Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath


Most of you will be familiar with the biblical story of David, the young shepherd boy who offers to defend Israel against the Philistines, their greatest enemy, by battling single-handedly their champion, the giant Goliath, more than 3000 years ago.

The confrontation took place at a valley separating opposing hills, where each army lay. Both armies were in a deadlock as, to reach the enemy, they would have to come down the mountains where they were perching, cross the valley below and climb the opposite hill, thus making themselves vulnerable to the enemy on the higher ground.

David with Head of Goliath by Caravaggio, 1610

David with Head of Goliath by Caravaggio, 1610

Goliath proposed then that the battle should be decided by two warriors alone coming down at the same time from their respective camps and confronting each other at the bottom of the valley.

Nobody on the Israeli camp felt they were up to the challenge. Goliath was, after all, a fully armored giant armed with a spear and a sword, ready for heavy infantry combat. David, however, surprised Saul, the king of Israel at the time, by asking for permission to battle the Philistine himself. David refused the armor and weapons offered by Saul, explaining he was not used to them. He was a shepherd and his successful method for defending his flocks against lions and wolves had always been a simple sling to throw stones.

Both warriors came down. Goliath was expecting a physical fight. David, from a distance, simply put a stone on his sling, rotated it as fast as he could and threw it at the giant, hitting him right in the most vulnerable spot between his eyes. Goliath fell down and David cut his head off with a sword. The Philistines ran away.

Caravaggio was on the run for having killed a man and had been banished from Rome at the time he painted this work. So it seems obvious that he could easily relate to the theme. He was also trying to get an official papal pardon for his crime, and the fact that this painting was given as a gift to Cardinal Borghese, the papal official who could help him with this, seems like a useful strategy to meet his objective.

In the painting, we can identify clearly the main characteristics of the style of the artist, a combination of tenebrism (or chiaroscuro) and naturalism. Such characteristics are: the use of a biblical/mythological theme in which the characters portrayed ara painted from contemporary models; the theatricality and dramatization of the representation (this could be a scene out of a play or a movie); the strategic lighting of the painting, focusing harshly on the subjects and darkening everything else; the brutal realism of he scene.

This painting has been interpreted in many different ways. My favorite interpretation, though,  is the one that says this is a double self-portrait. David would represent the younger Caravaggio, whereas Goliath, the contemporary one. The fact that David does not look like someone who is celebrating a victory, but looks depressed and worried instead, can mean that the older Caravaggio regrets the fact that all the potential he had in his youth for realizing great things was wasted and destroyed by his volatile and abrasive personality. Food for thought.

We will be getting back with more interesting facts about Caravaggio’s stunning paintings in another blog post. Watch this space.

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1. Teaching English with Art: Matisse  http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1kP

 (30 speaking and writing activities based on famous works by Henri Matisse)

2. Teaching English with Art: Picasso  http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lA

(30 speaking and writing activities based on famous works by Pablo Picasso)

3. Teaching English with Art: Caravaggio  http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1mL

(30 speaking and writing activities based on famous works by Caravaggio)

Au revoir

Jorge Sette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 VERY CURIOUS FACTS ABOUT CARAVAGGIO’S PAINTINGS


Did you know…

Young Sick Bacchu (1593/1594)

Young Sick Bacchus (1593/1594)

1. …that Caravaggio’s Young Sick Bacchus (1593/1594) is in fact a self-portrait. The artist looked at himself in a mirror while he painted it. The reason he looks kind of sick is that the painter himself was convalescing from a disease, probably malaria, at the time, and had just left hospital.  Bacchus’ greenish lips and opaque eyes reflect his unhealthy condition.

 

The Death of the Virgin (detail)

The Death of the Virgin (detail) (1606)

2. …that the Church was shocked at this painting – The Death of the Virgin (1606) –  as they recognized the model Caravaggio used to depict the dead Virgin Mary. She was in fact a well-known courtesan whose bloated body had been dragged out of the river where she had drowned. Caravaggio used common people he saw in his contemporary Rome streets and also at the places these people usually hung out, such as taverns and brothels in the turn of the 16th to 17th century, to represent biblical and mythological scenes which would have taken place centuries earlier. I had a chance to see this painting myself at the Louvre and can attest, from first hand experience, to its fascination.

 

The Supper at Emmaus (1606)

The Supper at Emmaus (1606)

3. …that some people find it strange that Jesus is depicted in this painting – The Supper at Emmaus (1606) – as a much younger person and without a beard at a moment that would have taken place after his resurrection. However, Caravaggio was inspired by the Bible itself to make this choice. In the Gospel of Mark (16:12) we read that the apostles did not recognize Jesus when he first appeared to them after his death, for he had a different form. The painter thought it would be logical to depict this new “form” as a younger version of Christ himself.

 

Lute Player (1596)

Lute Player (159that

4. …that for many years there was doubt about whether the person depicted in this painting – Lute Player (1596) – was male of female. But, by the kind of shirt he is wearing and the fact that it’s open almost down to his bellybutton and yet showing no sign of cleavage, we can be pretty sure it’s a man. The Castrati (castrated, in English) were famous for their beautiful voices and very popular at the time, so this could be one of them. The effects of the hormonal changes that the body of a castrato goes through correspond to those we see in the painting, such as the hairless skin and swollen face.

5. …that experts believe the arrangement of flowers and the fruit depicted to the left on the same painting were not really done by Caravaggio. They differ significantly from his typical style. They believe those elements were added at a later stage by the Netherlandish painter Jan Bruegel.

We will be getting back with more interesting facts about Caravaggio’s stunning paintings in another blog post. Watch this space.

To purchase the available titles of our eBooks series TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART, click here: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lS

Teaching English with Art

Teaching English with Art

Watch our Caravaggio promo video:

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

 

OUR BLOG “LINGUAGEM” HAS HAD A GREAT FIRST YEAR!


HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE.

Please find below some official stats sent by wordpress.com on the blog LINGUAGEM. We’ve had a great first year. Thanks for the support and we will back stronger than ever in 2015.

BLOG LINGUAGEM: 2014 official stats

BLOG LINGUAGEM: 2014 official stats

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 8.48.34 PM Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 8.52.35 PM

 

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

Sample activities from the eBook TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART: PICASSO


Image 2: Acrobat on a Ball. 1905

Acrobat on a ball, Picasso

Acrobat on a ball, Picasso

Activity 4: speaking. Level A1/A2

  1. Describe the picture. What’s the predominant color?
  2. This is a painting from Picasso’s Rose Period (1904-1906). Everything is kind of pinkish. How was Picasso feeling during this period? Why do you think so?
  3. What does the color pink remind you of?
  4. Who are those people? What’s their relationship? Where do they work?
  5. The girl can stand on a ball. This is difficult to do. What else do you think she can do? Can you do anything difficult? What?

 

Activity 5: speaking. Level A2

  1. What’s this girl like? Tell us about her personality. What about the man?
  2. Describe the girl physically. Now describe the man.
  3. What do you think she likes doing in her free time? What do you like doing in your free time?
  4. Do you like the circus? What do you usually see in the circus?
  5. Pair work: students are divided into A and B. Student A lists the positive points of a circus. Student B disagrees and says why.
  6. Make a poster of a circus (a drawing or a collage or both) and present it to the class.

Activity 6: writing. Level B1/B2

  1. Write a composition imagining what your life would be like if you worked for a circus. Tell us about your job. What you usually do. The different kinds of people you work with. Do your relatives work there too? Who? (Do some research on the Internet to find out what kind of life circus people live. Use your own words in the composition. 400 – 700 words).
  2. Read your partner’s composition. Help her correct some mistakes and ask questions to help her write a more complete and better composition. Then ask her to help you with yours.

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Click on the image above to access the KINDLE STORE: Teaching English with Art: Matisse, Picasso, Caravaggio, Monet, Norman Rockwell

Click on the image above to access the KINDLE STORE. Teaching English with Art: Matisse, Picasso, Caravaggio, Monet, Norman Rockwell

Au revoir Jorge Sette

Teaching English with Art (video)


Teaching English with Art: the ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNING materials you have been waiting for:

 

 

TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART: MATISSE. Click here for more info: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1kP

 

TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART: PICASSO. Click here for more info: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lA

 

‪#‎matisse ‪#‎picasso ‪#‎fauvism ‪#‎cubism ‪#‎moma ‪#‎tate ‪#‎teachingenglish ‪#‎language ‪#‎learningenglish

Teaching English with Art: Picasso


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You will never have bored students again.

Teaching English with Art: Picasso

Teaching English with Art: Picasso

 

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Check out the video clip  on our eBooks below:

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Jorge Sette

Cubism: the most revolutionary art movement of the 20th century


Pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, Cubism is one of the most revolutionary and seminal art movements of the 20th century. It has its origins in the post-impressionist paintings of Paul Cezanne, and aims at depicting reality in a non-naturalistic way, being considered the seed of the abstract paintings developed later on. Cubism in its more innovative and radical form lasted from 1907 to 1914, when the First World War broke out.

The end of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century were marked by great technological innovations that cried for an art form that could express these fast changes and new times. Traditional art, based on realistic works, which had been perfecting the use of perspective since the Renaissance, could not compete with the innovations of photography and film. They would be a mere replication of these more accurate methods of showing reality.

Portrait of Fernarde by Picasso, Pablo. 1909

Portrait of Fernarde by Picasso, Pablo, 1909

In an attempt to grasp the essence of the times, Picasso started to move towards more simplified depictions of objects and the human form, trying to represent simultaneously the different angles from which they could be seen, not only from a unique perspective. He started to flatten his images, making use of geometric shapes (such as cubes, hence the name of the movement) and deconstructing reality by slashing the image into different planes, producing, thus, an effect which had a more intellectual than sensorial impact on the viewer.

The iconic painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is considered the first Cubist work of art. Primitive art, such as African masks and Iberian sculptures, played an influential role in the development of Cubism. This first phase of the movement is usually known as analytic cubism, characterized by the use of dark, almost monochromatic color hues, and growing to a point where the deconstruction of reality became so radical that the viewer could hardly identify the object or person depicted. The second phase, synthetic cubism, was a lot more energetic and colorful, including the technique of collage, where real-life two-dimensional materials, such as colored paper, newspapers or even hair ribbons, were glued to the painting.

Bottle, Guitar, and Pipe by Picasso, Pablo

Bottle, Guitar, and Pipe by Picasso, Pablo. 1912

It’s hard to pinpoint when Cubism really finished, although we usually place it in the historical period between 1907-1914. It actually did not end, but transformed itself and evolved into other styles in the following decades.

Even today we can identify strong influences of Cubism in architecture, design and, of course, the arts in general.

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Teaching English with art

Teaching English with art

Au revoir

Jorge Sette

Pablo Picasso: a revolution in the visual arts


The key words to define the creative output of Picasso, one of the most famous artists in history – and whose art involves not only paintings, but drawings, sculptures, collages and pottery – are, among others: cubist, revolutionary, shocking, free, provocative, sinful, decadent, unique, striking, wonderful. Ahead of its time, as the work of most great artistic minds, it took time for his more innovative art to be understood and appreciated by the general public.

Picasso has become a brand. The influence of his work has gone way beyond art to touch the fashion industry, the automobile industry, architecture and design in all corners of the world for the last 70 years or so. Together with his close friend and rival, Matisse, Picasso is considered the greatest artist of the 20th century.

The Tragedy, 1903

The Tragedy, 1903

The art of Picasso and Matisse were always in constant dialogue. They were always paying close attention to each other’s developing work, copying and referencing motifs and vocabulary to advance their own pieces. However, this copying was always subject to a digestive process, where the opponent’s innovations and techniques were appropriated and personalized, coming out as distinctive and original manifestations, when they finally showed up in the rival’s work.

Unlike Matisse, however, whose work does not spell out clearly its relation with his personal life, Picasso’s works reflect a life well lived: his passions, his womanizing, his contradictions, his lovers, his wives, his friends, his loneliness, his unorthodox and bohemian life style are all reflected in his art.

If he chose, Picasso could easily paint and draw in a more classic way, in the vein of the masters of more traditional art, as his early works attest. However, he thought that, in an age in which photography and film took over the job of representing reality as it is, the objective of the artist was to push the envelop, going way beyond the mere copying of the world as one sees it. Besides, Picasso had a very clear notion of the arbitrariness of the various signs of representation from his own life experience: he was a Spanish national who lived in France for most of his life without ever dominating completely the local language. It’s speculated that this factor played a huge role in his liberation from rigid patterns of realistic representation of the external world.

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. 1907

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907

By working mainly at night and usually painting directly from his imagination, without models, Picasso struggled and succeeded in exploring the inner life of things and people. He expressed in his work the way he felt about people, he let their personalities and attitudes manifest themselves through his masterpieces. He distorted and played with the objects of everyday life to make them convey aspects we are not used to noticing. He depicted reality in totally new ways by mixing styles, flattening perspectives, and thus confounding and broadening the viewer’s perception, painting the same scene as seen simultaneously from different angles.

But his work goes way beyond the mere exploration of his personal life and the attempt to exorcise his inner demons. He grew to express the whole dark atmosphere of the 20th century, the bloodiest period in human history, in some of his most violent and impactful productions – such as the painting Guernica, which conveys, in horrific and stylized detail, the violence of war and its effects on innocent people.

The lasting influence of this great artist will still be felt in many years to come.

Guernica, 1937

Guernica, 1937

 

 

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Teaching English with Art

Teaching English with Art

Au revoir

Jorge Sette

 

 

 

 

Matisse and Picasso: a competitive and productive conversation


“Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.”  Pablo Picasso

Matisse and Picasso, two of the greatest masters of the 20th century visual arts, were introduced to each other by Gertrude Stein, an American intellectual and writer whose family moved to Paris. Her family became also one of the main patrons of both artists, although, as time went by, Gertrude seemed to favor Picasso’s work over Matisse’s.

From the beginning, both men always had a competitive relationship with each other. This competitiveness, however, proved very productive, as their work, at each stage, was often a response to the other’s more recent painting or change in style. The exposure to the competitor’s latest work usually goaded each of them not only to incorporate some new and intriguing element just discovered by his opponent but to surpass it or give it a more personal angle.

Harmony in Red by Matisse, Henri

Harmony in Red by Matisse, Henri

In a grossly simplified way, we can say that Matisse’s paintings were more cerebral, carefully planned, based on a representation of living models, despite all the distortions and changes to which this model may be subjected on the canvas, whereas Picasso’s work was more visceral, entirely produced from his imagination alone, without the need of a reference in the real world. Matisse painted in daytime, he had a family and was a quiet and sensible man. Picasso, on the other hand, was the stereotypical passionate bohemian artist, living in poor and disheveled quarters with his mistress of the moment. He painted at night. Matisse was French; Picasso, Spanish.

Matisse was the master of vibrant colors, ornament and light. His lifeline was the arabesque. His art style was part of Fauvism (from the word fauve, which means wild beast in French), a movement considered the natural continuation of Impressionism, with a direct influence from the painter Cezanne. Picasso was the master of fragmentation, radical abstraction and the use of varied and intersecting geometric planes slicing the image on the canvas. His paintings were a lot darker and more aggressive than his colleague’s. These features were the essence of Cubism, a movement that consisted of deconstructing the human form in the painting by replacing it with geometric ones, mainly cubes, assembled together in a way that barely resembled the original idea when finalized. Cubism also had no problem incorporating in the same painting the vocabulary and technique of other styles, composing a complex and mesmerizing whole. This was probably a reflex of Picasso’s personal life, a foreign in France, who could never express himself fluently in the language of his adopted country, therefore becoming very aware of the arbitrariness of the different codes of representation, language and painting included.

Three Women by Picasso, Pablo

Three Women by Picasso, Pablo

Neither Matisse or Picasso thought that the aim of art was to represent a naturalistic view of the external world. Photograph could do that. The important thing was to apply the “Instagram” filter of emotion and personal experience to it. Hence the progressive abstraction of their works.

Matisse was 12 years older than Picasso, but, as their parallel artistic lives developed, they became the closest friends. Each understood the richness and breakthrough quality of the other’s new paintings and variations in style long before anyone else. Their respect and influence was mutual: their conversation lasted a lifetime.

After Matisse’s death, Picasso missed his friend’s feedback and, sometimes provocative reaction to his own paintings, so deeply that he incorporated obvious references to Matisse’s art into his own work, so the dialogue could carry on intrinsically, within the painting itself.

For me the works of these two artists can only be described as breathtaking. Matisse’s paintings have a soothing and relaxing effect on my life. I revert to Picasso’s whenever I feel the need to nurture my darker side and infuse my days with a boost of passion.

NOTE: You might want to check out our eBooks series TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART, available  from AMAZON.COM. Clique here for more info:   http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lS

Teaching English with Art

Teaching English with Art

 

Au revoir/Saludos

Jorge Sette