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The Importance of Analysis of an Artwork’s Context Essay

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Updated: Aug 27th, 2022

Art historians ask numerous questions when analyzing artworks. For example, they are interested in who, when, and why created an item, what is the materials, price, and an authors purpose. However, in the academic community, there are debates whether all of the questions mentioned above are equally important. The present essay discusses the question of who looked at an artwork. The paper presents arguments in favor of the significance of this question and against it.

The major reason that justifies the importance of analysis of an artworks context and understanding who looks or looked at it is that the purpose of art per se is to be seen by the audience. When people are looking at an artistic creation, they have the same mental and emotional reactions as when they are reading books and watching films (Ahmed 104). However, the point is that every book and film has its specific target audience, and the book that was written for middle-aged women is will not be interesting for school-aged boys and girls. Besides, Afshari argues that the audience is one of the “one of the three vertices of artwork triangle,” and the other two vertices are the artist and the artwork (201). Furthermore, paintings and sculptures are created by people and for the people, and, hence, the aspect of the audience could hardly be ignored (Afatara 59). The major idea behind the argument in favor of the role of audience and context is that comprehension of who was expected to look at an artwork is a key to understand its authors message.

At the same time, one might argue that art historians could easily interpret a work without thinking of its audience, context, and form of presentation. From this perspective, art historians should be concerned with the examination of the materials, techniques, style, and message without paying too much attention to the audience. For instance, art historians are concerned with the issues of why ancient people painted at the walls of caves, why they painted these or those objects, and with what materials these paintings were created. However, it is possible to reveal the purpose of the paintings without thinking of their audience.

The same could be said about other prominent artworks. More precisely, the analysis of the audience of Raphaels fresco in the Papal Palace in the Vatican is not as significant as the analysis of these frescos subject, techniques, time, and style. Additionally, when art historians and ordinary people look at the picture of the Mona Lisa created by Leonardo da Vinci, they think of who this lady was, why da Vinci depicted her, and why her smile is so remarkable. In comparison to other factors, the issue of who looked at this painting is not that informative and meaningful.

To conclude, even though it is possible to develop arguments why the audience and context of an artwork are not crucial for art historians, it still seems more reasonable to claim that this aspect cannot be completely ignored. What is more, since every single masterpiece of art is unique, for some of them, the topic of the audience might be more critical than for other ones. Therefore, it becomes apparent that the extent of the significance of the question on the audience might vary, but it should never be excluded from the analysis of an artwork.

Works Cited

Afatara, Narsen. “The creation of contemporary artwork.” Proceedings of the Third International Conference of Arts, Language and Culture, 279, pp. 59-64, 2019.

Afshari, Morteza. “Artwork Interpretations in Old and Contemporary Epic Iranian Miniatures.” Journal of History Culture and Art Research, 8(2), pp. 201-208, 2019.

Ahmed, Salah Uddin. “Interaction and interactivity: in the context of digital interactive art installation.” International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction. Springer, 2018.

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