When it comes to art, there has been much debate as to how to judge a certain work of art??™s value as determined by its viewer. It is often said that the most prominent way of judging a work of art??™s value is through emotion, both the expression of a certain emotion the artist is trying to convey and the emotional impact the work of art has on its audience. Art can be deciphered and understood by looking at its aesthetic components — the pleasure the viewer receives through the beauty of the work, the cognitive connection between the artist, work of art, and viewer, and the emotion(s) the work of art evokes in its audience as intended by the artist.
We as the audience of a particular work of art determine its value most through the emotional connection we have with the piece of artwork. The artist succeeds not only when the audience feels the exact emotion the artist is trying to convey, but when we as viewers make any type of emotional connection to the work of art. This holds true with both visual works of art (i.e. paintings, sculptures, drawings, etc.) and literary works of art (i.e. poems, music, plays, etc.
). By looking at Pablo Picasso??™s painting, ???The Old Guitarist,??? and reading and listening to Marvin Gaye??™s musical composition, ???Inner City Blues,??? the audience is immediately drawn to the emotions we infer the artist is trying to convey as well as our own unique interpretations and emotions we experience when studying the works of art. Emotion in these two examples of visual and literary/musical art can be expressed through the use of color and content, composition and melody, and time periods the works were created during — all of which contribute to as well as determine the value of the piece of art. Emotion in a visual work of art, in this case Pablo Picasso??™s ???The Old Guitarist,??? can be expressed through the intended use of color and technique chosen by the artist.
According to Gordan Graham, author of Philosophy of the Arts: An Introduction to Aesthetics, ???expressivism??™ and ???expressionism??™ are two terms that distinguish the emotion evoked in the work of art. Expressivism is the idea that expressed emotions give viewers an understanding of the picture??™s intended nature, in other words, why it was painted, and Expressionism being an artistic movement in which painters directly expressed emotion through their pictures. ???The Old Guitarist,??? a painting created during this artistic movement, is a prime example of how emotion is infused into a painting depending on the color and technique used by the artist (Graham, 31). ???The Old Guitarist??? exists as a portrait of an elderly musician, seemingly in one of the darkest period of his life. Picasso achieves this notion in the overall hue of the painting, as well as its composition. As viewers gaze at this overwhelmingly blue setting, the color tells much about the emotion Picasso intended to evoke. When viewers think of the color blue, the direct connotation of gloom, bleakness, and sadness come to mind, hence the popular saying, ???to have the blues.
??? The musician is long, thin, and lanky, his face worn and wrinkled. He dons thin and tattered blue clothing, all of which imply that perhaps the man is at the end of his life, is weak, poor, and is in an ultimately somber state of being. Picasso affirms this idea by positioning the man??™s head toward the ground, mouth slightly open as if he was breathing heavily, or perhaps is quietly singing about his grief. Picasso evokes a dark and gloomy mood in the composition and scene of the painting itself.
The figure sits cross-legged on a stone floor, half in light, half in the shadows. As a viewer, he or she can infer that the man is alone, and perhaps poor as he inhabits the room without any shoes and with no furniture in sight. As viewers of the ???The Old Guitarist,??? we are bombarded by intended emotions expressed by Picasso as well as emotions we experience as we interpret the painting. Besides Picasso??™s intended emotions, viewers seem to relate the scene to his or her own personal experiences. ???The Old Guitarist,??? as well as many other paintings from the expressionist movement allow viewers to feel sorrow for the subject, and reminds viewers of a similar period in their own lives, thus providing perhaps unintended sentimental value to the work of art. Also, this particular painting is valuable to its viewer because it creates a scene or or object to ???vent??? his or her own positive or negative feelings upon. By studying the painting viewers can relate a personal current, past, or unwanted future state of being to what is being portrayed in the painting. For example if the viewer experiences the same emotion as the figure in the scene is intended to be portaying, in this case a rather sorrowful state, he or she could find comfort in the fact that they were not the only individuals feeling — the idea that ???misery loves company.
??™ This is an example of Aristotle??™s idea of ???Katharsis,??™ or, ???the theory that by arousing emotions in people and giving us objects upon which to vent our emotions, the artist purges us of emotional disturbances that might otherwise erupt inconveniently in ordinary life??? (Graham, 36). Ultimately, the ascribed feeling of sentiment as well as the idea of ???katharsis??™ is what makes works like ???The Old Guitarist??? valuable and unavoidably popular pieces of art — the fact that hypothetical scenes in a painting can carry very real memories and emotions when one offers his or her own interpretation and feeling to the intended emotions of the painting. To fully understand the emotions expressed in ???The Old Guitarist,??? one must first identify the time period in which the painting was created. Viewers must take into account that the painting was created in a period of time in Picasso??™s career known as his ???Blue Period,??? lasting from 1901 to 1904.
All of the paintings from this period, including ???The Old Guitarist??? are painted in primarily monochromatic blue/blue-green shades of paint which coexist to highlight a point in Picasso??™s life filled with sorrow. Not only are the colors a distinguishable aspect of this period??™s works, but the subjects of the paintings as well. During his Blue Period, Picasso frequently painted prostitutes, beggars, drunks, and other members of society deemed inglorious or belonging to a lower class in society. The paintings seem to highlight the emotions and feelings these lowly citizens experienced on a daily basis. For example, the perhaps ???wasted??? life of a drunk, the sinful actions of prostitutes, and the grievous and stressful life of a poor beggar.
The moods of Picasso??™s paintings during this time were greatly influenced by tragic events that happened in Picasso??™s life. Picasso??™s Blue Period began after the sudden suicide of his closest friend, Carlos Casagemas in 1901. When viewers keep this in mind they can more closely connect with and more easily experience the intended emotions expressed by Picasso because they can understand why the painting exists. Though the subjects of the Blue Period??™s paintings may be of lower class, the viewer can connect and vicariously experience their emotions in the sense that even if the subject may be ???below??? the viewer in class, they are equals under the human emotional spectrum. In other words, wealthy and respectable members of society are capable of experiencing the same sorrow, stress, and grief that poor and ???untouchable??? citizens feel.
This makes ???The Old Guitarist??? and all of Picasso??™s Blue Period paintings valuable in the sense that the social class of an individual viewer does not hinder his or her ability to relate to the emotions evoked by the painting. Also, it encourages viewers to examine their emotional similarities instead of highlighting their differences, creating a sense of unity amongst all viewers (Bates, 79-81). As we delve further into unlocking the the emotional value of art, viewers will find that all of these aspects do not only apply to visual art. Viewers can experience the same portrayal of emotion from artist to viewer when looking at poems, or in this case, song lyrics. Marvin Gaye??™s blues tune, ???Inner City Blues??? is a perfect example of how lyrical content, melody, the time period of the work can evoke emotions upon its reader/listener the same way an artist attempts to create through pictures. ???Inner City Blues??? is Marvin Gaye??™s portrayal of life as a lower class citizen of New York City in the early 1970??™s. In a period of great emotional strife and financial instability of United States citizens caused by the Vietnam War, Gaye??™s blend of gospel and blues in his song united listeners with a message of overcoming grief as well as a sense of hope for the future. Gaye connects most effectively with his listeners by describing a very real setting in lyrical content of the piece.
The song highlights the financial insecurities and miniature depression that many residents of New York City experienced and the emotions they experienced as a result. Lines such as, ???Inflation no chance / To increase finance / Bills pile up sky high / Send that boy off to die,??? as well as ???make me wanna holler / they don??™t understand / make me wanna holler / throw up both my hands??? evoke connotations of stress, anger, and rage of an individual that is struggling to survive. Readers can look at these lyrics with the same sense of emotional value as Picasso??™s ???The Old Guitarist??? because they share these connotative emotions. Lack of money equals stress and anger in an individual and the emotion of fear is present in the lyrics as the narrator is unsure of his or her future in ???inflation no chance / to increase finance / bills pile up sky high??? as well as the fear and uncertainty the war instilled in citizens with ???send that boy off to die.??? Much like ???The Old Guitarist,??? ???Inner City Blues??? becomes valuable in the sense that readers and listeners are unified by the shared common emotions experienced by humans in any sort of stressful situation. The political references described the burden of vast grief, rebellion, and hatred for the Vietnam War carried by many Americans in the early 1970??™s. The message of hope and salvation is present in lines, ???God bless you / And Lord keep you / And may you live, live, live a good life.
??? These lines are intended by Gaye to have a more positive connotation of things getting better provided an individuals continual faith. In the context of the song, it may not even necessarily have to be faith in a higher being, but a more personal faith in his or her self. These lines evoke emotions of comfort and relief in the listener and within those emotions lies the value, or the overall message of the song. Songs are valuable to us because they are essentially soundtracks to events in our lives. Inner City Blues offers the valuable message that one must suffer and experience periods of great strife in order to achieve salvation through the emotional highs and lows Gaye imbeds in each line.
On the other hand, Marvin Gaye evokes emotion and creates a distinct erie and somber mood through the chord structure and melody of the song. The song sounds much like a cry for help, appropriate to the chorus of the song in which the narrator ???throws up both his hands??? in a loud call for someone to aid him in this apparent time of strife. The soft tones of the piano in the beginning verse immediately infuses a feeling of sorrow into the listener. Also, the fact that Marvin Gaye was a Rhythm & Blues singer, the chord tones of the song begin minor and fluctuate to major as the chorus comes booming in. This fluctuation between major and minor chords evokes a feeling of uncertainty, exactly how the narrator is feeling about his personal state of being as well as the state of the country he lives in.
By doing this, listeners can emotionally connect with not only the lyrics, but the chords and melody as well. Emotional value applies to this type of art because much like a painter evokes emotion through multiple artistic techniques (color, composition, lighting, etc.), the songwriter does the same with melody, harmony, and lyrical content.
By doing this, the artists intended emotions become more clear and reach listeners on a variety of different musical mediums. ???Inner City Blues??? is also a perfect example of why songs are most easily understood on an emotional level — they unite listeners as a whole as they all experience the same emotions. This is apparent in the direct references to God as religion has always been a means of bringing people together. Ultimately, this encourages readers to relate to each other on a more personal and unified level. The song acts as an object to vent personal feelings upon, grieve with, and use to gain hope from its message present in the song??™s lyrics. Both artists, Pablo Picasso and Marvin Gaye succeed in expressing their intended emotions. These pieces of art, one visual and one literary/musical, are easily relatable because of the emotions they evoke for the listeners.
Artists have the ability to express their own emotions in their work, and can unite common emotions experienced by listeners regardless of how different they may be personally — they all experience the same human spectrum of emotion. Art, regardless of the medium, has the ability to evoke viewers feelings of stress, anger, sorrow, sadness, and hope that the individual would not had experienced had he or she not viewed painting and sculptures or listening to songs and interpreting poetry. Therein lies the value, most easily expressed through emotion — the fact that art forces its audience to stop, think, relate, and most importantly, feel..