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Tess Keating Blog Post (9/14)

After viewing the Leader Portraits I am reminded of the values that leaders want to portray. Art is a way to show things without using words. When studying history, photographs and paintings are brought up to show things symbolically. For example, in at least one of all of the leader’s portraits we looked at, they are either wearing red or there is some kind of red in the background. Red is known to be a color of power and royalty. Obviously in the painting or photograph the person cannot say “I am royalty and I am powerful”, but the colors (and other things can). I find the study of art history very interesting (especially when looking at paintings) because something one of my past history teachers told me is that every single thing in a painting is there for a reason. Whether it be who is in the painting, what colors are used, what the weather is like, and so on, all of it plays a key role in what the image is trying to depict and what message it is trying to tell. You are able to tell a lot about a person and what they want to portray about themselves in art. 


Something I also found interesting was that up until recently, in their portraits, leaders did not smile and if they did it was very subtle. This makes me wonder if there was a switch in how citizens see and want to see their leaders. Perhaps leaders used to be “all powerful” and more commanding, but now the type of leader that people want is someone that they can relate to and feel on a human level, instead of feeling like they are above everyone. I personally feel that a leader that is less of a god like figure and more of a regular person with authoritative qualities is someone I would vote for and feel comfortable with. 

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  1. Olivia Cosco Olivia Cosco

    I also found it very interesting how much a picture can say without words. I never really looked deeply into historical pictures and analyzed them. Listening to the podcast was very interesting. It also made me wonder if everything people infer from images is actually what the artist was trying to convey.

  2. Sara Moushegian Sara Moushegian

    Your comment about how leaders did not seem very “friendly” in historical paintings/pictures is an interesting one. In my Leadership 102 class, we talked about how society today does seem to value a leader who is relatable. This could be seen with Obama in how media often showed him playing basketball, or trying to recite the hip lingo that younger people use. This was all a tactic to make him seem more prototypical of his younger followers. People follow someone more passionately if they can relate to them, and this did not seem to be a value of colonial leaders who only cared about being viewed as powerful.

  3. Isabela Keetley Isabela Keetley

    I have never taken an art history course nor would I consider myself an artist in any way, however looking at these portraits and analyzing the symbolism within them was also very interesting to me. The podcast referenced the ways leaders portray themselves through art, whether it be the colors, background, the way they are standing, or simple objects specifically placed, which is something I never really considered. The most interesting to me that was said in the podcast was how in the George Washington crossing the Delaware painting, the background is really light but only near him, which gives off a God-like glow. I learned that thinking about things like this are key ways to determine how leaders what to portray themselves and what their values are, which I think is very important in examining leaders.

  4. Olivia Cranshaw Olivia Cranshaw

    I love examining historical artwork because, as you said, you can tell so much about what the leader intended to be through analyzing the color, the shapes, the stances, the expressions, the placement, the tone, and much more. I also noticed that in the older paintings, those leaders would usually not smile, or if they did it was very small, but as time progressed we see our modern leaders depicted with a larger range of expressions. I personally think this change is because of a change in access to our politicians. Leaders, presidents, and politicians of the past were much less involved in people’s everyday conversation and only had to “convince” people during their election. Today we can see much more into people’s lives through social media, which means that our politicians have learned that it is much better to relate to their audience rather than just be a figure.

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