How do cultural patterns and historical context shape a work of art?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Cultural patterns and historical context shape works of art in that an artist creates a work within the confines of a culture he understands and participates in. Whether his art reflects the beauties of that culture or stands as a rejection of cultural patterns, the artist nonetheless produces a work...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Cultural patterns and historical context shape works of art in that an artist creates a work within the confines of a culture he understands and participates in. Whether his art reflects the beauties of that culture or stands as a rejection of cultural patterns, the artist nonetheless produces a work as a result of his own experiences within a particular culture.

Caspar David Friedrich, for example, was influenced by other European Romantic artists during the early 1800s. During this time, artists found value in nature, individuality, mystery, and emotions. These cultural ideals heavily influenced Friedrich's work, and his painting Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog is often considered the artistic "face" of the Romantic period.

The historical context in which Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice heavily influenced her art. Austen, like the Bennets, was a member of the "gentry" class and was therefore able to socialize with landowning aristocracy. She understood the detailed social etiquette that was expected of those in her class and was well aware of expectations that women be beautiful, talented, accomplished, and well educated. The ultimate goal of all these qualities was to be matched with a suitable husband. Otherwise, the role of women was quite limited in their societies. Elizabeth Bennet challenges these ideals because of Jane Austen's personal interactions within that historical context.

African American art often reflects cultural patterns of pain and suffering. Billie Holiday, known for being an incredibly talented jazz performer, endured segregation, racial and gender discrimination, and fear during the early 1900s. She wrote many of her own songs, which was fairly unheard of during that era. Her art reflects the conflict she often faced, with songs titled "Solitude," "Strange Fruit," and "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues." Her music, like that of many other jazz musicians, reflects the societal turmoil of the era; the improvisation evident in many jazz performances also reflected ideals of freedom that were central to the African American experience during the early 1900s.

Cultural patterns and historical context are dynamic forces, creating complex interactions between people and their environments. These influences are often evident, in both positive and negative portrayals, in the artwork of any given period.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on