Our visual powers

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Helen Frankenthaler, The Bay. 1963. Acrylic on canvas, 6 feet 8 inches × 6 feet 9 inches. Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit.

The painting reveals the fluid qualities of acrylics, essentially sensuous color permitted to radiate through a range of tones. Its size, almost seven feet square, intensifies our reaction to the shapes the colors take, which Frankenthaler controls in a characteristic fashion.

Other Media and Mixed Media

The dominant medium for Chinese and many Asian artists has been ink, as in Wang Yuanqi’s Landscape after Wu Zhen (Figure 4-7). Modern painters often employ mixed media, using duco and aluminum paint, house paint, oils, even grit and sand. Jackson Pollock’s Autumn Rhythm (Figure 3-3) is a good example. Andy Warhol used acrylic and silk-screen ink in his famous Marilyn Monroe series. Some basic kinds of prints (the graphic arts) are woodcut, engraving, linocut, etching, drypoint, lithography, and aquatint.

PERCEPTION KEY The Media of Painting

1. Compare the detail of tempera in Giotto’s Madonna Enthroned (Figure 4-2) with the radiance of color in Parmigianino’s oil painting The Madonna with the Long Neck (Figure 4-4). What differences do you see in the quality of detail in each painting and in the quality of the color?

2. Contrast the effect of Marin’s watercolor approach to nature with Wang Yuanqi’s use of ink. Which communicates a sense of nature more readily?

3. Compare the traditional fresco of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam (Figure 4-3) with Leonardo’s experimental fresco of the Last Supper (Figure 3-1). To what extent does Michelangelo’s use of the medium help you imagine what Leonardo’s fresco would have looked like if he had used Michelangelo’s technique?

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