The Relationship Between Subject and Meaning and The Sacking of Carthage

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The Relationship Between Subject and Meaning and The Sacking of Carthage

From Brian K. Yoder

Published before 2005


I guess the important point is not as much how one would portray the historical event in a journalistic fashion, but rather what it is about the sacking of Carthage that you are interested in. Is it the horror of war? The historical event per se? the bravery of the victors? The fact that Carthage is now all but forgotten? The power of Rome? Depending on your goal (any number of which would be perfectly reasonable) you could decide that this or that view would be more or less effective. If you were to pick a subject a little closer to home, say, your wife, of course you would choose to paint her, but what would she be doing? What would her expression be? The right answer can only be known if we consider what it is that you think of your wife. Do you think that the important thing about her is that she is kind? Strong? Obedient? Loyal? Or perhaps you don't like her all that much and you would like to show her as nagging or foolish? Is the important thing about her her personal qualities? Or her familial relationships? Or her brains, beauty, or professional accomplishments? In short, a choice of subject matter per se doesn't really dictate how a painting out to portray it. For that you need to understand why you are making the painting in the first place. I'm not saying that such motivations need to be simple or singular, just that whether you have succeeded or failed in your artistic goals is highly impacted by your intended interpretation as well as your choice of subject matter.

--Brian