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MoMA and Modernism w/ Tarsila do Amaral

Tarsila do Amaral’s work is concerned with her involvement with Anthropophagy. Her work was known as the most significant Brazilian avant-garde project of the twentieth century. She was striving to establish a distinct and authentic national culture. This project made her a central artistic figure of international modernism in her native country. As Amaral faced bankruptcy, due to the stock market crash of 1929, she turned to political activism. Her involvement in political activism inspired her works.

Tarsila do Amaral’s work can be described as modernist because it embraces artistic modernism, which according to the work’s description is complimented by a recognition of the social ills caused by modernization. She was focused on depicting and expressing her country’s concrete political reality. The painting represents her modernist values of diversity. The painting illustrates unhappy, blank, miserable, and some even neutral faced  labor people in Brazil working through the tough times of the 1930’s. The people of Brazil were facing political and economical turmoil due to the events transpiring during this time. Modernism has to do with embracing uncertainty, breaking traditions, and formal experimentation. Amaral embraced the uncertainty that her and her people were experiencing in Brazil concerning politics and economic struggles. She broke traditions concerning  her art by focusing on political activism instead of her illustrations of broad symbolic terms in Brazil. She experimented with the more ideal modern art and took risks in this uncertain pool of danger. She also included Gregori Warchavik in her art, a modernist architect in Brazil. The experiences the Brazilians at the time were enduring were due to modernist influences. Factories and urbanization was a vital aspect of this time for many Brazilians.

This painting attracted me because of it’s size and it’s diversity. The faces that are painted caught my attention. The way in which it’s drawn made me linger at it. I wonder why the people were painted in a the section of the portrait that looks like an irregular triangle. I wonder who exactly each individual is and why Amaral only drew a crowd of faces. I also wonder if these people were all standing together when she painted them or if some of them were conjured by her imagination. The painting also looks like a picture that would be drawn in a children’s book. I wonder what exactly her message is for this painting. I understand that she’s underlining a stressful time for Brazilian laborers, but what message did she want her audience to have when looking at this painting? What feeling did she want to stir? I honestly didn’t feel an emotional connection to the painting so I wonder what effect she intended her audience to have here.

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Claude Monet “Water Lilies”

Claude Monet was one of the founders of French Impressionism. Impressionism is a style or movement in painting originating in France in the 1860s, characterized with depicting the visual impression of the moment, especially in terms of the shifting lights and color. The style seeks to capture feeling or experience rather than to achieve accurate depiction. Monet lived from 1840 to 1926. During his lifetime he created more than 2,500 paintings, drawings, and pastels. Monet started his art education from the age of 10 and even from a young age choose to avoid accurate depictions. By age 15 he was already drawing exaggerated portraits of people and was building a name for himself.

“Water Lilies” is a large three panel painting (largest painting on the floor). In it Monet brings together his garden, his water lily pond, and the sky above to create a painting that is different from a realistic depiction. In an attempt to capture the constantly changing qualities of natural light and color, spatial cues all but dissolve; above and below, near and far, water and sky all comingle.

Modernism was the moving away from traditional forms of art so it had many different forms. Monet’s style is now known as impressionism. The modernist aesthetic implies a uniqueness captured by the modernist artist. The modernist aesthetic of Monet’s style is what he wanted to exaggerate and emphasize. In this piece an emphasis on light, colors, and time are visible. In this emphasis Monet chose how and what qualities of his viewing he wanted to portray and this was the modernist aesthetic of this piece and his other pieces.

The painting was on the 5th floor of the museum. The 5th floor contained paintings and sculptures from the 1880s till the 1940s. As you follow the given directions of the floor and move room to room you encounter very unique works of art. Eventually you get to a room with one large three panel piece with a few other relatively smaller pieces on smaller walls inside the room. The large 3 panel piece is spread out on the longest wall. The wall has two slight curves where the left and right panels meet the center panel. There is a short free-standing barrier that follows the shape of the wall the panels are placed on. The barrier is there to keep people from getting too close to the painting. The lights above the painting emphasize the painting in context to the rest of the room. They point directly at the painting, leaving the rest of the room darker while the painting is lit up. There is a small bench placed a few feet away from the painting. The bench is parallel to the center panel and gives you the ability to view the whole painting with a slight turn of the neck.

Since the painting is so big it already draws the viewers attention. At the same time the curators have carefully placed the painting in a way that further draws the attention of the viewer. The lights on the painting, the bench placement, the curve to the wall, and there being smaller paintings in the room all play a role in pulling the viewers’ attention towards the painting. When seeing the painting I was impressed by its size. I then walked to a position that gave me the best angle of the entire painting. Upon arriving at that position and looking at it for a few seconds, I was over taken by emotion. I cannot specifically describe what emotion, but it was a kind of happy sadness. I stared at the painting for a good few minutes and admired it. I analyzed whatever I could with no context, and very little knowledge of art and just let my emotions flow freely. The piece was absolutely breathtaking. I walked over to the description read it and walked back to where I was originally standing and then experienced the painting again. The painting was so moving, its difficult to describe how emotional and powerful of an effect it had on me. The colors, the shades, the hues, the lighting in the painting, how things blended, how they contrasted, what it was showing, everything about it added up to something absolutely stunning.  A lily pond with natural light shining down is already very beautiful but this depictions of it was really special. Leaving the painting I had tears in my eyes. Leaving the painting I kept telling my friend “bro this painting really got me in my feels.” “bro this painting is crazy.”

I have no questions about the painting, but while doing this paper I learned so much more about the painting and the artist. This information has given me an even deeper feeling for the piece and I hope to be able to see it again and have a new experience with it.


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MOMA:Operários 1933


Tarsila do Amaral was a Brazil artist who was influenced by her friend to become communist in Paris.  She returned to Brazil and married a communist doctor, doctor Osorio César. Together they attended communist meetings in Brazil. Nonetheless, communism, at the time, was banned in Brazil. Amaral was incarcerated for her affiliation with communism. This encounter ended her marriage and her ties to the communist party. However, during her communist phase Tarsila do Amaral painted a lot of socially influenced paintings.

This painting was produced during Amaral’s communist phase. This piece was Amaral’s first painting to reflect social issues. In the painting, you can see chimneys which could be identified as factory chimneys or steamboat chimneys. However. the translation of the title, Operários meaning workers, alludes that the chimneys are factory chimney and the individuals in the picture are workers. These individuals in front of the chimney are a diverse group9of people. They represent different races, sex, and religions. If you look carefully at each individual they all a uniquely painted. Some workers are more fair skinned than others.


This picture depicts modernism through the stream of realism. Realism is the reflection of current issues, events through art. Moreover, it gives individuals the opportunity to be real, truthful and to display their point of view. Amaral alludes to the issue of the lack of diversity in her painting. The painting can be interpreted as Amaral’s hopes for the Future of Brazil. That they would be embrace communism through diversity and equal opportunity. This painting reflects communism which supports the equality of labor to redistribute wealth. Everyone is given an equal opportunity to achieve wealth. This displays. Amaral’s motives in painting this painting.

What drew me to this painting was the diversity. I admire the beauty in cultural diversity. In order to combat sexism, racism and other social issues we must understand each other so that we could work together to solve these problems. Cultural diversity is a universal necessity. Also, I was fascinated that Amaral was able to paint each worker uniquely and distinctly enough for them to stand out from one another. Lastly, the workers’ facial expressions bewildered me. They have straight faces they do not seem happy nor sad. This made me question my interpretation of the painting. If they are being given an equal opportunity why aren’t they happy? I wonder if Amaral wanted to display the dark and the light avenues of communism.

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Agapanthus 1914-26

The famous painter was Claude Monet. He was Claude Monet was born on 14th November 1840 in Paris, France. He was named Oscar-Cluade, and his parents called him Oscar. He did not want to work in his father’s business. When he grew up he went to the school of Le Harve School of Arts in 1851. Eugene Boudin taught Monet oil paintings techniques and how to paint outside in nature. Once he had had surgery to remove the cataracts from his eyes. Which resulted his works of art to contain more of red than before the surgery. Monet was at the forefront of the impressionist movement. He was more focused on the changing light and color in his paintings so that they replicate what is happening outside. He created well more than one thousand pieces of art. He passed away on December fifth, 1926.

I picked a painting called Agapanthus which translates to water Lilies. He probably painted these lilies from his private garden which he drew many inspirations from. I looked up the type of flower he painted and came up to the conclusion that he painted a lily that is native from Africa. This oil painting is focusing on the lilies. The pink lilies are the standout piece of the whole painting due to the background just being grass and small bushes in the front of the lilies. This piece seems to be more than just shapes and lines as artist before him were famous for. The only thing that is meant to stand out or come out of the canvas are the bright and colorful lilies. This painting also the different shades of green in my opinion to differentiate the different types of grass, bushes or weeds he has in huge garden that is filled with Varity of plants and flowers.

The thing that caught my eye about this painting is the pink colors of which the lilies were painting. In the paintings around in the same time I did not see many artists using vibrant colors. Another thing that got my attention of this painting by Monet was the simplicity of the whole thing. The simplicity of having a garden at his fingertips made the painting seem not rushed and took his time in completing the painting.

One question I have about this painting is why did he only choose to paint one kind of flower and not a bunch of different types of lilies? Another question I have is this the most beautiful lilies he had in his garden which was large?

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Henri Matisse

French, 1869-1954

The Moroccans 1915-16

Oil on canvas

Henri Matisse was born in Le Cateau-Cambresis, Nord, France. He went to Paris to study law, working as a court administrator in Le Cateau- Cambresis after gaining his qualification. He first started to paint in 1889. He emerged as a Post-Impressionist, and first achieved prominence as the leader of the French movement Fauvism. Fauvism favored vibrant colors and winding gestural stroke across the canvas. He was a French artist, known for his use of color and his fluid. He was a draughtsman, printmaker, and sculptor but is known as a painter. He was born on December 31, 1869 and died on November 3, 1954. He has helped define the revolutionary developments in the plastic arts in the opening decades of the twentieth century. Matisse was influenced by the works of earlier masters such as Jean-Baptiste- Simeon Chardin, Nicolas Poussin, and Antoine Watteau.

Matisse developed this painting of what he described as “the terrace of the little café of the casbah” in the years following two visits to Morocco, in 1912 and 1913. As he worked on various studies for The Moroccans he eliminated all details that he felt were extraneous to the painting’s overall balance. At the upper left is a balcony with a flowerpot. In the background, there is a mosque with a vase of blue and white flowers standing on the parapet. At the lower left, there are still life of vegetables. Also, to the right is a Moroccan man, who is seen from behind, wearing a round turban. Matisse’s generous application of black paint helps unify the three sections of the painting across its abstract expanse.  Black is the principal agent, at once simplifying dividing, and joining the three zones of the canvas. Like Bathers by a River, The Moroccans was significantly influenced by Picasso’s Cubism, and some compared it to Picasso’s Three Musicians.

Matisse used pure colors and the white of exposed canvas to create a light-filled atmosphere in his Fauve paintings. He used contrasting areas of pure, unmodulated colors instead of using modeling or shading to structure his pictures. Matisse art was important in endorsing the value of decoration in modern art. He is popularly regarded as a painter devoted to pleasure and contentment, but his use of color and pattern is often disorienting and unsettling. His mastery of the expressive language of color and drawing, displayed in a body of work spanning over a half-century won him recognition as a leading figure in modern art.

This painting caught my attention because the black paint helped me realize the three different aspects of the canvas. He used pure black as a color of light and not as a color of darkness.

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Masks Confronting Death by James Ensor

James Ensor was a Belgian painter and print maker, an important influencer of expressionism and surrealism.He was part of the artistic group called Les XX. It  was a group of 20 Belgian painters, designers and sculptors, formed in 1883. He created 133 etchings and dry-points over the course of his career. In 1919 he was awarded the Order of Leopold ( one of the three current Belgian national honorary orders of knighthood).

In this painting we see individuals wearing different kinds of masks and there is a skull in the center. All of these masks look different and has it’s unique style. Some of the masks can cover the whole face and hide the real identity of the person, where there’s some that only hide partial. The skull in the center doesn’t have any mask or paint on it. The background is mostly blue and white with a little touch of pink.

This painting could represent the double-face that we human beings have. How people can always lie about things and death is the only truth. Also it was during that time when Ensor lost his father, so this could have had a big effect on his perspective toward life. Maybe this could be about how death is certain and you can’t hide from it with disguises.

I was attracted to this painting because it stood out from the rest of paintings. It was kind of out of the place and looked kind of weird. That’s when I took a closer look and realized that even thought it looks crazy and  it has a deeper meaning to it and it’s also open to many interpretation . Also was it purposefully painted in a messy in order to convey a message?

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The Lighthouse at Two Lights

This painting is titled “The Lighthouse at Two Lights” by Edward Hopper. Hopper was born on July 22, 1882 in Nyack, NY. He was a realist painter and printmaker. He was well known for his oil paintings but also worked with watercolor and etching. Many pieces of his artwork can be found at the Whitney Museum of American Art as well as The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“The Lighthouse at Two Lights” is an oil painting that was created in 1929 that can be found at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This version is one of several that Hopper produced in 1927 as well as 1929. The painting is a still life of a lighthouse that is located in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, which was a place in which Hopper would regularly vacation at . According to, “ Hopper isolated the dramatic silhouette of the 120-foot-high lighthouse tower and adjoining Coast Guard station against the open expanse of blue sky…though no water is visible in the painting, the architecture is bathed in bright sunlight offset by dark shadows… To Hopper, the lighthouse at Two Lights symbolized the solitary individual stoically facing the onslaught of change in an industrial society.”
This work reflects modernism through the use of cubism and impressionism. At first glance, you see the geometric figures hidden in the creation of the lighthouse. You see shapes such as squares, rectangles and triangles as soon as you look at the painting. This work also gives off a feeling of comfort and relaxation, almost as if you were sitting on the grass looking up at the lighthouse from afar. You also know where the light is coming from and can almost assume where it would pass as the sun is setting.
I encountered this piece of art while exploring the first floor of the Modern and Contemporary Art section at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was one of the only artworks that made me feel relaxed and at home. I was drawn to this piece of art by it’s freshness and comfort. There is just something about this painting that makes me feel like I am in it when I look at it. I also liked how the painting is blended to a point where it looks somewhat blurry.



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‘The Starry Night’

Vincent Van Gogh was one of the most famous artists of all time. However that was not the case until he died, barely anybody new about him while he was alive.  Born in Zundert, Netherlands in 1853, he lived with his parents who were struggling financially and at the age of fifteen he was forced out of school so he could work and help support his family. His father, Theodorus Van Gogh was a minister and his mother, Anna Cornelia Carbentus was an artist who loved nature, drawing and watercolors. Vincent Van Gogh was famously known for his watercolor and oil paintings. Much of that came from his mother. Vincent’s brother Theo was his best friend, he wrote letters to Theo, they shared their love for art and nature together and Theo also helped Vincent get his art career started. Vincent Van Gogh suffered from a mental illness as well as depression. After cutting his own ear off Van Gogh admitted himself to the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole Asylum in France. It was there that Van Gogh painted ‘The Starry Night’. In a letter he wrote to his brother, he tells him that he was drawing the sketch for the painting from his bedroom while looking out through the steel barred windows. He writes to his brother, “This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big”. It’s interpreted that the morning star that he mentions is the second planet in the solar system, Venus. ‘The Starry Night’ was a combination of what he saw, and his imagination, this was not an exact portrait of what was outside his window at the Asylum. In fact the big structure on the left wasn’t there at all, it’s a church that symbolizes his childhood and home in the Netherlands where he grew up within a very religious family. This is exactly what makes this a modernist piece of artwork, the fact that its not simply a portrait of something he saw and its not simply his imagination, but a hybrid of both those things. In the painting we see it gives off a more nightly feeling, we see the crescent moon in the top corner and a blue sky with hints of dark color. So why did Van Gogh decide to paint while looking out his window during the day, but change the theme of what he saw from day to night? Well Van Gogh was very fond of the night and he was basing some of this drawing off of imagination and memory and he believed that the night was much more alive and  richly colored than the day. This again a total twist on traditional art, some say his creativity and imagination was a product of his mental illness and insanity. A year later after painting ‘The Starry Night’ he shot himself and died two days after.This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blank. Either add alt text or mark the image as decorative.

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Isabel Allende, “And of Clay are We Created”

–What do you think the significance of Allende’s title is? What does it mean to be made of clay? –

-What happens to Rolf in his encounter with Azucena?

–Why do you think Azucena becomes a symbol of the tragedy that is unfolding in the story?

–What did you make of the President’s visit to the site of the disaster? What kind of commentary is Allende making here?

–How can you connect this story with your own experiences of natural or other disasters? Are there elements of the story that you can relate to? How?

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Forms in Space no. 1

John Henry Bradley Storrs

Forms in Space no. 1–1927

Metropolitan Museum of Art–Modern and Contemporary Art section

The artwork that stood out to me most at the Metropolitan Museum of Art during my visit was named “Forms in Space no. 1” by its sculptor John Henry Bradley Storrs. While most of the artworks on display in the exhibit are paintings, Forms in Space no. 1 is a sculpture. This sculpture was sculpted in anatomical accordance with many of the skyscrapers that were being built in New York City during the early 1900s, the era of modernism in which building, improving, and expanding were some of the goals of society during the modern era. 

John Henry Bradley Storrs was born in Chicago in 1885. As a young child he was always interested in architecture because his father, D.W. Storrs, was an architect. After studying arts in many different academies, Storrs decided to go into sculpting. He became a sculptor during the modern era, around the time New York City began its revolution, beginning to build skyscrapers that would soon shape the skyline we all get the honor of seeing today. 

As New York City skyscrapers became popular in the 1920’s, John Henry Bradley Storrs decided to sculpt a miniature version of a New York City skyscraper to capture the art style that many architects were using as they built their buildings creating the skyline of New York. This model that Storrs was trying to portray was a modernistic style of architecture known as Art Deco. Art Deco was the most commonly used art style used in the 1920’s and 1930’s. It can be recognized by its symmetrical shape and color patterns. Both the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building are examples of Art Deco buildings. 

Forms in Space in No.1 is categorized as Art Deco too because it is symmetrical in shape as well as color. This means the sculpture can be divided into four parts and every part would look identical. 

John Henry Bradley Storrs was certainly a modernist and he captures modernistic ideas in his sculpted art by capturing the powerful and fast-paced rise of industrialization and urbanization as skyscrapers started to rise into the clouds of the sky. In the early 1900’s, there would become a new tallest building in the world ever so often. 

Industrialization and urbanization are two processes of development that define the modern era, which began around 1890 and lasted until the end of World War I. Industrialization is the process of developing more areas for economic growth and urbanization is the process of turning rural areas into towns or cities.   Turning unused land into cities and towns for people to live and grow economically was a process that happened throughout the modern era. This is why I consider Forms in Space no. 1 to be a work of art that captures modernity sufficiently.


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