Support “everyword” Today

My friends, Sarah and Josh Sabey, are working on an exciting project. It’s called “everyword.” They’re such a fun couple and have some really great insights and ideas. Sarah and Josh are an LDS couple to create the first crowdsourced interfaith study of the Bible.


“Sarah & Josh Sabey holding an original Tyndale Bible—courtesy of Reid Moon”

Here’s a video they’ve made:

The tagline of the project is “Nothing breaks down barriers, fills in trenches, or curbs animosity so well as working side by side towards a common goal.” I believe that 100%. This project will help to bring new perspectives and create greater unity among those who believe in a higher power.

Here’s a description of the project from their website:

This project attempts to increase interfaith interaction and cohesion by creating a crowdsourced study Bible. The website works like this: users are able to annotate the scriptures with their own insights, interpretations, as well as videos, music, books, or other relevant resources. These annotations will be publicly visible, and any registered member may then use them to enhance their own study. Results may be filtered by religion, author, medium, and so on.

By crowdsourcing Biblical commentary, everyword seeks to bring people of diverse faiths and perspective together in a common goal and allow them to support one another in the most basic of Christian habits—scripture study. The power of the project, we believe, is just this: Nothing breaks down barriers, fills in trenches, or curbs animosity so well as working side by side towards a common goal.

Sarah and Josh have been featured in several articles already. On, it says, “Users may post their own interpretations, as well as videos, music, books, or other resources relevant to a particular passage of scripture.”

Today is a big day. Whatever amount of money they are able to raise will be matched by sponsors. So head on over to their website and support them today! Also, if you are interested in contributing your ideas to the project, head on over to their Facebook page.

image from here

Tuesday Tunes: AJR’s “I’m Ready”

Band: AJR

Song: “I’m Ready”

The song behind Amy Schumer‘s Trainwreck (enters around 1.49). Nope, I haven’t seen the movie. But. This. Song. So I don’t really care about the lyrics. But when “oh-weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” starts up, who wouldn’t want to bust a move?


the bbb blogger


I’m ready

You’re feeling good, you’re feeling right
Across the floor, and I’m already losing my mind
Baby girl, looking fine
Watch you playing and playing and playing these guys
Catch my stare, little smile
Tell me that you’re ready and you’re feeling the vibe
Someday I’ll be so damn sublime,
We’ll arrive behind a hash-tag sign

I won’t forget you, but I may…
Forget your name

My lady
I know what you’re thinking
When the bass starts ringing
Can you tell me when you’re stoked to start?
Are you ready for tonight,
Setting it on fire
And we’ll dance until we’re dumb in the dark

My lady
I know what you’re thinking
When the bass starts ringing
Can you tell me when you’re stoked to start?
Are you ready for tonight,
Setting it on fire
And we’ll dance until we’re dumb in the dark
Are you ready?
I’m ready

Break me down, dirty jokes
Watch me dear, and say what you wanna know
Beauty lies,within the eyes
Of the beholder, I’ll be holding you close all night

I won’t forget you, but I may…
Forget your name

My lady
I know what you’re thinking
When the bass starts ringing
Can you tell me when you’re stoked to start?
Are you ready for tonight,
Setting it on fire
And we’ll dance until we’re dumb in the dark

My lady
I know what you’re thinking
When the bass starts ringing
Can you tell me when you’re stoked to start?
Are you ready for tonight,
Setting it on fire
And we’ll dance until we’re dumb in the dark
Are you ready?
I’m ready

Break me down, I’m ready, break me down
Break me down, I’m ready, break me down
Break me down, I’m ready, break me down
Break me down, I’m ready, break me down
I won’t forget you, but I may…
Forget your name

I’m ready

Break me down, I’m ready, break me down
Break me down, I’m ready, break me down

Are you ready?

The Age of Modernity—Art History

The age of realism raised the idea of what it meant to be modern. Alcoholism, prostitution, and rampant poverty were results of the industrial revolution. Art and architecture of the modernist period reflected the competing ideas about modernity when speaking of progress and decline for Western Civilization.


Philosopher Georg Simmel addresses “the transition to the individualization of mental and psychic traits which the city occasions in proportion to its size” (134), suggesting “The same factors which have thus coalesced into the exactness and minute precision of the form of life have coalesced into a structure of the highest impersonality; on the other hand, they have promoted a highly personal subjectivity” (132).

Simmel (image from here)

Therefore, in order for a person to preserve a sense of self and security, a person must create barriers. A person creates bubbles in order to be not over-simulated. As a consequence, meaningful relationships are not formed, dehumanizing us from one another. Progress during the modernist period included technology, social justices, and new ideas of expression and technique.


The Year of Revolutions was 1848. France, Italy, and Germany had little small revolutions where the workers rebelled, who found the Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels as giving shape or name to the concerns and ideas circulating about the time of social injustices. These revolutions enabled people to explore new ideas about human experiences and rights, impacting the modern world. There was, however, also a decline shown in themes of dehumanization and isolation/alienation. The modern period exhibits these displays of both progress and decline through subject matter, style, sources of inspiration, and mood.

World Fairs enabled people to explore new ideas of other countries and see developments of technology. The Eiffel Tower was built by Gustave Eiffel in Paris in 1889 to commemorate the World’s Fair there.

The Eiffel Tower (image from here)

France desired to build an icon to Modernity, using the latest materials and engineering. This building had no façade or veneer. When going up the tower, the viewer could see how it actually works. At first, Parisians hated it, thinking it ugly. People thought this looked unfinished, that it need to be covered, that it was merely a frame. It was painted different colors in different eras.

The tower was meant to be temporary. It was one of the tallest structures at the time, scaling new heights at 920 feet. There are important religious connotations; the verticality draws the eye upwards into the heavens.


In London, at the Courtauld Gallery, there are several paintings on display from the era of modernity. About Impressionistic art, the exhibit explained that Impressionistic works engaged with the changing nature of modern society because the Impressionists interest in contemporary subjects was expressed through innovative techniques, which aimed to convey a more direct and powerful experience. One named this style impressionistic, but it was originally meant to be a critique. Impressionistic art appeared loose and sketchy in comparison to conventional standards of art. The developments of pre-prepared canvasses and tubes of paint enabled the artists to work out of doors and paint quickly and efficiently.

For example, Monet’s Saint-Lazare Train Station (c. 1877) depicts a nave-like space, suggesting that the train is shutting into a new holy area. Monet does not give the viewer every element and detail but rather the impression of the time, supposing the atmosphere is productive. There is the aspect here of modernity of people coming and going and isolation. The forms of the people are mere shadows. They are not in detail. There is a sense of energy or excitement by the different perspectives though, based off of new knowledge of technology and communication. Monet was not very interested in painting people. There are tighter and looser brushstrokes, indicating the experimentation of the application of paint. Monet, ultimately, was more interested in the urban environment than in painting people very often.

Saint-Lazare Train Station (image from here)

Another example is Degas’s The Rehearsal on Stage (c. 1874). This shows the behind-the-scene look of training very young dancers and the depravations that go on there. Degas offers an oblique perspective. He liked dance in attempts to perfect the sense of moment and movement. His faces of the women were not all that sympathetic. They can be seen in a kind of demoralizing light. Too often women were treated like animals. This contemporary world of the modernity showed progress in Impressionistic art in depicting ideas such as movement and light yet depicted less of the individual, highlighting their isolation from one another.

The Rehearsal on Stage (image from here)

Whistler was loosely associated with the Impressionists. His Nocturne in Black and Gold (The Falling Rocket) (c. 1875) shows a painting of fireworks while on the Thames, which was what Whistler was trying to capture the effects of fireworks.

Nocturne in Black and Gold (The Falling Rocket) (image from here)

Whistler was inspired by Japanese prints, the vertical through of Japanese firework displays, which emerged possibly from World Fairs and other communications and expansions between various countries. The figure down below seemed absolutely indiscriminate and abstract to him, thus dehumanizing, and “More interested in conveying the atmospheric effects than in providing details of the scene, Whistler emphasized creating a harmonious arrangement of shapes and colors on the rectangle of his canvas” (Gardner 831). When the painting was brought to court, Whistler was brought to the stand. The barrister asked how long it took Whistler to knock this thing off. Whistler answered that it took a day but a lifetime to conceptualize. Whistler was essentially saying that art is about conception and about ways of looking at the natural world and finding a wholly new means of expression. The artist must decide the most effective way, which could take a lifetime to learn to see the world in a new way and deconstruct it.


The Courtauld Gallery also had an exhibit on pointillism or divisionist technique. It explained that pointillism relies on the scientific theory that colours are stronger if juxtaposed in small dots instead of being mixed together.

For example, post-Impressionist Seurat’s The Bridge at Courbevoie (c. 1886–7) was an oil on canvas that showed disembodied human figures, giving it a sense of melancholy. The mood was silent and somber, but the scene was tragically beautiful, as well. The blues and different hues meshed together to give it this conflicting scene of beauty and isolation.

The Bridge at Courbevoie (image from here)

Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (c. 1884–86) also reveals these conflicting ideas of modernity. At first glance, it may not appear that anything political is happening here, being simply a beautiful Sunday. But this could reveal socialist practices, with every individual being part of the whole or collective identity and mentality here like in a Utopic space because “La Grande Jatte (the Big Bowl) is an island in the Seine River near Asnieres, one of Paris’s rapidly growing industrial suburbs. Seurat’s painting captures public life on a Sunday—a congregation of people from various classes . . . . Most of the people wear their Sunday best, making class distinctions less obvious” (Gardner 833). By looking at this painting, there is a suggestion that art is harmony or community or well-being. This is displayed not only in the subject matter but also the style of neoimpressionism or pointillism. Every dob of color, about the size of the top of a pencil eraser, is the same size and just as important as the next. The idea is that you are contributing to the whole. There is something meaningful embedded in that practice, raising the question of how much do we understand as viewers. Could this look bleak, frozen, or artificial? Instead of seeing engagement, there seems to be alienation, suggesting the topic for the period of modernity. There was great concern among artists concerning the alienating affects of modern, urban society.

Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (image from here)


Some artists were called post-impressionists “Because their art had its roots in Impressionist precepts and methods, but is not stylistically homogenous” (Gardner 831). Artists “By the 1880s, . . . were more systematically examining the properties and the expressive qualities of line, pattern, form, and color” (Gardner 831).

Although Van Gogh is also considered a post-impressionist painter, “in marked contrast to Seurat, Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) explored the capabilities of colors and distorted forms to express his emotions as he confronted nature” (Gardner 833). The mood is very solitary in his Le café de nuit (The Night Café(c. 1888).

Le café de nuit (The Night Café) (image from here)

The figures are slumped. They are together but alone in their own thoughts. The bar tender is a specter-like form. The colors are quite dissonant and jarring, arbitrary, or non-naturalistic in color. This is not, of course, the poor design of the interior decorator. The green goes against the red. Van Gogh is trying to capture the mood by trying to talk about the way one could lose one’s mind in the café, through drinking, whoring, gambling, etc. The use of color, or artificial color, creates dissonances. The billiard table is coming down right into the viewer, making this an oppressive work and making the viewer feel uncomfortable. The thick layering of impasto paint comes out so much, adding that physicality or materiality to the painting. The urgency, palpable experience of painting the radiating light is done by short, broken brush strokes. The artificiality of the light adds to the ominous tone. This painting becomes one of decline, of isolation, of loneliness so inherent in Modernist paintings.


The modernist period, a time of progress and of decline, enabled artists to explore new concepts, new techniques, and new styles. This led to the explosion of –isms, even more so than ever before. The modernist ideas of there being no universal truth would lead to the idea that humans can select from millions of different truths to live life by or outright silliness suggested by the Dadaists.

Questions lead by the Modernists of what is good or right and no way of knowing would lead into the idea of there being no hierarchies of value, shown by pop artists of the 1960s. The modernist concern that we can never really know ourselves or others would lead in to the idea of post-modernists about experimenting with multiple selves, as displayed in the art of Surrealists.

The Age of Realism—Art History

Romanticism, 1750–1850, did not die out completely yet tinkered off, while artists continued to pursue romantics ways of viewing the world into the twentieth century. By 1830, there was a rise of a new movement of nineteenth century Realism, which called into question the over-emphasis of passions, irrationality, and subjectivity of the Romantics. Realists wanted a return to an objective framework that was more empirical and systematic, which followed philosopher Comte’s positivism of “promot[ing] science as the mind’s highest achievement and advocate[ing] a purely empirical approach to nature and society” (798).

Realism was characterized by the need to be current, dealing with contemporary issues and social realities of the day. The Industrial Revolution was in full swing, spreading throughout the continent, and social relations were different. The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels was published in 1848. This writing showed the history of class struggle and how those who controlled the means of production—the bourgeoisie—therefore controlled those who worked—the proletariat. Recognizing the reality for the average human became bleak: “man is compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind” (1331). Ultimately, realism raised the idea of modernity, changing how artists saw the world and their own art.

Landseer’s The Stone Breaker and His Daughter represents the view of academic realism or appealing to the pallet of the bourgeoisie.

The Stone Breaker and His Daughter (image from here)

The viewer has access to the faces. Here a father is relaxed and resting, while a daughter brings lunch to him of wine, fruit, and bread. Their dress is nice with differing colors. The lighting is brighter and beautiful, picturesque even. The setting shows more of the sky and natural world. This social environment of happy peasants is not the alienation that Marx would suggest. The vision of the working class life here is one that the middle class, wishing after the simpler life, would be comfortable seeing—thus romanticizing realism.

In contrast to academic realism, Courbet’s The Stonebreakers (c. 1849) suggests avant-garde realism, where the artist advances the cause of art, perhaps at the risk of sacrificing fame and fortune. The canvas here is less beautiful, murky, and monochromatic. The quality is dull, and the finish is matte. Because of the loose brushstrokes, the composition seems rough and has a sense of randomness. This painting was shown in the Salon 1848, one year after expelling King Louis Phillip and the agitation of the proletariat. The museum-goers, the bourgeoisie, were confronted with their material existence and forced to look at individuals and their harsh realities. These figures were from the Paris countryside, repairing the roads, and “By juxtaposing youth and age, Courbet suggested that those born to poverty remain poor their entire lives” (798). This work was extremely menial, but the artist seems to give needed dignity back to the individuals. Without any idealization, realism is seen here by the terse figures wearing torn clothing, revealing dirty skin, and having shoes in a wretched state. Work here is not beautifully idyllic. There is little blue sky, almost used purely to taunt the figures. Additionally, the figures faces are hidden—could they be plotting? By pushing the figures to the front of the picture plane, the viewers have to look and confront the figures with their sense of reality. Realist art, therefore, was used to attempt to change society.

The Stonebreakers (image from here)

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, who “refused to be limited to the contemporary scenes strict Realists portrayed” (809), was a group of artists who were unhappy with the art being painted at this time and thought that art did not seem true, sincere, or real. They rebelled against the academy by looking at art made prior to Raphael. Yet Millias’s art seemed to still follow traces of Realism: “So painstakingly careful was Millias in his study of visual facts closely observed from nature that Charles Baudelaire . . . called him ‘the poet of meticulous detail’” (809).

Millias’s Christ in the House of His Parents (c. 1848) reveals realism as the truth the artist wants to get to. The models did not come from the academy but from the streets. Dickens’s scathing review criticized that the scene was too real, too naturalistic, veering toward sacrilegious. The hair color of Christ and Mary is auburn, which would appeal to the redheads of the British audience. This would create greater accessibility, making it more real for the audience to connect with the paintings.

Christ in the House of His Parents (image from here)

Advances in science and technology changed society as well as art. The reality of science, including Darwin’s evidence of natural selection, evolution, and the idea that “[m]an still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin” (1322), shook many people’s faith.

Charles Darwin (image from here)

Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace in London, England (c. 1850–51) looks like a modern cathedral yet an ode to science. It was built in only six months but used so much glass it literally glowed in the sunlight. The exterior had classical elements: “The plan borrowed much from ancient Roman and Christian basilicas, with a central flat-roofed ‘nave’ and a barrel-vaulted crossing ‘transept’” (813). The visitor was brought through the central nave or passage, and the actual movement of going down the center. It was a place where people go to see and to be seen. Here this new building suggested the new reality, showing what people worshiped now and what they prayed to, sought after, and found inspiration in all kinds of modern equipment. The Crystal Palace became the spectacle of modernity or modern experience.

Crystal Palace (image from here)

Rosa Bonheur’s Plowing in the Nivernais (c. 1849) depicts another example of realism according to how the bourgeoisie would have liked. Bonheur was the best-celebrated, nineteenth-century French artist, and “[a] Realist passion for accuracy in painting drove Bonheur, but she resisted depicting problematic social and political situations seen in the work of Courbet, Millet, Daumier, and other Realists” (803). Her art was seen as commemorating France. No flies, sweat, or manure are shown here, but rather it is a very sanitized representation of plowing. The earth is rich and realistically painted. The eyes of the animals gaze directly out to the viewer. The land and animals she painted celebrate all that is beautiful and good in life as well as French national identity.

Plowing in the Nivernais (image from here)

The lure of order, reason, and categorization in art continued into the 1870s. This time was a critical moment of formation of self, identity, economic sources, and nations. Later, realism would transfer into an emphasis on nationalism that would change the world after the “War to End all Wars” would occur.

Romanticism & Art History

Romanticism is “a shift in emphasis from reason to feeling, from calculation to intuition, and from objective nature to subjective emotion” (Gardner 784), thus indicating a distinct transition from Neoclassicism. Rousseau’s claim that “‘Man is born free but is everywhere in chains!’—the opening line of his Social Contract (1762)—summarizes a fundamental Romantic premise” (784).

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (image from here)

Romanticism reflected an attitude, desiring “freedom of thought, of feeling, of action, of worship, of speech, and of taste” (784). Romanticism encompasses several concepts, including nostalgia, Gothic, and exotic. Edmund Burke’s discussion celebrates not the mechanical laws of nature but the mystical, spiritual ways of the natural world.

The rhetoric of seeing the artist as a misunderstood genius began during this time. Escapists went back to the medieval past, valuing the primitive and attempting to get to a Golden Age. There were various national schools (German, Spanish, French, and English) that depicted this revolutionary era of Romanticism.


Spanish artist Goya’s The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters comes from a series called Los Caprichos, revealing Goya’s “considerable thought about the Enlightenment and the Neoclassical penchant for rationality order” (786) transitioning into Romantic tendencies. Goya is committed to the Romantic spirit of “the unleashing of imagination, emotions, and even nightmares” (786). This print is an etching and aquatint created in 1789. The bended, sleeping figure is a depiction of Goya, where owls (symbolizing folly) and bats (symbolizing ignorance) flock over him. These creatures are menacing and threatening upon the slumbering dreams of the artist.

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (image from here)

But Goya’s paintings often show tension or troubling images the artist struggled with internally. Saturn Devouring One of His Children is a fresco Goya painted onto the walls of his home, which were for the artist’s eyes alone and not for any paying patron, thus revealing the emotional carnage of the artist. Goya was going through a personal crisis and health issues, and he lacked faith in humanity, which is reflected in the brutality of the fresco. The bulging eyes scream out to the viewer of anguish, and the thickness of the paint is like tare coming out, which emphasizes the blackness surrounding the emaciated Saturn that seems to engulf almost everything it touches—a living world of nightmares.

Saturn Devouring One of His Children (image from here)


French artist Ingres’s Grande Odalisque shows a “rather strange mixture of artistic allegiances – the combination of precise classical form and Romantic themes” (783). Ingres follows the tradition of the reclining nude, yet “by converting the figure to an odalisque (woman in a Turkish harem, the artist made a strong concession to the contemporary Romantic taste for the exotic” (783). Critics complained the way Ingres painted the nude body, which seemed to lack tone and had a strange flatness about her. Her foreshortened leg and elongation of the back makes the Turkish concubine appear odd. The peacock feathers, the animal skin, the beautiful clasp, the turban, the hookah pipes all suggest an exotic space, a favorite subject for Romantics.

Grande Odalisque (image from here)


English artist Constable’s The Hay Wain depicts nostalgia. The Industrial Revolution enabled hoards of people moved to cities, increasing the flux of people in a concentrated area. Constable’s work celebrates works and the disappearing landscape. The cottage is unassuming, needing some repairs, yet it is warm and cozy with curling smoke. This picturesque painting shows English value of land, showing the artist’s desire to keep some spaces sacred and out of the hands of industrialists.

The Hay Wain (image from here)


German artist Friedrich’s Abbey in the Oak Forest, 1810, reveals “The reverential mood of this winter scene with the ruins of a Gothic church and cemetery demands the silence appropriate to sacred places” (794). Friedrich, “a master of the Romantic transcendental landscape” (794), painted during a dark time that the Germans were experience occupation by Napoleon. In this bleak moment of the grave-like, dead of winter, the fog is just about the lift along with the rising of the sun. It is as if the dark hour of winter is over, and the season of spring, the promise of regeneration and hope, is on its way at last.

The use of the Gothic abbey in ruins harkens back to another age and time. The similitude of the natural world and the man-made engagement is suggested in the paralleling tracery of the windows where the stain glass has gone out in conjunction with the similar branches and smaller limbs coming out to create graceful patterns, suggesting a continuum between man and nature. Rather than political, Friedrich’s art is more contemplative, considering the inner world and our subjectivity.

Abbey in the Oak Forrest (image from here)

Age of Enlightenment and Revolution—Art History

Art produced in seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth century was mobilized for political purposes. Royalty and revolutionaries used art as a means of solidifying their power. Anthony van Dyck specialized in court portraiture. International painters copied the artist’s refined style; other painters reflected his style well into the nineteenth century (Gardner 678-9).

Charles I Dismounted (image from here)

His Charles I Dismounted (c. 1635) depicts “the absolutist monarch Charles I at a sharp angle so that the king, a short man, appears to be looking down at the viewer” (678). The king was in fact five foot, four inches. Because the monarch was rather short, this “forced him to exert his power in ways other than physical” (678-9). Charles I was a Stuart king, whom Parliament did not like because of his absolute reign. Although Charles I was actually a sickly man, he appears here as a man of action as he appears to be moving forward as well as confident with his arm akimbo and in a contrapposto stance. His sword is displayed as he overlooks the ocean, suggesting his rule over the navy and trade, in order to solidify his power as a leader.

Louis XIV, the sun king, “was a master of political strategy and propaganda” (Gardner 696). He sought adherence to the idea of the divine right of kings. Rigaud’s Louis XIV (c. 1701) depicts the king’s direct gaze down on the viewer, even though the king was short. The king was sixty-three years old at the creation of this painting, yet he appears young here, harkening back to Roman traditions of depicting authority. This painting was placed over his throne, so when the king was not present, no one was allowed to turn their back on the painting. This portraiture is carefully crafted to depict absolute authority.

Louis XIV (image from here)

The Age of Enlightenment led men and women to think and experiment. In the philosophical poem “Essay on Man,” Alexander Pope explains, “Far as Creation’s ample range extends, / The scale of sensual mental power ascends,” suggesting the importance of agency and reason in addition to pointing out that humans ought to try to understand man and this world. Additionally, Voltaire’s satirical Candide mocks the aristocracy and the German philosopher who claimed that everything is for the best. Voltaire concludes with the importance of community, ending “we must cultivate our gardens,” which is all that one can do. After all the terrible occurrences, Pangloss and his friends do not continue to try to solve the world’s problems. However, the development of thinking introduced new ideas concerning government, emphasizing a shift from royal absolutism to republicanism.

Overseas, the colonial leaders questioned the idea of absolute authority. Houdon’s George Washington (c. 1788–92) was commissioned by the newly established United States government, which was trying to dismantle the old ideals of absolute monarchy and to move towards republicanism. Washington was not to look too kingly so no crown is present, yet he leans on a walking stick, which has associations with scepters and royalty. Washington, a gentleman farmer, does lean on Roman fasces, “a bundle of rods with an ax attached . . . an emblem of authority” (Gardner 773). This refers back to the Roman Republic and their ideals of government.

George Washington (image from here)

Jacques-Louis David’s Napoleon Crossing the St. Bernard (c. 1800) depicts Napoleon in an attempt to appear as a leader. When crossing the Alps to fight the Austrians, Napoleon had followed the soldiers who had gone before him on a donkey, while the painting by David shows the foil of the actual reality. After the coup d’état, staging the overthrow, France needed a strong leader to govern.

Napoleon Crossing the St. Benard (image from here)

The French loved that Napoleon was a military hero, which was seen as a romantic career, leading expeditions to conquer the Italians, settle land, and colonize. While Napoleon acted as first Consul in 1799–1804, Napoleon attempted to show himself as capable, based on meritocracy or through his ability to rise to the top. Napoleon stroked the French ego, suggesting they did the right thing by overthrowing the monarchy and killing the idea of absolutism. He attempted to model himself after Republican leaders. By having his name engraved in stone along with Hannibal and Charlemagne (both had crossed the Alps), Napoleon joins with past authority. His white horse is symbolic of power. His cloak functions as a cloth of honor. His upward hand appears like a gesture of blessing, similar to Christ’s. Thus, he endows himself with associations of the divine and great military rulers. This false illusion makes better propaganda for the French people than what actually occurred.

The Age of Scientific Revolution—Art History

The Age of the Scientific Revolution changed the way people essentially thought. Descartes “discovered that he could doubt everything except that he was doubting” (Davis 496) and explains in Discourse on Method: “whilst I thus wished to think all things false, it was absolutely essential that . . . remarking that this truth ‘I think, therefore I am’ was so certain . . . that all the most extravagant suppositions brought forward by skeptics incapable of shaking it” (502).

Descartes (image from here)

Descartes first proves his own existence and then seeks to prove the existence of God. His approach is called Cartesian skepticism, meaning to doubt everything. Therefore, people no longer accept what they had been told. However, just because an individual had faith in science did not necessarily mean that they had no faith in God.

After the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) and the Treaty of Westphalia, “the United Provinces of the Netherlands . . . expanded their authority” (Gardner 673). Territorial boundaries changed in addition to granting greater religious freedom because “This treaty . . . marked the abandonment of the idea of a united Christian Europe” (Gardner 673). This reconciliation between Christianity and science is evident at the dawn of the Golden Age of the Dutch republic. The Dutch, who were very prosperous and cosmopolitan, were interested in tolerance, other areas, and ideas, which is evident in their art.

Art related to the development of the Scientific Revolution. Scientists experimented, prompting greater intellectual freedom. Free thought led to greater religious toleration, especially by the Dutch. For example, Johannes Vermeer was Catholic in Protestant Dutch Republic. His genre painting Woman Holding a Balance (c. 1664), where the woman holds “empty scales in perfect balance, ignoring pearls and gold on the table, is probably an allegory of the temperate life” (688). Thus, the woman thinks about her life, free from worldliness and in search of balance.

Woman Holding a Balance (image from here)

Additionally, Calvinism was influential by its emphasis on modesty. This period became the embarrassment of riches. For example, Frans HalsCatharina Hooft and Her Nurse (c. 1620) depicts the ostentatious versus the modest. In this time of greater freedom of thought and experimentation, “the traditional conventions [of portraiture] became inappropriate and thus unusable,” so “Hals produced lively portraits that seem far more relaxed than traditional formulaic portraiture” (Gardner 681). There is evident interest in the detail and fidelity to nature. The nursemaid dresses almost puritanical, contrasting black and white, while the baby has a beautiful lace. This says much about the tension of the classes and the pious versus the ornate in Dutch society.

Hals’ Catharina Hooft and Her Nurse (image from here)

Landscape paintings, such as Jacob van Ruisdael’s View of Haarlem (c. 1670), reflect life experience. Art in the home was important; however, the paintings usually were not biblical or historical, but rather they were genre or landscape, since “Most Dutch families owned and worked their own farms, cultivating a feeling of closeness to the terrain” (686). Haarlem was one of the major cities in the Netherlands, and the viewer could recognize the church and the sea. By depicting the bleaching of linen and clusters of homes, this piece becomes a celebration of work, industry, or the common way of life.

van Ruisdael’s View of Haarlem (image from here)

Here the artist “not only captured the appearance of a specific locale but also succeeded in imbuing the work with a quiet serenity that becomes almost spiritual” (688). The sky is given great attention, since it covers more than two-thirds of the painting. Van Ruisdael is observing the world around him and valuing the virtue of honesty and sincerity. The realm of the sky stresses the openness of religious tolerance and the recourses in the reality of this great age of exploration and development. The people were inquisitive and nationalistic, which is displayed in their art.

Art could moralize, as with Flower Still Life (c. 1726) by Rachel Ruysch, because “As living objects that soon die, flowers, particularly cut blossoms, appeared frequently in vantias paintings” (Gardner 690). The Dutch Republic is surrounded by flowers, and flowers are taken seriously in a commercial way and made into an enterprise. Here flowers are depicted in different stages of bloom and decline along with caterpillars and bugs, thus brining greater naturalism. After the first flush of beauty, the cut flowers eventually decay and reveal imperfections. This still life moralizes, since the viewer should not value that which is transient, whether it be flowers, food, clothing, or wealth. Instead, the viewer should focus on humbler or simpler things. Still life paintings made more money though, suggesting that still life art relates to their world being described and what the buyers wanted.

Ruysch’s Flower Still Life (image from here)