Art is a powerful thing, with the power to tell a story, to teach, to create new experiences and memories, to preserve ancient cultures, the list could go on forever. Sometimes it’s almost as if art is a living breathing thing,able to tell us secrets of history and the news of today. Jacques-Louis David captured the emotions and culture surrounding the French Revolution. Take one look at his The Death of Marat and it brings the stuffy history from textbooks to life despite the subject of the painting. And his is just one example of excellent art work that improves our understanding of times past. The painting Flaming June by Frederic Leighton makes the Victorian era more relatable, and Caravaggio’s powerful pieces makes it easy to understand how the Catholic Church held so much power in history. The stories art has to tell are fascinating, but the journey a certain piece of art has taken can be equally intriguing and eye-opening. The painting that conveys the victorian era so well, Flaming June, fell off the map in 1930 and wasn’t rediscovered until it was found in 1962 behind a secret panel in a house in London. A pivotal painting in art history that kick-started the Realism movement had a tragic ending when Dresden was bombed in 1945 and The Stone Breakers by Gustave Courbet was destroyed. Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer Ⅰ was taken from its home during World War Ⅱ and Adele’s niece’s legal battle for it back in the 1990’s is dramatized in The Woman of Gold. Another great example is the Hagia Sophia which was transformed to the Blue Mosque when the Turks sacked Constantinople in 1453, which shows architectural details from both cultures and is now a museum. Each piece of art has its own backstory, which adds a layer of intrigue past the physical appearance. As the old saying goes, information is power, and each piece of art contains so much information. It’s an amazing cultural and academic resource.
Written by: Brenna Lundahl
Flaming June, 1895. Frederic Leighton.
The Stone Breakers, 1849. Gustave Courbet
Hagia Sophia/ The Blue Mosque/ Ayasofya Museum
Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer Ⅰ, 1907. Gustav Klimt.