Segments in this Video

Discerning Meaning and Context (00:26)


Consider four questions when discerning the content and intention of a piece of art.

Starting the Conversation: The Artwork (00:37)

Identify the media and scale of the artwork. Understand the physical experience of formal components.

Starting the Conversation: The Artist (00:52)

Identify who made the artwork, when it was made, and the theme. If you are familiar with the artist, is this work something new? If you are unfamiliar with the artist, research the artist.

Starting the Conversation: Finding Context and Meaning (00:40)

Research the circumstances in which the artwork was created.

Starting the Conversation: The Presentation Venue (00:36)

Galleries and museums have particular perspectives that shape a viewer's experience and understanding of the artwork.

Exploring Meaning and Context: Félix González-Torres (04:02)

The stacks González-Torres uses in his art have personal and political significance, and generate questions about authenticity and originality; he challenges Walter Benjamin's perspective that mass reproduction destroys an object's aura. See a list of resources for studying art.

Historical Impacts on Artists (00:38)

Movements and categories in art history reflect society at that time. Examples include: surrealism, abstract expressionism, and conceptual art.

Political Influences on Art (00:43)

Boardman explains that it is difficult for art to be insular and cites WWII as an example.

Geographic Influences on Art (00:42)

Boardman cites Paris in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as an example of artistic influence. Artists produce work from their language and culture.

Religious Influences on Art (01:54)

For hundreds of years, many artworks in the West derived from the Christian tradition. Boardman discusses the Christian tradition's economic influence on art. See a list of resources for studying art.

Factors Influencing an Artwork's Context (00:34)

Influences include: current events, political climate, technology, finances, market, patronage, and audience.

Patronage: An Example of Influence (01:04)

Historically, a patron is the person or group who commissions the artwork. A patron is typically wealthy and heavily influences how work is displayed and distributed.

Market: An Example of Influence (01:38)

Boardman states that Thomas Kinkade's work was meant to comfort. He created a successful separate economic system outside of the art world; class distinctions occur depending on the patronage and the economic system it operates in. See a list of resources for studying art.

Symbols and Narrative in Art (01:40)

Artists often use symbols to communicate meaning. The meaning and power of symbols change over time.

Symbols Help Tell Stories (00:28)

Titus O'Brien states that the mind naturally seeks story.

Example of Symbol: The Apple (00:58)

An artist considers Camille Pissarro's painting of apple pickers. Apples are a symbol of knowledge, immortality, temptation, sin, and the fall of man.

Example of Iconography: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph (01:31)

Iconography is the story behind the image. An artist discusses the iconography of religious paintings. See a list of resources for studying art.

Figures and Events Affecting an Artist's Content (00:45)

Figures and events affect the production, dissemination, and consumption of art.

Influences of Sociological Forces: Class Struggles (01:13)

Stephen Eisenman identifies two forces that drive history, struggles between classes and the deeds of great figures. He believes class struggles lead to change and that works of art are a manifestation of the struggle at the period of time in which it was created.

Influence of Patrons: Conformity and Rebellion (01:33)

Eisenman states that in previous history periods, the artists who were conformists were the most valued. Artists in the mid-19th century often wanted to be rebellious; impressionists were called intransigents.

Influences of Patrons and Collectors: 19th and 20th Century Artists (05:02)

A patron is typically wealthy and heavily influences how work is displayed and distributed. Charles Saatchi and Damien Hirst are discussed. Eisenman states that some artists are well-known during their time while others are ignored; he cites examples. See a list of resources for studying art.

Contextual Analysis (00:38)

Contextual analysis involves the study of circumstances surrounding the artwork's creation.

Example of a Contextual Analysis: Antoine Watteau "Gilles" (03:21)

Watteau painted "Gilles" in the early 1700s when the French court was filled with excess. Boardman considers deviation from Watteau's typical paintings. See a list of resources for studying art.

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Introduction to Art: Contextual Analysis

Part of the Series : Introduction to Art
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



This film defines context and its relationship to subject matter, patronage, audience, function, setting, iconography and symbolism in art. Examine the physical, economic, and social contexts which shaped the major categories of art. Learn what questions to ask to better investigate context and meaning and to develop a contextual analysis of a single work or a comparative contextual analysis of two or more works.

Length: 32 minutes

Item#: BVL117879

Copyright date: ©2012

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

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Not available to Home Video, Dealer and Publisher customers.