What makes a certain painting famous? What makes an artist famous?

Art is a huge part of my life, I want to minor in Studio Art and major in Advertising and Graphic Design. I enjoy creating beautiful and thought-provoking pieces. I would love to become a famous artist, but I feel like there are no more unique ideas to make a new and interesting piece. What I mean by this is that there are no more unique pieces of art that make someone famous. BUT that’s the way every artist felt until the public starts to like it. What I mean by this is that no artwork is TRULY original, we do not just think of these random ideas. Artists are influenced and find meaning in everyday life and then produce a painting in response. Now this may sound confusing because art has changed and been original because we can name famous artists who have “original” work. But I’m stating that these “original” works were not their ideas first: the artist saw, heard, touched, smelled, tasted something that made them transition and change their art slightly. And with each slight change, a new art form is created.

Contemporary art has just transitioned from movement to movement, but not entirely out of the blue changed. There are influences in nature, mistakes, other artists works, and current events that shape an artists thoughts and paintings. So yes, famous artists are known for starting Abstract Expressionism or some other art movement, but they really are just reflecting on what is going on in culture and making a smooth transition from one style to the next. I chose these paintings in my blog post to show this transition from movement to movement. But in these transition paintings, I do not just say this artist created a new idea out of thin air, no, they are influenced by their surroundings, or more importantly, what was going on in history around that time.

Artists paint what is going on in their lives, whether subconscious or not. I believe most if not every painting during a time period relates exactly to events in history at that time and movements in the artistic world.

After the Civil War, the United States stared seeing the world in a realist view. Slaves were freed, and Americans noticed the hardships many African Americans went through. There was no more sugar-coating what happened during slavery. And many artists like Homer painted African Americans and their hope for a better future. In “The Cotton Pickers,” life of newly freed women is depicted as difficult as slavery, which is very realistic because it is true.

Also after the Civil War, the US started westward expansion and industrialization, but also saw the negative impacts from that. In “Lackawanna Valley,” the combination of realistic environment destruction is shown. The people of the United States were realists but also impressionistic in hoping for a better future. Blacks were still oppressed, but the government was helping, leading to an impression of how government could change society for the betterment of equality. However, this never truly happened because the government switched from helping the oppressed, to helping those making money off of the new technology. With more money going to the rich who owned new technology, and even less to the poor, a depression was on it’s way.

Soon a  social realism spread throughout American Paintings, the realization that Americans were not that wealthy, and new artworks were created because of this. “Baptism in Kansas” is an example when people realized they were going into an economic depression. Painters like Curry wanted people  to be represented and regions effected by the Great Depression. Thus, many of their paintings were of people during harsh times.

After the depression, war is all Americans are thinking. Who is the enemy? Do we support the war effort? “Indifference” by Benton displayed the switch from regionalism to abstraction because it captured the doubt in government during the cold war. Were we going to win? Benton feared losing so much that he created his propaganda “Year of Peril” series to show people what could happen if we did not continue the war effort.

Soon this doubt  in losing was immediately combated with abstract expressionism and extreme patriotism. If we believed we could win against the cannibalistic Japs, then we could. However, this led to extreme laws that questioned Freedom of Speech and opinion in America. These concerns about freedom and extreme patriotism are shown in Johns’ “The Flag.”

Soon a Pop Art movement started. But all in transition. Many critics see Pop Art as being extremely original and never done before. But many pop artists just copied logos and well known advertisements and called them art. For example, Warhol’s 32 “Campbell’s Soup Cans” are just a repetitive label that parallels the repetitiveness of nuclear families. Peoples’ ideals about war where changing, and the fundamental ideals of art were as well. With these ideals changing, you get racial and sexual revolutions that spark feminist art movements: Spero’s feminist paintings. With feminist works and civil rights works, an new technology, we have the newest art movement today: Post-modern technological art.

So yes, American painters 100% reflect and parallel the current times during the United States. The Activism and evolution of America is so vast, cultured and emotional, that art is sometimes the only way to capture it all.