Traditional Roles of the Artist

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  • Topic: Truth, The Works, A Good Day
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  • Published : September 24, 2012
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Out of all the topics I have covered in my study of art, I strongly feel the most valuable information gleaned from this study can be found in the thoughts of Henry M. Sayre. In particular, I am deeply impressed by Sayre's discussions of the four roles of the artist. Hence, for this article, I will compare and contrast these roles, placing a particular emphasis on a few of the artistic works created by them. The FIRST role Sayre mentions is one in which the artist creates "a visual record of the places, people, and events that surround them" (Sayre 11). This role is meant to record the world. Since all art seems to be some sort of record in itself, there are numerous works I could use to illustrate this. Nonetheless, there are two works that initially come to mind: First, notice Thomas Cole's oil painting The Oxbow. It is a perfect visualization of nature and civilization juxtaposed side-by-side. The painting is a record of a moment, immediately following a thunderstorm, and we can see, as the sun breaks new light, the passing storm has yet to recede in the distance. Still, all the same to the valley below, civilization stands triumphant and unharmed. Second, and similarly, observe the Pyramids of Menaure, Khafre, and Kufu. Certainly, these pyramids could perform multiple functions, but due to their permanence, they state something inherently truthful about civilization. In our desire to touch, worship, and, perhaps, join the heavens themselves, they offer a visual record of the civilization that constructed them. Taken together, both Cole's work and the pyramids are similar in the aspect that they show humankind's longings to persevere. Then again, both express the human need to offer reverence and worship to the natural world. Undoubtedly, the Pharaohs had good reason to align their pyramids with the sun and the stars, just as Cole had good reason to celebrate the wilds of nature.

The second role of the artist is "to give visible or tangible form to ideas,...
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