How are Anthropomorphic characters used by visual artists as a metaphor for the human condition?
PLEASE USE THREE ARTISTS AS EXAMPLES, take 2 specific works from each artist :
- Art Spiegelman
- John Tenniel
- Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps
Aspects of the art pieces that need to be covered:
3. Techniques, Materials and Processes
4. Narrative Imagery
THESE ARE SOME NOTES FROM WRITINGS ONLINE AND OTHER SOURCES FOUND ONLINE. SOME ARE TOO MUCH DETAIL, NOT QUITE ADDRESSING THE ESSAY QUESTION BUT MORE GENERAL
is the attribution of uniquely human characteristics to non-human creatures and beings, natural and supernatural phenomena, material states and objects or abstract concepts.
Examples include animals and plants depicted as creatures with human motivation able to reason and converse and forces of nature such as winds, rain or the sun.
The term is derived from two Greek words, ???????? (anthr?pos), meaning human, and ????? (morph?), meaning shape or form. The suffix '-ism' originates from the morpheme -????? or -???? in the Greek language.
Anthropomorphising has appeared in the mythologies of many cultures, as a literary device in fables and allegories, and in many animated films.
prehistoric man used animals as much for art as sustenance. Evidence of early interest in depicting animals pictorially can clearly be found on the walls of the earliest cave dwellings. In prehistoric cave artwork, the primitive artists had no conceptual intention to substitute man and animal, but as the brain developed its powers of contemplation and imagination, animals clearly came to embody and mirror certain human traits.
From that, it was only a short leap from the artist accurately representing nature and animals found in the wild, to transferring their familiar traits onto man.
Art has long been, both a reflection and overt means of revealing the human condition. So as man becomes more conscious of the inner self, animals are used to express a range of characteristics, from the spiritual to the emotional.
It is a common and seemingly natural tendency for humans to perceive inanimate objects and animals as having human characteristics, one which some suggest provides a window into the way in which humans perceive themselves.
The art of anthropomorphism
is almost as old as image making.
early Egyptian slaves who poked visual jabs at their respective masters on scraps of papyrus or pieces of stone, veiling and protecting themselves by substituting kindred animal characteristics for human ones. The master never knew he was the butt of the joke, but the slaves understood. From then on, animals bore the symbolic weight of human folly. Whether employed for satire, comedy or fantasy, animals (i.e. manimals) have long been effective metaphoric representations as criticism and commentary, because rather than target a single figure for ridicule, a particular animal carries the weight of all character types.
In religion and mythology, anthropomorphism
refers to the perception of a divine being or beings in human form, or the recognition of human qualities in these beings. Many mythologies are concerned with anthropomorphic deities who express human characteristics such as jealousy, hatred, or love.
Somewhere along the sweep of history anthropomorphism
was practiced for the sheer joy of giving animals human characteristics — and vice versa. Few things trigger such visceral response as animals dressed in human garb. The incongruity of a beast acting civilized rarely fails to get a laugh.
when Ed Sorel filled a New York City subway car with a menagerie of types it was because it is possible to look at everyone on the morning ride and mentally turn them into animals. No doubt on any given train, like Noah’s storied arc, there are two (or more) of every animal type.
is a well-established device in literature. Aesop's Fables, a collection of short tales written or recorded by the ancient Greek citizen Aesop, make extensive use of anthropomorphism
, in which animals and weather illustrate simple moral lessons. The Indian books Panchatantra (The Five priniciples) and The Jataka tales employ anthropomorphized animals to illustrate various principles of life.
is commonly employed in books for children, such as those by Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl, Brian Jacques, C.S. Lewis, and Beatrix Potter. Rev. W. Awdry's Railway Series depicts steam locomotives with human-like faces and personalities which leads to the popular tv series.
is not exclusively used as a device in children's literature: Terry Pratchett is notable for having several anthropomorphic characters in his Discworld series, the best-known of which is the character Death. Piers Anthony also wrote a series regarding the seven Incarnations of Immortality, which are Death, Time, Fate, War, Nature, Evil, and Good. Neil Gaiman is notable for anthropomorphising seven aspects of the world in his series Sandman, named the Endless: Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium. Perhaps most famously, George Orwell converted several key actors in the Russian Revolution into anthropomorphic animals in his satire Animal Farm. Garry Kilworth's Welkin Weasels series reverses the idea of carnivores as villains in children's literature. In Art Spiegelman's Maus, a graphic novel about The Holocaust, different races are portrayed as different animals - the Jews as mice, Germans as cats and Poles as pigs, for example.
Spiegelman’s comic Maus, which recounts how Spiegelman’s family survived the Holocaust and its lasting aftershocks. It tells the story of Spiegelman’s parents, Vladek and Anja, who move to New York after surviving Auschwitz in order to raise their second son Art after their first son, Richieu, died during the early stages of the Final Solution.2 Art grows into adulthood in the shadow of his parents’ past, tormented by experiences he did not have and unable to relate to his troubled parents. As we learn throughout the book, Art is motivated to write Maus and inspired to interview his father as a way to better understand his parents. He wants to understand his parents’ struggles and come to terms with his mother’s suicide.
Spiegelman’s Maus, as an intergenerational memoir, serves not only as a Holocaust testimonial, a biography of Spiegelman’s father, and his own
autobiography, but also as an extended essay on the pitfalls of “trying to represent the unrepresentable,” the atrocities of the Holocaust in comic book
form.3 In its simplest terms, Maus is a Holocaust memoir written in comic book form where the Jews are mice and the Germans are cats. To artistically
represent the Holocaust in any medium besides photographic evidence presents “something of an aesthetic quandary.”4 No matter how austere and reverent the tone, illustrations of the Holocaust can seem redundant or trivial against the realism of photographs. Spiegelman realizes that he is unable to compete with the real life horror recorded in newsreels and documentaries; he confronts this issue through simplistic drawings that require the reader’s constant attention.
In this way, Spiegelman is able to create a work that is “psychologically probing, dramatically gripping, and artistically ambitious.”5 He elevated the comic book to the graphic novel, a medium that is fully capable of emotion, remembrance, and healing. Maus’s great influence on later graphic novels of the Holocaust attests to the fact that the graphic novel is an appropriate, authentic, and historically correct medium to discuss the Holocaust.
Spiegelman says: “Ultimately, Maus is about is the commonality of human beings. It’s crazy to divide things down the nationalistic or racial or religious lines. And that’s the whole point, isn’t it? These metaphors, which are meant to self-destruct in my book - and I think they do self-destruct - still have a residual force that allows them to work as metaphors, and still get people worked up over them”.31
For those who do not understand or believe in Spiegelman’s metaphor, Maus loses all meaning. It is only by exposing the metaphors and the storytelling devices that the reader can begin to see the work’s remarkable traditional strategy of relating oral narrative as accurately and authentically as possible. To Spiegelman’s detractors, the most unnerving of his storytelling techniques is his decision to draw Jews as mice, Germans as cats, Poles as pigs, and other ethnicities as specific, stereotypical animal forms. Derived in part from the use of Zyklon B as rat poison, the vernacular and visual stereotypes of the Third Reich (i.e., Jews as “vermin”), and the all-American cartoon figure of Mickey Mouse, Spiegelman’s anthropomorphication may seem crass to those who do not identify with its genius.32 The choice to turn people into animals, as the Hitler quote that opens Maus I makes clear (“The Jews are undoubtedly a race, but they are not human”), toys with biological determinism by metaphorically turning “ethnic and nationalistic conflicts into natural predator/prey relationships.”33
Sir John Tenneil- mostly known for his illustrations to Aesop Fables, Alice in Wonderland and Punch. Tenniels’s illustrations in Alice in Wonderland Tenniel's have taken their place among the most famous literary illustrations ever made.
He did thousands of illustrations for Punch and others, many of them using the toll of anthropomorphism
to make political statements on members of parliament or public life- depicting politicians with Vulture heads and so on. He was able to illustrate extreme commentary without stating who it was in the image and without caricaturing the subject. Several of Tenniel's political cartoons expressed strong hostility to Irish Nationalism, with Fenians and Land leagues depicted as monstrous, ape-like brutes, while "Hibernia"—the personification of Ireland—was depicted as a beautiful, helpless young girl threatened by these monsters and turning for protection to "her elder sister", the powerful armoured Britannia.
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