is have aesthetic appeal, the painting hints of the auditory experience.

Sound has a profound emotional affect on us. Music can conjure memories of our own experiences. It can also convey insight into the life of a composer. Beethoven lived a tumultuous life. At a young age, he experienced the death of his mother. His father then declined into alcoholism, and he struggled with the resp...

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... be a need for self expression and a desire to understand the perception of others. Whether it is a masterpiece or the simplicity of a mother nurturing a newborn babe, art is in the impact of the experience.

Works Cited

Forsythe, Alex, and Noel Sheehy. "Is it not beautiful?." Psychologist 24.7 (2011): 505.

Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 31 July 2011.

Gaudio, Michael. "At the Mouth of the Cave: Listening to Thomas Cole's Kaaterskill

Falls.” Art History 33.3 (2010): 457. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO.

Web. 31 July 2011.

Gopnik, Blake. "Buying Art You Can't Take Home." Newsweek 158.1 (2011): 75.

Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 31 July 2011.

Images Cited

Thomas Cole, Kaaterskill Falls, 1826. Oil on canvas, 64 × 92cm. Hartford, CT:

Georgia O'Keeffe, The Lawrence Tree, oil on canvas, 31 x 40 inches, 1929

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