Winckelmann Article

Winckelmann Article

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In this article Winckelmann states that the good taste in art that is present in contemporary works stems from the work of the ancient Greeks. The beauty in the modern works of artists like Raphael (especially his Madonna and child with St Sixtus and St Barbara) hold such beauty, complexity of emotion, and good taste because he draws on the ideas set up by the great ancient sculptures and society in which they lived and drew inspiration from. Winckelmann categorizes the ancients greatness into two main ideas that are necessary for contemporaries to draw from in order to reach greatness: Natural beauty and noble simplicity and quiet grandeur.
     Winckelmann like Vasari dealt greatly with the artistic problems concerning representation and imitation of nature including the need for the human beauty in a figure. However he also was interested in art criticism based in historical timelines and causes for the change and evolution of modern art. This greatly seen in this article not only in his thesis that great contemporary art is based in antiquity but also in his explanation for why the Greek art was so well done and why it has risen back into the hands of modern art. First, Greek work came back to contemporary society greatly by the monarch led by Titus who brought authentic work from Greek masters for his artists to learn from and imitate. He also discusses the correlation between the bodies, like that of the Theseus model, with the Greek lifestyle they lived based heavily on training for the Olympic games and the resemblance of youth’s bodies to godlike figures. Great masters of contemporary work use these same bodily model and ideal of beauty in their work. Winckelmann states that their present good taste is due to the fact that they, “partook of good taste at its source.” Overall the Greeks set up rules of art that could be imitated to capture nature and its ideal form of beauty, an idea that many sought to accomplish.
     The Greek’s images also possessed two important ideas that brought the soul of the artist and subject to the surface while still capturing the passion and action of the movement and story: noble simplicity and quiet grandeur. Greek images contained faces that were full of expression but were also balanced because they were not overcome by pain or passion because they still had nobility of soul which creates a sense of tranquility even in the midst of rage, fervor, or desire.

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He also notes the importance of the artists strength of spirit seen in the figure. Without this balance parenthyrsos occurs which creates a sense of confusion and business in the piece which takes away from the impact. Also, the obsession with contrapposto detracts from the work. If these two Greek ideals are used in contemporary work, like Raphael’s Madonna, the soul of the piece will never die no matter how much the color may fade.
     Winckelmann briefly discusses Greek painting but finds that there is not a good enough sampling alive to really see what the Greeks had to offer in this field. He blames this on a historical cause once again for destroying much of the work that existed. The existing pieces are very mediocre not displaying previous rules found in sculpture. Yet, he believes that because these ideas were in place there must have been painting that possessed such qualities. Finally he does give credit to modern Dutch oil painters for illuminating nature better with their color and also to modern work for their higher expertise in landscape and forms of animal species. Overall this article gives a good sense of Winckelmann’s style of art criticism in his strong sense of the importance of history on the evolution of contemporary art.
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