Art is a way of life. There is a complexity in making meaning, analyzing and defining how art and humanity have a symbiotic relationship. Indeed, art has no definite meaning and usually, it derives meaning from the person appreciating it. Indeed, the arts can be defined as the physical and theoretical expression of the creativity that is implanted within different human societies and different cultures. They could well include paintings, dance, music, literature, film, and theatre among many others. Humanity has since time immemorial used art as a form of creating imagery that is for political as well as social purposes. It is for this reason that art has been in existent without waning in popularity for all the years that it has been. Today, art galleries and museums are facing the challenge of demonstrating social relevance whilst becoming inclusive socially without losing sight of the educational value of the art. It is, therefore, a very interesting visit anytime I visit an art gallery or museum. The purpose of this paper is to provide a review of a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in particular, Jan van Eyck's "The Crucifixion" and "Last Judgment."
The complexities of these paintings are what drew me near to them. Indeed, even as I write this paper, I feel like I did not see enough of the paintings. The paintings are two small painted panels that are oil paintings transferred on wood forming a diptych. These paintings are 22.2 inches high and 7.8 inches wide. Even with that, they present biblical events particularly the last days of Christ and the Day of Judgment as is detailed in the bible. Jan van Eyck was the first painter to use and manipulate oils to present a detailed presentation that infuses the figures with some element of realism and emotion. Together with that, the paintings have a glaze mastery that makes for a luminous surface that is particularly noticeable on the upper part of the "Crucifixion" panel. According to the period the painting was painted (the 1400s), use of oil and panel painting was relatively a new phenomenon. They were transferred from panel to canvas in the 19th century.
Jan van Eyck, an Early Netherlandish artist was the most celebrated painter of his time. The naturalistic landscapes that are presented in the paintings were a true depiction of the holy land. Indeed, Van Eyck had traveled across the Alps in 1426 on a diplomatic mission to Italy. The "Crucifixion" to me was more about the crowds that had gathered evoking a variety of emotions painted against Jerusalem in the distant under an azure sky. On the other hand, "Last Judgment was more horrific considering that it denoted the heaven and hell. The depiction of hell pops out more than heaven, and its horrifying nature makes for an interesting painting. The two paintings are said to have been the wings of a triptych although this has yet to be proven. Such vagueness and lost details are some of the elements that intrigue and make for really interesting art pieces such as this. Furthermore, it has been stated that parts of the paintings were done by members of Van Eyck's workshop particularly the simpler elements of the paintings.
The paintings are really colorful and present to a great extent the pain and suffering of humanity. The paintings tell a story especially considering that Christ is the common factor in both of them. Looking at both of them starting with the "Crucifixion," it is clear that the death of Christ, especially from a Christian point of view, allowed humanity's sins to be totally absolved which allowed them to enter heaven and live there forever. On the other hand, if one did not accept Christ, they would end up in hell and its horrors that clearly come true in the painting "Last Judgment."
The "Crucifixion" has been divided into three parts. In the foreground are the weeping women who appear like they could well form another interesting painting by themselves. At the center is where I believe lies the complexity of the painting. In it are the soldiers and the crowds all with mixed emotions in their faces. However, the top part that has the three crucified individuals standing in front of the beautiful landscape that has depth present the most remarkable part. It is clear that Van Eyck integrated a spatial perspective into the painting.
The "Last Judgment" on the other hand has Christ seated at the top as a judge with saints and angels surrounding him. Around him are floating paintings of John the Baptist and Virgin Mary floating above the chosen saints. Below is the archangel Michael calling out people from graves (which is depicted as a seabed) to face the final judgment. The underworld or hell is horrific with the doomed living in darkness. Looking closely, one can see demonic figures feeding at men and women. The skeleton of Death seems to be the entry into hell. It is an interesting and at the same time a horrific depiction of the world after death and how the judgment will either allow you to sit with Christ in heaven or live in eternal damnation in hell.
The paintings are very religious and can be made a part of the community especially for cathedrals and other religious depictions. The Roman Catholic Church is particularly known for its paintings depicting biblical stories could well use this painting for a Muriel. Not only does it have a true biblical depiction of the end time, but it also has details that bring together these elements that are so important for the Christian faith. On the other hand, the two paintings can also be used for learning purposes in art schools and give an illustration of how far oil painting has come. I believe that the community will learn more from the painting especially considering the amount of detail that is contained in the paintings. Its miniature form is something that is quite interesting and uncommon in the painting world.
As an art enthusiast and a fan of this painting, I would have to put in an effort towards fronting the painting to art schools and having them used as part of historical teaching of art and how art has evolved. I would also have many exhibitions that tell the story of this art and how important it is to religion and to art in general. In this way, more people will have the ability to enjoy art, and it will offer people the chance to learn more about art and how they can better their painting techniques through these paintings.
Creative expression is a way of telling a story in a creative way that is really important not just for art but as stated above, for social and political reasons. Because of art, there are many issues in societies that have been told in a safe way and have had a huge impact on how society views these issues for instance. "The Crucifixion" and the "Last Judgment" are a clear expression of how the painter understood the end times as they are told in the bible. Through his creative expression, he is able to convey a message of the beauty of heaven and the horrors of hell which can affect anyone looking at the paintings. Art has a way of expressing messages and its existence all through time depict its importance and necessity for humanity. Children are also encouraged to have art as an element of their upbringing as it has a way of bringing out creativity which is an important skill that had a way of performing well in all the other spheres of education and learning.
In conclusion, "The Crucifixion" and the "Last Judgment" are two great pieces of art that have lived over centuries, yet their messages are still as vivid as the day they were first painted. These paintings are important for the world, and their complexities and intricate details tell many stories that come out vividly through the painting. It is clear that the community, particularly for educational purposes, could get a place in the community. It is clear that the arts add value to life and is necessary even as the world moves into technology and computer that seem to make art less enjoyable especially to the masses.
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