Reflective Essay Sample on Detroit Institute of Art

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University of California, Santa Barbara
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The first piece of artwork I noticed at the Detroit Institute of Art (European Department) was that of Leonardo Da Vinci from the Italian renaissance. Da Vinci was arguably one of the most renowned artists of his time through works such as the Mona Lisa. The painting I found is titled, Madonna and Two angels adorning the Christ child, which dates to 1473-1478. The painting comprises a representation of two characters looking below a newborn in awe. There is a very apparent contrast between the dark and light features of this painting to enable the audience to understand what is going on. For instance, Da Vinci uses a very bright light for the angels and their faces. The mother and son remain in a darker shade, which brings about an angelic effect. The light from the two shine on the mother and son to highlight the divinity in his image. When I first looked at this painting, I reconciled it to the class through its representational aspects. In the class, we learned that artists like Da Vinci used stylistic effects to provide a connection with the physical world. For instance, he used a sense of expressionism to help the audience understand what the painting meant for their culture and beliefs. Hence, I first took note of the contrast between the light and dark features and the expression that created a sense of realism. Through these features, the artist wanted to highlight divinity and religion as these were the beliefs in his society. I took note of how real this painting seemed because the characters appeared alive, which is attributable to the realism and appropriate use of dark and shade. I immediately identified this as a representational aspect of how people perceived religion and Jesus Christ specifically, which I connected to the history of perception in the art that I have come across about the Italian Renaissance.

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The second painting that I recognized from what I have learned so far was titled Martha and Mary Magdalene that dates to 1598. I found the painting in the European Department section. The painting used the medium of oil on canvas and is the work of the highly acclaimed Michelangelo. The painting excited me because it fits into the criteria of what I have studied about Baroque art. It showcased two characters talking or deliberating about something. The most striking aspect of this painting was the use of light and dark shadows through appropriate coloring and use of lighting. For instance, the artist used bright colors like red on the clothes that he contrasted with the earthly ones to provide a deep contrast. There is the use of lighting that is just enough to facilitate the expression on the character’s faces. I knew this piece was from the baroque era the moment I laid my eyes on it. I remembered learning about the artists using these contrasting features to provide a sense of drama. The light and colors on the dress all represent the connection to the themes of sin. The artist dramatizes these aspects so that the reader can recognize how one character seems to be overly dressed while another appears modest. The drama lies in one character that is exorbitantly dressed being a sinner. Therefore, I was able to take note of this dramatic effect in baroque art and connect it to the history I have studied in this class.

The third painting I identified in the department of Islamic Art had the title, Textile Fragment and it was from the 1700s. The piece did not have any artists inscribed and its medium appeared like threads in silk. It was a gift for Dexter M. Ferry and found its way to this museum for preservation. The piece is of dull green color and consists of patterns that run in circles. There are also patterns shaped in the star that is a dull orange running throughout the material. I knew this was the ultimate representation of Islamic art judging from the history I have learned in class. According to my lessons, Islamic art was not elaborative of figurative images and representations. It tended to rely more on patterns, which is exactly what is reflected through this piece of art and many other textiles that I saw in this section. I attached the piece to the aspect of prayer because I have seen these patterns in mosque art.

As I was walking through the African section, I saw a painting titled, Village Wedding Scene that spoke to me personally. The painting showcased a group of people gathered in an African village celebrating a wedding. The painting was by an artist named Telemaque Obin and its medium is oil on canvas. It is from 1980 and the artist commissioned it as a gift. I chose this work because of its use of color, spacing, and reflection of realism. It seemed that the African artist painted a scene with an actual wedding from his village or home. The manner in which the painting depicted realism must have been because he was recreating a similar scene. The painting attracted me because of all the happy emotions I experienced when I looked at it. For instance, the artist used bright colors to paint the attire of the people and the houses. I could not help but feel joyful when looking at the colors. Additionally, the image represents Africa in a positive light. The artist showcased this continent in its simplicity and the aspects that it holds dear. The houses are small but look colorful and evoke a similar feeling. One can tell that life in this village is simple and satisfactory. I connected to the minimalist nature of this painting and its representation of Africa. It made me consider contentedness and the need to enjoy the simple things in life such as love and nature.

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