Art works – Essay Groups Research

Group Essay Question:

In your opinion, at which point does a piece of art become an interactive experience?

I feel art, therefore paintings are interactive because when you look at these portraits you feel that the artist is conveying more than just brush strokes on canvas and is making you ask questions when you view them. Some paintings become interactive instantly whilst others need more time to understand everything being portrayed. Paintings are visual puzzles.

The Ambassadors (1533)-Hans Holbein

  • Portrait of two rich, educated men. Objects in painting indicate education, religion and wealth but also death.
  • Distorted skull (anamorphic image) needs to be looked at from different angles to understand it is a painted skull.
  • Audience has to move around the front of the painting but the clearest view is from the right side. Many people feel this painting should be hung on a door.
  • Others suggest using a glass cylinder to view the skull so it gives you a clear view of the object (even though at the time the artist painted the picture this idea was not around).
  • Also the crucifix mostly hidden by the curtain is hard to understand what, if anything is behind the curtain. This also makes the viewer interact with the painting as you try and determine what the object is and why the object has been hidden and hard to see.
  • At first glance it is hard to see everything in this painting and further attention is required to grasp the whole portrait and understand its full meaning. This painting becomes interactive almost straightaway especially when your eyes notice the unusual shape at the bottom.
  • If you look at the skull from the right angle the rest of the painting becomes distorted but if you look at the painting from the front the skull is not clear. This becomes like two paintings in one that you have to decide which one you want to see clearly.


The Arnolfini Protrait (1434)-Jan Van Eyck

  • Portrait of a rich couple and all the details in the painting indicates wealth.
  • The mirror is at the viewers eye level and the details in the reflections are very clear. You can see the backs of the couple but also a door where two people are entering. Who is coming through the door?
  • When you are looking at the mirror you almost feel as if you should see your own reflection in it and you move your head around trying to catch yourself in the mirror.
  • The artist has painted a convex mirror so you feel like you are being sucked into the image.
  • Why are the couple wearing winter clothing but there is a tree bearing fruit in the portrait?

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Mona Lisa (1503)- Leonardo Da Vinci

  • Most famous portrait of an Italian lady.
  • Many interpretations of her smile and eyes.
  • The audience feel as if she is talking to you through her eyes and calling you through her smile.
  • Is she smiling, sad, worried, sly or shy? No one has the answer and it is this question that makes you interact with the portrait and with other viewers as you discuss the artists intentions.
  • She can be viewed as a mother and nurturing or as a seductress and a romantic figure.
  • Almost instantly you interact with this portrait especially because of its popularity and the impressions on her face.


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