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#1
Old 05-04-2017, 12:41 AM
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Why "stylized" instead of realistic art?

Why is it that some of the great civilizations of the world only left stylized artwork, especially portraits?

If you think about artworks from any period further back than the last millennium, it seems that all the painted or drawn stuff is so highly stylized that portraits etc are not recognizable as individuals. I know the Romans, Greek and Chinese in particular were capable of producing very lifelike sculpture. So why didn't they do what every modern kid does and draw people that look as they actually appear?

I once got bored with my boyfriend and his iPod and drew a very recognizable portrait of him. I still have it. I'll never be an artist but it wasn't that hard. What prevented people from doing the same thing with a burnt stick and a chunk of bark? Is it simply that no example survived? That seems unlikely as stylized pictures show up everywhere from Medieval Europe to Asia to the Far North and to the Mayan and Inca civilizations. Somebody must have come up with a "photographic" style portrait!

Any ideas?
#2
Old 05-04-2017, 01:51 AM
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I don't know the answer but have wondered this many times myself. Take the Mayans for example. Surely they could fave done realistic.
#3
Old 05-04-2017, 02:00 AM
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What makes you think that the ancient Romans, Greeks, and Chinese weren't capable of creating realistic portraits?

Hades abducting Persephone, 4th century BC
Pompeii couple, ca. 20 AD
Mummy portrait from Roman Egypt, 3rd century AD
Xiao Yan, ca. 700 AD
#4
Old 05-04-2017, 02:51 AM
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Maybe something to do with the belief that too accurate a representation of a specific real individual is somehow stealing their soul?
#5
Old 05-04-2017, 06:00 AM
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This is a WAG, I am not an art historian.

I suspect as well that some of it was based on what we now would call the uncanny valley. If you are trying to produce something realistic, but it's flawed due to poor technique or equipment, the flaws will really stand out, and it'll look really, really wrong.

If the image is already stylized, it's both easier to avoid making those flaws, and the flaws won't be as obvious.
#6
Old 05-04-2017, 06:09 AM
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Why make something realistic? If you want to know what a tree, a horse or a person looks like you can go outside and see one.

Art is too important for such trivia. We need to show what the essence of the world is, how the King is the embodiment of Celestial Order (his unusually large nose is irrelevant), how the seas themselves give up their bounty to our people. Restricting an artist to showing each rope on one of the fisherfolk's boats is absurd.

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#7
Old 05-04-2017, 07:37 AM
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Some of those ancient civilizations, such as the Maya and Egyptians, had writing systems that were highly pictorial, so some of the "art" wasn't intended to be representative of reality so much as to communicate with the reader/viewer. Think of the stylized symbols used all over the world to denote things like men's and women's toilets - we can draw/print realistic human beings! Why don't we do that instead of stylized silhouettes?!? Why do political cartoons use caricatures? Why not photos of the people depicted?!? It's because realism isn't necessary to convey the message, or might even get in the way of the message.

Probably doesn't account for all the stylized aspects of those civilizations' art, but some of it almost certainly.

Last edited by Broomstick; 05-04-2017 at 07:38 AM.
#8
Old 05-04-2017, 08:03 AM
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I'll turn the question around. Why is there any reason to be "realistic"?
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#9
Old 05-04-2017, 08:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Terminus Est View Post
What makes you think that the ancient Romans, Greeks, and Chinese weren't capable of creating realistic portraits?

Hades abducting Persephone, 4th century BC
Pompeii couple, ca. 20 AD
Mummy portrait from Roman Egypt, 3rd century AD
Xiao Yan, ca. 700 AD
Yes, the Greek, Roman and Egyptian examples are certainly very natural but the Chinese isn't. I had no idea the Egyptians did mummy portraits of that quality!
#10
Old 05-04-2017, 08:33 AM
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Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
I'll turn the question around. Why is there any reason to be "realistic"?
For the same reason we take pictures. To remember what the people we love looked like when they aren't around or to show ourselves off.
#11
Old 05-04-2017, 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
I'll turn the question around. Why is there any reason to be "realistic"?
In the past creating art was a more time intensive and probably expensive thing to do. The time involved could seriously cut into things you probably needed to do - like procuring food for instance. Carving likenesses into stone wasn't as easy as running down to Walmart and grabbing some cheap paper and paint. I think it's a fair question to ask if you going through the trouble to create a likeness, why not make it look as close to the original as possible.
#12
Old 05-04-2017, 09:11 AM
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Originally Posted by zoogirl View Post
For the same reason we take pictures. To remember what the people we love looked like when they aren't around or to show ourselves off.
And which ancient Egyptians would be popping down to the (sealed) tombs to look at pictures of their absent loved ones?

Ancient art wasn't always (or even often) about personal use. A lot of it was propaganda: serving the needs of the state and ruling dynasty, whether in the public eye or in the eyes of the undying gods.

In other words, your question proceeds from faulty assumptions.
#13
Old 05-04-2017, 09:42 AM
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Originally Posted by zoogirl View Post
For the same reason we take pictures. To remember what the people we love looked like when they aren't around or to show ourselves off.
Depends on what you mean by "realistic", but Realism in art didn't really take off until after photographs and cameras were invented.
#14
Old 05-04-2017, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by DrCube View Post
Depends on what you mean by "realistic", but Realism in art didn't really take off until after photographs and cameras were invented.
As an art movement, yes, but in terms of representationalism (which is how I understand the OP) it goes back much farther. (And capital-R Realism was more a philosophical idea and what subjects were art worthy, how they were portrayed, etc. than one of painting technique.)

And then there is photo-realism, which is, basically, painting or drawing something that looks like a photograph. Never understood the appeal.

Last edited by pulykamell; 05-04-2017 at 09:58 AM.
#15
Old 05-04-2017, 09:56 AM
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Originally Posted by zoogirl View Post
Yes, the Greek, Roman and Egyptian examples are certainly very natural but the Chinese isn't. I had no idea the Egyptians did mummy portraits of that quality!
Please note that the mummy portrait is from the 3rd century AD. By that point in history, Egypt had been Roman for longer than the United States has been a country. And before that, it had been Hellenized (i.e., conquered by the Greeks) for about the same time.

Which one of these traditional Chinese portraits is realistic enough for you?
http://artfixdaily.com/images/pr..._Inks_on_S.jpg
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikiped...aiPortrait.jpg
https://static01.nyt.com/images/2014...icleInline.jpg
#16
Old 05-04-2017, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by zoogirl View Post
I had no idea the Egyptians did mummy portraits of that quality!
Look at the date--3rd century AD. By then, Egypt had been under Greek, then Roman rule for a longer time than the period between Christopher Columbus and today. Of course their art would have been Hellenized/Romified by then.
#17
Old 05-04-2017, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
As an art movement, yes, but in terms of representationalism (which is how I understand the OP) it goes back much farther. (And capital-R Realism was more a philosophical idea and what subjects were art worthy, how they were portrayed, etc. than one of painting technique.)
Right. Realism was about painting peasants in the act of digging potatoes or poor people eating potatoes, or other, non-potato-related things that actual people did in real life.

Before then, even highly representational art was usually paintings of Jesus, or angels or Kings, wearing symbolic clothes and making symbolic hand gestures, and other things that, while it looked like a realistic person doing them, wasn't very realistic. Sort of like a sci-fi movie wouldn't be called "realistic" even if the actors looked indistinguishable from real people.
#18
Old 05-04-2017, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by zoogirl View Post
For the same reason we take pictures. To remember what the people we love looked like when they aren't around or to show ourselves off.
That's why some people take pictures. An exact representation of a thing isn't necessarily the goal of people for whom photography is art.

Last edited by planetcory; 05-04-2017 at 10:23 AM.
#19
Old 05-04-2017, 10:40 AM
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Mostly because realistic art is boring .

But also, as said above, because they weren't trying to convey what people looked like. Art was time intensive, so it was meant to say more than simply that. The stylization was part of that.
#20
Old 05-04-2017, 10:43 AM
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Originally Posted by DrCube View Post
Right. Realism was about painting peasants in the act of digging potatoes or poor people eating potatoes, or other, non-potato-related things that actual people did in real life.

Before then, even highly representational art was usually paintings of Jesus, or angels or Kings, wearing symbolic clothes and making symbolic hand gestures, and other things that, while it looked like a realistic person doing them, wasn't very realistic. Sort of like a sci-fi movie wouldn't be called "realistic" even if the actors looked indistinguishable from real people.
Sure, but you still have portraits of ordinary people in Renaissance art, as well, especially in self-portraits. I mean, yes, I guess it's not "realistic" in the sense that it is a posed portrait, but from the OP, the sense seems to be representational rather than abstracted/stylized versions of the subject: "f you think about artworks from any period further back than the last millennium, it seems that all the painted or drawn stuff is so highly stylized that portraits etc are not recognizable as individuals" For the purposes of the OP, the sci-fi movie would count, but something like, a sci-fi cartoon would not.

Last edited by pulykamell; 05-04-2017 at 10:44 AM.
#21
Old 05-04-2017, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by White SIFL View Post
In the past creating art was a more time intensive and probably expensive thing to do. The time involved could seriously cut into things you probably needed to do - like procuring food for instance. Carving likenesses into stone wasn't as easy as running down to Walmart and grabbing some cheap paper and paint. I think it's a fair question to ask if you going through the trouble to create a likeness, why not make it look as close to the original as possible.
I think the answer is right here at the top of your post. Creating a realistic likeness is much more time-consuming than a stylized one. Not just in the creating itself (realistic depictions require more and smaller strokes/carvings than stylized ones), but in the training. Stick figures and flattened perspective-less images are easy. Kids draw them. Photorealism requires a lot more practice.
#22
Old 05-04-2017, 12:25 PM
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Are you under the misapprehension that photographs are realistic? Because they're not. Suppose, for instance, that a person has a particularly pointy nose. A photograph can capture that pointy nose, true. But now suppose also that that same person also has two eyes and two ears. A photograph that faithfully captures that pointy nose will also show the person as having only one each eye and ear. What's realistic about that? How is a one-eyed picture a realistic depiction of someone who has two eyes?
#23
Old 05-04-2017, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Are you under the misapprehension that photographs are realistic? Because they're not. Suppose, for instance, that a person has a particularly pointy nose. A photograph can capture that pointy nose, true. But now suppose also that that same person also has two eyes and two ears. A photograph that faithfully captures that pointy nose will also show the person as having only one each eye and ear. What's realistic about that? How is a one-eyed picture a realistic depiction of someone who has two eyes?
Yes, it's a 2D abstraction of a 3D reality, but it's pretty clear what is meant by "realistic"in the sense of the OP. There are other pedantic reasons why I'd consider photography not as "realistic" as one might think on first account, but that's nitpicking.
#24
Old 05-04-2017, 12:56 PM
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And yet, it is possible to get both the proper number of eyes and ears, and the correct shape of a nose, in a 2D abstraction. Picasso did it, after all. Why can't we expect all of our 2-D art to be as realistic as Picasso's?
#25
Old 05-04-2017, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
And yet, it is possible to get both the proper number of eyes and ears, and the correct shape of a nose, in a 2D abstraction. Picasso did it, after all. Why can't we expect all of our 2-D art to be as realistic as Picasso's?
And yet, I show my 1-year-old daughter a picture of her mom with only one ear and one eye showing, and she knows who it is and smiles. My crayon abstraction with all sides of her showing, not so much. One does not need to observe all sides of a 3D object for it to be "realistic," unless one has a very, very technical and non-colloquial definition of realism that might only apply to holograms, and perhaps not even that. I mean, I know this is the Straight Dope, but come on.

Last edited by pulykamell; 05-04-2017 at 01:13 PM.
#26
Old 05-04-2017, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by zoogirl View Post
For the same reason we take pictures. To remember what the people we love looked like when they aren't around or to show ourselves off.
But you don't need to be "realistic*" to see that.

Plus, how do you define "realistic"? What you think of realistic? Or what the artist things as realistic? Because if it's the former, you're complaining that the artist didn't do the work with a modern sensibility.

*"Representational" is a better term, but I'll stick with what the OP started.
#27
Old 05-04-2017, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
And yet, I show my 1-year-old daughter a picture of her mom with only one ear and one eye showing, and she knows who it is and smiles. My crayon abstraction with all sides of her showing, not so much. One does not need to observe all sides of a 3D object for it to be "realistic," unless one has a very, very technical and non-colloquial definition of realism that might only apply to holograms, and perhaps not even that. I mean, I know this is the Straight Dope, but come on.
Well, that just proves there's an arbitrary line somewhere down the slippery slope of little-r realism, and it's defined by "I know it when I see it."

Which is always, ALWAYS, a bullshit argument.

Last edited by gnoitall; 05-04-2017 at 01:17 PM.
#28
Old 05-04-2017, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by gnoitall View Post
Well, that just proves there's an arbitrary line somewhere down the slippery slope of little-r realism, and it's defined by "I know it when I see it."

Which is always, ALWAYS, a bullshit argument.
No, it's not. We make arbitrary distinctions like this all the time. It's clear from the OP that they are looking for representational art that is on the photography side of the scale as opposed to the hieroglyphic side of the scale. Where their line is, who knows, but in colloquial language, it's pretty clear to me from the examples given by the OP that a photograph would be "realistic" and a drawing from the comics would not.
#29
Old 05-04-2017, 02:28 PM
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Drawings and paintings are 2-dimensional. There is more than one way to represent a 3-dimensional object on a 2-dimensional medium. A camera captures it one way, but we now consider it to be the accurate way, but it's not the only way.

Consider drawings by children. It may show the ground as a straight line across the page, with everyone's feet glued to it. Because the picture represents people all on the same ground. But a photo-realistic picture would not show the ground as a line, and it would show people at different heights on the paper.

Or a child's picture may show a blue sky only at the top of the paper. Because the sky is something that's up above, not something that fills the gaps between buildings.

Or, consider 3D modeling (CAD) software. They all provide orthographic projection as an option (and usually as the default), even though it is not realistic. A realistic rendering would use perspective projection. But the orthographic projection is a better representation of the actual shape of the object. It is arguably more accurate than the photo-realistic projection.

Last edited by scr4; 05-04-2017 at 02:29 PM.
#30
Old 05-04-2017, 03:20 PM
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Originally Posted by scr4 View Post
A camera captures it one way, but we now consider it to be the accurate way, but it's not the only way.
Close one eye. Look forward. Map the image your brain gets onto a 2D surface (as the image is 2D itself). That's perhaps the "gold standard"of what "accurate" is in this context. Yes, we could nitpick this shit to death, and so can I (cameras and photographs are NOT 100% accurate ways of how the human eye and brain sees reality), but for the common use of the word and practical purposes, this suffices.
#31
Old 05-04-2017, 03:28 PM
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I see no reason whatsoever to consider the view with one eye closed as more realistic than the view with both eyes open. Further, even the image with only one eye open is three-dimensional, which cannot be captured by a still camera (but which can be by a video camera), since you've got a time dimension, too.
#32
Old 05-04-2017, 03:32 PM
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Fine. Let the OP come back and clarify what is meant by the question instead of this nitpicking wankery.

Last edited by pulykamell; 05-04-2017 at 03:35 PM.
#33
Old 05-04-2017, 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by scr4 View Post
A camera captures it one way, but we now consider it to be the accurate way, but it's not the only way.
The human eye is a fairly ordinary camera, with a light-gathering plane, a lens, an aperture, and so on.

In particular, all light must pass through a small hole. And as such, anything that would be physically occluded to a camera is also occluded to the eye, and vice versa. There is no way for an eye to see two ears unless a camera in the same place also saw two ears.

Perspective is the same way; objects twice as far away are half the size, for both the eye and camera. An orthographic projection is perfectly realistic since it's just the special case of a very distant camera.

The brain of course does all kinds of postprocessing on the image, with special-cased facial recognition, motion estimation, etc. But in terms of what is actually visible, the real (and not perceived) relative sizes, etc., the eye and a camera are the same.
#34
Old 05-04-2017, 05:55 PM
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It was my understanding from that one Art History course I took in college more than 30 years ago, that foreshortening wasn't "invented" until the 14th century. A lot of the 'stylized' look of older paintings is the artist's way of conveying what was real.
#35
Old 05-04-2017, 06:18 PM
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Originally Posted by zoogirl View Post
Yes, the Greek, Roman and Egyptian examples are certainly very natural but the Chinese isn't. I had no idea the Egyptians did mummy portraits of that quality!
There ya go.

Bottom line: the purpose of visual representations varied widely, and many/most of those purposes did not require a representational approach - things like hieroglyphic language; allegorical and religious art, etc.

As humans entered the Humanist age, where Man Became the Measure of All Things, and scientific disciplines emerged, things like perspective became important, and representational depictions became more cheap and reliable to produce.
#36
Old 05-04-2017, 10:38 PM
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Ok, I will try to clarify. Picture a Haida artwork. It has figures that have the parts (head and limbs) of humans and animals. You could not recognize an individual. Now look at a drawing done by a regular child. Maybe it's "Mommy". It has her blonde hair, her favorite red shirt, her glasses and the mole on her left cheek. It may be quite crude but anyone in the family would know right away who it is.
As I said in the OP, I turned out a reasonable portrait of the boyfriend simply because I was bored and happened to have a piece of scrap paper and a pencil.
By "photographic" I simply meant a picture that looks like a recognizable individual rather than a figure stylized into anoniminity. It doesn't have to be precise, just like the person.
I think people are getting too hung up on "photographic". It was meant as an easy way to describe drawing a particular person.
I also realize that my conception of Greek, Egyptian and Roman art has some serious gaps. The mummy portraits were sure a surprise! However, there are still many examples of civilizations that seem to have mostly produced stylized figures. I mentioned the Mayans and Our local First Nations.
While I understand that life in the past didn't leave much time for art, it just seems logical that someone in any group would have a bit of talent and figure out that a good likeness could be done with a burnt stick and a piece of bark or whatever.
Again, why would they? Well, I did it from boredom. Why not? I picked the nearest subject, someone I care about. Now I can remember what he looked like at that time. Even two hundred years ago, drawing was the only way to "keep" a person. Think about it. Picture someone who's gone. Can you remember their nose? The precise way their hair curled? Are you sure? Go look at a picture of that person. I bet it's just a little different.
I think I remember my dad but every time I see a picture, I realize my mental image is just a little off. So, an aid to memory is one good reason for realistic portraits. Don't try to tell me that ancient people didn't love. I'm sure men going off to war would have been happy to have s likeness of the wife at home.
I suspect that some of you fine Dopers are thinking I mean a full size, full color oil portrait when I said realistic. No. Just a recognizable individual.
#37
Old 05-04-2017, 11:06 PM
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Originally Posted by zoogirl View Post
Ok, I will try to clarify. Picture a Haida artwork. It has figures that have the parts (head and limbs) of humans and animals. You could not recognize an individual. Now look at a drawing done by a regular child. Maybe it's "Mommy". It has her blonde hair, her favorite red shirt, her glasses and the mole on her left cheek. It may be quite crude but anyone in the family would know right away who it is.
As I said in the OP, I turned out a reasonable portrait of the boyfriend simply because I was bored and happened to have a piece of scrap paper and a pencil.
By "photographic" I simply meant a picture that looks like a recognizable individual rather than a figure stylized into anoniminity. It doesn't have to be precise, just like the person.
I think people are getting too hung up on "photographic". It was meant as an easy way to describe drawing a particular person.
I also realize that my conception of Greek, Egyptian and Roman art has some serious gaps. The mummy portraits were sure a surprise! However, there are still many examples of civilizations that seem to have mostly produced stylized figures. I mentioned the Mayans and Our local First Nations.
While I understand that life in the past didn't leave much time for art, it just seems logical that someone in any group would have a bit of talent and figure out that a good likeness could be done with a burnt stick and a piece of bark or whatever.
Again, why would they? Well, I did it from boredom. Why not? I picked the nearest subject, someone I care about. Now I can remember what he looked like at that time. Even two hundred years ago, drawing was the only way to "keep" a person. Think about it. Picture someone who's gone. Can you remember their nose? The precise way their hair curled? Are you sure? Go look at a picture of that person. I bet it's just a little different.
I think I remember my dad but every time I see a picture, I realize my mental image is just a little off. So, an aid to memory is one good reason for realistic portraits. Don't try to tell me that ancient people didn't love. I'm sure men going off to war would have been happy to have s likeness of the wife at home.
I suspect that some of you fine Dopers are thinking I mean a full size, full color oil portrait when I said realistic. No. Just a recognizable individual.
You discounted my first example of a Chinese portrait, when it far far better than anything done by a regular child as well as being a recognizable individual. As a reminder, here it is again:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chines...Liang_Wudi.jpg

By way of contrast, here is a modern caricature of an individual that I'm sure you'll recognize. It's also better than anything done by a regular child. But I think you'll admit that it's neither natural nor realistic:
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com...0983e1f6f5.jpg

Just what is it that you're after?
#38
Old 05-04-2017, 11:36 PM
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I've been assuming you mean the first picture, that of the Emperor. To me, I think that I would have trouble recognizing him. If you mean the hanging scroll portrait further down, then yes, he's very "real".
Sure I recognize 'ol Alfred. He looks like himself. Individual hair, individual wrinkles etc. I thought I made it clear that I didn't mean a precise, crystal clear image. I just meant a recognizable individual. Why is that hard to understand?
Again.
When I say "stylized" I mean pictures in which the people all look the same and you can't really look at one and say " hey! I know him!"
When I say "photographic" I mean a picture that does make you say "hey! I know him! "
It isn't the quality of the portrait, it's the recognizability.
The original question i wanted to ask was, "why did a lot of civilizations get stuck at non-individual pictures instead of drawing people that looked like individuals?" I probably shouldn't have said "photographic" when I meant "recognizable". My bad.
#39
Old 05-04-2017, 11:46 PM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
And then there is photo-realism, which is, basically, painting or drawing something that looks like a photograph. Never understood the appeal.

The appeal to me is just that it's really freaking cool! Like, that someone actually drew/painted something that looks SO real.
#40
Old 05-05-2017, 12:08 AM
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I somehow deleted my last post. Dammit!
Ok, again. The Chinese portrait I assume you are referring to is the first one, the Emperor. I don't know if I would recognize him. If you mean the hanging scroll, he is very "real".
I know right way that that is Einstein, of course, because he looks like himself. It's his hair, his wrinkles.
What I meant was, as I've said, why did some civilizations only, or at least mostly, leave pictures of people that were stylized to the point that you could not recognize an individual?
It isn't the quality of the picture that I'm concerned about. "photographic" was, perhaps, a poor voice to describe what I meant. Let me put it this way.
Stylized - "I have no idea who this was other than he's Egyption or Mayan or Haida or whatever"
Realistic (Photographic) - "Hey! I know him!"
The quality of the picture isn't the issue. I just want to know why some people couldn't seem to make their subjects look like persons rather than one-size-fits-all.
#41
Old 05-05-2017, 12:10 AM
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Well, rats! Apparently I didn't delete my post after all. I'll leave them both in the hope that between them I've made myself a bit clearer.
#42
Old 05-05-2017, 06:53 AM
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Quote:
Quoth zoogirl:

Sure I recognize 'ol Alfred.
Well, maybe not.
#43
Old 05-05-2017, 07:21 AM
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I think there are two things at work here - one is that all the examples being held up as "stylized" (Chinese, Maya) are probably phenotypes where you aren't socially trained to pick up the visual differences - an "All Chinese look the same" kind of thing, hence your insistence that that first personal portrait of the Emperor is stylized when it isn't.

The second thing is hidden in plain site in your OP -it might be that for some cultures, if you wanted a realistic portrait, that's what stone/clay/wood were for, because people are obviously 3-D. So you do your realism in sculpture, and don't bother in 2D - this is a variant of the "Why make a photorealistic painting when photos are more accurate?" stance - "Why do a flat portrait when sculptures are more accurate?"
#44
Old 05-05-2017, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Terminus Est View Post
Please note that the mummy portrait is from the 3rd century AD. By that point in history, Egypt had been Roman for longer than the United States has been a country. And before that, it had been Hellenized (i.e., conquered by the Greeks) for about the same time.

Which one of these traditional Chinese portraits is realistic enough for you?
http://artfixdaily.com/images/pr..._Inks_on_S.jpg
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikiped...aiPortrait.jpg
https://static01.nyt.com/images/2014...icleInline.jpg
The Chinese and Japanese have a style that can be "realistic", but it's not particularly "depictive". If you see a picture of one person, he'll look like a person. But once you see twenty guys all standing right next to one another, you realize that the artist has drawn them all with the exact same face, and often all at the same angle.

That first one seems fairly depictive. The latter two look like they could have been anyone at all.
#45
Old 05-05-2017, 07:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Sage Rat View Post
The Chinese and Japanese have a style that can be "realistic", but it's not particularly "depictive". If you see a picture of one person, he'll look like a person. But once you see twenty guys all standing right next to one another, you realize that the artist has drawn them all with the exact same face, and often all at the same angle.

That first one seems fairly depictive. The latter two look like they could have been anyone at all.
The second one is Khubilai Khan. The third one is Confucius. I think any reasonably-informed Chinese person would recognize them.
#46
Old 05-05-2017, 08:10 AM
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I'll offer a few hypotheses (possibly already mentioned - I gave up reading about halfway down, with all the bickering). I suspect that the answer is a blend of reasons, like these:

1) People naturally seem to represent the world in a simplified, symbolic form. When you ask someone to draw an eye, they draw a football shape with a circle in the middle. It's a rough approximation of the real thing, but identifiable as an eye. Getting over this symbolic representation takes some effort and training. Whereas, there doesn't seem to be any such tendency with sculpture, maybe because we can touch and contrast? Certainly, the first blind sculptor is going to kick the ass of any sighted sculptor, because he's simply comparing touch to touch, and there's no way he can do anything but that. So, pretty quickly, his sculpture is going to be your point of comparison.

2) Historically, sculpture was seen as the real art form - possibly because of the clear difference in quality, as driven by hypothesis #1. Paintings and drawings were more like decoration. A statue might be hand-crafted just for you. Your average drawing might be "factory-produced" by slaves, on pots, that they're cranking out for the local market. Depictions of events on temple and funerary walls were there to tell a story, not act like a photo, so there wasn't much need in realism. A person who showed talent in the arts would be pointed towards sculpting. Anyone else got stuck with painting.

3) The materials available in historic times may not have made it very workable to strive for photorealism. If you want to practice sketching, how do you do that? How many smooth, flat surfaces are there to practice on? What do you practice drawing with? Even if you have a nice flat, stone surface, you might take some chalk or coal to it, but these crumbly mediums are best for solid lines, not smooth shading. Try doing photorealism on a whiteboard with dry erase markers. The medium fights your attempts. If you want to paint, how available are the paints for you to practice? If the paint is owned by your employer, and you're just a child, you can't take some buckets home to practice with on the walls in your area of town.

4) I suspect that a lot of apprenticeship training, in the days of yore, was quite prescriptive. "Here is how you draw a horse", and then they would draw the correct, officially approved strokes for drawing a horse. If you drew something that was not those exact lines, then you were wrong. It doesn't matter that you're trying to inch the art towards realism, you're the apprentice, he's the master, and that's not how horses are drawn. But so who decided these official methods of drawing things? The people before you, who had no good way to practice to overcome their innate inclination to draw things in a symbolized manner. There may have been one guy, centuries or millenia earlier, who simply had the most aesthetically pleasing stylized way of drawing things, the pharaoh - a living god here on Earth - chose him as the official 2D artist of the land, his art adorns all of the most important and holy buildings in the land, and if your art can't rise to the level of the ancient great master, then it's simply crap.

Last edited by Sage Rat; 05-05-2017 at 08:14 AM.
#47
Old 05-05-2017, 08:53 AM
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OP, I think you're referring more to "symbolic" instead of "stylized".
#48
Old 05-05-2017, 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by zoogirl View Post
Well, rats! Apparently I didn't delete my post after all. I'll leave them both in the hope that between them I've made myself a bit clearer.
zoogirl, any comment on my response? Which is basically: looking at it from their perspective, they used visual arts differently than we would think to. As a result the % of visual art that was representational was very small - but they could do it. It didn't become more important until the Humanist revolution, and science created practical and business value for the accuracy of the representation.

Cool?
#49
Old 05-05-2017, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
I'll turn the question around. Why is there any reason to be "realistic"?
Which then begs the followup question: Why is there any reason to have the actual person sit for the portrait?
#50
Old 05-05-2017, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
Close one eye. Look forward. Map the image your brain gets onto a 2D surface (as the image is 2D itself). That's perhaps the "gold standard"of what "accurate" is in this context.
My point is that "accurate" depends on the intent. What one human eye sees is not necessarily the most accurate representation of what the object is. The purpose of a drawing isn't always to represent a geometrically accurate picture of the world. The purpose of a drawing is to represent certain qualities of the scene or subject.
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