As young artists, we learn the elements and principles of design. I doubt they were laid out the same way in the past as they are today. We have seen our understanding of elements such as texture transform with each generation of painters, designers, and architects. The importance of shape vs. form has drastically changed since the renaissance era. Much of design and abstraction is the utilization of shape(s) as opposed to naturalism renderings of a form.
We know that regardless of the medium, these principles are at play. Whether you put the effort into best utilizing the principle is up to you. But many masters took great care in understanding the way each of these related and when to focus on one over the other. I have two examples for this that may raise an interesting point.
I feel the base of an artist's goal is to make you feel what they feel. Sometimes, it is impossible to make a connection to artwork without a written statement. But it doesn't mean the artwork cannot connect with you. The hope at least for me, is that my work will intuitively connect to your emotional and chemical and instinctual reactions. With that said, I will start with my first artist, Joseph Mallord William Turner, otherwise known as JMW Turner.
Turner was a Romanticist landscape painter born in 1775, in London. As a 14 year old, he entered the Royal Academy of Arts and was considered to be highly talented. He was known as the painter of light before Thomas Kinkade. As his landscape work changes, he started to focus of elements such as contrast, proportion and gradation to give a massive sense of scale. This was one of the main concepts in Romantic painter's mindsets. The were in awe over the power and command the natural world had over man. Small figures in the painting always suggested we are mere observers at God's mercy. He found ways to manipulate just a few of the principles of landscape painting to tell his story more accurately.
The next painter is Henri Fantin-Latour. He is a a French painter born in 1836. Although I absolutely love his floral still life work, we are not focusing on those. I want to focus on some of his more banal still life paintings. He said, "I tried to make a painting representing things as they are found in nature; I put a great deal of thought into the arrangement, but with the idea of making it look like a natural arrangement of random objects. This is an idea that i have been mulling over a great deal: giving the appearance of a total lack of artistry." (Sited Below) The only problem is, that viewers couldn't visually understand his concept. As a viewer, the painting looked like an evenly dirty house, which causes a jarring and inharmonious composition. Although he wanted to create a natural feel, his subject matter were object we associate with moving ourselves. But there is something much bigger here.
What would the point of showing a lack of artistry be? To throw off or disgruntle viewers? Quite possible as he was working in the transition from Romanticism and Realism art into Impressionism and Cubism. This is important that he might have been thinking abstractly without wanting to let go of certain elements that may have helped him reach his goal in an artistic way that better connected to the viewer. Even shifting scale or his angle to his subjects would have altered the expression. But he remained ridged. Even after receiving multiple negative critiques about his work, he didn't search for another approach to the solution.
I find it more interesting that he was actually gifted in his ability to compose. That is why he was seeking out this sense of dysfunction others weren't going after. He took he ability for granted in my opinion but I strongly feel as artists, we essentially try and test these ideas for each other. They can be beacons of light that guide an era. For that reason, never give up on yourself or fear making mistakes with your art. Get to it.
Impressionist Still Life, Eliza Rathborne and George Shackelford 2001