May 2, 2015
Assignment: T. S. Eliot response
Quotation from T. S. Eliot: “ The truly great poet makes his language a great language.”
Thesis Statement: Masterful poets, through their work, make language valuable.
The Impact of Culture on Art
Without the continuous influence of culture, multifaceted, complex art cannot be developed. Art takes on many different forms, be it visual (painting, sculpture, photography, etc.), written (poetry, fiction, etc.), or audio (all the different forms of musical expression). Because culture is the intricate belief system and customs of a particular society during a particular time period, art is continuously influenced by culture. Without culture, artists would not be able to create complex artwork that says something about the society of the time. Art can reflect societal values, criticize them, or predict what culture will look like in the future.
Because culture influences art, art reflects societal values. For example, the development of the “heroic ideal” in literature has reflected what the societal values were at that moment in time. Beowulf, the earliest known work of the English language, is an example of how art reflected the societal values of its time. Beowulf mirrors the pagan culture of the Germanic Angles and Saxons, mixed with the Christian culture of the individual who wrote down the work. This “ideal” changes as the cultural influences of England begin to include the French (as a result of the Norman conquest of England in the Battle of Hastings). It is expressed in works such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, where the “heroic ideal” is that of a knight, who embodies chivalry, a Christianized moral code. The ideal changes again from a “knight” to a “courtier” during the Renaissance. Sir Thomas Hoby’s translation of Castiglione’s The Courtier, a work that questions what makes a good courtier, is an example of this, as the Renaissance was a time when culture was influenced by Greek and Roman classical learning.
Art is not, however, always merely a reflection of societal values, as it can also serve as a
Markosyan 3 vehicle to express criticism. Pablo Picasso, a visual artist from Spain, used art to criticize what was happening in society. His painting “Guernica,” for example, was painted as a reaction of horror and outrage at the bombing of the city of Guernica. Expressing the revulsion of modern warfare, Picasso is drawing attention to the devastating effects of war and society’s disregard of how terrifying war can be. Heavily criticized contemporary graffiti artist Banksy uses his art to critique a multitude of societal woes, including rampant the consumerism of society. This is, however, far from only a contemporary usage of art. Along before Picasso and Banksy, writers such as Voltaire used satire to comment on the woes of society. In his novella Candide, Voltaire penned scathing criticisms of religion, government, and philosophy, to name a few. Artists are, essentially, able to create complex art because of the influences of culture.
The artist observes cultural trends, and thus predicts what the future of society might look like through their artwork. Take, for example, the work of the infamous Andy Warhol. Through his work, categorized as pop art, Warhol observed cultural trends of consumerism in 1960s America, and created art that commented on what he believed society was