Fun and Understanding with Art Real Size
Here’s a special guest post from Julie Turgeon, one of the students participating in year 3 of the Art Authority Summer Intern Program:
We’ve been having a lot of fun experimenting with Art Authority’s new Art Real Size feature this week. The tool completely transforms how art is viewed in a digital environment, adding what others have failed to provide thus far: a tangible dimension connecting the viewer to the works on-screen. Exploring some of Art Authority’s 65,000 artworks with Art Real Size revealed some delightful surprises about some of our most beloved works. We’ve listed a few here to give you a taste of the capabilities of the new feature:
1. Claude Monet’s larger-than-life-sized Camille (The Woman in the Green Dress) was one of the artist’s earliest pieces. Painted and exhibited in 1866, the portrait boldly announced Monet’s arrival in the Parisian art scene. At that time, it was unheard of, almost risible, to paint someone who was neither of noble nor of privileged birth at such an impressive scale.
2. Fellow Frenchman Georges Seurat’s paintings exhibit great range in size. The diminutive Eiffel Tower, for example, could fit inside his monumental masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte 177 times, with wiggle-room to spare! It took Seurat over two years to paint La Grande Jatte, and numerous sketches and studies exist dispersed throughout the world’s art museums (but conveniently at our disposal on the Art Authority app and community site). Seurat continually altered the composition of the pleasant waterfront scene as he progressed in his work, adding, for example, more bustle to the dress worn by the woman on the right-hand side of the painting, reflecting the ever- shifting fashions of the era. Remarkably considering the scalar dissimilarities, both of Seurat’s works are composed of the same miniscule multi-colored dots that became the defining characteristic of Pointillist paintings.
3. Passage of the Delaware by Thomas Sully easily eclipses Seurat’s La Grande Jatte in size. The enormous historical painting has posed problems for the institutions wishing to display it since its completion in 1819. Originally commissioned by the state of North Carolina, the painting was refused because it would not fit in the allotted space in the state’s Senate Hall. Today, it rests placidly in a section of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, accommodated by the wing’s exceptionally high ceilings. The eleven-day ordeal of hanging Sully’s most famous painting is documented on YouTube, and made the local news.
4. Andy Warhol used size to make a statement, although in a different way than Monet’s avant-garde statement of artistic prowess and vision or Sully’s patriotic eulogy. Warhol’s whopping 15-foot portrait of Mao Zedong, currently on view at the Art Institute of Chicago, scathingly critiques the overblown reputation and attention given to celebrities and prominent political figures such as the notorious communist leader. Mao’s gaudy maquillage adds an additional dimension of absurdity to the colossal canvas (we can’t show you the Art Real Size version here because this work remains under copyright).
5. A post about size wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. She has gained quite a reputation for stunning the Louvre’s visitors with her small size, seemingly unfit for one of the best-known paintings in the world. Eager museum-goers bump and jostle shoulders, step on each other’s toes, and crane their necks over the perpetual gallery throng to get a glimpse at the iconic portrait and to experience the sensation of having Mona Lisa’s eyes follow them as they move through the room. The guidebook aphorism rings true: the posters sold in Parisian gift shops are larger than the actual painting! Fittingly, perhaps, scientists chose to recreate da Vinci’s Mona Lisa for the smallest painting ever. Astoundingly, they succeeded in creating a version of the painting that is half the width of a strand of human hair. Read more about the record-breaking feat on the Huffington Post.
Appreciating a painting’s size is an indispensible component of interpreting a work of art. Art Real Size helps to bridge the gap between experiencing a work of art in person and seeing it on a digital platform by providing a visual tool through which the viewer can relate more viscerally to digital reproductions. We here at Art Authority are hooked on Art Real Size already, and are delighted to finally introduce this vital feature to our user community.