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Ideas and Questions for Class Discussion and Accreditation Tasks


Key understanding

In the brain, the brightness (black and white) and the colors of a scene are processed separately. This can create some curious effects, for example, in equiliminant scenes, we lose a sense of position. Another phenomenon is that if the brightness is accurate, the colors can be dramatically altered, affecting the mood of a scene.

Possible tasks and questions

  • How do artists influence our vision by using the technique of “equiluminance”? Discuss the question in reference to three works of art.
  • How did Leonardo da Vinci’s chiaroscuro challenge the previous tradition of painting?
  • What is special about Claude Monet’s Impression Sunrise (1873)?
    • The sun and its reflections seem to glisten and shimmer. Why, by matching the luminances, do the sun and its reflection seem to glisten and shimmer? (Monet achieved this effect by giving each of them a luminance (value) equal to that of their immediate surroundings.)
  • Why did Monet in Poppies Near Argenteuil (1873) paint the poppies and the green fields with equal brightness (luminance)?
  • Discuss the Post-Impressionistic means of representing luminance and equiluminance with specific examples from the period.
  • Read the entries on Neo-Impressionism, in particular Seurat’s “Grande jatte” and “Circus”. He is painting scenes of urban recreation, and entertainment. Is there any real sense of enjoyment, or is he using the theories of Chevreul, Blanc, and, in paricular Henry’s interpretation of them to criticize the society of his day, to put across political/social ideas by subverting these theories? Look both at color and the way he has composed each painting.
  • In certain paintings, artists rely on hue (color) rather than luminance (brightness). For three years (1901-4), Picasso’s paintings were mostly one color. What was the color and what did the artist achieve thereby?
  • Mondrian creates a sense of motion in his painting Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942-1943). What procedure did he use to achieve the sense of motion? How does this procedure achieve a sense of motion?
  • Imagine that you have been asked to orgnize an exhibition of Modern Art. How would you hang the paintings, plan the rooms, or decide the color of the walls? Choose some favourite modern paintings to illustrate this. This question links with one asked in the entry on Impressionism: think, again, about answers to that one!