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Maturation, old age and mortality in western art : idealism versus realism.

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The central premise of this research is the paradox between idealism and realism in the visual arts in the context of the themes of maturation, old age and mortality. Throughout the history of art there have been artworks that feature the realistic representation of this theme in contrast to traditional idealistic trends. Selected artworks are highlighted from different art-historical periods in western art history dating from antiquity to contemporary times. These dates include artworks from the Hellenistic art of ancient Greece, Roman art and some examples from the middle ages. This theme flourished in the early modern period and in the 17th century, resulting in some artworks only being mentioned. The 19th and 20l centuries show less interest in this subject, therefore the examples are rare. Finally I examine my own art and my interest in the theme of old age in relation to a few examples of contemporary South African art. Old age is a social and cultural phenomenon, therefore the socio-political, anthropological, philosophical and cultural influences in each period are briefly investigated. The manifestation of this theme is initially concurrent with the development of realism in art history and the changes in art theory and criticism, but other factors are revealed in the course of this research which indicate that this subject has a bearing on moral and spiritual enquiry. In conclusion, it is anticipated that this discourse will enlighten the reader to the mysterious workings of the human creative nature and psyche that are stimulated by such topics as old age and mortality.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of KwaZulu-natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2007.


Idealism., Realism., Idealism in art., Realism in art., Theses--Fine Art.