Why might individuals document their personal histories in art?
Art can be used to tell the history of countries, communities, or institutions. It can also serve biographical or autobiographical purposes, relating the life story of an individual in order to teach a lesson, commemorate that person’s accomplishments, or assert the subject’s claims to a certain title or position. The Cheyenne ledger drawing and the image from the Medici series seen here offer two examples of ways that such imagery has been approached by different individuals to fulfill their personal aims.
Questions to Consider
- The artists who created ledger drawings often depicted their own exploits or accomplishments. In grand painting cycles like Marie de’ Medici’s, a professional artist was commissioned to do the work. Using these two pieces as a case studies, what do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of a subject telling his or her own story through art? Of a subject hiring a third party to tell that story?
- Ledger drawings got their name because they were originally drawn in ledger or accounting books. As such, they were portable artworks. The large canvases that made of the Marie de’ Medici series, on the other hand, were created for installation in a specific space. How do you think format might have affected the nature of the audience for each piece? Do you think these works were created with specific audiences in mind? Why or why not?
- When we think of autobiography, we often think of textual accounts. Why might an individual want his or her story told in visual terms? If you were asked to tell your personal story through words or images, which would you choose and why?
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