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Vanderlyn, Sargent and O’Keeffe: Analysis of a Group of Paintings Essay

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The products of arts cannot be perceived as self-sufficient entities occurring by themselves. In that matter, the artists is a product in itself, being developed under certain influences, which are dictated by many factors. These factors can be seen through the historical periods, the impact of other artists, surroundings, cultural settings and others. Accordingly, all of the aforementioned can create a context for the art product to be created as it is. This paper analyzes the statement that art is a product of context, according to three works of art, which are “Ariadne Asleep on the Island of Naxos” (1809-1814)by John Vanderlyn, “Madame X (1884) by John Singer Sargent, and Inside “Red Canna” (1919) by Georgia O’Keeffe.

The main point of context’s influence can be seen through belonging to specific style or art movement. In that regard, Vanderlyn was a neoclassicist, and in that regard, being taught at neoclassical painter Francois-André Vincent (“John Vanderlyn”), it can be assumed that he was influenced by his work. Accordingly, Sargent and O’Keeffe, not being distinguished by the prevalence of a certain style, were also influenced during their career, where in the case of O’Keeffe, it was Arthur Wesley Dow, while the influence on Sargent included Carolus-Duran (“John Singer Sargent; Arthur Wesley Dow and American Arts & Crafts”).

In that regard, it can be seen that the influence of each style, movement or artists has a distinguishable mark on the works of the aforementioned artist. In the picture of Ariadne, the main influence was in the selection of nudes theme, starting with copies of works of classical artists, such as Correggio’s Antiope and Leda and the Swan by Correggio, Ariadne was an original composition of a classicized female nude (“John Vanderlyn”).

The influence of Arthur Wesley Dow, who developed a personal style distinguished by “simplification of colorful forms that read as flat shapes on the two-dimensional surface” (“Arthur Wesley Dow and American Arts & Crafts”). In that regard, analyzing the context of Dow’s influence, it can be seen that “Inside Red Canna” is a typical representative of his developed style, i.e. simple, colorful flat shapes on a flat surface. The fact that putting the quoted description of Dow’s style as a caption under O’Keeffe’s “Inside Red Canna” will not change the way the painting is perceived, is a perfect example of Dow’s influence.

Sargent studied in Paris under the guidance of Carolus-Duran, the influence of which can be seen through excerpts of his teaching method such as “The model was posed… always in full light, without shadow effect, and against a strongly-coloured background”; ”seek first of all for absolute truth of tone and colour, and getting this truth in the simplest and most obvious way” (Gurney). In that regard, Madame X is an obvious example of such method, where the pale tone of the model’s skin was the basis of the drawing, no shadow effect, and against a strong shadow background.

Accordingly, the differences between the aforementioned paintings can be seen in that Sargent’s and Vanderlyn works, unlike O’Keeffe’s caused many controversies at the time, through the way they depicted nudity. In that regard, the fact that Madame X was a real character, rather than the mythological character of Ariadne, the level of controversy was higher in Sargent’s case, which led to him leaving Paris.

It can be seen that art works is similar to a chain of influences, in which slight alterations lead to the occurrence of new styles and new directions in arts. In that regard, an artist can be compared to a sponge, absorbing different styles, and then creating one reflecting his own. The works and the artists analyzed in this paper are an example of such comparison.

Works Cited

. 2000. TFAOI.com. Traditional Fine Art Online, Inc.

“John Singer Sargent”. 2009. John Singer Sargent. n.p. Web.

. 2009. Worcester Art Museum. Worcester Art Museum.

Gurney, James. . 2009. Gurney Journey Blogspot.com.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Vanderlyn, Sargent and O’Keeffe: Analysis of a Group of Paintings." December 1, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/vanderlyn-sargent-and-okeeffe-analysis-of-a-group-of-paintings/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Vanderlyn, Sargent and O’Keeffe: Analysis of a Group of Paintings'. 1 December.

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