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Fundamental Concepts, Methods, & Modes in the Humanities
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Fundamental Concepts, Methods, & Modes in the Humanities
In an effort to analyze, critique, and understand where creativity and inspiration originated, I will discuss two historical art periods and illustrate how one art period is a continuation of, or a reaction to, the earlier art period. However, first I would like to refresh our understanding of what art truly is. Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. It is how we see ourselves. It is how we see each other. It is how we see the world. It is how we stay focused and grounded with our roots and beliefs, so that we know where we come from, what we have been through, and where we are heading. It is my intention to prove that the later art period came about as a continuation of the earlier art period. The two art periods that I have chosen are the Renaissance and the Harlem Renaissance art periods. In a nutshell, the Renaissance simply was a period of rebirth. It is a period during the 14th through the 17th century in which the arts were revived. The reason for this revival was because The Middle Ages were over. During that period, territorial struggles throughout Europe had made people more concerned with staying in good graces with whoever was ruling them at that particular time. The rulers, themselves, were more concerned with preoccupying and expanding their control. And with the Roman Catholic Church having its strong foothold in society during this era, no one really had time left over to even think about art. The characteristics of Renaissance art include realism, expression, perspective, classicism, an emphasis on individuality, the geometrical arrangement of figures, lights and shadowing, and using artists as personalities or celebrities. Everything was life-like. There were no cartoonish drawings, but rather a life-like quality to the art even if it involved nude paintings, Greek Gods, classic buildings, or church-inspired themes. We all know the history of African American people being released from slavery in 1863. However, in order to seek after a dream, one must first have an opportunity to succeed. The time period between World War I and the Great Depression were good financial times for the United States, and jobs were especially plentiful in the North. Yet, for some unknown reason, Harlem (a section of Manhattan, NY) drew nearly 175,000 African Americans into its 3 sq. mile radius, turning the neighborhood into the largest concentration of black people in the world. And it is their cultural movement that produced the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s and 1930’s. The New Negro Movement, as the Harlem Renaissance was called also had certain characteristics. They included racial pride, creative expression, and intellectualism. They were intended to not just to give a voice to African American thought, but also to create thought-provoking pieces to challenge and uplift the African American race. The Harlem Renaissance was also looked at as a spiritual emancipation for the African Americans, and the opportunity to reshape their heritage as an intellectual one equal with the Caucasian race. The intellectual thought was geared toward challenging the stereotypes of African Americans while developing a greater appreciation for the folk roots, culture and the spiritualism of the past. When you look at the two historical art periods, the similarities are evident. As in the Renaissance period, people needed a rebirth; a breaking away of what the people were put through, in order to find out who they really were. Likewise, the Harlem Renaissance is about the same thing; a breaking away of what African American were put through, in order to find out what type of people they were going to become. The differences between the two art periods are so few, that they are really insignificant. The Harlem Renaissance is simply a continuation of the Renaissance. The purpose of continuing the tradition of the Renaissance is because it inspires individual growth, cultural understanding, and world knowledge. As I stated previously, art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. It allows us to know where we have been in order to get a direction on where we are heading. During the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci painted “The Last Supper”, which depicts Jesus Christ sharing his final meal with his Apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion (smarthistory, n.d). During the Harlem Renaissance, Lois Mailou Jones painted “The Ascent of Ethiopia”, which depicts an Egyptian-looking face watching the ascent of other dark-skinned people to what can only be described as prosperity (, 2012). “The Ascent of Ethiopia” actually relates to “The Last Supper”. In “The Last Supper”, Jesus knows this is His last meal. He can stop the outcome at anytime. However, in order to allow mankind the opportunity to have life, He must give His own. He must allow everything to happen for a reason, because in the end He will always be watching His people as they ascent on the path of life. In “The Ascent of Ethiopia”, the Egyptian-looking face watches over the road that leads African Americans from a lower chamber on Earth to a higher plateau in life. This is also the painting’s historical significance. It suggests that the past and the tarnished history of the plight of African Americans should not be a scarlet letter imprinted of every African American’s chest. Rather, a sense of pride; knowing that they started from the valley bottom, but finally made it to the top of the hill.

In conclusion, the evidence supports the fact that the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s and 1930’s came about as a continuation of the Renaissance art period of the 14th century. Both allowed a cultural awareness to form within the fabrics of their intended society to allow for a re-discovery of their heritage, morals, beliefs, and values. Both Renaissance periods allowed for a rebirth to take place.

References (2012). Timeline. Retrieved from
Smarthistory. (n.d.). Leonardo’s Last Supper. Retrieved from

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