MANNERISM (1520 – 1580)

This art movement flourished a brief period in the sixteenth century and did not even become a main stream art movement. It is usually quoted as an art movement that happened between the Late Renaissance and the beginning of the Baroque.

In the High Renaissance every kind of art had reached a status that close to perfection. Striving to invent a new direction of art, a new generation of artists at the time studied from the masters such as Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci then infused their own strengths and elements into their works.

Using form, colour, composition and rhythm, artists create layers of narrative in their works which usually concealed messages. Figures were usually in unnatural poses, or had an uneven proportion of torso, or a familiar figure in an unfamiliar setting which gave an element of the grotesque.

A painting of St John by Agnolo Bronzino was used in the lecture in which St John was painted as a nearly naked attractive young man. It was completely against the conventional depiction where he was usually depicted as a bearded old man.

What captured my attention was the gesture of St John. In this painting St John’s disproportionate upper body is unnaturally twisted to the left and his right index finger is pointed towards his left shoulder, which leads the audiences’ look to his left-hand side. This gesture differs from other paintings of the same subject matter where St John’s finger is pointed to the sky / heaven. In many cultures left is usually associated with something negative in contrary to right, which represents the positive. Does it imply something specific?




Another painting used in the lecture was “Deposition from the Cross”, 1528 by Jacopo Potormo. Unlike many other Mannerists’ paintings, this painting did not lay on too much detail. My first impression of this painting was that it was geometrically formed by the composition of blue, green, pink / red. Jesus’s body is painted diagonally across the canvas and it seems as though the canvas is divided into two triangles. The composition of this painting brings the audiences’ eyes to move circularly.

the_deposition_from_the_cross                  Jacopo_Pontormo_004


“Painting on White Background for the Cell of a Recluse”


Comparing with Kasimir Malevich’s the ‘Black Square’ painted in 1915, I am appreciate Joan Miro’s “Painting on White Background for the Cell of Recluse” which generously depicts a line for us to contemplate.

This painting is without subject imagery any shapes, forms or colours. The artist simply drew a long wiggly line a cross diagonally on a white (blank) canvas. My confusion grew even more after reading the title of the work.

Having read extensively on Miro’s works and looked at many examples, I went on to understand the painting.

Miro’s painting style was greatly influenced by Fauvism, Cubism and Surrealism. His works are full of colourful patterns but childlike, and dots and lines are frequently used in his paintings.

“Painting on White Background for the Cell of a Recluse” is completely against the artist’s consistent style, even the line he drew in this painting which is a very fine wandering line. In contrast with his previous paintings those lines were drawn more pithily.

Does it relate to his Catalan ethnicity, which lead him to political persecution by the Franco regime.

Although it is a very simple, thin, wiggly line, it might well be the manifestation of the artist’s strongest desire.

“I feel the need of attaining the maximum of intensity
with the minimum of means. It is this which has led me to give my painting a character of even greater bareness.”

Joan Miro


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