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Polaroid

Arts Days: February 21, 1947: Say “Cheese!”
Even in the age of the digital camera, there’s still something really cool about shooting a picture with a Polaroid camera and having that snapshot pop into your hand and develop right before your eyes.

But before he invented that instant camera, American inventor Edwin Land worked on polarizing filters for sunglasses, special goggles for troops in combat during World War II, and other products for the company he founded in 1937 called the Polaroid Corporation. After Land showed his instant camera for the first time, his company got busy selling them to department stores. The cameras proved so easy and fun to use—and so affordable—the stores could not keep them from flying off the shelves.
Inventions, Popular Culture, Visual Arts

Louis Comfort Tiffany

Arts Days: February 18, 1848: A Glass Act
Glass is all around us, in everyday common objects like windows, picture frames, and windshields. But Louis Comfort Tiffany saw glass as an artistic medium like no other, with the potential for showcasing deep colors that would be made even more dazzling when the sun shone through the panes.

In his work alone or with his colleagues, Tiffany explored the effects of opalescent glass, which included different hues of the same color, as well as textured glass—glass with ripples, bumps, or other “imperfections” that Tiffany believed to be actual enhancements. He also placed layers of glass atop one another for a richer tone. Using these methods, he created lamps, jewelry, vases, and bowls as well as glass windows.
Visual Arts, Fashion, Innovators & Pioneers

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Arts Days: February 25, 1841: A Lasting Impression
Renoir was an artist fascinated by light: how the sun looked shining on water, how a candle’s flickering changed the expression of someone sitting nearby, how shadows stretched long across the ground in the autumn.

Exploring these concepts, Renoir became one of the early members along with Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley of the Impressionist school, a style of 19th century art known for its exploration of light effects, broad brushstrokes, and ordinary subjects including people on the beach, flower gardens, and other scenes of everyday life.

Later in his career Renoir sought to achieve a more crisp style of painting. It’s thought this change was influenced by a trip he took to Italy in 1881 to study the great works of the Italian Renaissance, painted by artists like Raphael.
Europe, Visual Arts

Kodachrome

Arts Days: June 22, 2009: Photo Finish
Kodachrome was the favored film of many a photographer over the course of its 74-year history, but it simply could not compete with the rise of today’s digital media and development. When the company pulled the plug on Kodachrome, it accounted for only one percent of sales of all the film Kodak sold. Until then, it had been famous for the richness of color it imparted to photos and for the ability of images to retain their deep hues, even decades after they had been taken.

However, using the film meant you had to engage in a special, complex development process, or hire someone to do it for you, which made using Kodachrome more expensive for the photographer than other types of film. Still, many thought the extra cost was worth it.
Visual Arts, Inventions, History

Frank Lloyd Wright

Arts Days: June 08, 1867: The Wright Stuff
In the houses, churches, and museums he designed over his career, architect Frank Lloyd Wright sought more fervently than any architect before him to marry building design with environment—specifically, its land, trees, and bodies of water. Through his “organic architecture,” Wright created harmony between building materials and a structure’s natural surroundings. For example, when hired to design a home in the Southwest, he used rock in the design and let the desert vistas inspire the property’s lines.

A fine example of Wright’s “Prairie School” style with its low, horizontal lines is Westcott House in Ohio. And Fallingwater, in Pennsylvania, seems to spring forth from the rocks on which it’s built—the very same rocks where a waterfall runs. And Wright’s most iconic building, the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, with its curved, rounded lines, stands in stark contrast with the hard-edged skyscrapers that surround it.
Architecture, Innovators & Pioneers, Visual Arts

Richard Avedon

Arts Days: May 15, 1923: Capturing Souls with a Click
The creative eye of Richard Avedon shaped high fashion and documentary photography as few other professional photographers have.

Throughout his 50-year career, Avedon’s long affiliations with Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue magazines meant fashion photography would never be the same. He specialized in portraits of celebrities from the arts and public service to strangers on the street—each one intimate, revealing a moment captured in time. Many of these portraits feature subjects looking squarely at the camera with a plain background, resulting in shots filled with quiet, simple dignity. Interestingly, Avedon applied artistic principles of composition and juxtaposition to his pictures much as a painter would have.

Avedon was also present at key historical moments in the U.S. and abroad. He documented events during both the civil rights movement and anti-war movements in the 1960s and 1970s, and took many shots of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Fashion, Innovators & Pioneers, Visual Arts

Salvador Dali

Arts Days: May 11, 1904: The Eccentric Dreamer
The school of artwork we call Surrealism took a radical leap forward when Salvador Dali teamed up with fellow Surrealists in the late 1920s. The Surrealists were rebelling against what they saw as predictable, traditional art, and Dali—who had already been kicked out of art school and was famous for his eccentric behavior and attire—fit right in.

His artworks—including The Persistence of Memory, with its clocks draped over trees, ledges, and what appears to be a piece of bone with a face not unlike Dali’s own— are filled with quirky images, startling contrasts, and symbolism (meaning that one object stood for something else—an idea, a memory, a concept). But some of his images are surprisingly sentimental: People he loved, like Lucia, a woman who took care of him when he was a child, appear frequently in his art.
Europe, Visual Arts, Innovators & Pioneers

Joan Miró

Arts Days: April 20, 1893: Señor of Surreal
The playful works of the Spanish painter and sculptor Joan Miró are admired and appreciated around the world today, but when he first created them, they shocked viewers. No one had ever seen serious paintings filled with colorful, cartoon-like blobs, some of which looked like animals or eyes or socks floating across the canvas.

Miró, who early in his career painted landscapes and still-lifes of recognizable objects, didn’t care about what people thought about his style of painting. What he cared about was rejecting what he saw as people’s narrow assumptions of what art was…and was not. He was part of a group of artists called the Surrealists, working in the 1920s that was creating art filled with startling, funny, or just plain odd images.
Europe, Visual Arts, Innovators & Pioneers

Raphael

Arts Days: April 06, 1483: Renaissance Man
Raffaello Sanzio is considered one of the finest painters of the Italian Renaissance, which flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries. And so, Raphael needs only one name. His paintings, including The Madonna of the Meadow and The School of Athens (one of the series of paintings in the Vatican’s Stanze di Rafaello, or “Raphael’s rooms”) are filled with trademarks of his signature techniques, from their rich, luminous colors to the graceful placement of his human figures.

Important apprenticeships, combined with his own abundant talent, set the stage for Raphael’s thriving career painting commissioned pieces for churches and royal palaces. There’s also no question he paid attention to what Leonardo da Vinci was doing. But in the end, Raphael’s style—its nod to classic Greek art, the soft light that pervades many of the images—came to be all his own.
Europe, Visual Arts

Leonardo Da Vinci

Arts Days: April 15, 1452: The Da Vinci Mode
Though some assume his last name was “da Vinci,” no one really knows the last name of perhaps the greatest all-around creative genius who ever lived. The left-handed Leonardo was so very good at so many things: painting (the portrait of Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and The Adoration of the Magi ), solving math problems, playing music, and technological inventiveness—he envisioned an early helicopter and other flying machines.

He learned about these subjects while apprenticing with various artists, doctors, and others, but his own curiosity helped him apply all he learned in entirely new ways. His interests fed off of one another. For example, his human anatomy sketches are stunning in their detail and accuracy, and that understanding of how bodies moved helped him to be a better painter. Leonardo also brought his deep understanding of geometry to his art, arranging figures in ways thought to be pleasing to the eye of the spectator. His contributions to art and science are impossible to measure.
Europe, Inventions, Innovators & Pioneers, Visual Arts

Vigeland

Arts Days: April 11, 1869: A Park of One’s Own
Sculptor Gustav Vigeland learned to carve wood when he was just a child, a skill that would serve him well as he moved on to working with different substances, like stone. At the end of the 19th century, he toured Italy and France where he visited the workshop of another great sculptor, Auguste Rodin.

Perhaps his greatest work is Vigeland Park, which came about when he persuaded the city of Oslo to give him a building in which to live and work. In exchange, he would give Oslo all of his subsequent creations. Today, on 80 acres of land, you can visit Vigeland Park, where hundreds of granite and bronze artworks stand, from whimsical statues of dancing babies to the Monolith, a 46-foot high totem depicting dozens of intertwined bodies rising up into the sky.
Europe, Visual Arts

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