The Purity of Water

In literature, it is known that water works as a symbol in a variety of ways as a work of purification. In coming to the idea of purity, water works to cleanse, wash, and bring about new life. Is this the same in art? Through the ten works selected in this exhibit, we are able to discover and dissect how water fits into the meaning of the work of art. Does the water work as a purification mechanism in helping reveal the overall theme and idea of the artwork? Does the water bring about life and clarity? Or does it represent something completely different in art? The following ten works of art include works from a variety of eras and years exploring the symbolism of water and whether or not it is consistent through all situations and time eras.

The water carrier in this oil painting is the subject matter of the piece, as the title also brings about. The story revealed through the context of the artist and his painting shows that this women is portrayed as "quenching the thirst of the fighters" of the war (seen in description). Water then acts as a symbol here of life. Water brings life to the soldiers which then allows them to keep going in battle. The water pitcher is also put at an opposite angle as opposed to the girl allowing it to stand out, along with the yellow-orange color. This brings importance to the life that the water is bringing. The soldiers will feel new life and have clarity with that of their environment, as they cannot function or live without water.
The well known story of Noah's Ark is portrayed in this painting. The story reads that God sent a forty day flood to cleanse the earth of evil. Water, as seen in the powerful wave that is about to take over the earth in the painting, works to bring about peace through cleansing. Water is a powerful symbol in making a blank slate of earth and giving earth a fresh start to bring about new life instead of the old evil. So even though water acts to kill all of those not in line to get on that ark, water is still bringing about a new pure start by cleansing the earth. The aftermath of the wretched storm will bring about abundance and beauty.
This painting was painted post-World War II, putting the artwork into the Abstract Expressionism movement. The human figures are elongated and thin in the painting. While the descriptions of "Sunday evening" concentrate on the figures of the family living during the Depression,the painting works to indirectly show the importance of water, as the family is also living through a drought. The tree in the background acts as a diagonal line to point to the middle of the painting to the empty bowl. The bowl is not elongated as the people and tree are, but is still stout and round, which creates more observation. The empty bowl of water brings about the harsh realities of the people's lives. There is no water to bring happiness, no water to wash more clothes (as seen in the background), and no water to bring about life to both the people, the trees, and land around them. So while there is no water in the painting, the lack of water shows shows the lack of lively, pure power that water brings to a setting.
This water color painting seems just to be a simple landscape painting. My personal perspective, with previous research of water in symbolism, gives me the belief that the water makes the painting more than what it seems at first glance. The water is what brings about life to the mountains. The water is what probably caused the architects to build the house there, and bring more life to that setting. The water is what brings about the bright colors of the painting. As the video shows, the many layers of water color allows the water to come to life. There are many dimensions to the water and what gives it the transcendent, authentic look. The speckles and different hues of blue makes the water "pure." The purity of the water gives the water an inviting feel. The steps leading down to the water show that the water is also there to cleanse, clean, and freshen whatever or whoever wishes to enter.
This piece of art conveys the impression to have been made during in the Greek and Hellenistic era where Greek idealism took place to show balance and proportions. We see this through the three figures of gods painted onto the terracotta piece. The modeled jar then works in portraying water, as it is a "water jar," as the title also tells us. With Dionysos, the god of wine and merry making, and Poseidon, the god of the sea, the jar is given importance. A jar with gods on it must contain something of usefulness and value. The three handles allow the water to be dispersed and carried to many. The water will then be able to replenish and cleanse the pallet of those that are in need or barren. It must only be the best additionally, if it is something associated with the gods that bring merry and control the waters of the Earth.
Water comes in many different forms, and the snow seen in this picture-book painting is what gives the painting the theme that is presented. The theme of happiness and delight from the snow is read on young girls expression. The simple smile and wide eyes shows the delight that this frozen water brings. The snow gives the earth a pure white blanket, to bring life to the dead and lifeless trees and grass of the environment. Although the water is in different form, the water still symbolizes the purity of life, in bringing life and joy to the young girl who gets to wear her new hat and gloves.
"The Rainbow" is a landscape painting featured with multiple subjects. The subjects all blend into the background as they are all a red color. The land is all green and brown. The eye then is lead to the background, where the rainbow falls into the water from the storm. While the dark clouds seem to give a grey and hopeless attitude,the rainbow is a symbol of hope. Rainbows only come about from rain and water. Water is then, again, a symbol of life. Now that there is water on the ground and the rainbow has appeared,the dark clouds are appearing to ascend into the distance, where it can be seen how the water washed the lands and people of dirt and barrenness. The water works as a cleansing mechanism that brings about the hopeful rainbow with purity in colors.
Water comes in the form of tears in this painting, which was made during the Renaissance period. The tears are coming from Mary Magdalene, who is washing Christ's feet with her tears and hair. The tears not only cleanse Christ's dirty and battered feet, but end up helping her soul be cleansed and purified as well. This happens because the story tells us that Christ forgave her sins after she finished wiping his feet. The water, although not the main subject matter of the painting plays an important role in revealing the meaning of the painting. Without the tears from Mary Magdalene, Christ's feet would not be cleansed, and her heart and soul would not be purified.
This photograph taken by Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher takes place during the ritual where young Bassari men take place in rituals that mark the coming-of-age into a man. The ritual takes place as the males wrestle their masked elders. This photograph shows the young man receiving water, which can be seen as a symbol of life. The elder must serve it to the boy, as the Basarri see a strong connection between humans and nature. The elder is then symbolically giving the boy purity and life to keep going on in the match, to both become one with nature and become a man. The water is in the center of the photograph giving it emphasis towards being the subject matter of the picture. The water is what is able to bring the boy to manhood, and bring clarity to the relationship between humans and nature.
This painting concentrates on the miraculous water coming from the spring. The different figures in the painting all show amazement and awe to try to get close to the spring. One man is even trying to drink the water. The flowing water, and water spewing from the ground then becomes the focal point of the painting. The background story explains that the Virgin Mary made the water spring appear to allow the Bishops to know exactly where the apparitions to Juan Diego took place. The water here, although not directly purifying anything, can still be seen to symbolize cleansing the confusion of men. The men now clearly know that Mary has made apparitions, and undoubtedly know the exact spot. The water symbolizes the place where Mary comes, and simply takes the confusion out of men's hearts, giving them a clear and pure understanding of the Virgin Mary.
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