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Ideas and Questions for Class Discussion and Accreditation Tasks


Key understanding

Understand how our sensitivity to detail varies from the center of our vision to the edges, and also depending on the speed of a scene. Therefore, paintings that incorporate blur can seem more realistic.

Possible tasks and questions

  • How can artists use peripheral vision to focus on what is important in a painting: say a portrait? What are the important features of a portrait? (Notice the ‘plural’.)
  • How have contemporary artists questioned our logical understanding of painting as a stable object?
  • How have artists used our peripheral vision in order to suggest movement or to focus our gaze? Discuss the question in reference to three works of art.
  • Sometimes the Mona Lisa seems to be smiling: sometimes she does not. One face seems able to express two different moods simultaneously. Suggest how Leonardo da Vinci might have achieved this. Specifically, when sad, her mouth is flat: when happy, her mouth curves upward. How, to a viewer, could the shape of her mouth seem to change?
  • Compare and contrast Nicolas Poussin’s Rape of the Sabine Women (1634) to Claude Monet’s Rue Montorgueil in Paris, Festival of June 30, 1878 (1878) and Umberto Boccioni’s Dynamism of a Soccer Player (1913).
    • How do the paintings differ in appearance from what you would see in a photograph of the scene?
    • What effects were Poussin, Monet and Boccioni trying to achieve? Were they successful?
    • How did Monet and Boccioni apply the paint to the canvas to achieve the effect?
  • It has been suggested that Jackson Pollock painted actions. Discuss this notion in relation to Pollock’s technique of painting and the work Autumn Rhythm No. 30 (1950). How does the work differ from Mark Rothko’s Untitled (Seagram Mural, 1958)?
  • How have artists suggested unity between two sitters or their figures and surroundings? Discuss the question in reference to artists such as Seydou Keita, Édouard Vuillard and Giacomo Balla.