Ralph Larmann

Art Department

University of Evansville

back to: Chapter 16 Chapter 17: Art Beyond the West


It is widely believed that native people migrated across what is now the Bering Strait about 10,000 years ago. Because of plentiful wild game, many groups continued to hunt and and were generally nomadic. Consequently, works by native peoples of the Americas often reflects the availability of necessary materials and its portability.

North American native peoples created images that derived from mythical stories and spiritual experiences. In the Pacific Northwest, images are derived from stories that define the people's cosmology. For instance, the story of Raven, a figure who shows up often in native American folklore, recounts how this trickster eventually delivers fire to Man. Among the Stoney peoples of central Canada, works of art are derived from visions that occur in a dream. It is widely believed that through these dreams one sees a work and is given the ability to make it rather than learning through some conscious knowledge process.

Mississipppian Culture dominated the central US. The Cahokia mounds near St. Louis and the local Angel Mounds are remnants of a civilization believed to be connected to a larger culture centered in Mexico. The native peoples of this region built large complexes and earthen mounds. Their artwork consisted of pottery, pipes, and other small artifacts

A significant non-nomadic civilization arose in Mexico around the same time as ancient Rome. The Aztec culture exerted broad influence on both Americas. The city of Teotihuacan was, in its time, the largest city in the world. here we find exceptional examples of architecture.

The Pyramids of the Sun and Moon are large structures reminiscent of Pyramids in Egypt and ziggurats of Mesopotamia. They do not appear to be burial places, but elevated places of worship. The city of Teotihuacan is built around these structures that are situated 35 miles northeast of Mexico City.

One other architectural site of note is the city of Macchu Picchu an Incan city built in the Andes mountains of Peru.

Taj Mahal
Islamic (Agra, India)

-in 622 Muhammad fled to Medina which begins Islamic history.
-shares some of its history with and has similarities to Judaism
-relies completely on the words of the Koran
-There is traditionally no word for art in Bedouin history (mussawwir: fashioner)
-there are few mentions of images in Koran.

-Islam-"brotherhood of man" and equality before Allah
-Judaism, Christianity, & Buddhism are considered precursors to Islam
-Sculpture and figurative representation is forbidden (idolatry) -from Hadith
-much imagery is related to text: calligraphic imagery

arabesques: abstract designs

Mosques; from Masjid (place of worship)
-where Muslims go to kneel facing Mecca and pray (qibla wall with mihrab)
-Dome of the Rock in E. Jerusalem-place where Mohammed ascended into heaven

The Great Mosque, Cordoba
-system of double arches
-large interior space
-faces South, not toward Mecca (it symbolically faces Mecca) -interior dome

Taj Mahal
-was built as a memorial to a sultan's wife

Shiva Nataraja
11th-13th C.


Hindu Religion and Art
-Oldest continuous religious tradition (from 2500 BC)
-has a centrality of god which exposes itself through many manifestations
-this multiplicity of manifestations gives artwork an important role in Hindu Art
-Rigveda is the oldest known religious text.
-art rose to prominence in the Gupta Period (320-415 AD)

-yakshi (f)/yaksha (m) figures of sexual fertility and procreation -makara: part elephant/part crocodile used with Ganga to represent Ganges River
-Shiva Nataraja: this is the image of the Destoyer. Shiva, who is part of a triad of major manifestations, is depicted dancing. The dance is bringing about the destruction of the world. it acts as a reminder to make offerings to Shiva to placate him. Shiva is also an entity of procreation and fertility.

Religious architecture generally uses multiple walled sactuaries which house others until an inner core is reached. it is a metaphor for a mother's womb.

Painting tends to be flat and decorative, often portraying Krishna, the reincarnation of Vishnu.

Great Stupa at Sanchi
3rd C. BC

Buddhist Religion and Art
-Buddhism was started by Siddhartha Gautama in the 5th C. BC.
-He advocated following a "middle path" between excess and denial and believed that all suffering is the result of our personal desires. The way that he advocated was one of making the desires of the world less until one rose to a spiritual level called nirvana.

Stupas (hemispherical mounds of earth) appeared during the reign of King Ashoka (273-232 BC).
-stupas are places for meditation as one moves around the outside
-they act as symbols of the wheel (dharma chakra)
-Four toranas (or gateways) mark entrances into the Stupa

The Buddha is cannot be portrayed because he has achieved nirvana and is a spiritual form, but images that represent the many facets of the Buddha and Buddism are used.
-Buddhas are shown in a variety of positions, most often in meditation
-he is often shown with an ushnisha, a cranial bump which gives the capacity for greater knowledge

Travelers Amid Streams and Mountains
Fan Kuan
Chinese painting
11th C. AD


The philosophical differences and similarities of China to the Western World of the same time are reflected in their art. For example, in Renaissance Italy the Classical idea of the development and importance of the "entire" person led to artwork that was based on the individual. The focus was on a single person with landscape or architecture as background. Chinese philosophers, in contrast, felt that Man was only a small part of a larger universe unto which he was subject. The figure in art, consequently, was sublimated to a minor role in paintings which featured the landscape as subject. If man was introduced into such a composition, he was depicted as small and insignificant compared to his surroundings.

Chan Painting
-called Zen painting in Japan
-Used simplicity and discipline to achieve form

Yin and Yang
-describes a balance in nature between opposite forces.

literati painting-the literati were a group intellectual elites (much like artists in Renaissance Italy) who expressed their philosophical ideas through painting and calligraphy. Poets greatly influenced these artists of China.

"First we see the hills in the painting, then we see the painting in the hills," Li Li-Weng (one often receives a heightened awareness of nature through art)

Figural sculptural in China had been primarily concerned with the Bhuddism, especially the Bhudda as subject matter. These forms originally were depicted in India, then assimilated and slightly changed to fit into Chinese culture.

Next study guide: Chapter 18

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