The Principles of True Art

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About this sample


Words: 1288 |

Pages: 3|

7 min read

Published: Mar 3, 2020

Words: 1288|Pages: 3|7 min read

Published: Mar 3, 2020

What separates good art from convoluted, overpriced, and overrated ink blotches on a canvas? Is it the quality of the material? The application of hue and lighting? The variations of length and pressure attributed during brush strokes? While those points are under consideration during a critical examination of a piece, the public labels art through simpler means: “What looks good” and “What looks bad”.

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With that mindset, all art can be sorted into either of those two classifications with very little thought regarding why. The claim that a piece is ‘ugly’ may stem from a multitude of factors: the aesthetics and the history behind a piece. Artwork is judged to be sorted and labeled, but can pieces who deviate from the norm of what we as a society consider beautiful still be masterpieces in their own right?

When we look at a piece we make our assumptions quickly and unconsciously. Our mammalian brains can not help but find excitement in pretty colors and vivid imagery, making pieces that fit such description more attractive in our eyes. However, we also base judgement on what we understand about s piece’s history. Consider Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, a painting which has no remarkable traits. The colors are dull to the eye and hold no shock or ‘wow’ factors that would set it apart from any other piece. The pose is stoic and unoriginal, making it a common portrait of those wealthy enough to afford to commission artists at the time, and the look of oil paint upon a canvas is rather dreary.

Why then does this artwork hold such a prestigious reputation? The answer may lie in the signature attached to the piece. Remove Da Vinci’s name, and the Mona Lisa is no more extravagant than any other painting to grace museum walls. Without Da Vinci’s signature, would groups still pose for pictures near its crowded display case at the Louvre? Or would it fade into history much like the hundreds of other portraits of nobility from the renaissance period?Consider the landscape piece titled “Mother Mary with the Holy Child Jesus Christ” From the title alone we can interpret the subject of the piece to be the Virgin Mary and the Lamb of God.

The work depicts the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus in a clearing of a daffodil field. The work’s palette includes colors that are bold and inviting, from the warm sunlight in the background to the leafy bushes which coat the foreground. It is a lovely piece. Then why is this piece among an unwritten list of disgraced artworks? The answer once again comes from the signature attached to the piece. The artist who painted this work is much better recognized for his position as the architect of the Nazi Party. Rather than the artist at hand, Adolf Hitler’s pieces are not displayed on museum walls, some have been opened to private auctions while others have been claimed as property of the United States Government. Suddenly, this piece is no longer as warm and inviting, and we interpret the work in an entirely different light.

When considering the background of the work, art can then become easier to fit into the good art/bad art categories. If the work was painted by a well known artist, then the piece is good and if it was painted by an artists recognized to be a bad person, then it is в“bad art”. Issues from this arise once again from just what we can deem good and bad. When considering the two previously mentioned works as an unbiased observer, then through aesthetics alone would shift the classifications. Which leads to the next question, how highly do we consider superficial aspects in our determination of what is good art, and more importantly, could work that isn’t aesthetically pleasing still be categorized as such?

A work of art can be considered ‘ugly’ for multiple reasons, one of which being an uncomfortable audience interpretation. Works declared as too ‘scary’ or ‘sad’ can be thrown into the ugly category for not fulfilling our personal expectations of a pretty picture. But when we look at art with the expectation that we will always be pleased with the feeling left inside, we are misconstruing a major aspect of art itself. In the words of Jerzy Kosinski, “The principles of true art is not to portray, but to evoke”. This can be interpreted to mean that while art is essentially just a picture, less meaning can be derived from what is shown and more from what emotions are solicited.

The glorification of the crucification of christ has historically been accredited with advancing and preserving artworks. Historically speaking, the church has always been the largest contributor to commissioned artwork to decorate the nave, with artists such as Michelangelo and Da Vinci creating tens of pieces for display. When we consider the crucifixion, we can make assumptions of what to expect from an artist’s interpretation, from the graphic depictions of Christ pinned against the cross to crimson streaks of blood that run down his arms, this can be interpreted as ‘gruesome’. Yet despite this, the image of Christ against a cross can be found across churches globally, as the work has less to do with the physical act of watching the crucifixion, and more on the emotions elicited from bearing witness to such image. It dawns an understanding of just how much he suffered for our sins, how dedicated he was to mankind, how despite his relation to the Lord he still bled the same crimson found in our own veins. This is the message the church is attempting to get across in the display of the crucifiction, one that is sure to create strong emotions from any audience.

On the same thought we can examine Artemisia Gentileschi’s depiction of the murder of Holofernes. At the time, this fit the description of “ugly art”. The work depicts Judith and her handmaiden, as they behead him. The colors are bold and shadowed, the line of sight for this piece traces an audience's eyes from the sword against his neck to her determined expression to finish the task at hand. This is a graphic piece, from how she forcibly holds him down alongside her handmaiden to the blood spurting from the growing wound. This was considered to be controversial at the time and even now, relating to the emotions the piece insights. You can feel the urgency in her cuts to end the struggle, the way Judith grips his hair and her body language is aggressive. You feel a mix of passion and anxiety from this piece, a majority coming from the poses and the choice of bold reds.

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This is a terrifying scene, which raises the question, is it ugly? In the minds of a past audience, the answer would be yes. From a more critical standpoint, it is a lovely work of art. The colors add to the action just as much as the poses do, you can feel nearly everything you see. This painting is an emotionally manipulative rollercoaster, and the audience can feel it. Relating back toKosinski’s claim that art is emotion driven, this is good art. Though a cliche, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a personal perception of an art piece related to where it stands aesthetically can’t deter the piece from inciting the emotion it was created to inspire. Art is best experienced blind, when faced with a creation, think less on what external factors your eyes can pick out, and more internally on what the piece can bring out in you. Does your heart race? Do you feel full or warm, empty or cold? Does it make you happy, sad, or furious? Then it must be “Good Art”.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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The Principles Of True Art. (2020, February 27). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from
“The Principles Of True Art.” GradesFixer, 27 Feb. 2020,
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