Descriptive Essay on Autumn Paintings

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Art transcends across different nations and cultures, from generation to generation. The Met artistic project exhibits historical artworks alongside contemporary artists, allowing viewers to identify connections that span centuries. Jean-François Millet’s oeuvre of peasant farmers and landscapes constitutes one of the most famous artworks from the 19th century. His meticulous work using oil and painting highlights daily human activities that are not of importance to the majority of people but are vital for their survival. Xu Bing is an expert in Chinese calligraphy, and the contemporary art world celebrates him for his work as a printmaker and installation artist. Viewing the videos of the project, Xu’s reflection on Millet’s collection stands out due to the realism of the landscapes and the connection to the environment. As an art student, I viewed Millet’s Haystacks: Autumn painting as refreshing and intriguing in a pool of portraits and politically oriented paintings of the 19th century. All art, historical and contemporary, has a message for its viewer, and that is why Xu finds a connection between Millet’s work and modern environments.

Xu’s description of Millet’s historical artwork is nothing short of exemplary. During the short video, he talks about the Haystacks: Autumn painting noting its importance and highlighting the details in the painting. Xu enjoys painting landscapes because they have traces of human activity and life. He revels in the painting, rekindling memories of his time in rural China living alongside peasants and factory workers. Millet balances the animals, haystacks, farmhouses, and human elements in the painting. Xu contends that the viewer sees a passion and respect for the farmer, and in turn appreciation of nature. The painting immerses the viewer into a dramatic scene evoking emotions of natural events that are about to occur. The season is autumn and farmers have to do harvesting before the rains. I can see the dark clouds in the sky, making me resonate with the anxieties of the farmer. Millet also manages to capture the farmhouses in the background. Artists should give attention to the connection between man and the environment.

The Met’s historical artwork of Millet helps the audience to compare it to Xu’s contemporary artwork. Millet was a French painter whose naturalism and realism works live to date. Born in rural France, he learned his craft in Paris. Millet struggled to get his first portrait accepted at the salon. However, his profession took off when he devoted his work to depicting the family life of hardworking farmers. In the 19th century, Millet received a commission from Frederic Hartmann to paint a series illustrating the Four Seasons. His painting, Haystacks: Autumn is one of the four paintings that Xu describes. Frederic Hartmann was an industrialist and patron of Millet's acquaintance, the painter Theodore Rousseau. Both societal trends and commissioning by patrons inspired Millet's work. People can view the historical painting at Met’s museum in New York, and it still communicates the struggle of peasants, whose farm produce ends up at the public’s favorite restaurants.

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On the other hand, Xu is a contemporary Chinese artist who started painting at an early age and never stopped. Xu had a different childhood growing up in the city where his father was the head of Peking University’s history department. He began his calligraphy work during the Chinese cultural revolution of 1966-76 when he realized the propaganda messages on banners by the Maoist regime. However, Xu learned the farming life like Millet when his family relocated to the countryside after his father’s persecution. His talent and dedication to harness his artistic skills led to the now-iconic installation of the avant-garde, Tianshu, A Book from the Sky - Xu drew inspiration from his culture and societal issues. However, his current work is beyond calligraphy due to his vast experience of living and working outside China.

Reflecting on their choice of Xu to discuss Millet’s work in his Met feature, I realize that his artistic focus on social and cultural matters makes him bond with Millet’s paintings. Living outside China was a revelation to Xu, who adjusted his view of the contemporary artist. Shifting from traditional aesthetics, Xu focuses his work on modern art with pieces such as printed emoticons and his project, Dragonfly Eyes. We live in an era of continuous surveillance, and Xu portrays this scenario brilliantly in Dragonfly Eyes. He uses surveillance footage as a medium to communicate privacy concerns as a social issue. The video combines 11,000 hours of surveillance footage into an 81-minute showpiece, a novelty never used by an artist before. Xu takes limitations and converts them into something special. He continues to draw inspiration from societal trends.

In the video presentation at the Met Gallery, Xu contends that he likes those landscapes that individuals have in their daily activities, but rarely realizes their existence. Millet and Xu are artists spanning different generations, but their substantial work focuses on the landscapes that people overlook. While painting Haystacks: Autumn, Millet uses the farmers to show an authentic connection with nature instead of using them as a prop. His collection at the Met museum also includes Autumn Landscape with a Flock of Turkeys and Calling the Cows Home. Both paintings are also landscapes that represent the life of farmers in their quest for an honest living. Dragonfly Eyes is reminiscent of the unnoticeable landscapes. The oeuvre of both artists highlights people’s tendency to ignore their surroundings as long as the issues at hand do not affect them significantly. There is numerous artwork about religion, power, and politics, but the two artists concentrate on the human condition and its relation to society.

The purpose of art is to communicate with an intended audience effectively. Contemporary and historical artworks are all relevant, and their comparisons help to highlight the similarities and distinctions between the two periods. It is why Xu, a contemporary artist, discusses Millet’s collection. The two artists focus on the human activity instead of people. Preservation of art from past to present is important, and the Met museum is a great source of all art. Excluding portraits of prominent individuals, most artwork depends on societal and political trends. Commissioning by patrons is still present, albeit in a reduced manner considering the shift from aristocracies to democracies. While new forms of contemporary art continue to form, artists can draw upon historical artists like Millet for inspiration on the delicate art of landscaping. Evaluating old forms of art to help the audience understand the present moment is art in itself.

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Descriptive Essay on Autumn Paintings. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 20, 2024, from
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