Artistic Homage. (Teaching Art with Art)

Article excerpt

The word "homage" means to show great respect for someone or something. Other words have more or less the same meaning and include reverence, honor, awe, adoration and veneration. Throughout the world and throughout history, a large proportion of all works of art have paid homage to important people and great ideas.

Homage is paid to religious events and beliefs. People have paid homage to holders of particular positions, such as chiefs, emperors and dictators--sometimes out of fear of what might happen if suitable respect was not shown. Still other examples of homage acknowledge the greatness of geniuses in the sciences and the arts.

Artists have been called upon to depict the celebration of special events when homage has been paid to powerful people on such occasions as coronations and funerals. Other examples of art where the subject is homage are likely to appear as scenes of such important events as military victories, or events from the lives of religious leaders such as Jesus Christ or Buddha. Artists and musicians also pay homage to geniuses of art, such as Leonardo da Vinci and Ludwig von Beethoven. In sum, through art, homage is paid in many different ways.

Homage, then, has had an important place in art for about as long as art has been made. It is an occasion for celebrating important ideas, people and events. And, since students--like everyone else--have their own heroes, this is a subject that can be pursued in the classroom. For example, thousands of people every year continue to pay homage to Elvis Presley and visit his home, even though he has been dead since 1977. Students presently in school today have their own heroes in sports and entertainment. Since they already know a lot about their heroes, they are already prepared to include many points of interest about their hero in their own works of art.

It may be that students would like to depict a realistic image. Alternatively, they may prefer to use more abstract ideas--like those seen here. The size and choice of artistic materials may also play an important part in their decision about what to do. For example, would a painting or drawing or a print be the best choice? Or might a student decide that a piece of sculpture would present their idea best of all? And, if the work is to be sculpture, should it be a relief that will be mounted on a wall, or a free-standing piece?

Not least, when completed, will the artist be able to talk to other students about what they were trying to accomplish? All these decisions have to be resolved when a task like this one is undertaken. In this way, teachers can be helping students make some of the kinds of hard decisions that face artists with every new creation.

A good place to start with a subject like this one is to look at pictures of artworks and learn to pick out those that have to do with homage--or any of the other words that have the same kind of meaning. While books on art remain the best sources for reproductions of artworks, schools often have extensive slide collections. More important, perhaps, is the World Wide Web. It offers a great number of Web sites where students can see artworks and learn about artists (just type in the artist's name).

In addition, most art museums throughout the world have their own Web sites in which they display examples from their collections. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, for example, has an outstanding one (www.metmuseum.org/collections). Commercial Web sites, such as Corbis (www.corbis.com) hold many thousands of images that students can study at no charge.

When searching Web sites, however, students should first make a list of keywords to help them in their searches, such as "homage," "adoration," or "awe" to make their efforts more efficient. In fact, this experience may help them become more skillful in finding information quickly, which can be helpful in other areas of school work, as well as many careers beyond school. …