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 50 Years/50 Artworks      

Introduction

Very often, artworks are about, or respond to, particular people and places. Historically, only the most significant places, events and people were depicted in artworks - deities and religious stories, rulers and leaders, wars and political events. Of course, this was because artworks were usually commissioned by religious bodies, governments, and by those with wealth and influence. For thousands of years, artists did not determine their own subjects, but were primarily viewed as tradesmen, merely painting or sculpting the subjects demanded of them. Over the past two-hundred years, in the relatively brief period we call “modern,” it became more and more common for artists to choose their own subjects. Accordingly, subjects for art started to include depictions of everyday life, as well as subjects critical of leaders, governments, and other authoritative entities.

Artists often ask us to pay particular attention to the importance of people and places as themes in art. The artist provides many clues about the subject, and it is up to us to interpret the clues, by connecting them with our own experience and knowledge. Does the artist show us signs of a particular time in history or a particular place? Who are the people in the artwork? Are they children or adult, rich or poor, identifiable or anonymous? We use our knowledge about people's lifestyles, occupations, and cultural backgrounds, as well as information we know about nature, geography, the seasons, and weather to answer these and other questions. As we do, we create a “dialogue” with the work of art, and discover more and more meaning in it.

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