visual arts 3

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Assessment Instructions

For this assessment, complete the following:

  • Write an essay explaining the aesthetic principles expressed in visual arts and describe how they changed from the Baroque period through the early twentieth century.
    • Which basic features were preserved through the centuries, and which changed dramatically?
    • How do you think artists choose which styles to employ in their own work?
  • Consider how these styles are exemplified in commercial design during our own time. Collect eight or ten visual images from Web sites and advertisements and explain how they incorporate traditional elements of visual design.
    • Are our decisions to purchase items of clothing, jewelry, automobiles, appliances, and services influenced significantly by the visual forms in which they are presented?

Although your paper should offer a general thesis about the use of visual arts, much of the support you offer in its defense will involve details chosen from the specific examples you select. As you write, look for ways to tie everything together with your own view of the role that the visual arts continue to play in our everyday lives.

Additional Requirements

  • Written communication: Should be free of errors that detract from the overall message.
  • APA formatting: Your paper should be formatted according to APA (6th edition) style and formatting.
  • Length: 4-6 typed and double-spaced pages.
  • Font and font size: Times New Roman, 12 point.


Write a 4–6-page explanation of visual aesthetic principles in art from the Baroque period through the early twentieth century. Then, assess the impact of contemporary aesthetic principles as used in commercial design.

This assessment allows you to demonstrate your understanding of foundational principles in the visual arts.

By successfully completing this assessment, you will demonstrate your proficiency in the following course competencies and assessment criteria:

  • Competency 1: Describe the historical development of the humanities from the pre-historic era to the present.
    • Describe how the visual arts developed in the 17th through 20th centuries.
  • Competency 2: Examine the forms of expression that instantiate the arts and humanities.
    • Explain the aesthetic principles expressed in the visual arts.
  • Competency 3: Integrate the humanities with everyday life.
    • Illustrate the use of visual arts in commercial design.
    • Assess how visual images in advertising influence our buying habits.
  • Competency 4: Communicate effectively in forms appropriate to the humanities.
    • Write coherently to support a central idea in appropriate format with correct grammar, usage, and mechanics.

    • Context

The history and development of the visual arts can best be understood through a series of distinct periods or movements. The Assessment 5 Context document provides a brief overview of some of the major periods of art history and as well as the artists who were the key contributors to each period or movement. You may wish to review this document for important concepts and ideas.


Widespread use of high-powered steam engines during the nineteenth century, along with perfection of processes for the manufacture of steel and the emergent application of electricity for commercial purposes, resulted in the rapid development of industrial progress. European powers expanded their colonial empires in order to secure the necessary raw materials, and even at home, the divide between “haves” and “have-nots” grew alarmingly. As downtrodden workers began to revolt, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels addressed the situation directly with an earnest critique of the capitalist economic system as a whole. Fiction writers like Dickens, Tolstoy, Flaubert, and Ibsen drew attention to the practical consequences of social inequality for the dispossessed, especially the working poor and women.

In the Romantic era, the appreciation of nature and elevation of heroic individuals were the focuses of artists including Constable, Turner, and Goya. These themes were largely abandoned in a new wave of realism from artists like Honoré Daumier and Edouard Manet in France and Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins in the United States. Their efforts to faithfully record events from ordinary life, however, soon gave way to the use of photographic equipment that could capture such moments technologically.

Painting, on the other hand, soon moved away from this kind of objectivity by employing new chemical pigments to portray light and color in a less-formal style that came to be known as Impressionism.

  • Claude Monet used muted but contrasting colors to focus on visual perception of surfaces.
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir employed similar techniques to those used by Monet to capture spontaneous glimpses of life.
  • American Mary Cassatt portrayed domestic scenes with vivid color and light.
  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec pictured Parisian dancers and prostitutes on dramatic posters.
  • Seurat’s pointillism and Cézanne’s abstraction further flattened perception of the visual surface.

During the twentieth century, painters explored a variety of options, from the social realism of Diego Rivera to the bizarre choice of colors by Henri Matisse. The dominant figure of this period was Spaniard Pablo Picasso. After early efforts in representational painting and reliance on a restricted palette, especially in muted tones of blue and rose, Picasso created an entirely new approach that came to be known as Cubism, the often disjointed separation of figures into abstract planes. Picasso also introduced the practice of assembling collages that added a third dimension to painted surfaces. In the generations that followed, other artists pursued even more disruptive challenges to tradition: abstract expressionism, dada, surrealism, and pop art.

The entire history of the fine arts has provided us with a rich vocabulary with which to analyze and interpret the significance of visual perceptions, which can be applied to natural objects and photographs as well as to paintings in a variety of styles. By studying art, we learn to speak of line, shape, form, color, texture, framing, and design. In our own lives, we see these same elements combined in lively fashion for commercial purposes as well. Advertisements in magazines, newspapers, and Web sites—as well as movies and television—incorporate the same variety of styles and aesthetic principles.

The twentieth century brought remarkable upheaval to human civilization. Two world wars devastated Europe economically and brought death to millions of its inhabitants and included a determined but unsuccessful effort to exterminate the Jewish population altogether. Political revolutions in Russia and China—along with nationalistic movements in other countries around the world—often failed to produce any relief from the social instabilities they sought to address. Intellectual developments were no less disruptive. Planck, Einstein, and Heisenberg thoroughly upset older views of the physical world, while Freud, Adler, and Jung did the same for study of psychology.

In the humanities, this era ushered in Modernism, a movement that sought to abstract essential form out of the quotidian expression of values by more traditional means:

  • Pound, Eliot, and Yeats wrote poetry conveying intellectual content in highly compressed language.
  • Proust, Kafka, Joyce, and Woolf introduced stream-of-consciousness to works of fiction.
  • Wells, Huxley, Orwell, and Clarke drove speculation with their fiction about the social implications of our scientific future.
  • Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Calder advanced the visual abstraction pioneered by Picasso and Matisse.
  • Dali, Magritte, Miró, and Kahlo pushed these developments even further with their surreal art.
  • The International Style of architecture used new materials to fashion starkly functional buildings at every scale.

Even the performing arts were influenced by this movement:

  • The plays of Eugene O’Neill, Bertolt Brecht, and Samuel Becket combined classical elements of drama with self-conscious acknowledgement of the artificiality of the medium.
  • Films by Sergei Eisenstein, Leni Riefenstahl, Jean Cocteau, and Federico Fellini used extravagant visual imagery to evoke direct emotional engagement with their audiences.
  • Musical works by Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg departed from traditional tonalities with inventive twelve-tone and aleatoric music.

Worthy of special mention is the growing influence of American culture during the twentieth century. Although Aaron Copeland employed some of the modernist compositional techniques, he also made extensive use of melodies from distinctive American religious and folk traditions. In New Orleans, Memphis, and Chicago, charismatic performers drew on African, Caribbean, and Spanish influences to develop the syncopated, improvisational style of music known as jazz, which had its golden age in the works of Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, “Duke” Ellington, and Miles Davis. In literature, writers like Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, W. E. B. DuBois, and Alain Locke gave vivid expression to the experience of African-Americans in what has come to be known as the Harlem Renaissance.

Questions to Consider

To deepen your understanding, you are encouraged to consider the questions below and discuss them with a fellow learner, a work associate, an interested friend, or a member of the business community.

  • What feelings, thoughts, and motives do your perceptions elicit in each instance of the aesthetic principles embodied by your favorite works of visual art?
    • Renaissance values altered the course of European culture dramatically. Among their many influences was a transformation of the visual arts, painting, and sculpture. Which aspects of Renaissance portraiture continue to affect the way we think about “realistic” representation?
  • Which elements of the painterly traditions transferred easily into the composition of photographs, and which did not? Although the invention of photography during the nineteenth century—and its further development in the twentieth, with the additional capacity for color and motion—made it possible to capture accurate two-dimensional images directly, without the talents of artists and painters, the visual arts continued to thrive.
    • How might the availability of photography have contributed to changes in the style employed by painters during this period?
  • What is the point of modernism, and why should we tolerate it as part of our society, ask some of your friends? In general, they hate modern art, architecture, literature, music, thought, and politics, and they resent the use of tax money to support the production or display of “foolish attacks” on traditional forms of expression.
    • How would you answer? You may agree or disagree with your friends’ distaste for all things modern and revolutionary, but your answer should be based on evidence you have discovered during your study of the humanities.
    • Is there a respectable way to make sense of modernist movements, or are they simply rebellion for its own sake?


    Suggested Resources

    The following optional resources are provided to support you in completing the assessment or to provide a helpful context. For additional resources, refer to the Research Resources and Supplemental Resources in the left navigation menu of your courseroom.

    Capella Resources

    Click the links provided to view the following resources:

    The following interactive provides several examples of the development and expression of the visual arts. You can use this as background for your own observation of the use of this tradition as it is expressed in contemporary commercial design.


    Capella Multimedia

    Click the link provided below to view the following multimedia piece:

    Library Resources

    The following e-books or articles from the Capella University Library are linked directly in this course:

    Course Library Guide

    A Capella University library guide has been created specifically for your use in this course. You are encouraged to refer to the resources in the
    HUM-FP1000 – Introduction to Humanities Library Guide to help direct your research.

    Bookstore Resources

    The resources listed below are relevant to the topics and assessments in this course and are not required. Unless noted otherwise, these materials are available for purchase from the
    Capella University Bookstore. When searching the bookstore, be sure to look for the Course ID with the specific
    –FP (FlexPath) course designation.

    • Fiero, G. K. (2016). Landmarks in humanities (4th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
      • Chapters 12–14.

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