Sunday, June 20, 2010

Who is more creative, Michelangelo or Vincent Van Gogh?

Let me begin by way of confession: I used to hate studying history.   In college, it was torture for me to sit through American History.  Even my Art History classes pushed me to the edge of human endurance.  Ironically, this past year I was asked to teach a unique class at DaVinci Academy called The History of Art and Science.  I was intimidated.  How could I teach the very subject I so greatly disliked?    But, as I considered the class, I soon realized that, at it's core, it was nothing more than the history of creativity . . . and, as many of my family and friends know, I like to talk about creativity . . . a lot.  I fully agree with Sir Ken Robinson when he writes, "The highest form of intelligence is thinking creatively."  And now I had the chance to teach my students to be creative through analysis of history's greatest cultures and individuals.  I found a reason to enjoy history, and my obsession for creativity gave it meaning.  I think overall, my first year of teaching the class was successful, but I feel I only scratched the surface of the class's potential.  I'm reading a lot, hoping to expand the class's concepts, but I would like to also get some input from others . . . yeah, by "others" I mean you.  I want to know what you think.  In particular, I would like to bounce around some ideas and questions and get your feedback. So let's start with these:

Who is more creative, an artist like Michelangelo, whose greatest works were commissioned by the Catholic church, or an artist like Van Gogh, whose art was inspired only by his own observations and imagination?  How do we define and measure creativity in a way that lets us compare these artists?  What system of metrics can we use?

 There you go.  Please, leave your comments below and help start a discussion.  Thanks.

Book Recommendation:  The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything  by Sir Ken Robinson


christy said...

I would say Michelangelo was more scientific and precise and that Van Gogh was more creative in the way that my mind defines creative at least. I'm sure Michelangelo had to be creative to be such a fine artist and I greatly appreciate both but I love Van Gogh's impressionistic ways. I give this one to him.

Kevin Wasden said...

Thanks Christy. I think one of the main problems we have when we consider creativity is how to define it. In my History class, I define creativity as "the ability to organize raw materials or undeveloped ideas into new and meaningful products." In this context, Van Gogh's work would definitely seem to stand out as "new". But what about "meaningful?" I've been wondering how something like that can be measured. Perhaps we could consider the influence of each artist on later art movements?

Zig said...

I think both are very creative. Michelangelo in a more scientific way (his helicopter and plane sketches are incredible for the age) while I don't see his art quite as creative as much was comissioned and probably had some boundaries applied. Van Gogh is creative for his vision of an art form. It seems almost to be an apples vs oranges argument on this one.

Would it be more accurate to compare Monet as a pioner for impressionism to Van Gogh as a pioneer for Expressionism?

Alyosha Bayardo said...

My opinion is that what makes a piece of art "meaningful" are definitely the feelings that are impregnated in the piece, the message that the artist wanted to transmit by making this or that work.
Art can be simple or complex, but simple art can contain very complex messages and complex art can even have no message. Michaelangelo´s mastery was in the execution and in his technique, a beautiful control of the mind and the hands, on the other hand, I believe Van Gogh´s work was an expression of the human soul and true feelings.
Unfortunately, since Michaelangelo was so famous for his technique, we rarely can see his soul or a message in his work. I can only imagine what his work would have been if he hadn´t been motivated by competition with his contemporaries and if his work hadn´t been comissioned by others.
I don´t think "true art" is motivated by money or by creating a "perfect" piece of art. "True art" is more about letting out what hurts us inside. When we appreciate "true art" it seems we can peep into the artist´s soul. I think that Vincent´s Soul speaks in his paintings, Michaelangelo does not speak to me (at least not his work that i know).
"Technique" tries to "reproduce" and Buonarrotti had an excellent technique, he could reproduce perfectly. "True art" does not try to reproduce anything, technique looses its importance when the message in the piece of art is complex and clear at the same time, or when the human soul is visible in the piece of art.
Another thing that makes a piece of art "meaningul" to me, is trascendence, does this piece of art trascend?, does it permanently change something inside of me?

I didn´t say anything about creativity though. Maybe I´ll come back soon and write something about that.

Alyosha Bayardo said...

Van Gogh was so little concerned about "technique" and "perfection" that with his work also came a new movement or influence in the way of painting in wich you didn´t try to repodruce the world like they are, you tried to express the "feelings" that are aroused inside us by appreciating the world. I think. Hehe

Alyosha Bayardo said...


Isabel garcia said...

There is no metrics to compare two artists within two differenjt time periods, who ever says that Michelangelos art is "worse" or "less creative" just ecause it appears to be a copy of nature does not know all the break throughs Michelangelo made. He was able to fool people bu making sculptures and selling them as antiques from the ancient romans. This includes breaking the sculpture and fooling the authorities while being 16. . Who ever classifies Michelangelo as not creative hasn't compared his Madonnas to the ones artists like Donatello. He did exactly what the impressionists did 5 centuries later. His creativity was inmense jut because he had the courage to invent art differently. He followed no one. For one to invent such a typeof art when America was being discovered, one must have ALOT of creativity. Yet Van Gogh did the exact same thing. He had as much creativity as Michelangelo. Not because he decided that he wanted to make an impression of nature and that the meaning of things are more important he is more creative. They both did the same exact equivalent, at their time. Michelangelo gave inner life to sculptures, the possibility of movement, of feeling, awareness of the exterior world. Van Gogh gave life to his brush stroke, he decided that the concept and awareness of this, while going against the Academia and the Salons.

The time frame is clearly the metrics of creativity. You cant compare the Stared Night to the David if you dont know the background, social, political, cultural and economic context.