The use of illusionism as one of the most popular art forms in the history of Danish Art was commenced during the 17th century, also known as the Golden Age of Dutch Painting[1]. The era of naturalism in Dutch Art history encouraged the contemporary painters to come up with various techniques to depict the still-life and consequently the urge to portray botanical and naturalist miniature creatures became gradually conspicuous among Dutch painters. It was considered quite highly that for the purpose of cultivating repertoire styles and iconographic conventions the practice to paint such elements of nature is important. Consequently, in the Golden Age of Dutch Painting while the trend of artistic depiction was shifting towards realism, development of such artistic tendency was considered to be of great importance because it was argued that practicing such form of painting would help an artist to depict the earthly or elements of realism in a more efficient manner. However, the shift towards realism in the history of Dutch Art was quite different from the other forms of artistic revolutions across the globe. The main reason behind such difference was the unique nature of the Dutch artistry and the philosophy of realism that it entrusted:

“The beginnings of the seventeenth-century Golden Age of Dutch painting are commonly associated with a new “realism” that, unconcerned with the theories of art or aesthetics, seized upon the everyday, unembellished aspects of the world. Yet this was a realism shaped by a continuing – indeed intensified – engrossment with illusionism and experimentation with aesthetic effects. The subdued tonalities imposed upon “reality” in the pioneering new genres of landscapes, domestic still lifes, and genre scenes amply testify to this aesthetic preoccupation …”[2].

The sense of realist aesthetics and individual artistic style was further emphasized by the use of illusionism among Dutch painters. One of the most effective ways to produce the illusionistic effect, the contemporary artists found,  is through the interplay of light effects in their paintings. One of the pioneers of illusionism in Dutch Art Samuel van Hoogstraten specifically mentioned in his writing that, as Edward G. Ruestow paraphrases that “painting was a science of fooling the eye, for a perfect painting was like a mirror of nature in which what was not really there appeared to be there nonetheless. The painter deceived, however, not by copying nature directly but by depicting ‘ideas’ nature provided … the illusionism characteristic of Dutch painting indeed reached well beyond those qualities that … pertained to the eye alone”[3]. Mariët Westermann’s analysis, however, has gone to further extent and it has been asserted by the author that the contemporary scientific movement of the Danish society had an important role to play in the development of Illusionism as a leading art form. Consequently, their paintings emerged as effective mediums to register traits of such developments:

“All artistic means to represent a room and posit a viewer, to paint the look of reflected light on silk or to paint living organisms require some understanding of what might be considered scientific issues: the measurement of space and its representation in two dimensions, the effects of light and shade on perception, the taxonomic description of species. In part because of its openness to immigrants, Dutch society hosted a cosmopolitan scientific culture that developed analytic techniques relevant to these problems …. Although most painters received scientific knowledge at second hand, from their masters or books, several Dutch artists engaged in scientific experiments, registered in their paintings.”[4]

Vermeer and the Principle of Camera Obscura:

Jan Vermeer is one such renowned painter of an age where paintings incorporated the elements of aesthetic orientation and innovative scientific traits. Vermeer’s use of illusionism was masterfully reflected through the technique of camera obscura, “a box with a pinhole in one side that lets in light reflected from the scene in front of it. With the aid of lenses, the reflected light can be focused onto a white surface, on which the image can be viewed or traced.”[5] Vermeer hailed from a family with commercial outlook but with the progress of time he decided to choose his career “as a major participant in the age of observation.”[6] Among the scientific progresses that Dutch socio-cultural situation encountered at that point of time, both “telescopic discoveries” and “birth of microscopy”[7] affected as well as nourished diverse perspectives of artistic outlook to a great extent. The practitioners of art, in order to enhance the use of illusionism in their paintings started using the impression as can be generated through lenses. Jan Vermeer, in this context, can be regarded as one of the pioneers as he perfected this practice.  With aesthetic use of the conflict between perspective and optical image, he generated the desired effect of his paintings. Vermeer’s close association with two of the most important lens makers, namely, Swammnerdam and Leeuwenhoek helped him to develop his artistic perspectives in a more profound way.[8] The term camera obscura, which was popularized by Vermeer in his artistic creations, actually means “dark chamber”. Robert D. Huerta has observed: “It is referred to as such because the earliest versions consisted of darkened rooms with only a small hole to admit light. This produced an inverted image of the exterior scene on the wall opposite the hole.”[9] The effects produced by the technique of camera obscura, in comparison to the contemporary times, created a magical impression for the viewers. Apart from producing the impression of magical realism which could not be “normally visible to the naked eyes, the viewed scenes were saturated with more intense color, because while the overall image was reduced, the color was not.”[10]

Rene Parola has argued that in optical art an artist has a scope to offer scientific visual of human functions or natural impression to viewers according to the principles of Gestalt theory. These aspects act as a function to churn out the optical mental perceptions but it is up to the viewer to find out the vastness of psychological functionality and the process through which such optical phenomena tok place.[11] In his artistic works, the Officer and Laughing Girl and the Music Lesson, Vermeer has used the technique of optical art in such a way so that the diverse range of perspectives and optical image can be generated: “This evidence consists of characteristics in Vermeer’s paintings that parallel effects seen in a camera obscura image. The qualities included intensified tone and color; “simultaneous contrast” effects; accentuated contrasts of light and dark; the registration of different planes of focus; halation of highlights; diffused forms of highlights; and exaggerated perspective or contrast of scale.”[12] However, there is always a risk when so much of scientific or technological aspects are included in an artistic work. It tends to become interactive and self-destructive at the same time, consequently leading to the notion of anti-art: “In the realm of anti-art, art becomes interactive. At its best, interactive art endangers freedom, the choice of action or interaction and contemplation as well as use, abuse, even destruction; in short, it is a space allowing … the viewer’s meeting with him/herself and others. Interactive art can be a realm of intensified experience, functioning as a chorus or forum and thus evoking ritual, politics and ethics …. Technology can provide excellent means in search for options, but popular communication technology is predominantly applied in the service of entertainment, with its inherent escapism, and proponents inevitably have to work within this context.”[13] Considering the fact that Vermeer also used technological applications in his paintings, which are conceptually quite advanced compared to his age, there was always a possibility that his creations could have entered the domain of anti-art as there could have always been a chance that such creations would become interactive and self-destructive. However, the conflict of optical image and variation of perspectives that the artist has blended quite successfully in his works, actually prevented his creations from becoming interactive and self-destructive.

The Use of Perspective in the Music Lesson:

The Music Lesson, one of the early masterpieces of Vermeer has been cited by Lawrence Gowing as such a creation that “stands mid-way between the open ambitions of the early works and Vermeer’s oblique tribute to fame in the masterpiece of later years.”[14] In the history of Dutch Art, use of perspectives in order to yield the desired aesthetic appeal has commenced quite earlier than that of Vermeer’s time but it never attained the desired magnitude of fusing personal values. Prior to Vermeer, Carel Fabritius’ technique to fuse perspectives with creative outputs was quite popular in the contemporary artistic scenario in Delft. However, the inception of the 17th century scientific progress gradually weakened the artistic traits introduced by Fabritius. Aftermath, the artistic scenario in Delft was dominated by Hoogstraten and Vermeer as they successfully started fusing the perspectives introduced by scientific evolution as well as of personal values:

“Vermeer’s perspectives … have a specifically personal value …. Very probably the two artists [Vermeer and Hoogstraten] were in contact. … Van Hoogstraten … illustrated three objects of painting: Gloriae Causa, Lucri Causa and Amoris Causa. The profoundest motives of painting, the pursuit of fame and riches no less than a love of art, were thus identified with the contrivance of a perspective so convincing as to deceive the eye. The association is of interest in connection with the perspective scheme of The Music Lesson ….”[15]

Vermeer’s use of manifold perspectives in his creative works was resulted from his intense study of light and shade effects, different nature of reflection and refraction, “maps and mirrors, in compositions that are infused with a still, timeless quality….”[16] From the perspectives of Cartesian meditation and Platonic dialectic Vermeer’s paintings can be interpreted as sincere and idealized attempts to “materialize the Form of the Beautiful [that] can be seen in his formal idealization of natural objects ….”[17] The fusion of elements related to Cartesian meditation and Platonic dialectic in the artistic works of Vermeer has lead to scholarly observation that the artist intended to depict the traits of divine essence in mundane objects and the Music Lesson is one such piece of art that elaborates such intention. In the Music Lesson Vermeer, according to Robert D. Huerta, has attempted to use “Platonically pure geometry;”[18] consequently, it has also been suggested by the author that “Vermeer’s careful and consistent attention to accurately depicting three-dimensional space and his exceptional dimensional accuracy convince … that he looked upon geometry … as one of the keys to unlocking nature’s underlying order.”[19] The Music Lesson is one of the most important artistic creations of Vermeer that apart from using geometrical intricacies also bears explicit evidences that the technique of camera obscura has been used as “cosmopolitan aid or as the source from which certain optical effects were suggested.”[20] Different dimensions of the optical effects that were depicted in the painting have helped in the development of perspective variation in the Music Lesson. In his article “Vermeer and the Camera Obscura: Some Practical Considerations” Allan Mills is of opinion that in order to produce the varied range of perspectives Vermeer used the pinhole camera and consequently his painting did bear certain artifacts that can be obtained only through the use of unfocussed lenses.[21] However, in his response to such observation Philip Steadman has suggested that “Camera obscuras equipped with lenses give images that are very much brighter than those provided by pinhole cameras can therefore be used by artists for tracing.”[22] Thus, the argument that Vermeer used pinhole camera has been refuted and according to the evidence produced by Philip Steadman it has consequently been accepted that the artist actually used “hybrid or large cubiculum camera obscura.[23]” In the Music Lesson, the use of camera obscura, finally helped in the origination of inversion of perspective, converting the “additive nature of mapping into a complicated and asymmetric form of exchange … between a three dimensional romance world and its two-dimensional reconstruction, between everyday consciousness and aesthetic self-consciousness, between men and women, between painting and other forms of aesthetic practice.”[24]

Optical Image in the Officer and Laughing Girl:

The use of camera obscura by Vermeer in the aftermath laboratory experiments has produced manifold points of correlation that has been specified by Daniel A. Fink:

“(1) principal planes of focus;

(2) precise diminution of circles of confusion;

(3) halation of highlights;

(4) precise treatment of reflections;

(5) closeness of the point of view to the window wall;

(6) precise convergence of parallel lines located in the plane perpendicular to the viewing axis;

(7) use of curtains to darken viewing room and control subject of illumination;

(8) relative detail in still-life portion versus figure detail;

(9) consistent proportions of the paintings (4.5:5 or almost square)

(10) dimensional precision in rendering objects.”[25]

Some of these correlations can be viewed quite explicitly in the Officer and Laughing Girl. It is entirely under the scope of artistic discretion to make the decision in the context of changing the lens’ focus so that several planes of focus can be obtained. The Officer and Laughing Girl is the instance of such an artistic creation where the artist has exercised the flexibility of artistic discretion and provided two focal planes “one through the far wall and second running through the officer. Both planes are defined by the diminution of circles of confusion in front of the planes of focus.”[26] It has been mentioned earlier in the discussion that Vermeer had a tendency to depict map or globes prominently in his paintings and this piece of artwork is one such example where he has been able to fulfill his objective quite effectively: “Vermeer, well informed about maps and mapmaking, took obvious care to reproduce these objects faithfully in his paintings …. Vermeer did this especially well in Officer and Laughing Girl … imbuing the maps in these paintings with individual character and personality.”[27] The aspect of optical imaging as depicted in this painting has received a special dimension due to such perfection in showing the map because this device helped the artist to provide a scope to the viewers when it comes to exploring “the mental world of his subjects in a series of painting completed during early part of his career.”[28] The Officer and Laughing Girl acted as an effective medium to “[materialize] the human cognitive landscape by depicting individuals in the act of contemplation, conversation, or study, making the process of knowledge acquisition transparent.”[29] Pondering over the contemporary flourish in the Dutch socio-cultural situation from the perspective of global exploration and deriving the positives from various cultural traditions it can be suggested that the painting attempts to depict the knowledge seeking explorative mentality that became almost assimilated with common human psyche in the contemporary times. The military official in the painting bears a deep connotation with Vermeer uncle, Reynier Balthens and the young laughing lady with Balthens’ bride Susanna Heyndrixdr.[30] Consequently, it can also be implied that the globetrotting, knowledge seeking mentality of Vermeer was greatly influenced by his uncle’s profession and the scope of interest was effectively addressed through presence of the map in the painting. Compared to the multiple layers of perspectives that was offered by the Music Lesson, the Officer and Laughing Girl does not provide the viewer with a great deal of scope. Instead, it  makes use of the optical image as an effective instrument to convey the socio-cultural situation, biographical reference and intense desire to be liberated from existential boundary. The figure of the officer clearly dominates foreground of the picture, metaphorically suggesting dominance of male figures in the contemporary society whereas the woman is comparatively smaller in size and also placed herself at a distance. Despite her charming smile she seems to be quite assured that in order to transcend her existential boundary she has to seek help from the officer or he has been identified as the source of escape for the girl.[31] While showing the predominating position of the officer in the setting the technique of less realistic optical image was adopted by Vermeer. Starting from large size of the officer’s hat, his casual but fluffy uniform, his sitting gesture and the impression of his dominating physical appearance are some of the traits that give the hint of less realistic presentation. Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr. has observed in this context that such artistic devices can be used to satisfy the compositional purpose than adhering to the intention of depicting realism.[32] This is quite an obvious possibility that, in a way, the officer has been depicted in the painting as to some extent unrealistic. The optical image technique, however, has been quite successful as compositionally the work has satisfied the purpose.


Fusion of the elements of the different perspectives in the Music Lesson and using the technique of optical image in the Officer and Laughing Girl has effectively helped Vermeer satisfy his artistic purposes. While in the first painting he attempted to give an artistic impression to the viewer in case of perceiving the elements of divinity among mundane, in the next case his intention to depict the impact on socio-cultural situation was more poignant. The Music Lesson can be cited as an instance of geometrical perfection where in a very calculative way intricate detail and aesthetic appeals have been fused. In the Officer and Laughing Girl, though the artist has not provided heightened attention to such aspects but from the perspective of composition this pierce of work has successfully conveyed the essence of socio-cultural situation in an aesthetically appealing manner to the viewers. Both these paintings bear the evidence of using camera obscura in a masterful manner. This technique has not only been used to heighten the art works as a technical masterpieces but they also have shown the instances of artistic improvisation.

List of References

Fink, D.A. 1971. “Vermeer’s Use of the Camera Obscura- a Comparative Study”. The Art   Bulletin. Vol. 53. No. 4. (Dec. 1971). pp. 493-505. p. 494. College Art Association.

Huerta, R.D. 2003. Giants of Delft: Johannes Vermeer and the natural philosophers.

Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press.

Huerta, R.D. 2005. Vermeer and Plato: painting the ideal. Pennsylvania: Bucknell University          Press.

Mers, A. 1999. “Commentary of “Lygia Clark and Hilio Oiticica: A Legacy of Interactivity     and Participation for a Telematic Future”. Leonardo. Vol 32. No. 2. pp. 137-41.

Mills, A. 1998. “Vermeer and the Camera Obscura: Certain Practical Considerations.”

Leonardo. Vol. 31. No. 3. 1998. pp. 213-18. Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Montias, J.M. 1991. Vermeer and His Milieu: A Web of Social History. Princeton: Princeton          University Press.

Parola, R. 1969. Optical Art: Theory and Practice. New York: Reinhold Book Corporation.

Ruestow, E.G. 2004. The Microscope in the Dutch Republic: The Shaping of Discovery. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Steadman, P. 1999. “Commentary on Vermeer and the Camera Obscura: Certain Practical

Considerations”. Leonardo. Vol. 31. No. 2. 1999. pp. 137-41. Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Vermeer, J. and Gowing, L. 1997. Vermeer. California: University of California Press.

Westermann, M. 2005. The art of the Dutch Republic, 1585-1718. London: Laurence King            Publishing.

Wheelock, Jr., A.K. 1981. “Vermeer’s Painting Technique.” Art Journal. Vol. 41. No. 2.

Edward Hopper Symposium at the Whitney Museum of American Art. pp. 162-64.   College Art Association.

Wolf, B.J. 2001. Vermeer and the invention of seeing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

[1] Ruestow, E.G. 2004. The Microscope in the Dutch Republic: The Shaping of Discovery. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 71.

[2] Ruestow, E.G. 2004. The Microscope in the Dutch Republic: The Shaping of Discovery. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 72.

[3] Ruestow, E.G. 2004. The Microscope in the Dutch Republic: The Shaping of Discovery. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 73.

[4] Westermann, M. 2005. The art of the Dutch Republic, 1585-1718. London: Laurence King Publishing. p. 82.

[5] Westermann, M. 2005. The art of the Dutch Republic, 1585-1718. London: Laurence King Publishing. p. 82.

[6] Huerta, R.D. 2003. Giants of Delft: Johannes Vermeer and the natural philosophers. Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press. p. 43.

[7] Huerta, R.D. 2003. Giants of Delft: Johannes Vermeer and the natural philosophers. Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press. p. 43.

[8] Huerta, R.D. 2003. Giants of Delft: Johannes Vermeer and the natural philosophers. Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press. p. 43.

[9] Huerta, R.D. 2003. Giants of Delft: Johannes Vermeer and the natural philosophers. Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press. p. 43.

[10] Huerta, R.D. 2003. Giants of Delft: Johannes Vermeer and the natural philosophers. Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press. p. 43.

[11] Parola, R. 1969. Optical Art: Theory and Practice. New York: Reinhold Book Corporation.

[12] Huerta, R.D. 2003. Giants of Delft: Johannes Vermeer and the natural philosophers. Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press. p. 44.

[13] Mers, A. 1999. “Commentary of “Lygia Clark and Hilio Oiticica: A Legacy of Interactivity and Participation for a Telematic Future”. Leonardo. Vol 32. No. 2. pp. 137-41. p. 137.

[14] Vermeer, J. and Gowing, L. 1997. Vermeer. California: University of California Press. p. 125.

[15] Vermeer, J. and Gowing, L. 1997. Vermeer. California: University of California Press. p. 125.

[16] Huerta, R.D. 2003. Giants of Delft: Johannes Vermeer and the natural philosophers. Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press. p. 44.

[17] Huerta, R.D. 2005. Vermeer and Plato: painting the ideal. Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press. p. 94.

[18] Huerta, R.D. 2005. Vermeer and Plato: painting the ideal. Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press. p. 94.

[19] Huerta, R.D. 2005. Vermeer and Plato: painting the ideal. Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press. p. 94.


[20] Huerta, R.D. 2003. Giants of Delft: Johannes Vermeer and the natural philosophers. Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press. p. 47.

[21] Mills, A. 1998. “Vermeer and the Camera Obscura: Certain Practical Considerations”. Leonardo. Vol. 31. No. 3. 1998. pp. 213-18. The MIT Press.

[22] Steadman, P. 1999. “Commentary on Vermeer and the Camera Obscura: Certain Practical Considerations”. Leonardo. Vol. 31. No. 2. 1999. pp. 137-41. The MIT Press.

[23] Huerta, R.D. 2003. Giants of Delft: Johannes Vermeer and the natural philosophers. Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press. p. 47.

[24] Wolf, B.J. 2001. Vermeer and the invention of seeing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 215.

[25] Fink, D.A. 1971. “Vermeer’s Use of the Camera Obscura- a Comparative Study”. The Art Bulletin. Vol. 53. No. 4. (Dec. 1971). pp. 493-505. p. 494. College Art Association.

[26] Fink, D.A. 1971. “Vermeer’s Use of the Camera Obscura- a Comparative Study”. The Art Bulletin. Vol. 53. No. 4. (Dec. 1971). pp. 493-505. p. 498. College Art Association.

[27] Huerta, R.D. 2005. Vermeer and Plato: painting the ideal. Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press. p. 98.

[28] Huerta, R.D. 2005. Vermeer and Plato: painting the ideal. Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press. p. 98.

[29] Huerta, R.D. 2005. Vermeer and Plato: painting the ideal. Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press. p. 98.

[30] Montias, J.M. 1991. Vermeer and His Milieu: A Web of Social History. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 85.

[31] Huerta, R.D. 2003. Giants of Delft: Johannes Vermeer and the natural philosophers. Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press. p. 44.

[32] Wheelock, Jr., A.K. 1981. “Vermeer’s Painting Technique.” Art Journal. Vol. 41. No. 2. Edward Hopper Symposium at the Whitney Museum of American Art. pp. 162-64. p. 163. College Art Association.



The works by Marina Abramovic inspire by their essential reality and deep sense of the limits of human body and the wider horizons for human mind. This objective takes notice of Marina Abramovic, as a performance artist. Ephemeral essence of things is represented naturally in all of her performances. It stays so even on the imprints of her works. That is to say, her ability to shock and give the notion of consciousness and unconscious states which can be gained through a set of different feelings is all touching upon the use of body. To make it plain, everyone is able to get into the sphere of Marina Abramovic’s experiments with the body while admitting her deep devotion to sacrificing herself for the sake of the well-shaped performances and artistic value thereof.


First of all, Marina Abramovic uses her own body to show its implication to the sphere of conscientious affects. This is the basis to make account of the artist’s own experiences being shared directly with the audience. It is quite easier to deliver joy or pain from a direct contactor and performer in one to those sharing the value of suchlike performances. There are plenty of comments on disturbingly masochistic evaluation of the Abramovic’s art. Marina Abramovic justifies such claims in the following way: Every artist deals with these issues using different media and tools – I use the body.[1]The retrospective by Abramovic leans toward getting the gist of two feelings which seems ominous to people, namely: pain and dying.[2] This is an overall idea, so to speak, of all performances by the artist. Thus, one should keep it in mind that these two constituents are full of sense that overwhelms the emotional side of the Abramovic’s performance.

Delving well into the scope of the Abramovic’s talent and her ability to amaze and take her implications in art as a given, it is better to point out her thoughts every time she creates or stages her performances. The artist is well-understood when there is no place for doubts, as the performance is largely done by the artist herself. In the interview to Helena Kontova, Abramovic once pointed out: Our work deals with our bodies and that makes us think about vitality.[3] The energy of the body and its stupor under some circumstances are the basic features to be delivered in front of the public.

Her performance called Rhythm 10 is an exemplification of her use of twenty knives while playing the game of sticking knife rhythmically between the fingers in a manner similar to 5-finger fillet:


Figure 1 Rhythm 10


This is the performance which was recorded and then played in order to distinctively illuminate each time the knife cuts Marina Abramovic’s fingers. The gist of suchlike performance is to find out the link between the past and present experiences in order to implement them in the future. That is to say, the artist wants to put past, present, and future together. As an artist who uses her body as a medium, it is fascinating to hear Abramović’s feelings on fear and limitations.[4] On the other hand, it is an illumination of what feels an artist herself through her personal artist’s interpretation. Hence, it is genuinely a way of how Abramovic’s artistic thought penetrates into an observer’s mind.


Figure 2 Rhythm 10



Frankly speaking, the artist positions herself as a person who is inseparable from doubts and failure. This is a presumably general standpoint on estimating the impacts through Abramovic’s art. She is aimed in her art at finding out some biological, psychological, sexual and other features coming up to a performer and shared within the audience. One may simply suppose that Abramovic alluded to the commodification of art and artist by critiquing conventions of and demands for female beauty in art and contemporary culture.[5] The rest of assumptions on the art performed by Abramovic are a mere extent of someone’s own suggestions and viewpoints.

The idea is that Marina Abramovic is transcendent as well as transparent in her vision of the art. She conforms to the failure, as something artistically incomplete but valuable for getting a new push. All of Abramovic’s work is about failing: It’s about discovering when her body will fail, when her mind will fail, when her voice will fail, when her relationship will fail.[6] In the Rhythm 5, 1974 she imitated her feelings about the Communist society in which she lived by means of petroleum-drenched star lit at the very outset of the performance:


Figure 3 Rhythm 5


Every now and then the artist was cutting her nails and hair so as to put these rests into the flames. It is to continue until Abramovic’s being unconscious. This is the way to show a total purification of body and mind from the chimera of the Communist past before a host of possibilities at present. She is interested in the limits of the body while her intention was quite behind these boundaries, so to speak.

The experts and the researchers are likely to admit the uniqueness of Abramovic in her tensions with real and unreal features. She demonstrates her nude or bleeding body to show off that she has powerfully adapted the utopian belief in transformation through art into an individualized enterprise.[7] There is a so-called dialogue between mortality of the body as opposed to the immortal soul and mind of the artist. Her tandem with Uwe Laysiepen (Ulay) was a manifestation of the reasonability of two figures associated with the wholeness of a man and a woman in their mutual passion for art.

The other side of the story is that the use of the body for Abramovic is an illumination of her feelings about her family and the rigorous character of her mother in keeping control of Marina Abramovic. Once, she outlined on her relationships with Ulay: Ulay’s part is running into the wall, touching it, hitting it, the same thing…and then we come to the point where each of us functions alone.[8] The limits of her communication with the closest people including her mother were appropriately mirrored on the limits of her body. For Marina Abramovic, the body is used for all sorts of changes, and for complete ideological purgatory.[9] Taking advantage of her body, she exemplified the destruction of any burden over her, as a focal point for the audience already involved in her performance. There is no way out, but to perceive it in a full-fledged manner.

Her hatred of theatre is not taken spontaneously. Abramovic is an ardent supporter of everything that is real and not improvised to be so: Theatre is fake… The knife is not real, the blood is not real, and the emotions are not real, while performance is just the opposite: the knife is real, the blood is real, and the emotions are real.[10] Everyone gets dazzled by the shocking though realistic and quite influential performances by Abramovic. Not only this, but her splendid and well-polished ability to explain the heart of her art, as based on a definite example. Moreover, it is not a one-shot performance, but an exhaustive show lasting even for few days, as it is with Seven Easy Pieces.

This performance is all about different postures and gestures applied to the body of Abramovic which gets through the process of maturation and improvement. She always wants to be a mirror for the public, as it embodies an auspicious atmosphere to let the audience figure the pivotal idea out.[11] Performing body in order to examine its affection on people is a case to represent and preserve an art form that is, by nature, ephemeral.[12]


Figure 4 Seven Easy Pieces


Her urge to break down the measure between body and an art form is so vivid and apparent to how Abramovic manipulates with her body and lets the audience to do the same thing. The question is that some time should pass to get the value of suchlike performances, since they complement personal feelings of an artist which should be individually absorbed by the public. After the enormously exhausting actions of the Seven Easy Pieces, Abramovic triumphantly occupied the space of the rotunda and in this way transcended the limitations of her own body.[13]

It seems that Abramovic could have managed the issue of the body limits by growing in her performance and showing a particular impossibility of suchlike manipulation. When current public runs into the performances by Abramovic, the 40-years trajectory of her inimitable art form gains lots of emotions unified in an extraordinary journey of endurance, performance, and constant reinvention.[14]


Figure 5 Seven Easy Pieces


The above figure represents the culmination of Abramovic’s decision on extending the boundaries of a human body. This is where the solution of her art lays – unpredictable but real magnificence of the artistic thought over the fleshy body. Supposedly, there is no other artist to rally thoughts over the use of the body particular to Marina Abramovic. Her performances usually draw capacity audiences, as it is something intimate that one may experience through pain and fear of the artist.

However, it is applicable to Abramovic’s early works aimed at illustrating pain in action. In the interview to Helena Kontova, the artist assumes: If I hadn’t met Ulay, they would have destroyed my body.[15] However hard it comes to a man’s mind, but Abramovic is never afraid of repeating her drastic performance for the sake of right conception of it shared among observers. Hence, it comes out to be that Marina Abramovic is fearless. Is it really so? Thereupon, she often points out: For me, the most difficult piece is the one I’m about to make.[16]

Blood, danger, and disturbation complement the gist of each point prescribed to the art of Marina Abramovic. Her passion for doing so is, in fact, the consequence of her living with mother. Her mother was a strict woman who often hit her for any disobedience. Thus, the pain and carvings are now apparent to the artist. The performance Lips of Thomas gives a spectacular duration between sound-mindedness and unconsciousness. Josephine Decker reminds: When Marina performed “Lips of Thomas,” in which she cut a star into her belly and then laid on a block of ice, the audience intervened when it became clear that Marina had lost consciousness.[17]


Figure 6 Lips of Thomas


The reaction of the audience on such an expressively live performance is always quite astonishing, as the artists needs the help of a doctor at this moment just like during the Rhythm 5. However, the fascination of the physical transformation of Marina Abramovic’s body is what should be taken out of each performance by her.[18] The only question to be resolved immediately is how we replace the body of the performer with the body of another.[19] This is the construct which Abramovic tends to circumspect in a commensurate measure of total transition of the sense and the physical implementation as something left behind the scenes for a while and then sprung up spontaneously in a welcomed ensemble of a gracious performance.


To conclude, the art of Marina Abramovic is fairly extra-ordinary in understanding the role of the artist who disregards subjects, but uses her own body instead. It provokes a burst of emotions on the part of the audience which usually stay behind in a catatonic state of mind. To make it plain, one is better to show a particular zeal toward getting the figure of a performance artist on the example of Marina Abramovic. Immediacy and unpredictability are those vital components to fulfil the art form by Abramovic in a wider scope.[20] Hence, bearing it in mind, it is possible to draw upon the basics of Marina Abramovic’s art.







Reference List

Abramovic, M 2010, MARINA ABRAMOVIC AND ULAY. (H. Kontova, Interviewer), November 10.

Abramovic, M 2005, MARINA ABRAMOVIC SEVEN EASY PIECES, November 9-15 Viewed November 15, 2010, on seven easy pieces <;

Abramovic, M 2010, Marina Abramovic: I’m a mirror for the public, The Telegraph , November 13, p. 1.

Biesenbach, KP, Abramović, M & Museum of Modern Art (New York, N. Y.) 2010, Marina Abramović: the artist is present, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY.

Decker, J 2010, Why Does MoMA Hate My Body? June 9, Viewed November 15, 2010, on New York Press <;

Jackson, Z 2010, Marina Abramović: What Is Performance? April 13, Viewed November 15, 2010, on MoMa PS1: Inside Out <;

O’Hagan, S 2010, Interview: Marina Abramovic, The Observer , October 3, pp. 1-6.

Pikul, C 2010, Body Issues: Marina Abramovic’s New MoMA Retrospective, March 11, Viewed November 15, 2010, on Elle <;

Stiles, K & Selz, PH 1996, Theories and documents of contemporary art: a sourcebook of artists’ writings, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Warren, JT & Lengel, LB 2005, Casting gender: women and performance in intercultural context, Peter Lang, New York, NY.

[1] Corrie Pikul, Body Issues: Marina Abramovic’s New MoMA Retrospective, (2010, March 11), Retrieved November 15, 2010, from Elle:, pp. 1.

[2] Pikul, pp. 1.

[3] Marina Abramovic (2010, November 10), MARINA ABRAMOVIC AND ULAY. (H. Kontova, Interviewer), pp. 1.

[4] Zoe Jackson (2010, April 13), Marina Abramović: What Is Performance? Retrieved November 15, 2010, from MoMa PS1: Inside Out:, pp. 1.

[5] Klaus Peter Biesenbach, Marina Abramović, Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.(2010), Marina Abramović: the artist is present, (New York, NY: The Museum of Modern Art), p. 25.

[6] Josephine Decker (2010, June 9), Why Does MoMA Hate My Body? Retrieved November 15, 2010, from New York Press:, pp. 1.

[7] Biesenbach, Abramović and Museum of Modern Art, pp. 27.

[8] Kristine Stiles and Peter Howard Selz, Theories and documents of contemporary art: a sourcebook of artists’ writings, (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1996), p. 758.

[9] John T. Warren and Laura B. Lengel, Casting gender: women and performance in intercultural context, (New York, NY: Peter Lang, 2005), p. 172.

[10] Sean O’Hagan (2010, October 3), Interview: Marina Abramovic, The Observer , pp. 1.

[11] Marina Abramovic (2010, November 13), Marina Abramovic: I’m a mirror for the public, The Telegraph , p. 1.

[12] Marina Abramovic (2005, November 9-15), MARINA ABRAMOVIC SEVEN EASY PIECES, Retrieved November 15, 2010, from seven easy pieces:,  p. 1.

[13] Biesenbach, Abramović and Museum of Modern Art, pp. 27.

[14] O’Hagan, pp. 5.

[15] Abramovic, p. 1.

[16] Pikul, pp. 2.

[17] Decker, pp. 2.

[18] Abramovic, Seven Easy Pieces, pp. 1.

[19] Biesenbach, Abramović and Museum of Modern Art, pp. 30.

[20] Biesenbach, Abramović and Museum of Modern Art, pp. 30.












An Analysis on Renee Cox’s Issues of Identity

Since time immemorial, artists have used primary elements in their works to represent their stand and express their opinions. Contemporary issues on politics, racism, sexuality and historical symbolisms are but a few of the subjects mostly represented. Artists also commit to different methods to highly express their thought in visual art and photography, which sometimes provoke submissive thoughts and criticisms among viewers. Religious, socially-inclined topics such as racial discrimination and feminism are also a few of those in which several artists associate their work. An African-American citizen, Renee Cox is only one among those artists who use equality, gender, racism and liberty as themes in developing unconventional styles in art.

Renee Cox was born in an upper middle-class family in Jamaica. She admits that ever since, she has always been interested in visual that in fact, her first ambition was to be a filmmaker. Although, she also says that filmmaking is more exhaustive and laborious. In time, when she has developed her interest in photography, she did not have a second thought in indulging to it. Even from the start, she has been known to express concepts related to social and political issues, as well as religiously-inclined subjects. She has been famous for making use of untraditional methods such as constructing stereotypes and subverting historical images.

As such, Renee Cox is one of the most controversial artists working today. Using her body and “ingenious narratives”[1] to interpret several uncommon expressions of both sexism and racism, her styles also permeate into social issues and religious ideals. Although she says that she is not necessarily inspired by any other artist, she admits that her gratification of photography is an amalgamation[2] of the works of Gordon Parks[3], Richard Avedon[4] and Irving Penn[5]. These three were also groundbreaking artists known for their unconventional, fashionably constructed portraits using their own styles and methods in capturing them.

Her works, including the series Yo Mama’s Last Supper as inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper and Michelangelo’s David and The Pieta, typically comprise of the black people resembling the original characters, inflicting dramatic manifestations in their mimicking thereof. As these are considered related to religious identities, the collection gave rise to many controversies against Cox. Many Catholics were outraged, although she retorted that she only wanted to have ‘black representations’ of these pieces. “…Christianity is big in the African-American community, but there are no presentations of us,” she said. “I took it upon myself to include people of color in these classic scenarios.”[6]

One of those who publicly announced his opposition to the work was Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who even called for a commission to apply “decency standards” to keep publicly-supported works from the museum. Even though he had not seen the image himself, he already regarded Cox’s rendition as “disgusting, outrageous and anti-Catholic”. [7] In response to this, Cox refuted the accusation of Guiliani that her works are “Anti-Catholic” because she claims that her works are all just personal, without any touch of religious anti-whatnot. Besides, she was brought up a Catholic, although she admits she is not an adherent of the organised religion anymore[8].


Fig. 1 Renee Cox, Yo Mama’s Last Supper (1996)


This is not the end of this, however. Camille Paglia, a self-proclaimed arts educator says she despises Cox’s rendition because, in a sense, it appears to be “[insulting] the sustaining values of spiritual richness and grandeur of the Roman Catholicism”[9]. Harvey Blume has a different perspective on the work though. He points out comparisons between Da Vinci’s painting and Cox’s rendition in order to emphasise contrasting, or unrelated purposes of each artist at least, in delivering the message. He concludes that the portrayal, characterisation and themes illustrated in both works are clearly a justification of Yo Mama’s Last Supper‘s independence from what Da Vinci’s work encompasses, aside from the fact that Cox’s is merely her own rendition of the other work concerned.

Cox reaffirms that her works are not about condemnation and insulting of religion. Instead, they are focused on employing the “should-be” principles of women in the society, in church, and in other aspects. “I believe that images of women in the media are distorted and women are imprisoned by those unrealistic representations of the female body”[10], says Cox in her artist statement. In an interview conducted by Karen Croft, she says that the object of controversy [Yo Mama’s Last Supper] critiques the position that women held in church, the issues of slavery and Catholicism, and the absence of her fellow black people’s presentations in the work. She also says that her principles in art are about body and form, without any manifestation of sexual concept in the context. “When I do these images, the sexual element isn’t there for me at all.”


Fig. 2 Renee Cox, Yo Mama’s Pieta (1996)

Cox’s motivations are focused on creating fresh and positive visual representations of African Americans. In Yo Mama’s Pieta, she displays herself nude and draped with a dark veil (portraying Virgin Mary), while carrying the lifeless body of a man (portraying Jesus Christ). In contrast with Michelangelo’s, she depicts a stronger, bolder image of the woman, someone who seems to have expected her son’s death beforehand, as evident in her facial expression. Hers is also a face of strong will and determination which may be sufficient to allow her to not shrink back in horror upon realising the reality before her. Thus, as she states, “My main concern is the deconstruction and the empowerment of women…This distortion [images of women] crosses all ethnic lines and devalues all women. I am interested in taking the stereotypical representations of women and turning them upside down, for their empowerment”[11]. Thus, as she refers by Kara Walker’s[12] (Kara Walker is also an African-American artist known for her paper silhouettes, similarly expressing and examining issues of race and gender.) images, she claims also wants to elevate female culture, while rejecting the commonplace inferiority-implying silhouettes of women and bring out the meaning of ‘sexual liberation’ in their lives.

Aside from women and racial issues, Cox’s ideas are also concerned in promoting justice and freedom. As she boldly practises, her works constitute of her (and other black people’s) sexualised body, presenting a juxtaposition to the political symbolism implied in her work. She says she does this because she wants others to know her people are capable of having power, referring to the slavery of the black people and to the inferiority in which they are usually put. This is evident in her Liberty in the South Bronx, an allegory to Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty. Cox, nude and posing with resemblance to the statue, stretches her right arm to the air, with her other hand resting on her left thigh. She raises broken chains instead of a torch however, depicting a twist in the notion of liberty. This is also with condemnation to independence as it is applied to the impoverished South Bronx community.


Fig. 3 Renee Cox, Liberty in the South Bronx (1992)

Throughout her career as a photographer, she has been dedicated to developing inconformity in her work, using her own body as subject[13]. She uses her art to address race, gender, religion, femininity, freedom and justice as these are posed and treated by the society. She aims to establish visualisations of liberty, as opposition to slavery and degradation of African-Americans by the colonisers.

In another work which she called Hot-en-tot[14] (from the term’s originally called Hottentot which is an archaic, offensive name for the Khoi people), she exemplifies Sarah “Saartjie” Bartman, a woman who suffered unprecendented slavery in the hands of the Dutch colonists, as she was displayed and paraded at freak shows in Europe because of her unusually huge sexual body parts such as her steatopygia[15], or big buttocks. As Cox assumes the stance of Baartman, she manifests a steely, calm gaze, as if urging the viewer to indulge himself/herself in her flesh. While her stare “invites–almost dares—onlookers to take a closer look”[16], it also seems to deliver a sense of mockery in the gaze so that the viewer will suddenly be ashamed of looking. Andrea Barnwell says in addition, as cited in Farrington’s work, that this piece of artwork “addresses complex issues of voyeurism, fantasy, memory, disguise, and the gaze”.[17]

On the other hand, in Yo Mama and the Statue, she boldly poses beside her own body’s life-sized cast while resting her head on the cast’s shoulder. Implying her persona as an artist, she also creates two distinctive symbolisms in this piece: the cultural complications associated with the African-American motherhood and the European-African historical unity.

Cox says that her body display and utilisation of unconventional ideas in art is her way of “[responding] to the world” by “[sitting] at the head of the table”. [18]Thus, she shows to the public that instead of staying at the back on which the black people are customarily assigned (and where women are usually put), she ideally goes past the boundaries of art to express her opinions on the issues surrounding these areas of life. What she employs in many of her works is the adherence to justifying “fairness and equality”, as it should be viewed as far as political and societal aspects are concerned.


Fig. 4 Renee Cox, Hot-en-tot (1994)


Fig. 5 Renee Cox, Liberation of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben, 1998


Fig. 6 Renee Cox, Raje to the Rescue, 1998

Cox also creates her alter-egos in her works, such as in her in her series Raje, where she creates her super-heroine alter ego, as influenced by comic art. She wore shiny black boots and tight costume in the colors of Jamaican flag and sat “chillin” on the head of the Statue of Liberty. In one of the photos included in this series, she shows that she is not only surviving, but thriving while avenging repressed brand icons Aunt Jemima[19] and Uncle Ben[20] (trademarks of pancakes, rice and food-related products) whose brands are labeled in the background. She says that she gives life to the character to educate all children about the African American history.  According to the artist, “It is the reincarnation of [herself] as a super hero”. She also features iconic heroism, as she broke steel chains in front of an erupting volcano, stood over Times Square and posed with two male sidekicks on the glove above the African continent. Raje is a “quintessential hero” version of Cox, in which she portrays subversion in race and gender conventions, struggling against male prevalence and injustice.

In her creation of these, criticisms become inevitable, such as that of Roberta Smith, who accused her of being “narcissistic” or preoccupied with oneself[21] and called her work “a pastiche of available ideas, literal-minded art theory, spirited narcissism and stunning production values”[22]. She also said that a majority of the works are aggressive and too subjective, in a sense that Cox regards the rarity of black people’s appearances in works a big deal, while laying her opinions down in a way that appears boastful to Smith.

Her other alter-ego is present in Yo Mama. In the case, Cox depicts strong representation of motherhood and eroticism. Here, she shows off herself nude, carrying her son horizontally at waist level. According to Cox herself, women artists and mothers, while taking care of their family, must also find a way to “keep on pressing on” as hence symbolised by the high heels she was wearing. “The body of work was a rebellion against all the pre-ordained roles I am supposed to maintain: dutiful daughter, diminutive wife, and doting mother”, Cox says, also referring to her series American Family, which also shows her concept of “strong feminism”.

This image is said to be one of the ways in which Cox represents herself, going back in history when she was studying at the Whitney Independent Study Program[23] while she did a large number of photographs of herself pregnant[24]. “Cox’s offers a complex representation that is at once bold and contemplative…This is hardly traditional Madonna and Child image from the long repertoire of Western art and cultural history…he is pictured as emerging from the mother’s sexuality, at once a part of her and distinct, almost distant…her photographic projection of him into the world triggered a wide-ranging comment that likened him into a gun—and not just any gun, but an uzi[25]”.

In this work, she suggests a masculine stance, which represents deviation from the stereotypes of woman as an image of eroticism in the eyes of men. Aside from this, she also says that Yo Mama appeals to women of all varying ages and ethnic backgrounds. It employs an otherwise strong-willed image of motherhood, defying the conventional passive and victimised images of such. As often pointed out by the artist herself, this work yet again embodies empowerment. Women have been customarily presumed to “live their lives” until they get pregnant and start their own family. Cox thinks otherwise. The symbolism endowed in this image represents Cox’s  concept that after pregnancy, a woman is still able to pick up her child “in the quickest manor possible, still wear her stilletos and keep on pressing”.[26]










Fig. 7 Renee Cox, Yo Mama(1993)

As present in the evidences from her work, interviews and the artist’s statements, her works are generally particular to issues concerning race, gender, religion and society. She engages into issues of identities when her works are labeled anti-religious, although they are only done in an uncustomary style, aligning with her sense of opinions on matters. Her works often amount to criticisms and oppositions such as those mentioned above, accusing her works as sacrilegious and without artistic merit.

In a broader sense, she represents the totality of a massive and strong-willed woman, capable of expressing her ideas and opinions through photography. Throughout her career as an artist, she creates political and religious emblems, anarchistic methods of distortion, unconventional juxtaposition, symbolic identities and historical diaspora to represent her principles and visions in art and life. These works also reflect her continuous struggle in showing empowerment to the oppressed either in gender or race.

As the nude female has been typically understood a passive, submissive and helpless creature, artists such as Renee Cox have gone beyond their way to celebrate a change in the true meaning of womanhood. She illustrates symbolism in art through a very unconventional manner, provocative yet compelling. She makes use of the body as an object capable of representing emotions, strength and will. She utilises sophisticated and equally amusing manner of expressing her opinions on issues concerning her race and sexuality, setting out a brilliant paradigm in the age of modern visual arts.

As Cox also deals with issues of racism and gender, she makes use of photography as a tool in creating her identity within the lens of the camera. With this, she is able to fight colonisation and therefore create her own methods of freeing herself from the walls wherein her kind was constricted to live in. In portraying her own stance, expression and definition of art, she is able to align her principles with justice through art, therefore enabling her to diminish the existing limitations posed by discrimination and domination of other races and gender. Thus, she uses photography as an instrument in defying odds, creating her own paradigm and manifesting her own meaning of liberty.


[1] Plett, N., 2008. [Personal interview with Renee Cox]. October 21. New Brunswick.

[2] Croft, K., 2001 Using Her Body. [Personal interview with Renee Cox]. February 22. Available: <> (Accessed: November 17, 2010)

[3] Guimond, J., 1991. American Photography and the American dream. Chapel Hill: The University of North   Carolina Press.

[4] Grundberg, A., 2004. Richard Avedon, the Eye of Fashion, Dies at 81. The New York Times.

[5] Irving Penn, 1917. Available: (Accessed: November 18, 2010)

[6] Renee Cox. Available: <; (Accessed: November 18, 2010).

[7] Cockburn, A., 2001. Giuliani as Pope Julius II? Hail to the mayor. Counter Punch.

[8] Williams, M., 2001. ‘Yo Mama’ Artist Takes on Catholic Critic. The New York Times.

[9] Blume, H., 2001. Oops, She Did It Again. Woman’s Art Journal, 24.

[10] Renee Cox Artist Statement. n.d.p. Available: <; (Accessed: November 18, 2010)

[11] Renee Cox Artist Statement. n.d.p. Available: <; (Accessed: November 18, 2010)

[12] Dawson, J. Standing in the Shadow of the Silhouette Figure: Kara Walker’s Success Inspires Arlington Exhibit. The Washington Post. June 2008.

[13] Farrington, L., 2004. Reinventing Herself: The Black Female Nude. In Woman’s Art Journal, 24.

[14] Baker, J.R., 1974. Race. Oxford University Press.

[15] Anitei, S., 2007. What Is Steatopygia? Softpedia. Accessed November 16 2010, from: <>.

[16] Barnwell, A. D., 1997. Personal Reflections and the Fact of Blackness. International Review of African  American Art, 14.

[17] Farrington, L., 2004. Reinventing Herself: The Black Female Nude. In Woman’s Art Journal, 18.

[18] Srivastava, V., 2001. The Woman Behind the Storm. Savoy.


[19] Aunt Jemima’s Historical Timeline. 2010. Available: <> (Accessed: November 18, 2010).

[20] Uncle Ben. 2007. Available: <> (Accessed: November 18, 2010).

[21] Lubit, R. H., 2004. Coping with Toxic Managers, Subordinates…and other difficult people. New Jersey,  USA: Financial Times Prentice Hall.


[22] Smith, R., 2001. Art in Review; Renee Cox. In: New York Times.

[23] Whitney Independent Study Program. 2010. Available: (Accessed: November 18, 2010).

[24] Danto, A. C., 2005. Renee Cox: Yo Mama’s Last Supper. Unnatural wonders: essays from the gap between art and life. New York, West Sussex: Columbia University Press.

[25] Liss, A., 1999. Black Bodies in Evidence: Maternal Visibility in Renee Cox’s Family Portraits.” Familial Gaze. Ed. Marianne Hirsch. Hanover and London: The UP of     New England. 279-281, 285.


[26] Parravicini, C., 1998. [Personal Interview with Renee Cox]. Available: <> (Accessed: November 17, 2010).



Modernism through the prism of Stalinist architecture 1918-1940


The October Revolution in 1917 did not only change the political structure of Russia; it also transformed culture and arts. Prior to the Revolution, the Russian Arts reflected through their architecture had been assimilating Western tradition. The Revolution changed this trend by adapting a Communist ideology that is against Western Capitalism. In response, Russian government supported new types of architecture that shall reflect their own culture and style. The government’s intervention on architecture prevailed during the rule of Josef Stalin. Stalin’s New Utopia resulted to the creation of the Socialist Realism that are reflected in monumentalism, patriotism, and use classical motifs, with the expression of socialist content and national form.

It is therefore important to start this paper with a short history of Russian politics to show how the society and politics shaped Stalin’s perspective. This will reveal how communism was transformed by its leaders to advance their personal goals and ideology. The discussion shall help the reader understand how socio-political ideals of communism were demonstrated by Stalinist architecture. It shall further illuminate the development of Russian architecture, in consideration of Stalin’s socio-political agendas.  Stalinist architecture was built to reflect the communist propaganda of the Soviet Union.

History of Russian Art

The influence of Western Art to Russia was encouraged by Peter the Great during the 18th century. The 19th century art is defined by Byzantine Art focusing on icon painting (Charlton, 2003 p. 23). During this era, the Peredvizhniki movement was born. This movement emphasizes “art as a force for national awareness and social change” (Richmond, 2009 p. 98). Peredvizhniki or Wanderer’s movement captured Russian historical scenes, landscapes, social criticisms, and portraits. Some of the prominent Peredvizhniki painters were Isaac Levitan and Mikhail Vrubel. As the 20th century begins, the influence of Western culture heightened. Impressionism, symbolism, and art nouveau were introduced as modernist styles that focus on “art pure and unfettered” (Richmond, 2009, p. 98). Other types of artistic movements and style emerged such as neoprimitivism and suprematism. Futurists avant-garde movement developed as Russian artists absorb and incorporate the different styles into their own culture. More particularly, there is a great tendency to move toward abstract arts until 1920s.

History of Russian Architecture

Early Russian architecture was marked by wooden homes known as “izba or single-storey log cottage” (Horton, Richmond, Elliot, & Kokker, 2006, p. 92). The architectural landscape under Imperial Russia was dominated by classic and vernacular designs. The ecclesiastical architecture was introduced by Vladimir the Great when he embraced Christianity. As a result, Russian architecture is reflected through their Orthodox churches that are characterized by iconostasis (Charlton, p. 24). The early churches have “eastern apse, a dome or cupola over the central aisle, high vaulted roofs forming a crucifix shape centred on the dome (Horton et al, p. 93). In 15th and 16th centuries, the architectures were largely influenced by Italian tradition through the introduction of kokoshniki or pointed arches, zakomari or semicircular gables, beveled domes, and shatyor or tent-roofed tower (Charlton, 2003, p. 24). By 17th century, tiles and bricks were use to add color and pattern on the churches in Moscow. When Peter the Great embraced the Western arts, baroque and rococo styles were created in St. Petersburg. At the end of 18th century, Catherine the Great chose classicism. Classicism is derived from Roman and Greco architecture that made use of mathematical proportions. This was further elaborated to grandiose Russian Empire style during the time of Alexander and Nicholas I. After the October Revolution in 1917, Russian architect started to apply several historical styles. Nonetheless, the most prominent were Art Nouveau and Neoclassicism. Art Nouveau or stil’ modern “was bound up with the efforts of the new bourgeoisie to express its ambitions in visual terms” (Gleason, 2009, p. 139). Neoclassical architecture are use to represent the authority of the imperial family. It is considered as “a civilizing style controlled by the sovereign…combined with the rediscovery of national roots and continuity in the life of the Russian tsardom” (Shvidkovskiǐ, 2007, p.292).

20th Century Art Movements

Two movements associated mainly in architecture arouse in the beginning of the 20th century: Formalists and Constructivists. Both of which accentuate the impact of “art, science, and technology” to “social, political, and economic dimensions of society” (Greer, & McCalla, 1994, p. 364). The Formalists or Rationalists, on the other hand, believe that architecture is “an expression of abstract form, the result of composition based on certain predetermined rules” (Guillen, 2006, p. 76). The Formalists believe that there are two elements in a work of art: inner or psychological perception and the outer or the composition. The Constructivists focus on the utility of the parts. Between this two, constructivism revealed the social role of architecture as a means of collection, rationalization, and utilization of its elements. In applying constructivism, the role of architects was to create designs that fuse industrial production and everyday life (Bray, 2005, p. 85). Nevertheless, the Association of Contemporary Architects argued that housing problems must be prioritized by the government. They created communal living spaces known as “Stroikom units” that are suitable for the gradual development of “worker’s cultural life and collective consciousness” (Bray, 2005, p. 85). To increase the phase of social transformation, T. Kuzmin introduced the idea of social condensers that was “intended to concentrate the nature of social interaction among the human subjects who passed through it” (Bray, 2005, p. 85). Kuzmin believes that social condenser can help transform and develop the new proletarian lifestyle. Another type of communal space is the zhikombinat, which are communal housing complexes created to solve the housing crisis in urban areas (Castillo, 2003, p. 137).

The Socio-Political Milieu

The October Revolution in 1917 precipitated from the weakness and inept rule of Tsar Nicholas II, who was the absolute monarch of Russia (Hosking, 1993, p. 35). Tsar Nicholas suppressed his enemies by prosecuting them through the Okrana or secret police. The Tsar and his family hold absolute power over the vast Russian empire. Nevertheless, the absence of democracy, the poor working conditions of the laborers, the poverty of the peasants, the failure of the Tsar to lead the Army, and the issue surrounding the influence of Rasputin to the government, all led to the dissatisfaction of the citizens. During this moment, Communists ideals proliferate. Marxists ideology argued that capitalism is unjust and that the Proletariat or the workers must take control of the country. This ideology fits the need of the lowering Russian morale. In 1917, V.I. Lenin led the Bolsheviks Revolution and drove the Imperial family out of power. Lenin created the “Cheka”, a group of secret police that shall arrest or even execute those that are against Communism (Hosking, 1993, p. 38). In 1918, the communists executed the Tsar and his family. The communist army known as the red army was engaged in a civil war with the white armies or the allied supported Russian armies. This civil war started in 1918 and ended in 1921. The workers and the peasants became poorer because they are asked to work for longer hours in order to supply the needs of the red army. As a consequence, rebellions arouse and millions died due to sickness. In order to gain back the support of the masses, Lenin instituted the New Economic Policy that allow capitalism and market competition (Hosking, 1993, p. 79). It helped the Russian Economy but it was rendered as a betrayal of communism. When Lenin died in 1924, the leadership was fought by Stalin (General Secretary) and Trotsky (Leader of Red Army). After four years of struggle, it was decided that Stalin will be the successor and Trotsky was exiled. Stalin won over Trotsky because of his popularity and ability to control the Communists Party by appointing and removing members. During his rule, Stalin was known to commission the death of millions of Russians. Stalin created a personality cult and make use of propaganda by influencing all types of Arts with his ideology. Art tradition during Stalin’s period was known as Soviet arts.

New Russia

Under the rule of Josef Stalin, the New Economic Plan initiated by Lenin was dismissed and a command economy took its place in 1928. Stalin aspired to transform Russia into a powerful nation, therefore, he created three five year plans, which aimed to increase heavy industry, improve transportation, and increase agricultural output (Hosking, 1993). Moreover, Stalin implements collective farming. With the use of a secret police, censorship, and propaganda, Stalin managed to stay in power and establish dictatorship.

Five Year Plan

The First Five Year Plan was not accomplished without casualties. Its main objective is to increase production and profit, which is inconsistent with Marxist contempt of capitalism. The autonomy of the peasants was removed as collective farming was introduced. Industrialization increased rapidly, “doubling coal and iron output” (Rappaport, 1999, p. 91). All of these were supervised by Gosplan or the State Planning Commission. Since the government censor all publications, music, film, and any form of visual arts, the government can control the information and the images it would like to project. In this sense, the control of mass media to advance the goals of Stalin corresponds to the use of Propaganda.

Role of Propaganda

As stated above, the Russian political system had long established censorship and the use of secret police to control the people and to deal with the opposition. Nonetheless, at the dawn of the 20th century, mass media had slowly gained popularity as a tool for propaganda movements (Groys & Hollein, 2003). In order to Edward Mousley (2007, p. 162), explained that “to propagandize really means to build up a mass-mindedness stolidly biased so as to be proof against counter-bias; or to manipulate the mind of the masses in regard to some view or course of action.” Lyn Gorman and David McLean (2009, p. 87) asserts that print media, mass meetings, agitation, carnivals, parades, public theaters, posters, and films were the major forms of propaganda used by the Bolshevik Party. Charles Hauss (2008, p. 211) argued that Stalin succeeds in using “the party, the mass media, and campaigns of terror to subjugate the population and then mobilize the people in pursuit of leadership goals.” The government propaganda movement allowed Stalin to project a positive image of the five year plan and collectivism. In particular, Stalin forced artists and writers to conform to Socialist Realism as an art movement of the Socialist Union.

Socialist Realism

Socialist Realism is a method supported by Stalin that required writers, artists, architects, etc. to give a positive depicting of the life in the Soviet Union and a rejection of avant-garde (Wood, 1995, p. 167). Catherine Cooke (1993) enumerated four principles of Socialist Realism. First, Cooke (1993) emphasized that Socialist Realism is not a style but a method. Second, it is a method that synthesizes elements of the past with the present. This method also requires the creative artists to “show the whole of his class what the world is like at the time…he should help his contemporaries to gain an understanding of the reality around them, to help in the creation of the new man” (Lunarcharski as quoted by Cooke, 1993, p. 87). As a third principle, Socialist Realism positioned the artists in a leading role in the realization of collective psychology. The last principle holds that Socialist Realism creates art that are “National in form and socialist in content” (Cooke, 1993, p. 88). David Crowley asserts that the socialist content can be attained simply by “acknowledging a building’s function and incorporating symbolic motifs” (1993, p. 141). National in form refers to historical reference and myths; for example during the “Great Patriotic War, the legend of ancient Rus, dominates murals and marble panels” (Crowley, 1993, p.142). Socialist Realism, according to Pravda (as quoted by Brooks, 2000, p. 108), “demands truthfulness from the artist and a historically concrete portrayal of reality in its revolutionary development…combined with the task of the ideological remaking and education of the working people in the spirit of socialism.” Socialist Realism represents “images of striving workers, heroic soldiers and inspiring leaders” (Horton et al., 2006, p. 97).

Stalinist Architecture

The Propaganda and the Socialists Realism were methods exhausted by Stalin in planning and developing architecture. The notion of “radiant future” and “out of backwardness” (Gorman and McLean, p. 85) were some of the themes that Stalinist Architecture revealed. After the Great Depression of the 1930’s, monumental architecture in the United States and Europe were financed by the government or other institution to express nationalism and to create new jobs. Nonetheless, in Soviet Russia, the creation of monumental architecture is meant to reflect Stalin’s authority and fuel his personal cult and appeal to the masses. According to Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal (2004, p. 403), “Socialists Realism in architecture entailed not a copying, not a reproduction of forms taken from life, but a creative reworking and artistic formulation of realistic forms that utilized the Russian historical style.” Modernism and other forms of arts were considered as bourgeoisie art. Stalinists architecture aimed to outlast and dwarf the monuments of capitalist societies (Haggett,2001,  p. 1980). Leonid Zagalsky (1994) reported that “Stalin was obsessed with the idea of building the tallest building in the world” (p. 70). The Moscow State University was the tallest structure in Russia during the 1950s. Stalin used prison labor in rebuilding the major cities destroyed after World War II. Moreover, “national style architecture” was created by Stalin as “a patriotic representation of socialism” (Bray, 2005, p. 227). The creation of “national character” was done through incorporating traditional styles and motifs that has strong patriotic content. For example, red corners are instilled in classrooms with Stalin’s photos and his accomplishments.


Arts and architecture were largely influenced by the politics of their time. As revealed in the discussion of history of Russian politics, arts, and architecture, it is blatant that the people in power have the ability to influence the culture of the society through patronizing styles and methods, through manipulating mass media and using propaganda, and by the implementation of a political ideology that influences the lives of the citizens. Stalinist architecture is used as a communist propaganda that represents the aim of its leader to excel and outlast other government through monumental architecture. It also made use of patriotism to attract supporters and support traditional motifs to depict the Soviet’s national character.


Moscow State University (Ganske, 2008)


From J. Meades(2006)

From Geldem(2010).

Red Corner





Bray, D. 2005. Social space and governance in urban China: the danwei system from origins to reform. Stanford University Press.

Brooks, J. 2000. Thank you, comrade Stalin!: Soviet public culture from revolution to Cold War. Princeton University Press.

Castillo, G. 2003. Constructivism and the Soviet Company Town. In Cracraft and Rowland’s  Architectures of Russian identity: 1500 to the present. Cornell University Press.

Charlton, A. 2010. Frommer’s Moscow & St. Petersburg. Wiley Publishing, Inc.

Cooke, C. 1993. Socialist Realist architecture: theory and practice. In Bown and Taylor’s Art of the Soviets: painting, sculpture, and architecture in a one-party state, 1917-1992. Manchester University Press.

Crowley, D. 1993. Stalinist Architecture. Journal of Design History. Vol. 6. No. 2. pp. 141-143.

Ganske, C. 2008. Russia Blog: Seven Sisters. Retrieved on November 13, 2010, from

Geldem, G. 1934: Socialist Realism. Retrieved on November 13, 2010, from

Gleason, A. 2009. A companion to Russian history. Wiley-Blackwell.

Gorman, L. and McLean, D. 2009. Media and society into the 21st century: a historical introduction . Wiley-Blackwell Publishers.

Groys, B. and Hollein, M. 2003, December 14. Exhibition: Dream Factory Communism: The Visual Culture of the Stalin Era. Retrieved on November 13, 2010 from

Greer, JE., and McCalla, G. 1994 . Student modelling: the key to individualized knowledge-based instruction. NATO. Birkhäuser.

Guillen, MF. 2006. The Taylorized beauty of the mechanical: scientific management and the rise of modernist architecture.

Haggett, P. 2001. Encyclopedia of World Geography, Volume 1. Marshall Cavendish.

Hauss, C. 2008. Comparative Politics: Domestic Responses to Global Challenges. Cengage Learning.

Horton, P., Richmond, S., Elliott, M., and Kokker, S. 2006. Russia & Belarus. Lonely Planet Publishing. Australia.

Hosking, GA. 1993. The first socialist society: a history of the Soviet Union from within. Harvard University Press.

Meades, J. 2006. The Stalin heritage trail. BBC 2.

Mousley, E. 2007. Man Or Leviathan? a Twentieth Century Enquiry Into War and Peace. Read Books.

Rappaport, H. 1999. Joseph Stalin: a biographical companion. ABC-CLIO.

Richmond, S. 2009. Russia. Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd. Australia.

Rosenthal, BG. 2004. New Myth, New World: From Nietzsche To Stalinism. Penn State Press.

Shvidkovskiǐ, DO. 2007. Russian architecture and the West. Graham Foundation for Advance Studies in the Fine Arts. Singapore.

Wood, P. 1995. Regarding Soviet Culture. Oxford Art Journal. Vol. 18 No. 1 pp. 165-170.

Zagalsky, L. 1994, August. Lifestyles of the Not-So-Rich. Popular Science. Vol. 245, No. 2.




To begin with, The Jewish Bride (1667) by Rembrandt van Rijn is a masterpiece of the world art. The picture is painted with oil on canvas. Thus, it is really precious for the world’s art heritage as it is fragile in its composition. To scope out the gist of the painting and its value for an ordinary viewer, one should bear it deep in mind that Rembrandt’s work is a mysterious piece of painting. The whole discussion draws up on the argument that the world of Rembrandt’s ideas on The Jewish Bride is a myriad of assumptions characterizing the artist in terms of his religious views and devotion to the family and people. The artist is apt at describing the real side of devoted people in each detail.


Delving into the idea of producing pictures by Rembrandt one touches upon a set of priorities which the artist valued most of all. The fact is that scholars still have no idea of what the genuine title of the picture is. Debates on this issue touch upon different suggestions and assumptions coming from logical conceptions of two persons depicted on the picture. By the way, the picture was painted during Rembrandt’s final years in 1662.[1] Hence, there comes an assumption that the artist could think of his personal message to the heirs and art cognoscenti. Perhaps, it was an attempt to discover the tragedy or scrutiny of family life which Rembrandt tried to illuminate realistically. Nevertheless, the scholars provide different opinions on the identification of a man and a woman on the canvas.

First of all, one standpoint highlights the figures of Biblical characters, Isaac and Sarah.[2] This idea is well shared among the connoisseurs who amplify the religious dedication of Rembrandt as shown in plenty of his works. Moreover, it is an overt continuation of The Prodigal Son, another Biblically-related picture by the artist. It is likely that Rembrandt expressed regret for some fatal or irretraceable mistakes that he had done in his life. Whatever scholar suppose about the gist of The Jewish Bride, they do it bearing record to the person of the artist himself.  This viewpoint needs more justification.

Nonetheless, some experts and researchers are inclined to state the original meaning of the picture in the following way: The name The Jewish Bride refers to the long-held view that the picture portrayed the Jewish father of a bride bidding farewell to his daughter.[3] There is no doubt that such motives can be followed up in taking the looks full of sadness and abstraction along with the postures of two persons on the picture.


Fig. 1 The Jewish Bride


Darkness and masonry behind can tell about the sadness of the moment and its doomed identification for both characters. However, there is a particular mismatch in describing two characters in terms of their belonging to the epoch, trendy innovations, and thoughts. In this respect a characteristic for Rembrandt feature of puzzling is at hand: If The Jewish Bride is a portrait, Rembrandt, by contrast, succeeds in representing his contemporaries so that they suggest another time and place.[4] The artist shows in such a way his adoration of the pure and full-of-divine-nature feelings emerging between people. Once again, his religious views cannot be diminished in a way. The feeling of humane and the significance of a man are quite emphasized in the content constituent of the picture.

On the other hand, the lines and the vividness of the picture amaze, since it seems that the artist was drawing from nature. As a matter of fact, the peculiarity of this Rembrandt’s canvas is that he was doing things not in the same way he used to: In a work such as The Jewish Bride, Rembrandt blurred the distinction between sitter and model, and was not agreeing to serve his patrons.[5] This a splendid example of the artistic burst of emotions, so to speak. Thus, we see an eminent justification of Rembrandt’s artistic flexibility in choosing themes and characters for his pictures.

Turning back to the opinions on the characters’ identities, it is vital to highlight the title of the picture was long unknown until, as stated, 1825 when it was called so by a noble Amsterdam collector of art.[6] On the other hand, no wonder that Rembrandt was well known for his use of models from Amsterdam’s Jewish community.[7] The precursors for Rembrandt’s preferences are taking shape easily. The artistic community was likely to think that such title would definitely fit the sense of the picture, as one may take a glance at it.

In addition, the figures on the canvas are also associated among cognoscenti, as the figures of Rembrandt’s son Titus and his bride.[8] This fact goes out of the warm relationships between father and his son. By contrast, Rembrandt painted his son Titus in a Capuchin habit.[9] At a glance, Figure 2 gives a full-fledged idea on commonalities with The Jewish Bride. The lines and impasto are perfectly implemented by Rembrandt, and if one could imagine the process of Titus’s aging and his maturity, things become easier to understand.


Fig. 2 Titus as a Franciscan


The idea of Rembrandt’s devotion to his family can be judged upon differently, as people are not ideal at all. However, the artist could manage to keep the conception of family life and family relationships sacramental for an observer. Among fifty-one paintings originally attributed to Rembrandt show the similarities in the way he organized his workshop and followed his out-of-this-world technique.[10] The artist seems to have taken inspiration every now and then. The Jewish Bride constitutes the unity of different attributes in respect for Rembrandt’s religiosity (Jewish models, family, previously drawn The Prodigal Son, etc.).

This idea spreads over different opinions regarding the figure of Don Migues de Barrios, an Amsterdam outstanding poet at the time, who professed his Judaism openly and was in good relationships with the eminent figures of Amsterdam which could have served, as one more source of sponsorship for Rembrandt.[11] Admittedly, that the figure of bride on the canvas is referred to his second wife Abigail de Pina.[12] This is one more suggestion as of possible identities of figures in the picture.

However hard the discussion is, it is vital to draw more attention to the technical peculiarity of the picture. Thereupon, as was mentioned above, Rembrandt followed his Capuchin technique in The Jewish Bride. Furthermore, the nature of the unique impasto on the sleeve in the picture sparks special interest: there are neither brushmarks nor tracks of the palette knife.[13] The features of realistic painting are overlapping with the artist’s illusionism evolving into his imaginary feelings for religious themes and their focal prescription for the mankind.

Nevertheless, a unique technique used by Rembrandt in painting people provides a wider composition applied to The Jewish Bride.[14] Two figures are placed so as to show their deep and pure love which cannot be underestimated or valued as something going apart with the picture. What is more, the characteristic feature of the analyzed painting as well as of many others is represented through a plethora of small wavy lines.[15] A special significance is applied to the way Rembrandt draws the looks of both figures: they do not look at each other. A feature of illusionary dreams seems to overwhelm both of the characters.

Talking about the life of the artist, it is quite a widely spread view on his talent, as a Romantic artists whose alienated genius and rebel identify him, as the one to implement his talent solely for limited groups of the society.[16] Further still, Rembrandt was a well-known citizen of Holland at the time. His life excited the society in terms of the amount of new works done for the noble and richest people living, for instance, in Amsterdam. Historians tend to suppose that it was not a fad for Rembrandt, as he leaned toward more isolated atmosphere in order to create his masterpieces. The artist was the talk of the town every now and then: The status of the artist and his art was a lively social and economic issue in Holland around midcentury.[17] However, Rembrandt was constantly in search for his own explanation of why he became so tangible to the world of art.[18]

Thus, the creation of The Jewish Bride was a so-called continuation of Rembrandt’s following his incomparable manner of painting for the sake of genuine feelings shared by love struck persons. To keep a strict eye on the realistic depiction in the picture, it is likely that The Jewish Bride is a manifestation of the late Rembrandt and his maturity in evaluating peoples’ characters and their unsophisticated feeling of love in its perfect, though forbearing magnificence.

One more interesting fact as per the picture is that it is considered by some experts as a probable work by another Amsterdam painter Bol or by followers of both Rembrandt and Bol: After the deaths of Bol, Rembrandt and his followers, unscrupulous art dealers began to forge Rembrandt’s signature on paintings made by anyone working in his style.[19] Thus, it is still a mystery for how the Rembrandt’s signature appeared on The Jewish Bride. However, needless to say, the picture’s techniques and the representation along with the composition are genuinely done in accordance with the peculiarities in painting by Rembrandt.

Again, the figure of a man on the canvas cannot be similar to self-portrait of the artist, as there are age discrepancies pertaining to the artist at his late period in the field of art. However, the figure of allegedly Jewish woman is a mysterious figure used by Rembrandt and particularly found in The Night Watch. The question is that there are some similarities in depicting the principal diminutive enigmatic female figure in The Jewish Bride and in The Night Watch. Taking a glimpse at the Figure 3, one may presumably assume the female figure to be identically similar to the Jewish woman in the picture under analysis.


Figure 3 The Night Watch


Rembrandt’s universe was, of course, enormous, as might be seen out of his plentiful works. Distilling Rembrandt’s appreciation of Jewish people as well as Jewish heritage is supposedly the basis to presuppose his mystery.[20] This is why The Jewish Bride seems to bear the qualities and esprit de corps, so to speak, of Rembrandt and his passion for depicting people naturally with only shapes of some higher sense prescribed to their characters.

By embracing the technical gist of The Jewish Bride one should take a special look at the presentation of lines and shades. The question is that the overall ensemble of the picture is full of vertical and horizontal lines decreasing or expressly emerging at each part of the picture. Notably, the artists was strongly focused on the characters more than on the background: Even the vertical lines in the wall of the well masonry, or the horizontal line at lower right, which could represent a stone bench, emerge merely as a narrow boundary zone between areas of differing brightness, and not as clear contours.[21] Hence, the artist had demonstrated an apparent a bit lower in meaning significance of the background in the picture in order to show off the transition between brighter elements of the canvas and its shading surroundings.

One more significant feature applied to the picture is that, typically to Rembrandt’s manner of painting, the lines of shadow from the heads of both figures come into a better suggestion of their torso.[22] This is why the play of light and shadow are implemented genuinely by the artists so that to toss out doubts of the Rembrandt’s authorship which are also applicable to the discussion on the artist’s heritage. What is more, his masterful economy of colour and brushwork are stated to be inimitable among the experts in the field of art.[23] Thereupon, The Jewish Bride is largely concerned with the inner passion of the author for making colors and lines distinctive in case when he (Rembrandt) could complement such pattern with sense and liveliness.

The Jewish Bride was supposedly being painted by Rembrandt during his stay in Paris while he visited his friend, Paul Freart de Chantelou in 1655.[24] Thus, the motives in Titian style and the splendour of Paris were likely those influencing factors on the passion with which Rembrandt was working over the picture. Hence, he could have made up his mind about the idea of producing The Jewish Bride long before visiting Paris. The figure of a characteristic in features Jewish woman proves this assumption when looking at the series of pictures similar in technical implementation.


Summing up, The Jewish Bride (1667) by Rembrandt is a material artistic corroboration of the fact that social and religious constituents were the paramount for the artist while working over the picture. Adored by people’s sincere feelings, Rembrandt had shown his direct attitude toward the issues of beauty, passion, essentiality, and status of a man in the society. In order to somewhat fade the human factor away, the artist uses the religious subtext, thus, to make the value of the picture universal for the next generations. Taking a look at the facts and comments by the experts, one may definitely agree that this manipulation by meaning through incomparable techniques was successful for Rembrandt.









Reference List

Alpers, S 1995, Rembrandt’s Enterprise: The Studio and the Market, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.

Bockemühl, M & Rijn, RH 2000, Rembrandt, 1606-1669: the mystery of the revealed form (2 ed.), Taschen, Los Angeles, CA.

Bomford, D 2006, Art in the Making Rembrandt, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.

Brown, C 1992, Rembrandt: the Master and his workshop, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.

Chapman, HP 1992, Rembrandt’s Self-Portraits, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.

McQueen, A 2003, The rise of the cult of Rembrandt: reinventing an old master in nineteenth-century France, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam.

Patrick, J 2007, Renaissance and Reformation, Marshall Cavendish, Tarrytown, NY.

Rembrandt, The Jewish Bride, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Amsterdam.

Rembrandt, The Night Watch, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Amsterdam.

Rembrandt, Titus as a Franciscan, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Amsterdam.

Scallen, CB 2004, Rembrandt, reputation, and the practice of connoisseurship, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam.

Schama, S 1999, Rembrandt’s Eyes (1 ed.), Knopf, New York, NY.

Schwarz, G 2006, Rembrandt’s universe, his art, his life, his world, Thames & Hudson, London.

Segal, E 2005, Ask now of the days that are past, University of Calgary Press, Calgary, OH.

Sluijter, EJ & Rijn, RH 2006, Rembrandt and the female nude, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam.

Wetering, Ev 1997, Rembrandt: the painter at work, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam.

White, C 1999, Rembrandt by Himself, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.



[1] James Patrick 2007, Renaissance and Reformatio,. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish, pp. 1217.

[2] Segal, Eliezer 2005, Ask now of the days that are past, Calgary, OH: University of Calgary Press, pp. 87.

[3] Michael Bockemühl, & Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn 2000, Rembrandt, 1606-1669: the mystery of the revealed form (2 ed.), Los Angeles, CA: Taschen, pp. 79.

[4] Svetlana Alpers 1995, Rembrandt’s Enterprise: The Studio and the Market, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, pp. 7.

[5] Alpers, pp. 89.

[6] Bockemühl & Rijn, pp. 79.

[7] Segal, pp. 87.

[8] David Bomford 2006, Art in the Making Rembrandt, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, pp. 154.

[9] Bomford, pp. 154.

[10] Christopher Brown 1992, Rembrandt: the Master and his workshop, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, pp. 42-43.

[11] Segal, pp. 88.

[12] Segal, pp. 88.

[13] Ernst van dewatering 1997, Rembrandt: the painter at work, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, pp. 242.

[14] Eric Jan Sluijter & Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn 2006, Rembrandt and the female nude, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, pp. 271.

[15]Christopher White 1999, Rembrandt by Himself, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, pp. 237.


[16] H. Perry Chapman 1992, Rembrandt’s Self-Portraits, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, pp. 232.

[17] Alpers, pp. 89.

[18] Simon Schama 1999, Rembrandt’s Eyes (1 ed.), New York, NY: Knopf, pp. 153.

[19] Catherine B. Scallen 2004, Rembrandt, reputation, and the practice of connoisseurship, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, pp. 113.


[20] Gary Schwarz 2006, Rembrandt’s universe, his art, his life, his world, London: Thames & Hudson, pp. 229.

[21] Bockemühl & Rijn, pp. 82.

[22] White, pp. 81.

[23] Patrick, pp. 1217.

[24] Wetering, pp. 189.


I. The aim of the study

The general aim of the researched study is to show the use of the body by Marina Abramovic in her multiple performances. In this respect the particularities of the research include the way Abramovic uses her body as a tool. Her sacrifice for the sake of the art is in focus. To be precise more glimpses should be taken to her understanding of the physical limits of body and the augmented and unlimited horizons of mind.

The subject is interesting, because it corresponds to the figure of an eminent artist. To say more, it is more about a new understanding of the performance art scoped in a new perspective of the human body. Abramovic’s heritage is composed of the performances featuring her as the main star. This is the peculiarity of all of her works aimed at rallying thoughts over the use and implementation of the human body in art.

The study also requires a set of ideas on the reasons for Abramovic’s performance. The question is about her childhood and motives which stimulated her to follow the idea of body limits. She is not the one to pay special attention to the limits of the body. The relationship between the body and the mind was a hot discussion for Plato, Aristotle and later Descartes. Their ideas in part complemented Abramovic’s conception of the art. It is especially relevant to the possession of mind and its meaning for a human being. The research, however, is more about the ways to perceive the mind through the refusal of body in its limitations. That is to say, it is vital to research the problem of whether one can get the horizons of mind through apparently masochistic attitudes to the body. Abramovic’s conception leans toward this controversy.

More attention is grabbed, however, to the way Marina Abramovic trained her body. The research then spreads over the figure of Marina Abramovic in everyday life. It sparks interest actually in how she underwent a special training program leading her to more concentration and endurance in performing her MoMa show.  The research then turns to the vegetarian diet by Abramovic and her ability to refrain from everyday pleasures for the sake of a well-polished performance. It is vital, as during performances she is likely to fall unconscious.

The works by Marina Abramovic is an essentially staged vision of the artist’s personal emotional and philosophical treatment of the body versus mind. It is really impressive. Thus, it needs more justifications and applicable characterization of Abramovic’s art put into the research. In this respect she is able to shock the audience physically, but then it turns into her own explanation of conscious and unconscious states of human mind. It is quite interesting, as the artist could transform non-traditional way of the body personification. That is, she pays attention to how an ordinary viewer should treat her art. It is very important to her. Hence, it is a point for further discussion in the research.

There are plenty of different viewpoints and unfriendly comments on the genuinely masochistic performances by Marina Abramovic which are to be discussed in the research. Not only this, but her taking cutting body for granted is the focal point to scope out contradictions accordingly. Moreover, the research will touch upon the reflections of two basic feelings underlined by Abramovic, i.e. pain and dying. The artist neglects different tools and media to show such feelings off. Instead, she follows more straight-forward way while she uses her body to demonstrate pain, tears running down her face, cries, falling unconscious, as the prerequisites for dying. Such a complicated conception will be illustrated in more details so as to make a distinction of the moments where Abramovic is about to highlight the culmination of her performance.

Thus, the themes of the energy in the body and when energy fades away due to the stupor before something unconscious are the main perspectives to be well represented in front of the audience. This is also supported by the topics of sexuality, mortality, transformation, and, perhaps, psychosocial gist of beauty. Abramovic is taken within the research to show how she provides commodification of art and people, of vital and mortal, of beauty and ugliness involved into an integration of human viewpoints on life on the whole. This point of the discussion presupposes depiction of Abramovic’s earliest works in the retrospective shown all around the world’s museums and art galleries. Thus, more attention is grabbed in the research to the emotional side of Abramovic’s performances.

Her ideas on the Communist past which are well reflected in the earliest performances, such as Rhythm 5, are in focus by many art critics. Moreover, the research delves s into the personal life of Abramovic since her childhood and until meeting Ulay. The limits of body are further discussed in terms of the limits of Marina Abramovic’s communication with the closest people. It is a dialogue of the artist with her body. In such a discussion, Abramovic manipulates with her feelings and emotions so as to reach out the other side of perception, which is of mental and creative nature.

One more aim of the research is to work out Abramovic’s conception of a mirror. She often implies to this peculiar incorporation of her art. She mirror s what is still hidden among human beings. Mortal body and everlasting mind are mirrored through letting body gain its limits even though it seems quite painful and shocking to the public. She promotes experiments not only with her body but with the extent of particular affection on the audience. In other words, the reflections on the audience are also significant for the study.

Contemporary performances by Abramovic provide a 40-yeyars trajectory linking the gist of pain, endurance, innovation, and vividness in an artistic form. This issue presents special significance for the body of the research, as today’s works by Abramovic, such as Seven Easy Pieces, are too popular with the audience of art performers and amateurs. Thus, the goal is to investigate an essential interrelation between early and late performances by Abramovic. Her performances usually draw capacity audiences, as it is the whole place where the intimacy with the artists can be experienced by each spectator.

Extra-ordinary implementation of an art form and its further representation as something unique to understanding the limits of body makes the whole research particularly important. This idea is more amplified when it collides with the fact that Abramovic is never afraid of repeating every single performance for the sake of the next generations of cognoscenti.

II. The methods of the research and analysis

The overall examination of the art by Marina Abramovic requires visual aids and the artist’s comments on each performance. Thereupon, the personal viewer experience is appreciated for the research. In fact, it is what leads to designating Abramovic’s art out of the myriad of the performance artists worldwide. This crucial step is methodologically vital, as the subject matter refers directly to the art. Thus, visual representations are to be the first in order to shape the research on Marina Abramovic.

Visiting exhibition retrospective on-line is the next pivotal approach within the study. In this respect exhibition held in November at Lisson Gallery ( accounts as the available and useful way to go ahead in understanding the intent of the artist. To better analyze the development of the artist and her art throughout decades, it is vital to watch the film on Marina Abramovic available on

To analyze the essence of objects and goals which the artist seeks to make visible to the audience, the essays on Marina Abramovic will be of use. Laura Mulvey’s essay originally titled as “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” makes more emphasis on the sound criticism of Abramovic’s works. Supported by the analysis of the Lucy Lippard’s essay, the feministic approach in the art by Abramovic is to be taken to further prescribe definite values shared by the artists in terms of the feministic theory.

Exploring the portraits and images of people who were crying during her performances ( is a fad for the research, as it should be placed into the emotional influence of Abramovic’s art. The Artist Is Present is particularly the concise and well-polished handout to analyze the methods used by Abramovic and commented upon by eminent critics of art or even art bellwethers. Additionally, watching video of Abramovic’s retrospective in London ( and capturing the keynotes she admits during her lecture on the situation of performance today and its development since the 1970s ( will posit an exact picture of her art to an observer.

The advantages of the research are in a rich visual support of the facts and details of Abramovic’s art and life. However, the limitations as of the methodology are that her performances cannot be presented in real time. That is to say, due to the artist’s personal participation in bloody and masochistic long-lasting (though exhausting) performances, time frames between them are quite long in order Abramovic could recover her physical state of body (health).

III. Visual images

The illustrations will be the substance of issues that will be addressed in essay. Notwithstanding the fact that Abramovic’s performances should be perceived in their dynamics, multiple photographs on her retrospective will be provided first.

Rhythm 10 should be explained in terms of the research as an exemplification of the past and present put together through identification of the artist’s cries recorded and then repeated for the analysis. The artist uses 20 knives and sticks each of them between fingers. The idea is that by analyzing the changes in emotions after cutting fingers and bleeding, Abramovic is able to justify the link between the past and the present.


Figure 1 Rhythm 10


On the other hand, Rhythm 5 is a representation of the artist’s purification from her Communist past. It should be incorporated to the goal of Communist chimera affecting her mind while she puts herself in the centre of a huge five-pointed star already set on fire.


Figure 2 Rhythm 5


Seven Easy Pieces should be taken as a set of transformations which the artists gets through in her evolution as a thinking person. The snapshots on this performance should be pointed out in the exhausting nature of it. Each part lasts for approximately seven hours during seven days. Hence, the main emphasis should be done on the solely artist’s comments. Thus, the honey on her hand in one of seven pieces is the personification of thinking of the lofty matters of humanity.


Figure 3 Seven Easy Pieces


Lips of Thomas is overly a representation of how the artist cuts a pentagonal star into her belly-button and then falls unconscious on the cross made of ice. By introducing this performance the artists wants to come closer to the idea of where the limits of body exist while the horizons of mind are still far away. The performance is quite shocking and extra-ordinary as it pays attention to sexuality and its destruction. On the other hand, it is also prescribes the Communist idea going across Abramovic’s mind since the childhood.


Figure 4 Lips of Thomas


The Artist Is Present is a 736-hour and 30-minute performance which is devoted to sitting with the immobile artists and sitters’ taking turns. The pivot of the performance should pertain to the reality of art in the present and its development at the moment of sharing thoughts of the artist. According to the research, this huge piece of Abramovic’s heritage should be aimed at the Abramovic’s background while she is present to a spectator.


Figure 5 The Artist Is Present


IV. A research plan

The time frame for the research touches upon examination and overview of the primary sources well supported by the visual aids (pictures, videos). Thus, the research is considered full-fledged after keeping track of all features to be valuable for the study of Marina Abramovic and her use of the body. At least a week should be dedicated toward an insightful look at the essential art by Abramovic. However, it largely depends on how brief will a tour on the artist’s chosen by a researcher.

The main plan would then conform to a set of interviews, journals, documentations, video performances, and photographs of each among performances. These will then be discussed in the discussion and results sections of the research.

V. Research sources and bibliography

Sources selected for the research will be divided into several groups: primary and secondary; web-based and printed publications; journal articles, magazine articles, newspaper articles; books and reports on exhibitions or conference with the participation of Marina Abramovic.

With regards to the on-line sources, they will be also broken down to books, journals, newspapers, interviews devoted to the art by Marina Abramovic. It would be helpful for getting the idea of the research in terms of its solid framework spring up from credible sources. The theme of Marina Abramovic and her use of the body is well shared throughout Internet. Hence, it would be rather better to start with the analysis of her basic performance in their philosophical application. Web-based sources should be well-shared for a researcher as well as the printed publications and sources from acknowledged libraries are. Thereafter, the research can be started in its graphical representation (performed in the form of a research paper).

















Bibliography (An abridged List)

Abramovic, M 2010, MARINA ABRAMOVIC AND ULAY. (H. Kontova, Interviewer), November 10.

Abramovic, M 2005, MARINA ABRAMOVIC SEVEN EASY PIECES, November 9-15 Viewed November 15, 2010, on seven easy pieces <;

Abramovic, M 2010, Marina Abramovic: I’m a mirror for the public, The Telegraph , November 13, p. 1.

Biesenbach, KP, Abramović, M & Museum of Modern Art (New York, N. Y.) 2010, Marina Abramović: the artist is present, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY.

Decker, J 2010, Why Does MoMA Hate My Body? June 9, Viewed November 15, 2010, on New York Press <;

Jackson, Z 2010, Marina Abramović: What Is Performance? April 13, Viewed November 15, 2010, on MoMa PS1: Inside Out <;

O’Hagan, S 2010, Interview: Marina Abramovic, The Observer , October 3, pp. 1-6.

Pikul, C 2010, Body Issues: Marina Abramovic’s New MoMA Retrospective, March 11, Viewed November 15, 2010, on Elle <;

Stiles, K & Selz, PH 1996, Theories and documents of contemporary art: a sourcebook of artists’ writings, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Warren, JT & Lengel, LB 2005, Casting gender: women and performance in intercultural context, Peter Lang, New York, NY.

Vermeer: The art of technology, the art of seeing.



The work of Jan Vermeer is a detailed example of finely wrought perspective. However, it is unclear as to how this perspective has been achieved. Recently, scholars have come to the conclusion that the use of the camera obscura, a crude but effective device that could project an image onto a surface was used in order to define the lines of perspective and create the exquisite coloration within his paintings. While there are other possible methods that might have been used in creating the work, it is most likely that this method of imagery creation was used to create the specific details that engage Vermeer’s paintings into reality. There is some debate as to whether or not Vermeer had access to the camera obscura, but he was a contemporary of several regional scientists who were working with lenses. It is likely that Anthony van Leeuwenhoek participated in bringing the technology to Vermeer.

The paintings that were created by Vermeer, however, are not simply subject to a recreation of a projected image. The Music Lesson (1662-1665) has the example of a clever use of a device, that of the tilted mirror, in order to both reveal the techniques of perspective that allowed for the reflection of the tile and the room, but also created a narrative for the work, suggesting an intimacy that would otherwise be absent. Both the technical skill and the emotional content of the paintings are revealed in the manipulations that Vermeer used with regard to perspective. The Soldier and the Laughing Girl (1685) utilizes the enlargement of the foreground that can be seen with the use of the camera obscura in order to create a sense of presence for the soldier, situating him against the size of the girl and providing a framework in which an intimacy between the two subjects is established. Therefore, the use of the camera obscura was merely a tool with which to translate the perspective, but not to the point that the emotive content of the work was lessoned. The narratives that Vermeer created within his work far exceed the technical precision of the perspective.

The emotional content of the work that was done by Vermeer is subtle, yet morally rendered in order to create a dialogue with the viewer about the communications of daily life. The ways in which Vermeer utilized everyday objects into compositions of emotive substance created a way of seeing the world in which the viewer saw more than just a series of objects defined in a frame. Vermeer was greatly influenced by the emblems of the day, created by the humanists in order to set forth a new moral code.


The Camera Obscura

In discussing the use of the camera obscura, it must first be explained so that the utilization of the technology in regard to artwork is clear. The camera obscura was a device that was a basic pinhole camera, a hole in one end provided a source of light that would then reproduce an image on a surface. The image would be upside down, but could be used to translate the spatial relationship of the scene onto a surface such as a canvas.[1] This device could be a small box, or as large as a room, providing the precursor to the invention of the camera.

Scholars have proposed that Jan Vermeer used the camera obscura in order to create his paintings. According to Seymour, certain details such as the distorted enlargement that can be observed in the foreground, is reminiscent of obscurities in photographs.[2] There is perfection to the perspective that suggests that the camera obscura technique was used, while the perspective issues that can be found within photographs have also become visible within the work. The kind of perfection that is found in Vermeer’s paintings is startling, leading scholars to the belief that the use of this technology was the most likely way in which it was achieved.

There were significant advances in optical science in the Netherlands during this time. Constantine Huygens and his sons were making great advances in optics, as was Anthony van Leeuwenhoek.[3] There is a growing belief that it was the work of van Leeuwenhoek that was brought to the attention of Vermeer, thus changing the way in which he painted his work. Leeuwenhoek was a scientist, an expert in observation who discovered bacteria and protozoa. Outside of his great ability to observe, he was also a specialist in working with lenses. He developed a simple microscope for which he never recorded the manufacturing methods.[4] It is from this expertise and the possible association between Vermeer and Leeuwenhoek that Vermeer’s use of the camera obscura has gained belief.

The use of the camera obscura within Vermeer’s time is not outside the realm of possibility. The “reflex” camera obscura was first reported to have been recorded in 1685 by R. P. F. Ioanne Zahn. This camera obscura version uses a mirror angled at 45 degrees in order to bring the picture to is right side up position, however it is reversed from the left side to the right. This camera is most likely not the camera used by Vermeer, however, as his paintings exhibit proper positioning in rooms that can be verified for their orientation.[5] Therefore, the question as to what kind of instrumentation was used to bring Vermeer’s work into such a perfectly proportioned perspective remains in question.

The camera obscura provided a new way of seeing the subjects of an artists world in order to gain a different perspective on light and contour. According to Gowing and Vermeer, the manner in which the camera obscura revealed nature could help an artist in a new way of seeing both light and chiaroscuro.[6] In order to argue how perspective could have been achieved with the camera obscura, understanding whether it or not it could have been achieved without the device can bring clarity. Perspective is achieved through a geometric understanding of space, in order to take a flat surface and render it to appear as if it has spatial depth. Piero dell Francesco said that “perspective is also a view forward” a prospective view into an imaginary space“.[7] Perspective is reflective of the truth, creating the illusion of space within the boundaries of a flat surface.

The Music Lesson (1662-1665)

According to Wolfe, it is not the detailed reality in which Vermeer has crafted his world, nor in the subtle contours his brush has given to his subjects, but in the ‘ways of seeing’ the world in which the work has connected to the contemporary world. The perception of the paintings is founded within the principles that the world is profoundly social, all facets of the human experience developed through relating to one another.[8] To look at an example of this uniqueness, this way of seeing, one can look at the mirror in The Music Lesson (Fig. 1). The painting is full of details, strong realistic representations of the room and of the figural subjects, but it is within the mirror that the action of the painting takes place. Here is where the emotion is transferred to the viewer. Wolfe states that it has been theorized that this is where Vermeer’s career turned, where his interest in the subjects of his paintings became less important than the thematic content. The painting works as an “allegory” for the love the painter has for his craft, rather than an exercise in technique and accomplishment.[9]

The Music Lesson (1662-1665) is constructed with the intention of using the mirror in order to provide scope to the perspective. The mirror lengthens the room, creating an deeper entry into the room drawing the viewer into the space. There is an “abrupt contrast of scale” between the foreground and the background.[10] The mirror and the image that it holds becomes the focal point of the painting, the center of the emotional content from which the story of the work is told. Although the perspective of the reversed image within the mirror is detailed and precise, the mirror reflects more than just the physical space. The mirror reflects both the physical and the psychological space within the room, reflecting not a perfect reproduction of the female figure, but what Wolfe calls “an alternative pictorial order”, retranslating the “relationship of the woman at the clavaain to the man beside her into another narrative”.[11] She becomes associated with the artist through the emotional relationship that she has with him within the framework of his creative allegory of his own love of his work; and in this reconstruction of the narrative, there is the insinuation of desire.

The probable use of the camera obscura provides insight into the tools that were used to create the perspective in the work, but does not suggest that the painting represents a precise recreation of reality with no editorial effect. By using this devise, Vermeer was allowed to create a way of seeing that began from an objective point of view, a “quantitatively conceptualized space” in which, not what was seen, but how it was seen could be brought forth within the


Fig 1. Jan Vermeer, The Music Lesson (1662-1665)

paintings.[12] Vermeer did not make a precise transcription of what the camera obscura provided visually. Huerta states that “I believe that Vermeer saw geometrical consistency and fidelity to shape outline for the foundations of his paintings”[13] The manipulation of what the camera brought to the surface of the canvas allowed for the paintings to maintain a painterly aspect, while interpreting what he saw precisely when necessary, as in the reinterpretation of the tiles.

The first indication of this technology is that the piece is very small, a mere 73.3 cm by 64.5 cm. Very few paintings of this small size have this type of space within the frame.[14] Most methods of perspective would have been too difficult to manage in trying to achieve such depth in such a small space. The details on the tiles reveal reveals a precision that defies most methods other than the camera obscura. As one observes the painting, the movement of the lines is active, each section of the architecture specific and defined. There does not seem to be a detail that was left out of the room in which the action occurs. Even the placement of color has a precision that is rarely seen within a work of art of this size and from this time period.

The Soldier and the Laughing Girl (1685)

There are many aspects of The Soldier and the Laughing Girl (1685) that are typical of Vermeer. The lion head chairs, the head covering of the girl, the familiar bodice of the dress, and the detailed map in the background all were typical subject matter of his work.[15] The use of realistic details creates part of the illusion of reality that has been achieved. In The Soldier and the Laughing Girl (Fig. 2), the map in the background is intricately detailed in order to lend to the casual atmosphere of the room. The dialogue that is created between the girl and the soldier is emphasized by the reality that is created through such details. According to Fink, this can be used as an example of the optical phenomena that Vermeer uses in order to capture that sense of perspective perfection, coupled with a snapshot of life.[16]

The disproportionate size of the hat and the arm of the soldier suggest that Vermeer was sitting very close to his subject matter when he created the imagery of the painting.[17] However, this observation has been revised because of the suggested use of the camera obscura. Before the use of the camera obscura was suggested by scholars, there was a prevalent belief that Vermeer sat very close to his subjects, creating this type of disproportion. However, this is indicative of the results of using the camera obscura.[18]

The chair that the soldier sits on within the painting is set on a higher horizon line, accenting his presence and emphasizing the intimacy that exists between the two subjects.[19] The use of the camera obscura, in this case, might have been to heighten the unevenly skewed perspective. Once again the ‘way of seeing’ is observed as the usefulness of the contrast in size from this particular angle works to establish a narrative between the two subjects. Observing the interaction of the soldier and the girl is suggestive of a storyline, the viewer witnessing a snapshot of a moment between them that is intimate and tactile.

The use of the map is not only indicative of a common subject that Vermeer used within his work, but the maps held a purposeful symbolism as they were rendered with great detail and with specific attention. The map, according to Huerta, is used to convey the message of the transference of knowledge through some form of communication within the painting in question.

In this case, in The Soldier and the Laughing Girl (1685), the map is a reflection of the thought processes that are going on inside the girl as she listens to the soldier. Huerta states that “Vermeer materialized the human cognitive landscape by depicting individuals in the act of


Fig. 2. Jan Vermeer The Soldier and the Laughing Girl (1685)

contemplation”.[20] The paintings were designed to do more than create a momentary vignette into the lives of his subjects, but to use objects within the works, such as the mirror in The Music Lesson (1662-1665) or the map in The Soldier and the Laughing Girl (1685) in order to create keys into the emotional context of the composition.


The Emotive Vermeer

The painterly methods of Vermeer were defined by his use of light. His shadows were no longer rendered only in hues of grey, but were in color, providing realism to the ways in which the contours were rendered. His compositional style was specific as the tables and draperies that were visible create a defined boundary, suggestive of a privacy between the viewer and the subjects of the paintings. The narrative is without the more common urgency or tension that is more classically observed within the period. The emotional context is subtle, almost hidden as it is in everyday life as the subjects are not within an extraordinary moment, but are experiencing a moment in their day that is common.[21] That sense of the everyday moment is the core of the intimacy that is found within the work.

Vermeer was deeply inspired by the works of the emblems, taking the moral meanings and the subtle, almost unreadable aspects as a way of expressing his own emotional content. The emblema of the period were highly influential in the moral commentary that Vermeer conducted within his work. Emblems were originally designed by the humanists and were considered a resource for education. They were intended to “establish and consolidate a new moral code, and to shape and regulate individual conduct within emerging middle class society“.[22] The complexity of the emblems intrigued Vermeer in that their meanings were somewhat hidden and required more study in order to fully understand what was intended. He used many emblems within his works such as from Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia or Moral Emblems or Moral emblems with aphorisms, adages, and proverbs, of all ages and nations from Jacob Cats and Robert Farlie which display elaborate plates that are designed to reveal meanings and morality. So too can the work of Vermeer be seen for its hidden meanings and deep moral dialogue.



Despite the use of the camera obscura, the artistry of the work cannot be denied. While the outlines and some of the coloration could be developed through a projected image, the light and life that exists within the work could not have been copied from an image of reality. The painterly style that is within the work suggests that even if the outline was provided from reality, the skill with which it was rendered was great. Liedke states that “Vermeer’s perspective schemes reveal extreme sophistication and that the floor tiles depicted in six paintings provide the crucial evidence.[23]

Of Vermeer’s use of the camera obscura for the purpose of defining his perspective, Perry states that “It takes this scientific analytical age to distill the optical function out of the realm of pictorial illusion, to the realm of functional geometry”[24] There is evidence to support that the use of the technology was given such attention that full sized imagery was created by the camera obscura. Stedman states that he has made a precise measurement of the way in which Vermeer’s studio is designed and has concluded that parts of the room created a “visual pyramid” that could define the placement of the camera in relationship to the paintings as they were created. [25]

The development of The Music Lesson (1662-1665) and The Soldier and the Laughing Girl (1685) represents a highly sophisticated method of composition that is structured in order to express a deeper meaning than might originally be observed. While the use of the camera obscura creates defined perspective, the angles that Vermeer created within the works allowed for compositional narrative, as in the example of the enlarged features of the arm and the hat on the soldier in The Soldier and the Laughing Girl (1685). His exaggerated placement in the foreground is intended to create a marked presence for his positioning, creating connectivity to his female counterpart and proposing an intimacy. While the rooms within the paintings are designed with attention to a precision of perspective, the work is still given emotional context through manipulations of the composition, subject matter, and perspective.

The emotional narrative is viewed through the use of the mirror in The Music Lesson (1662-1665) in order to express a reflection of her inner conversation, creating an intimacy with the female subject so that something more of her is revealed. In The Soldier and the Laughing Girl (1685). The examples of the emblems of the humanist moral codes provided an example for which Vermeer could define his narratives. The complex messages given through visual cues within the emblems acted as an example for how to portray a subtly of emotion through the vignettes of everyday life. The intimacy that is created, coupled by the illusive privacy that the composition alludes to, creates a suggestion of the narrative to the viewer.

Vermeer was a master of subtly, his work created through the use of innovative technique and inspired by modern moralistic pictorials that held a vast amount of information within a small space. The camera obscura was a method of translating the imagery of a scene in order to capture the precision of the perspective, as well as the subtle color changes that were visible through the many different magnifications that were possible with the technique. The use of color within the work was revolutionized as shadows were given color and the chiaroscuro was more refined. While on the surface the work that was done by Vermeer might be interpreted for either simple outdoor scenes or indoor scenes, closer examination reveals skilled composition techniques, moral narratives, and an inspired use of light.

















Cats, Jacob. And Robert Farlie. 1860. Moral emblems with aphorisms, adages, and proverbs, of             all ages and nations, from Jacob Cats and Robert Farlie : with illustrations freely       rendered, from designs found in their works. London: Longman, Green, Longman and         Roberts.


Damkaer, David M. 2002. The copepodologist’s cabinet: a biographical and         bibliographical history. Philadelphia, PA: American Philosophical Society.


Fink, Daniel A. December 1971. “Vermeer’s use of the camera obscura – a comparative study”,        vol. 53, no. 4, pp. 493-505.


Gowing, Lawrence, and Jan Vermeer van Delft. 1997. Vermeer. Berkeley [u.a.]: Univ. of      California Press.


Grootenboer, Hanneke. 2005. The rhetoric of perspective: realism and illusionism in        seventeenth-century Dutch still-life painting. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Hale, Philip Leslie. 1913. Jan Vermeer of Delft. Boston: Small, Maynard and Company.


Huerta, Robert D. 2003. Giants of Delft: Johannes Vermeer and the natural philosophers : the   parallel search for knowledge during the age of discovery. Lewisburg [Pa.]: Bucknell   University Press.


Huerta, Robert D. 2005. Vermeer and Plato: painting the ideal. Lewisburg: Bucknell university      press.


Schneider, Norbert, and Johannes Vermeer. 2006. Vermeer, 1632-1675: veiled emotions. Koln:     Taschen.


Liedke, Walter. October 2001. “Review [Untitled]” The Burlington Magazine, vol.143,no. 1183,    pp. 642-643.


Mills, Allan A. 1998, “Vermeer and the camera obscura: Some practical considerations”        Leonardo, vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 213-218.


Perry, Kelly. 1969. “Review [Untitiled]” Art Education, vol.22, no. 9, pp. 38.


Ripa, Caesar. Iconologia or Moral Emblems. Accessed 14 October 2010 from             1709


Schramm, Helmar, Ludger Schwarte, and Jan Lazardzig. 2008. Instruments in art and         science: on the architectonics of cultural boundaries in the 17th century. Berlin: Walter     de Gruyter.


Seymour, Charles Jr. September 1964, “Dark chamber and light filled room”, The Art           Bulletin, vol 46, no 3, pp. 323-331.

Stedman, Philip. 1999. “Vermeer and the camera obscura: Some practical      considerations”, vol.     32, no. 2, pp. 137-140.


Wheelock, Arthur K. Jr. Summer 1981. “Vermeer’s painting technique“. Art Journal, vol. 41, no.            2, pp. 162-164.


Wheelock, Arthur K. Jr. and C. J. Kaldnebach. 1982.“Vermeer’s view of delft” and his vision of       reality. Artibus et Historiae, vol. 3, no. 6, pp. 9-35.


Wolf, B. J. (2001). Vermeer and the invention of seeing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.



B. J. Wolf. Vermeer and the invention of seeing. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), p. 11.





Fig 1. Jan Vermeer, The Music Lesson (1662-1665). Found at             File:Jan_Vermeer_van_Delft_014.jpg


Fig. 2. Jan Vermeer The Soldier and the Laughing Girl (1685)


[1] Helmar Schramm, Ludger Schwarte and Jan Lazardzig. Instruments in art and science: on the architectronics of cultural boundaries in the 17th century. (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2008) p. 386.

[2] Charles Seymour Jr. “Dark chamber and light filled room” The Art Bulletin, vol 46, no. 3 (1964), p. 323.

[3] Ibid, 323.

[4] David M. Damkaer. The copepodologist’s cabinet: a biographical and bibliographical history (Philadelphia,      PA: American Philosophical Society, 2002), p. 28

[5] Allan A. Mills “Vermeer and the camera obscura: Some practical considerations” Leonardo, vol. 31, no. 3,               (1998) p.213.

[6] Lawrence Gowing and Jan Vermeer van Delft. Vermeer. (Berkeley [u.a.]: Univ. of California Press, 1997) p.                70.

[7] Hanneke Grootenboer. The rhetoric of perspective: realism and illusionism in               seventeenth-century Dutch              still-life painting. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), p. 4.

[8] B. J. Wolf. Vermeer and the invention of seeing. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), p. 11.

[9] Ibid, p. 206.

[10] Robert  D. Huerta. Giants of Delft: Johannes Vermeer and the natural philosophers : the parallel search for knowledge during             the age of discovery. (Lewisburg [Pa.]: Bucknell University Press, 2003), p. 49.

[11] Wolfe, p. 206.

[12] Ibid, p. 32.

[13] Huerta, p. 47.

[14] Lawrence Gowing and Jan Vermeer van Delft. Vermeer. (Berkeley [u.a.]: Univ. of California Press, 1997) p.              125.

[15] Philip Leslie Hale. Jan Vermeer of Delft. (Boston: Small, Maynard and Company, 1913), p. 258.

[16] Danial A.Fink. December 1971. “Vermeer’s use of the camera obscura – a comparative study”, vol. 53, no. 4,           (1971) p. 493-505.

[17] Hale, p. 258.

[18] Seymour, p. 323.

[19] Huerta, p. 49.

[20] Robert D. Huerta. Vermeer and Plato: painting the ideal. (Lewisburg: Bucknell university press, 2005), p. 98.

[21] Norbert Schneider and Johannes Vermeer. Vermeer, 1632-1675: veiled emotions. (Koln: Taschen, 2006), p. 90.

[22] Ibid, 91.

[23] Walter Liedke, “Review [Untitled]” The Burlington Magazine, vol. 143, no. 1183, (October 2001) p.          643.

[24] Kelly Perry. “Review [Untitiled]” Art Education, vol.22, no. 9, (1969) p. 38.

[25] Ibid Perry, 38.

Lesson 40 Assignment (teacher-graded)

Running head: COURSE WORK


Lesson 40 Assignment (teacher-graded)












Lesson 40 Assignment (teacher-graded)

What are nutrients?

A nutrient is a chemical that is needed by an organism in order to live and grow and the substance is used in the metabolism process and is obtained from the environment (Donatelle, 2008). Nutrients play a significant role in enriching the body since they are used in building and repairing tissues, regulating body processes and converted to be used as energy.

How are the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus used in an ecosystem?

Nitrogen and phosphorous are important nutrients in any ecosystem (Hogan, 2010). Nitrogen supports the growth of plants since it helps in plant growth and is responsible for the lush green color of plant life phosporouros play a key role in ehnacing root growth, overall plant health, and to a lesser extentand fruiting of the plant.the plants in an ecosystem act as the home for all living animals and thse nutrients therfore sustain the life in an ecosystem.

What is eutrophication?

Eutrophication refers to the addition of non-artificial substances such as nitrates and phosphates to fresh water through the use of fertilizers or release of sewage into water masses (Martin, 2004). This aspect has a negative environmental effect since it causes water pollution and causes loss of oxygen from water and this may result into the death of aquatic animals since it is the oxygen in the water that supports their life.

How can nutrients become pollutants in bodies of water?

Nutrients that are washed into water bodies can become pollutants in many aspects. Chemicals in fertilizers make water hard and harmful for human consumption. On the other hand, the toxic elements in fertilizers can lead into death of aquatic animals and plants (Robert, 2009). The accumulation of these chemicals on water masses may also result into siltation and eventual drying up of water bodies leading to destabilization of the ecosystem.

What are three sources of excess nutrients in the water?

According to Waker 2006, there are various sources of excess nutrients in water.Excess nutrients may come from fertilizer on yards or farms, sewage, livestock operations, burning fossil fuels or commonly used chemicals. Nitrogen and phosphorous are the major toxic nutrients that lead to water pollution.


Donatelle, R(2008). Health: The Basics, 8th edition. Benjamin Cummings

Hogan, C (2010), Water Pollution. Encyclopedia of Earth. Topic ed. Mark McGinley; ed. in chief C. Cleveland. National Council on Science and the Environment, Washington, DC

Martin, A (2004). “Health risks in eutrophic water supplies”. Lake Line 14: 24–26.

Robert, S (2009). “Power plant has no plans to stop killing fish.” San Francisco Chronicle, January 2, 2009.

Walker, I (2006). Chironomid overview. pp.360-366 in S.A. EIias (ed.) Encyclopedia of Quaternary Science, Vo1. 1, Elsevier



Name the technique for separating plant pigments.

The technique for separating pigments is called Chromatography. To separate plant pigments, we make use of paper chromatography where the pigments are dissolved in a solvent that carries them up the paper.

List four pigments found in plants that were discovered using this technique.

The four pigments found in plants, that were discovered using this technique are –

1.      Carotene

2.      Xanthophyll

3.      Chlorophyll A

4.      Chlorophyll B
What is the formula for calculating the Reference front (Rf) value?

The formula for calculating the Reference front (Rf) value is –


Calculate the Reference front value for a red pigment that migrated 2.5 cm if the solvent front migrated 12.5 cm during the experiment.

Distance pigment migrated = 2.5cm

Distance solvent front migrated = 12.5cm

According to the formula,


= 2.5/12.5 = 0.2

Therefore the Reference front value for the red pigment is 0.2.

What are phytoplankton?

Phytoplanktons are small single-celled organisms that convert sunlight into biomass through a process called photosynthesis. Their name is derived from the words phytos (plant) and planktos (wandering).

Why are phytoplankton important? List 3 reasons.

Three reasons phytoplanktons are important to us are –

1.      Phytoplanktons use photosynthesis to convert sunlight into biomass, and in this process, they produce glucose and oxygen and remove carbon dioxide.

2.      They play an important role in the marine food web, as the glucose produced by them is also used by other marine plants and animals.  An example to illustrate the role of phytoplankton would be –

Phytoplankton -> Fish -> Larger Fish -> Whales/Dolphins/Sharks/ Humans

3.      They play an important role in reducing the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

How can fisherman use phytoplankton data (ocean color) to improve their catch? Incorporate ideas of the food chain

Phytoplankton Blooms, lead to change in the water color. The water changes color depending on the size of the bloom. A phytoplankton bloom attracts small fish, which in turn attract large fish, which in turn attract fishermen!

Fishermen can use this phytoplankton characteristic to decide the place and time of the catch, and hence improve their catch.

Phytoplankton -> Fish -> Larger Fish -> Whales/Dolphins/Sharks/ Humans

[Phytoplankton Blooms refer to a concentration of phytoplantons in one area].



  1. Holtzclaw, T. K. (n.d.). LabBench. Prentice Hall Bridge page. Retrieved January 10, 2011, from
  2. NASA : Coastal Observations – A Biological Perspective. (n.d.). NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Retrieved January 10, 2011, from













Bio membranes

The introduction focuses on the structure of the membrane and transport of materials within the membrane in the human cell through an active or passive process. The discussion on the BiCoach activity, Bio membranes II reviews on the dynamic behavior of membranes and mechanisms by which mechanisms allow communication has also been presented. The link on the next concept presents the membrane structure. Membranes are composed of a phospholipid bilayer and numerous proteins which are presented in a fluid that has a mosaic arrangement. Whereas the outside of the membrane is hydrophilic and semipermeable the interiors are hydrophobic and the molecules do not interact with water rather than with each other.

Depending on the concentration of molecules inside and outside the cell membrane, osmosis allows solute molecules to move in either side of the cell (The Biology Place, 2010). Cell membranes are selectively permeable; this determines the solute molecules that cross the membrane. To allow movement of solutes inside and outside the membrane through active and passive transport, protein carriers enable solutes cross the cell membrane. Solutes always move against the concentration gradient.

The virtual laboratory focuses on the processes of diffusion and osmosis which account for massive movement of molecules at the cellular level. Molecules are a constant movement and follow a concentration gradient whereby they move to the region where they are less concentrated; diffusion in this case is the movement of molecules down their concentration gradient from a region of high to low concentration (The Biology Place, 2010).  In osmosis, water moves from a region of high to that of a lower concentration through a semipermeable membrane. The cell membrane is selective and only allows the passage of some molecules while restricting that of others.


The Biology Place (2010) Biomembranes . Available at <>