As my artist's statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance. -- Calvin and Hobbes

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

#2 Byzantine Rhino; 31 days of Rhinos

How can I blame the genius of Michelangelo's Statue of David on the Byzantine period?
Read and find out!

#2 Byzantine Rhino (or "Jesus Rhino" as one reader suggested!)
Media: Acrylic and ink on Canvas

Where would art be without Religion? Well, even if you're not religious, it would be difficult to deny religion as an influence on art. In this case, Christianity, as iconic depictions in painted, sculpted or mosaic form were heavily sought after in medieval times. Although this rhino bears little likeness to the mosaic that I mostly ripped off today, Christ in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, you can clearly see if you look past it's otherworldly face, that the standards of the day are included. Such details as draping fabric, which they were able to paint pretty well back then, so they included it in EVERYTHING! The flat appearance of some of the clothing details in juxtaposition to the only slightly more 3 dimensional appearance of the still flat-ish face and "hoof"! And, of course the cross bearing halo behind the Rhino's head suggesting his holy stature.

You can pretty much blame Constantine for the massive Christian art movement, as he was quite fond of art and even created a big artistic centre in Constantinople, which supported art in many forms, including statuary, one of his favorite mediums! He had a statue of himself made, too. Maybe he commissioned the rest of them so his would not be alone. You never know!

Even Homer's books were illustrated in byzantine art..would be cool to see what those paintings must have looked like! With much of the period art destroyed, we are left with the earliest surviving remnants of Byzantine art in other cities like Rome and Istanbul to provide us with insight into that period.

Why is it called Byzantine Art instead of Constantinopolitan Art? (...too hard to say the latter?)
Byzantine art is the term commonly used to describe the artistic products of the Byzantine Empire from about the 4th century until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.
[*Just as the Byzantine empire represented the political continuation of the Roman Empire, Byzantine art developed out of the art of the Roman empire, which was itself profoundly influenced by ancient Greek art. Byzantine art never lost sight of this classical heritage. The Byzantine capital, Constantinople, was adorned with a large number of classical sculptures[1], although they eventually became an object of some puzzlement for its inhabitants.[2] And indeed, the art produced during the Byzantine empire, although marked by periodic revivals of a classical aesthetic, was above all marked by the development of a new aesthetic.
The most salient feature of this new aesthetic was its “abstract,” or anti-naturalistic character. If classical art was marked by the attempt to create representations that mimicked reality as closely as possible, Byzantine art seems to have abandoned this attempt in favor of a more symbolic approach." *excerpt from Wikipedia, which may hold some errors!]
Among the most popular luxury substrates, Ivory and silver plate were a fond choice for carving and embossing. Mosaics were among the most important art forms representing this period.

Along the way, as rulers changed hands, the depiction of people in paintings at one point became illegal because they didn't want to incite any excitement from the people. (Dark times, friends). But, they too passed and paved the way for more great iconoclasm-ism!
Certain artistic traditions that originated in the Byzantine Empire, particularly in regard to icon painting and church architecture, are maintained in Greece, Bulgaria, Russia and other Eastern Orthodox countries to the present day.
Byzantine associations with Italian art and culture slowly brought changes to the Byzantine art forms and the Italian influences of landscapes and their more fluid interpretive approach lead artists to slowly leave their mosaics behind and pick up their paint brushes! By the same token, Byzantine architecture influenced western Europe, so it was a win win situation! Many artists of the late Byzantine period migrated to Italy at the beginning of the Renaissance, and the revival of Greek and Roman studies could be attributed to this emigration (you know, Michelangelo's David???? Good one!!)
Byzantine culture continued happily (or not) for about 800 years until Constantinople fell to the Turks and the Ottoman Empire. From there, we had lots of places to rest our feet and look at the artwork! (BAH HA HA HA....but, that's another story.
Just remember, you can thank the Byzantine period for one of the most important foundations of art in history (and the Statue of David, maybe!)

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