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Humanities & Cultures

The term Humanity comes from the Latin word humanus, which means human, cultured, refined behavior and love and compassion towards other human beings. It had been a practice since ages to depict the human conditions in different eras through art and other literary sources. The transition from the nineteenth to the twentieth century in Europe is characterized by a plethora of artistic styles and movements, a rich confusion with no clear-cut tendency or direction. The various ‘isms’ follow each other, or exists side by side, or overlap: naturalism, impressionism, symbolism, neo-romanticism, art nouveau, then futurism and expressionism.

Catholic Reformation Baroque: The sixteenth and seventeenth century witnessed the Catholic renewal movement was by the art was used as a media for purposes of doctrinal instruction and the raising of religious consciousness. The foundations of baroque style paintings were laid in Rome around 1600 by two artists whose work in some glance seem to have little in common. Michelangelo Merisi (1573 – 1610), better known as Caravaggio, explored the darker aspects of life and death in some of the most naturalistic and dramatic pictures ever painted.

In his art, Caravaggio injected naturalism into both religion and the classics, reducing them to human dramas played out in the harsh and dingy settings of his time place. Aristocratic: Aristocratic culture and its art forms are apt to be characterized by their ostentatious display of the wealth and power of the ruling class. The preoccupation with beauty, one of the most conspicuous aspect of the culture, influence attitudes toward nature, standard of judgments in the arts, appraisals of human worth, and norms of social behavior. Works of Moliere and Versailles are spoken in reference to the Aristocratic culture.

Moliere’s emphasis on work and money demystifies “high” art. Protestant: The movement that sought initially to reform the Roman Catholic Church but that led to the establishment of separate branches of Christianity collectively called Protestantism. It is connected particularly with the work of Jan Vermeer. He usually composed with a single figure, though sometimes with two or more. The paintings of Vermeer were based to bring stillness in a situation; they cultivate an atmosphere of inwardness and of spiritual concentration where everything is bound together in a perfect harmony.

Neoclassicism in art: In neoclassicism, meaning is considered to precede its expression. The truth contained in art can be stated as propositions outside of art. It confirms the accustomed social verities; it is prescriptive; its ultimate criteria in artistic propriety, balance and beauty, evidenced by a harmony in the beholder between elevation, decorum, equilibrium, and insight. The most articulate champion of this era was Jacques – Louis David, a painter whose temperament and technique suited to the spirit of the times. He did not conceive of a painting as a pleasure but rather as a spur to moral rectitude and political action.

Romanticism: Romanticism is a movement that has propounded a number of main themes that have been taken up by many later anti-technology movements. Romanticism arose in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries within poetry, philosophy, and visual art, and continued through much of the nineteenth century in music. Romantic Music: Correlated with the aforementioned sense of drama and need to express a wider range of emotions, the first two decades of the nineteenth century witnessed an exploration of increasingly intricate and exotic harmonies – indeed, this is one of the hallmarks of Romantic music.

In this respect, Beethoven and especially Schubert were instrumental in forging a path for later composers. Beethoven’s music is well recognized for its universalization of individual emotions. Realism: Realism, with its implication of a single “real” world, is in some ways antithetical to the whole intent of postmodernism, which repudiates the urge toward “totalizing metanarratives”. The concept of Realism depends on the view that entities exist independently of being perceived, or independently of the theories about them. Impressionism: Impressionism is born from the fundamental insight that our consciousness is sensitive and passive.

Although impressionism, as an artistic movement, had nearly worked out itself by 1886, it is still a potent force in literature even today. Claude Monet the most typical and the most individual Impressionist painter. Monet took a more objective, distanced and less dramatic view so that eye could move back and forth comparing and becoming aware of the effects of refraction and reflection within both light and shade. Post-Impressionism: Post-Impressionism is one of the least helpful of descriptive terms in art history. It is considered to be a very poor movement in terms of western art.

It was closely linked to the Aesthetic movement and the arts and crafts movement. Like all sound revolutions, post- Impressionism is nothing more than a return of first principles. Into a world where the painter was either expected to be a photographer or an acrobat burst the post-impressionist, claiming that, above all the things, he should be an artist. Post-Impressionism today suggests certain forms of expressionism, such as the work of Von Gogh and Gauguin, modernism as it evolved has to suggest the manipulation of form of alone solely for aesthetic ends. Cubism: Cubism was a revolution in shape and form.

The cubist looked the world from new angles and challenged the art from the past. The great value of cubism movement is that it constituted rapture in the continuity of the figurative tradition. The development of cubism can be attributed to two men, George Braque and Pablo Picasso. They worked side by side in the same studio during the cubist period, and their work was almost indistinguishable. Modern Philosophy: Modern philosophy is often categorized as a movement by many; however, it is still vague if it could consider as one. Basically, it is a philosophy which was done during the modern era of Europe and North America.

The detachment and strange lucidity, the fascinating insignificance, of modern philosophy is more than trivially oneiric, and betrays more certainly than does all but the finest scientific treatise on the subject, the ambiguity of dreams for modern culture. Sigmund Freud had been a major contributor in the Modern Philosophy. Modern Literature: Literature is associated in almost every mind with all that is great and noble in the manifestation of human power; but perhaps Fichte, one of those philosophers who reflect such luster on modern Germany, has presented it in the most solemn if not the most sublime of characters.

He holds that there is a Divine Idea pervading the visible universe, which visible universe is but its symbol and personification, animated by the principle of vitality. Surrealism: the surrealist movement was born in the 1920s out of the ferment of Dada, committed to revolution against bourgeois rationalism, and inspired by Freudian exploration of the unconscious, has reverberated more widely and deeply than perhaps any other art movement in twentieth century.

The work of Frida Kahlo was like ribbon around a bomb, scarcely known outside the surrealist circle for many years. Frida was the most renowned of all the women who have been involved in the movement. Metaphysical art: Metaphysical art is an art whose visible creations reveal the underlying reality. Metaphysical painters were the first to focus on architecture as a theme for painting. De Chirico is considered to be the father of Italian metaphysical art. He was the greatest Italian painter of nineteenth century and was one of the most elusive figures of modern art.

His work depicted the theme underlying the original metaphysical philosophy. Dada: Of the avant-grade artistic movement that emerged in the first half of the twentieth century, Dada was the most international. Dada sought to destroy the boundaries between the artistic media. Dada pioneered a transnational, transmedial, translingual culture that characterized the arts of the twentieth century. Marcel Duchamp is the most stimulating intellectual to be concerned with the visual arts in the twentieth century – ironic witty and penetrating.

His work represented in many ways the most iconoclastic gesture that any artist has ever made – a gesture of total rejection and revolt against accepted artistic canons. Social Realism: Social realism also termed as socio-realism is an artistic movement whereby the artists and the painters of the era reflected the working class activities in their paintings. It came into emergence to obstruct the growth of idealism and to great extent romanticism. During this period, the work of Diego Rivera astounded the world.

The homogenous format adopted in his works included uniform palette, long empty spaces, and blocky, unmodulated forms. Expressionism: ‘Expressionism’ is a descriptive term which has to cover so many disparate cultural manifestations as to be virtually meaningless: of all the ‘isms’ in literature and art it seems the one most difficult to define, partly because it has a general, as well as a specific application, and partly because it overlaps to a great extent with what can be called ‘modernism’ as well as having antecedents in Baroque’s dynamism and Gothic distortion.

Wassily Kandinsky, the young Russian painter is often identified with the Expressionism era. Kandinsky in his works emphasized on the importance of form, color, rhythm, and the artist’s inner need, in expressing reality. Relying on his own unique terminology, he develops the idea of point as the “proto-element” of painting, the role of point in nature, music and other art, and the combination of point and lines that results in a unique visual language. Liberation: Liberation theology is marked by a turn not to the subject but to the subjugated.

Liberation culture resists any theological strategy (corelationalist or intratextually descriptive) which might deflect from the demands of the material and spiritual needs of the oppressed. Its mode of critical reflection is concretely informed by the focal value of solidarity with the oppressed who struggle to articulate their hope in the midst of the denial of their personhood. The most significant person related to the Black Liberation is Malcolm X.

He taught the Black working-class and street people the tradition of Black Nationalism in a language and style that they could understand. The artistic expression of today’s Black youth, rap music, owes a particular debt to Malcolm X. It is through rap music that this youth generation speaks to the world. Malcolm X helped this generation find its voice. Pop Art: Pop Art does not describe a style; it is much rather a collective term for artistic phenomenon in which the sense of being in a particular era found its concrete expression.

Pop is entirely a Western cultural phenomenon, born under Capitalist, technological conditions in an industrial society. Pop art analyzes the state of affairs and provides a visual seismogram of the societies achievements in industry and fashion, but also of their absurdities, it traces the limits of a mass media society bursting at the same. Warhol’s working method is a constant process of action and reaction; he leaves the borders open between production, product and reproduction, between the image, the depiction and the depicted.

His art is informed by the knowledge that it is the appearance given to a thing or an event, the manner in which it is mediated or presented, which gives it its meaning. The medium is itself the content of the message. Warhol not only wanted to turn the trivial and common place into art, but also to make art itself trivial and commonplace. Conclusion: The bankruptcy of the economy and the nihilism of popular culture are the sources of the distorted values and internalized violence of the youth.

Today the entire society is ensnared in the worship of material culture. Manhood is defined in terms of how much you have, not how well you care for others. This occurs side by side with an increasing inclination to smear the poor as an underclass and blame them for their own poverty. The large number of cultures and their descriptions above gives an insight into different eras and the human of those times.


Cunningham, Lawrence & Reich, John. 2005: Cultures and Values: A Survey of the Humanities. Thomson Wadsworth Publishers.

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