Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hyacinthe Rigaud's "Louis XIV", 1701

"Louis XIV" by Hyacinthe Rigaud, painted in 1701, is a portrait painted towards the end of Louis XIVs rule and symbolizes his absolute power.  During this time period France was about to undergo the French Revolution. Throughout his rule Louis the XIV increased the royal budget causing a collapse in the royal finances, this was one of the main catalyst for the French Revolution. Louis XIV lived a lavish life while the rest of France was in poverty. He created Versailles while a majority of France lived on the streets or in slums.  Louis XIV increased his power while limiting the power of the nobility by making them do random task that did not involve government decisions; this was one way he maintained absolute power of France. Louis XIVs corrupt way of leading brought France to a collapse (Pomarède).

Hyacinthe Rigaud used color, light, and dark to emphasize Louis XIV’s extravagant lifestyle. The red and gold drapery, blue fur robe, and royal jewels surrounding Louis XIV sets the scene of this painting. Rigaud uses rich colors for example dark blue, red and gold symbolizing Louis’s luxurious life. He has a sword strapped to his right hip, his crown placed on a stool to his right, and he is holding the royal scepter. These three objects represent three different parts of his rule: the sword shows his military power, the crown and scepter show his power over the kingdom and France. Louis XIV is noticeably brighter than the rest of the painting.  It seems as though a light is shining on him, representing that he is the focal point of this portrait and France. This portrait is almost overdone from the detailed background to the use of light and dark, reminding the viewers of Louis XIV’s overdone lifestyle and rule (Pomarède).

 This painting is a perfect representation of a ruler abusing his power. Even the fact that this portrait was painted shows Louis XIV abusing his power. While France’s economy was about to collapse and a majority of the population was in poverty Louis XIV was commissioning Rigaud to paint an expensive portrait of himself. The objects around Louis XIV illustrate his absolute rule over every part of France’s government. Also, he is surrounded by gold Fleur-de-lis that symbolizes France. This represents Louis XIV as the center and omnipotent ruler of France. This painting depicts a leader who only thought of being the sole ruler of France and nothing else (Pomarède).

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A picture from Egyptian protests taken by Scott Nelson, 2011.

In early 2011 Egyptian students went to the streets to protest against their ruler, Hosni Mubarak. Scott Nelson’s 2011 photograph depicts a large group of Egyptian citizens tearing down a large picture of their leader. The Egyptian population responded to Mubarak’s rule in such a ruthless way because Mubarak abused his power. For example, he maintained his power using military force and aloud his citizens only basic freedoms.  Also, he won three democratic elections not allowing an opposing party to run. He made all of government decision and gave the people no say in the government, contrary to democratic beliefs. Mubarak claimed that he was the democratic, president of Egypt, but he was essentially the dictator of Egypt for 30 years (BBC).
             Nelson’s picture informs the public about what was happening during the Egyptian revolution. The photograph shows three protesters ripping a huge picture of Hosni Mubarak. There is a large crowd is encouraging the men by watching and taking pictures. The picture of Mubarak that is being destroyed is exaggerated in size and depicts Mubarak watching over his people. The men tearing it down symbolizes that the Egyptians no longer want Mubarak watching over them. Notice in the crowd there are two people with their hands in a peace sign showing that by tearing down Mubarak they will have peace.  The picture gives the viewers incite that the people of Egypt peace and freedom from their revolution.
              The fact that the Egyptian revolution started shows how much Hosni Mubarak abused his power. The photograph reveals people’s anger and hatred towards Hosni Mubarak’s absolute rule. Millions of Egyptians flooded the street of Cairo, chanting anti-Mubarak slogans, and holding signs coercing Mubarak to resign. These large protests show the amount of people who disliked Mubarak and his total rule. Mubarak took advantage of his power that ended in his demise. This picture and “Louis XIV” depict two very different views on an absolute ruler’s rule, but they both show a ruler who abused their power. In this picture people want to destroy Mubarak’s rule; on the contrary, in “Louis XIV” the king’s rule is being celebrated. 

Osip Mandelstam's "Stalin Epigram", 1933.

Our lives no longer feel ground under them. 
At ten paces you can’t hear our words.  
But whenever there’s a snatch of talk 
it turns to the Kremlin mountaineer,
the ten thick worms his fingers, 
his words like measures of weight,
the huge laughing cockroaches on his top lip, 
the glitter of his boot-rims.  
Ringed with a scum of chicken-necked bosses
he toys with the tributes of half-men.  
One whistles, another meows, a third snivels. 
He pokes out his finger and he alone goes boom.  
He forges decrees in a line like horseshoes, 
One for the groin, one the forehead, temple, eye.  
He rolls the executions on his tongue like berries. 
He wishes he could hug them like big friends from home.
             “Stalin Epigram” by Osip Mandelstam written in 1933, illustrates the unjust life of the Russian population under Stalin’s rules. Stalin, similar to other absolute rulers in this blog, used force to control and maintain power in his country. Stalin’s militaristic methods made the people of Russia became fearful of him because anyone who went against Stalin was executed, exiled, or imprisoned. He also made considerable changes to Russia when it just became stable during Lenin’s rule. For example, Stalin made the five-year plan that initiated rapid industrialization (Duiker). Osip was a Russian poet who was anti-Stalin and wrote “Stalin Epigram” despite the consequences he could face. As a result, he was exiled to a remote part of Russia, Siberia, where he and his wife were forced to live doing miscellaneous jobs and borrowing money (Patrick). Stalin is a perfect example of a ruler who abused his power.  When he took power, a majority of Russians wanted a communist ruler, but Stalin came into power as a socialist dictator. He killed millions to maintain his power, he made reforms contradicting the communist changes, and thought mostly of himself (Patrick). 
           “Stalin Epigram” reveals Osip’s dislike towards Stalin. This short passionate poem about Stalin’s Russia brings up the lack of support in Stalin’s government, the common hatred the Russians have towards Stalin, Stalin’s omnipotence, and a negative description of Stalin.  The first line explains the lack of support from the government under Stalin’s rule because Stalin did not think about his citizens only his power. He next calls Stalin “the Kremlin mountaineer” because Stalin climbed his way up to the top of the Russian government. Osip suggests that the only subject Russians talk about is Stalin because of his bad policies. Also, Osip shows Stalin as the only person who has say in his country because all the businessmen make noises and Stalin says, “Boom”. Osip creates a metaphor comparing Stalin to grotesque things; for example, he explains Stalin’s fingers as “ten thick worms” and Stalin’s lips as “cockroaches.” Using these images Osip creates a negative depiction of Stalin. Osip’s use of irony in the last two lines reveals that Stalin effortlessly executes Russians. This emphasizes the unjustness of Stalin’s rule, similar to the other rulers depicted in the artwork of this blog. Also, this poem’s negative view of Stalin shows the common reaction to a ruler whom abused his power in the blog (Patrick). This poem brings a different prospective to this blog because the poet was directly affected by Stalin’s abuse of power.

Will Lammert's Berlin Jewish Cemetery sculpture, 1957.

Will Lammert created the Jewish Memorial sculpture just before he died in 1957. This sculpture is located in Berlin in an area, which prior to Hitler’s Germany was a local Jewish cemetery. Lammert intended for his work to honor the Jews deported to a concentration camp from this cite, the location of a prosperous Jewish community. This section of Germany was destroyed during World War two, when a majority of Jewish citizens either fled or were taken to concentration camps (Public Art Around the World).

             Lammert uses uniformity and a dismal color in his sculpture to emphasize the horrific treatment of Jews during World War II. The sculpture depicts ten Jews all standing and facing the same direction and one who is sitting and looking down. All the people in this sculpture look about the same because of their clothing, facial expressions and stance. Lammert used this uniformity to show Hitler’s and the Nazis’ view on Jews during the Holocaust, when Jews were all put into to a group and not seen as individuals. The color of the bronze is a dark brown. This symbolizes the dark life Jews had during the Holocaust. The dismal mood in this sculpture symbolizes the mood during Hitler and the Nazi’s Germany during the Holocaust (Public Art Around the World).

              Lammert’s sculpture is a good representation of the effect of a leader who abused his power. Hitler granted himself the authority to try to eliminate a religious group. Hitler killed and abused millions of people in concentration camps, started World War II, and brought Germany and other countries a huge amount of debt. As a result of Hitler overlooking basic human rights He is now seen as one of the most terrible leaders in history. Hitler abused his power and killed millions in the process. This sculpture indirectly depicts Hitler’s abuse of power because it shows the dismal mood of Germany during Hitler’s rule (Public Art Around the World).

Francisco Goya's "The Third of May", 1814.

              Francisco Goya’s 1814 painting The Third of May depicts a French firing squad all pointing their guns at one man. The painting honors the Spanish resistance during the Napoleon’s occupation in Spain. The catalyst for the Third of May was that Napoleon used military force to ensure his brother the Spanish crown. On May Second 1808 the Spanish rose up to fight the French by killing 150 French troops; however, the French fought back killing thousands of Spaniards. The Third of May was the very brutal beginning to Peninsular War. The war went of for five years, finally ending with no clear victory (PBS).

              Stylistically, this painting is very simple; however, Goya’s use of light and dark gives the painting depth. The Spaniards are in the light and the French are in relative darkness; giving the viewer a difference between those whom Goya believes are the good, and those whom he believes are bad. In the light there are numerous unarmed, vulnerable men. The main focus is on a man wearing the only bright colors in the painting, holding his hands up and looking completely defenseless. Behind him there are two figures, who are almost translucent perhaps symbolizing they have already been killed by the French. To the man in the bright shirt’s right there are three figures who are bloody and dying on the ground. These details make there distinction between good and bad, the Spaniards versus the French. This painting does not over-romanticize the third of May 1808 because the vast difference between the French casualties and the Spanish. Goya successfully portrayed the dismal mood of the third of May 1808, when the Peninsular War began (Gray).

              This painting portrays Napoleon’s abuse of his power because the Peninsular War began for selfish reasons. In 1807 when Spain started to question their alliance with France, Napoleon saw it as a threat to his power and decided to add Spain to his empire. He gave his brother the crown, and called himself the “liberator” of Spain. Napoleon was completely ignorant that Spain was not in need of a liberator and didn’t want one because he was blinded by his own abuse of power. As a result, Spain tried to overpower Napoleon, but that started a long, brutal war. The Third of May reveals the great travesty that Napoleon started for selfish reasons (PBS). All the rulers whose rule effect the artwork in the blog have the same ideals as Napoleon, they do whatever they can to gain and maintain power at the expense of their people.