Hackernoon logoWas the Mona Lisa the Result of a Fad? by@YumnaS

Was the Mona Lisa the Result of a Fad?


A picture is worth a thousand words. Throughout history, art has gone through many phases like Romanticism, Classicism and many other types of -isms. These are regarded as styles of painting of those periods. However if you think about it, from a modern perspective, these phases can be considered fads, although the more precise term would be trends, due to their longevity.

When we talk about art especially in modern times, we usually mean a wide variety of things. But art to the ancients was limited to a very few things. That is why it was exclusive. Initially it comprised of things like paintings, drawings, sculptures etc. It probably also included learning and playing musical instruments. Cutlery, jewelry design and pottery making have also been a part of it. Apart from these, very few other things were included in the term 'art'. So why do I think these items we now so value were the results of trends?

Humanity, mostly. Let me explain.

Why Did Art Come Into Being?

The first cave painting probably came into being because the ancients lacked cameras and iphones (if they had these items they likely wouldn't have made any more progress). This meant that if they wanted to show or express something to someone or convey a message, they either had to learn how to draw or to write. Since visual imagery has been the conventional form of communication across the globe for quite some time, it is safe to assume they didn't learn to write for a while. Or if they did, they
realized that visual language was still comparatively easier and left the written word to the scribe or scholars. Hence drawing to the ancients was a
necessity, especially in the beginning.  This was evinced by the likes of the indigenous people of Africa and Australia using signs and symbols to communicate instead of the written word.

In addition, lack of knowledge about science and nature also exacerbated the process as the artists had trouble recreating the images in their art.  Later on some of the artists including Leonardo da Vinci studied and even dissected the human body. Others performed experiments such as studying the effects of light in nature until they had perfected it for their art. Moreover, for a long time in history, religion played an important role. Therefore, most of the art forms had some indications or suggestions of a religious message.

How It Continued

With advances in science and painting technology, the rate of experimentation accelerated and this trend naturally changed.  It gave way to storytelling.

The great thing about the storytelling trend was that it could incorporate anything, even religion, as long as you could break the picture or artwork down into two or more sections. How  it was broken into sections was also
up to the artist. Due to this attribute this trend continued till the 19th
century. You can even see it in the paintings of the likes of Van Gogh. It
could accommodate propaganda, marketing schemes, adulation, all types of allegories and so much more. A lot of skilled artists even managed to paint still-lives, landscapes and even portraits using this technique. Just take a look at A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat (see below).


Between the middle of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century things got interesting. During this time as a result of continued rise in mechanical developments, cameras were invented. Even if now from our point of view the original cameras seem primitive, to the people of that time they were an absolute revolution because they completely changed the reason and purpose for making art.

From that point on painting or really 'remaking' an image as-is, was no longer an art form because it was no longer needed. Indeed photography – capturing your subject in their own natural setting – became an art form, something that used to be the exclusive right of painters, sculptors and other artists. T

his was probably the root cause of movements like Surrealism, Modern Art and others, because in these paintings,  the medium plays no part in the creation of the artwork. It's all about the artist's skill, and of course the viewer's interpretation of it.

Where Is It Going?

Working on  the basis of movements like Surrealism and Modern Art, Contemporary Art utilizes technology and other modern facilities to
illustrate thoughts, ideas and emotions from many varied viewpoints. It also strives to utilize our other senses as well as our vision to encourage us to engage with the artwork. However there are a few problems.

As we've established that in the past art was invented more out of need than as an art form, and the scarcity of materials, the ability to utilize what was available combined with skill made it into an art. But since there is no longer any real need for it, how do we define – or rather redefine – art now, if at all? We could of course choose not to redefine it and it will become a emblem of a bygone era, making the artwork we now own even more valuable.

If we do decide to continue making art, it is advisable to redefine our need and our desire in order to produce quality work. It is also for this reason that I believe that future collectors will most likely collect items like computers, phones and other technological accomplishments which define our current time period, rather than the art itself. Because without a clear purpose, the art produced during this period is not likely to be art at all, is it?

Also it is probable that once through this rediscovery process, we will move more and more towards abstract art or art that realizes conceptions or ideas. This should make sense.  Artists will also need to learn to refine
their own ideas, their niche and  their use of technology. Despite our excitement and enthusiasm for increasingly new technology,  we actually don't know how to make full use of it to make something really new. I also believe that in spite of the easy availability of oils, water colors and other types of paints, painting styles like landscapes, even exaggerated and dramatized versions of them will gradually become defunct.

So, is this a trend, and was the Mona Lisa the result of a 'trending' period?

In a way, yes. Trends or fads are more impulse-based. Art has a more need or desire-based history. Nevertheless, their length and manner of occurrence suggests a trend. The Mona Lisa and many other beautiful items we now own are examples of what was 'trending' at that time.

What may be trending in the future might be some form of really awesome abstract art, provided the artist has managed to nail down the definition and emotion of the artwork.

In the meantime, we should probably be collecting pieces of hardware which we think might be considered revolutionary in the future, because remember! We collect things like pottery and vases from advanced civilizations like the Incas and the Mesopotamians based solely on things like approximate date and state of preservation, so why should future collectors feel any differently about us?


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