Jenna Kate Karn
The illustrious playwright William Shakespeare once said, “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.” This quote is especially relevant today as Theatre is incorporated into everyday life. From a diner where the wait staff sing as they deliver your soup, or a popular television show where the main characters sing and dance their way through high school, theatre is all around us. Consequentially, the concept of theatre and the performing arts is also relevant in fields such as the fine arts. Whether a piece depicts a scene from a production, or a production was based upon a piece, there is a significant interplay between the two.


The first piece I chose for my exhibition is Georges Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte (6ft 9 3/4 x 10ft 1/14 inches). It took two years (1884-1886) to complete. The painting is done in the style of Pointillism, which is when small dots of color are applied in patterns to form one cohesive image.The
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Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte - Georges Seruat
result is a large painting that gives the illusion of bright summer light. The piece comments on social hierarchy and social tensions, as there is a mix of high class citizens and people of a normal class. This piece has a theatrical connection, as it was developed into the Broadway musical, "Sunday in the Park with George" with a book by James Lapine, and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The musical was widely successful and was nominated for 10 Tony awards. It also received the Pultizer Prize for Drama. The musical tells the story of Georges Seurat, a prolific, yet misunderstood painter. Sondheim's tendency to change meter within a song, gives his music a bouncy and staccato feel. His style works perfectly with the style of Pointillism. The first act of the musical tells the story of the creation of the painting. The main figures in the painting are introduced, one a rival painter, his wife, a soldier, a boatman, and lastly, George's lover. Appropriately enough, she is given the name, Dot. Within the first scene of Act Two (after the painting has been completed) George dies suddenly, only in his early 30's. The musical shifts, and the story focuses on another George, this one being the great-great grandson of Seurat. He is also an artist, but mainly creates large sculptures that feature laser beams. The theme throughout the musical is that a person should make art, for arts sake. There is always going to be one person who disagrees with your perspective, but you simply have to move on. After all, George Seruat never sold a painting in his lifetime, and now his art is regarded with highest distinction.




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Ophelia - John Everett Millais
The second piece I chose for my exhibition is Ophelia (1852) by Sir John Everett Millais. This piece is oil on canvas with dimensions of .76x 1.12 meters. It depicts the tragic Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet during her drowning in the river. The artist takes liberties in her body positioning. Her hands are outstretched and her palms are turned upward in an almost religious manner. If a person were to truly drown, their hands would have sunk to the bottom. Her body seems to be floating for an instant, before she is taken to her watery grave.She holds a garland of flowers in her hand, which float gently alongside her. Millais used rich green and gold tones to give the illusion of bright and direct sunlight. Also, Ophelia’s dress has gold and green tones, assimilating her with her surroundings. In most paintings of people who are recently deceased, their eyes are closed and their mouth is as well. This is because someone was there to close them. Ophelia’s eyes and mouth are both open, showing that she has not been disturbed since her time of death. This gives the painting a feeling of isolation and also, peacefulness. She has been allowed to die alone and take a solo trip to the afterlife.
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The Star - Edgar Degas

The third piece (or series of pieces) that I chose, are the Ballerina's by Edgar Degas. The one featured here is The Star (Dancer on Stage) (1876). It is a pastel on paper that is 60 x 44 cm (23 5/8 x 17 3/8 in). Degas was fascinated with ballerinas and spent years studying them, and drawing them. However, his ballerinas were unique in that they were not perfect. The women he drew were inspired by woman of lower classes (possibly laundresses or prostitutes). They are often seen adjusting their dresses, or even in incorrect poses. In this way, Degas made the dancers more realistic for the common viewer. This piece features the star dancer of the ballet as she takes the stage at the Paris Opera. This painting has an interesting perspective, as the viewer can see a man and two ballerinas in the wings. This is how Degas theatrical paintings differ from that of other artists, because it gives a viewer an exclusive backstage perspective. Degas also painted as if his works were quick snapshots of Parisian life. This was not received well by critics of the time, but today it is seen as being ingenious. Another interesting observation is the use of brushstrokes. His loose strokes give the illusion of movement and light to evoke the constant flowing of ballet.




The next piece I chose was William Hogarth's The Beggar's Opera (22.5 x30 in). This piece is based upon the John Gay opera of the same name. Hogarth was comissioned to paint several scenes from the Opera, and the most famous one currently hangs in the Tate Gallery. The connection between the two works, is that they are both satirical. Hogarth is known as an incredibly satirical
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The Beggar's Opera - William Hogarth
painter, as evident in his Marriage a la Mode series. In this series, he documents the destruction of a coupling that was arragned. It ends with the suicide of the wife. In the opera, Gay uses prinicpal characters to build charactatures of high ranking political officals. Needless to say, the collaboration was perfect. The opera premiered in 1728 and ran for 62 nights. it also produced a sequel based up on a main character named Polly. The piece itself can be comparaed to modern day photography of theatrical events. The piece is small, allowing it to be reproduced and used as advertising. Fans of the productiopn wanted images of the character of Polly on things such as firescreens and fans. This is comparable to the current market of Broadway souviners; where a tee shirt with a show logo on it can fetch as much as $50 in the current market. This piece helped pioneer the tradition of trinkets for sale, right next to the box office.


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Four Men (With guns pointed at their heads) - John Baldessari
T
he final piece I chose was John Bladessari's Four Men (With guns pointed at their heads) (1988, 81 1/8 x 84¼ in). This piece is a combination of photographs of a diner, and four photographs of men with guns pointing to their heads. This is an interesting juxtaposition, because it shows how people can go on with their daily lives, and not realize danger and turmoil that surrounds them at all time. It is also interesting how the plates on the diner table are around the same size as the circles blocking out the faces of the four men. The anonymity of the four men forces the view to imagine who they really are, and if, perhaps, it is themselves within this work. The reason I chose this piece, was because I want to develop my own performance based upon it. It would be a one act play, consisting of interlacing monologues from each of the men. They would be mere voices, and onstage would be a diner scene. The diner scene would make noise, and exist as if the monologues were not happening. The fate of the men would be unclear, as there would be no gunshots. The characters would have no names, and there would be no specific descriptions of location, making the piece neutral and relatable to audiences in various parts of the world. The piece would be referenced in the playbill, but not anywhere in the production.

No matter what anyone says, theatre is all around us. It is undeniable. The marriage of performing and fine arts goes back hundreds of years, and there is no stopping it in the future. Whether a piece be based around a play or opera, or vice versa. The relationship goes together as peanut butter and jelly do; smooth and classic. As long as their are shows produced, there will be art to be used in promotional ads or on sweatshirts worn by 14 year old fangirls. Although it may not be as "fine" art as it has been in the past, the tradition is not ending anytime soon.


Works Cited

"John Baldessari (b. 1931) | Four Men (with Guns Pointed at Their Heads) | Post-War & Contemporary Art Auction | 1980s, Photographs | Christie's." Christie's - Fine Art Auctions | Contemporary Modern Paintings | Jewelry Auction House | Antique Furniture. Web. 08 June 2010. <http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=5221629>.

Panse, Sonal. "Edgar Degas - Life and Art." Buzzle Web Portal: Intelligent Life on the Web. Web. 08 June 2010. <http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/7-27-2006-103651.asp>.

"A Scene from The Beggar's Opera." National Gallery of Art. Web. 08 June 2010. <http://www.nga.gov/collection/gallery/gg61/gg61-61392.html>.

"Seurat and the Making of La Grande Jatte." The Art Institute of Chicago. Web. 08 June 2010. <http://www.artic.edu/aic/exhibitions/seurat/seurat_themes.html>.

"Tate | Work In Focus: Millais's Ophelia." Tate: British and International Modern and Contemporary Art. Web. 08 June 2010. <http://www.tate.org.uk/ophelia/>.