Art- A Tool

Pic courtesy- David Pisnoy

Art is a tool to comment on geography, politics, religion, economics, demographics and culture.  If it had not been for landscape artists like Vincent Van Gogh (Wheatfield with Crows 1890) or Monet (Water Lily Pond 1900), the world might have missed the haunting beauty of this scenery. Johannes Vermeer’s View of Delft (1661) is a realistic image of the artist’s birthplace, and framed the era for posterity. Forest (circa 1902-1904) by Paul Cezanne represents a wooded area and View of Toledo (circa 1596-1600) by El Greco is known to be one of the best paintings of the skies, thus capturing forever, the beauty of nature, for those too preoccupied with routine to notice it.

    Diego Rivera’s Man at the Crossroads (1934) is a controversial piece of art-it contained images of Lenin and a Soviet Russian May Day Parade- that created a furore at the Rockefeller Center, New York. Despite protests from other artists, Nelson Rockefeller ordered its destruction before it was completed. Max Ernst’s Europe after the Rain (1940-1942) is a dystopian depiction of post war trauma and Picasso’s Massacre in Korea (1951) is a statement against American forces in North Korea. It may be Norman Rockwell’s The Problem We All Live With (1964) which marks the ugly truth about racism or a poster- Guerilla Girls,1989, do women have to be naked to get into the Met Musuem?-which catches our attention, but unarguably so, artists tend to rouse the self absorbed public.

       Artists have also been able to capture the mystic mystery surrounding the life and times of Jesus Christ. A visit to Da Vinci’s The Last Supper (1498) has to be pre booked, and only 30 people at a time are permitted to view it for a period of 15 minutes. The Adoration of the Shepherds by El Groco(1612-1614) The Immaculate Conception by Murillo (late 17th century to early 18th century) and L’Innocence (1893) by Bouguereau are only a few examples of the various devout scenes portrayed by artists. The vast body of work pertaining to religion-all over the world, and especially Indian and Buddhist art- clearly illustrates the piety of those times.

       Art has also influenced economics in an unexpected fashion. In 1978 Robert Hughes, of Time magazine, declared that “The price of a work of art is an index of pure, irrational desire,” and curator Robert Storr of New York’s Museum of Modern Art declared that artistic success “is completely unquantifiable.” Today, a masterpiece can sell for millions of dollars (the Mona Lisa was valued at 620 million dollars in 2016); making it clear that artists can forge a very stable union with economics, once they are established.

        As far as demographics and culture are concerned, there are innumerable artists from every corner of the world, recreating their part of the globe for the world to view. To name some: Ilya Repin and Evginia Antipova from Russia,  Raja Ravi Varma and Amrita Shergill from India, Francisco Toledo and Frida Kahlo from Mexico, Hokusai and Takashi Murukami from Japan and so on. Although, the idea that art can influence society is a matter of personal opinion, I prefer to see art as a tool; it may not altogether change our environment, but it can certainly voice our grievances and enhance our experiences.

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