I was involved in an interesting conversation the other day, which involved a group of friends. They had been examining some paintings recently and one was outlining the history of those paintings to the rest of the group. It was an informative explanation and seemed to be of interest to all.
Of interest to all, that is, except for one member of the group. He actually seemed to actively dislike the idea of having so much knowledge about individual works of art. He questioned whether this really added anything to understanding of the pieces and even suggested that it takes some of the fun away from the experience of examining a piece of artwork.
In a sense, I guess that he was suggesting that there is an element of thinking too hard about things. This is an area that interests me and can certainly sometimes be applied to the thought of reading books, or watching movies. There have certainly been circumstances in the past where I have found that a little too much knowledge can actually detract from an otherwise enjoyable experience.
Indeed, I have seen examples of costume dramas being criticised by experts who have noted that some historical elements are not presented correctly. Although it's clearly important, to some, that all elements are correct, how much does it really matter?
For many of us, watching a show of that type is more about the story and the interaction between the individual characters. We don't really want to be on the receiving end of a history lecture. Instead, we are happy to forget such questions and to sit back and be entertained. I imagine that my friend was hinting at such thought, in the context of paintings.
I don't actually see this as being something that's purely limited to the world of paintings. It could easily be applied to sculpture or photography too. So this rather poses a question: does history matter to you in such contexts? There are many who would say that they gain an enormous amount by studying the history of art.
It's certainly easy to see how they can gain insights into specific elements, allowing them to gain a greater understanding of what is presented and what was intended. Having some knowledge of the artist's background and family history may, as an example, help to explain some of the choices that are made.
By the same token, it can be useful to have an understanding of influences. It's very likely that an individual artist will actually have seen numerous other pieces of art. It would be impossible to expect that such previous considerations could be ejected from the memory.
What becomes clear is that any piece of art is surely a product of more than the simple imagination and talent of an artist. It is also, almost by default, a product of the history of that individual.
Compare type of art for sale online, as discussed by Keith Barrett. This article may be used by any website publisher, though this resource box must always be included in full.