Instructions: Read the text below to find the answers to the questions on your worksheet.
E.H. Gombrich, in his book The Story of Art says that "There really is no such thing as Art. There are only artists." This is, of course, debatable, but it would appear that Oscar Wilde would have disagreed with him. The famous British novelist, poet and playwright is quoted as saying "All Art is quite useless", which would indicate that he believed in the existence of art, even if he didn't believe in its usefulness.
Some of the earliest examples of "art" were painted some 15,000 years ago (during the Ice Age). They depict game such as bison, mammoth and reindeer. Famous examples can be found in caves in Altamira, Spain, and Lascaux, France. No one knows exactly why they were painted but one theory suggests that they may have been painted in the belief that capturing the animal in paint would aid the hunter to capture the animal in reality.
The Importance of Portrait Painting
One of the most famous portrait painters in British history was born in Augsburg in Germany, the son of a respected painter. In 1526, when the unrest created by the Reformation made it difficult for him to carry on his trade at home, he moved to England. He carried with him a letter from the famous Dutch scholar Erasmus of Rotterdam which formally introduced him to the famous English scholar, Sir Thomas More. The portraits he painted of More, his family and friends brought him to the attention of the then king, Henry VIII, who made him the official Court Painter. Long before the invention of photography, an accurate portrait painter would have been a useful member of the Court. Indeed, when Henry later embarked on his series of marriages it was his Court Painter, Hans Holbein the Younger (1497 - 1543) that he sent abroad to paint pictures of the prospective brides so that he could see whether they were attractive or not. In the case of Anne of Cleves it is said that Holbein fell in love with her and painted a portrait of her which exaggerated her beauty. Henry saw the portrait and decided to marry Anne but when he actually met her, just before the wedding, he was shocked by her appearance and announced that she looked like a horse. The marriage went ahead in spite of Henry's revulsion, but he divorced his new queen just six months later.
A Famous Nickname
El Greco (1541? - 1614) was born on the Greek island of Crete but did not spend his life there. He left his homeland and travelled to Venice before finally settling in Toledo, Spain. His paintings are famous because his departure from realistic shapes and colours gives a dynamism to his compositions which is ever moving and sometimes disturbing. The elongation of his human figures and the unequal balance of his compositions attest to his sojourn in Venice and the influence of artists such as Tintoretto and Parmigiano. His work was extremely popular in Spain, though the Spanish did not call him by his full name, Domenico Theotocopoulos, but shortened it to "El Greco" which means "The Greek". He had to employ many apprentices to help him carry out his numerous commissions. His work later fell out of favour but was rediscovered and appreciated in the early 20th century.
Read the clues below and write the solutions on a piece of paper. Then take the first letter of each answer and rearrange them to find the hidden word connected with this Talking Point.
- 1. The earliest examples of Primitive Art date from the _______________ Age.
2. A painting of a real person's face is called a _______________.
3. El Greco's real name was Domenico _______________.
4. Cave paintings dating from 15,000 years ago can be found in caves at _______________ in Spain.
5. Oscar Wilde was a poet, playwright and _______________.