Creation Expressed in Similar Language But With Different Contexts and Interpretations

I hear in our Sunday School class, and even in my own parents’  faith talk, certain phrases or expressions that are similar in some respects, but have different meanings when explored, or are different in other respects yet refer to the same or similar concepts or experiences.  Likewise with art:  art speaks individually and personally.

Medieval art was crude in the ways it artistically represented the physical world.  There are several reasons for that.  For one, upon the fall of Europe from Roman dominance into the Dark Ages, although the art of mosaic had developed, artistic expression in painting was very limited.  The precursor of modern painting developed in the Catholic Church in the form of Illuminated manuscripts, which initially appeared as the Biblical copyist’s artistic and colorful embellishment of the first letter of a section of script.  Later copyists might incorporate into that first letter a miniature painting of subjects or scenes in that section.  As painting developed during the Medieval Period into a larger scale production, skills were nonetheless crude.  The artist’s mental image of a subject or estimation of each element’s value was often more important than the actual image of the subject, so that little children were often depicted with child-like, even cherubic, bodies capped with an adult face; there was no sense of perspective, as that did not develop until the Renaissance; rounded figures appeared flat on the painted surface for lack of modeling to give the appearance of the play of light upon a real, 3-D subject; in Middle Age Scholasticism the principal theological discussion may have been on how many angels could fit on the head of a pin, or how evil spirits lurked in dark places, manipulating the physical world to their twisted purposes, grotesque, imaginary figures flew about the painting, wreaking havoc in a fragile world; animals often had human qualities; and the artist often obviously projected onto the painted object his or her feelings or ideas about the subject.

Creation of the Animals by Master  Bertram (1345-1415) is a late Medieval painting that demonstrates both the representational style and thinking of those times.

Creation of the Animals by MASTER BERTRAM

See for the source of the photograph of the above painting.

In the early Twentieth Century, long after the  development of perspective, modeling and richly realistic techniques, there was a reaction to then contemporary realistic, representative art.  Whereas the style of painting during the Medieval period reflected the attitudes and beliefs of that day, often unconsciously for the lack of a developed natural,  realistic, representative technique, in the Twentieth Century artists often discovered that a representational style might “fool the eye” but did little to express thoughts, feelings or ideas.  They often found that unconventional use of earlier, often primitive forms and techniques, could express what representative styles could not.

Marc Chagall (1887 – 1985) early discovered that a conventional, realistic style ill-served his purposes in painting.  He passed from a representational phase through Cubism, Symbolism and Fauvism, and finally settled on a style that would seem to have much in common with Master Bertram’s Creation of the Animals, above.

 Creation by CHAGALL

See for the source of the photograph of the above painying.

Despite some overt similarities between the two paintings, they speak from different times, different backgrounds, different values and belief systems; they share a sense of wonder at creation; but, beyond that, the intended expressions are quite different.   For a readable and accessible discussion of the art and times of Marc Chagall see

My friend, Mariah, who has an art history minor from University of Nebraska, Omaha, notes that the same painting will have different effects or meanings to different people.  She says, “With all art, the visual scene simply does not do the painting justice.  The composition is merely the start.  It’s the viewer’s interpretation, the artist’s motives, and historical background that really exposes the heart and soul of the painting.  I hope you enjoy these three!”

H. Marie, refers me to a painting relating to the scene of the Garden of Eden that utilizes such a mixture of odd objects, environments and positioning to tap into the subconscious and symbolize much more complex expressions: Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights  –  Beware the Perils of Temptation!   She says, “This triptych always catches my attention; each time I look at it I see something new. Reading about the piece is just as fascinating as viewing it.  Symbolism at the time was important to the artist so it can almost become a game or a soap opera finding hidden meanings within it.  Enjoy!”

The painting is a triptych, consisting of a central panel and two side panels:

Garden of Earthly Delights  –  Beware of the Perils of Temptation! BOSCH

See for the source of the above photograph of the painting and notes on it and each of its parts, consisting of the left panel of Paradise, middle panel of Earthly Delights, and right panel of Hell, a place reserved for the results of immoral dabbling in the earthly delights.  The above site indicates in its notes that Bosch curiously painted his self-portrait in the center of Hell.  In order to help you explore these paintings, as Mariah, suggests, I will insert each separately, again derived from the above site:

Mariah also refers the reader to for other sources of photographs of the paintings and notes exploring its symbolism and expression.

See for an excellent interpretation of Bosch, his Surrealistic style predating the Twentieth Century, and his orthodoxy despite the uniqueness of that representational style.

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