Cultural Styles

Cultural styles refer to distinctive characteristics in artworks throughout a particular society or culture. Some main elements of cultural styles are recurring motifs, created in the same way by many artists. Cultural styles are formed over hundreds or even thousands of years and help define cultural identity. We can find evidence of this by comparing two masks; one from Alaska and the other from Canada. The Yup'ik dance mask from Alaska is quite stylized with oval and rounded forms divided by wide bands in strong relief. The painted areas outline or follow shapes. Carved objects are attached to the mask and give an upward movement to the whole artwork while the face itself carries an animated expression.

By comparison, a Wolf Mask from the Tlingit culture in coastal northwestern Canada exhibits similar forms and many of the same motifs. The mouths of each mask are particularly similar to each other. Wolf's visage takes on human-like characteristics just as the Yup'ik mask takes the form of a bird. This cultural style ranges from western Alaska to northern Canada.

Casco y collera de lobo tlingit (M. América, Madrid) 01

Casco y collera de lobo tlingit, Tlingit wolf mask, M. América, Madrid, Spain

Celtic art from Great Britain and Ireland shows a cultural style that has been identified for thousands of years. Its highly refined organic motifs include spirals, plant forms and zoomorphism. Intricate and decorative, the Celtic style adapted to include early book illustration. The Book of Kells is considered the pinnacle of this cultural style.

Page from the Book of Kells, around 800 CE. Trinity College, Dublin.

Page from the Book of Kells, around 800 CE. Trinity College, Dublin


Source: Chris Gildow, Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges
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Last modified: Friday, February 22, 2019, 12:41 PM