What to Make of Dragons?

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“It was not until the nineteenth century that a regular, professional art critic became necessary to interpret current painting to the public. The artists of the Renaissance, the Baroque, and the eighteenth century painted for an educated, enlightened, and enfranchised class of art connoisseurs, the aristocracy and the church hierarchy of the period before the French Revolution. His audience was clearly defined and there was a shared body of knowledge, literacy and artistic, that patron and artist took for granted. Thus if a myth were referred to in a painting, or more likely, if a painting were commissioned to illustrate a favorite, a personally meaningful myth, no educated viewer found it incomprehensible…” – Geldzahler, Henry. 1996. Making it new: essays, interviews, and talks. Pg 112

The representational knowledge of motifs can give secondary or tertiary meanings to art, such as a painting, a poem, or a sculpture. An individual can find a motif beautiful without understanding any additional meaning or context from the work. Those who understand the motif can “read into” the intent of the work – its representation of an idea, which can imbue the work with an additional representational aesthetic of beauty.

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