Arts and Humanities Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 3

Updated on Sep 27, 2011

Arts and Humanities Critical Reading

Questions 1–9 are based on the following passage.

The following passage describes an influential group of nineteenth century painters.

When one thinks of student-led rebellions and the changes they can create, one typically thinks of the struggles of the twentieth century, such as the civil rights movement or anti-war protests of the sixties. But there have been less dramatic, though no less passionate, rebellions led by young activists in previous centuries—rebellions that had lasting impact on the world around us. One such example is the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

In the mid-1800s, the art world in England was rattled by the initials PRB. The PRB (or Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood) was founded by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. These three burgeoning artists (the oldest of whom was 21) and their disdain for the artistic conventions of the time would have a dramatic influence on the art world for generations to come.

The PRB was formed in response to the brotherhood's belief that the current popular art being produced in England was lacking in meaning and aesthetic honesty. During the era leading up to the PRB, the Royal Academy dominated British art. The Royal Academy advocated a style that was typically staid and relied heavily upon the use of dark amber and brown tones to depict overly idealized landscapes, carefully arranged family portraits and still lifes, and overly dramatic nature scenes such as a boat caught in stormy seas. By contrast, the PRB believed that art should present subjects that, by their very nature, had greater meaning and more accurately depicted reality. The PRB was committed to bringing greater integrity to art and even went so far as to publish The Germ, a journal that extolled the virtues of the PRB's aesthetic principles.

To develop subjects with greater meaning, the PRB initially turned to ancient myths and stories from the Bible. Many of the PRB's biblically themed paintings portrayed the religious figures as regular people. This departure from the convention of the time is notable in John Everett Millais' Christ in the Home of his Parents. In this painting, Jesus is portrayed as a young boy in his father's carpentry shop. Everyone in the painting, including Christ himself, looks like a common person of that time period, complete with dirty feet and hands. This realism—especially as it related to the Biblical figures—was not well received by many in the art world at the time. Later works done by fellow PRB members, and those inspired by them, utilized themes from poetry, literature, and medieval tales, often with the aim of highlighting the societal and moral challenges of the time.

With the goal of bringing greater honesty to their work, the PRB ignored the convention of painting an imagined or remembered landscape or background. Instead, PRB members would hunt (sometimes for weeks) for locations to incorporate into their paintings and then paint them in exacting detail.

One of the most distinctive aspects of PRB works—both in contrast to the works produced during the early nineteenth century and with the art of today—is their dramatic use of color. By committing themselves to the accurate depiction of nature, the PRB brought a freshness and drama to its work through the copious use of color. Further enhancing their work was a technique they used which involved applying the colored paint on top of wet white paint previously applied to their canvasses. The effect was to make the colors even brighter and more dramatic. Even today, more than 150 years later, PRB paintings have a luminescence beyond those of other works from the same time period. It is believed that their paintings have this quality today because the white layer underneath the colored paint continues to add brightness and life to the painting.

Originally founded by three upstart young men, the PRB had a tremendous influence on an entire generation of artists. William Morris, Ford Maddox Brown, and Edward Burne-Jones are just a few of the significant artists of the time whose work was dramatically influenced by the PRB.

  1. The word upstart in line 58 means
    1. well-regarded.
    2. conceited.
    3. beginning from an advanced position.
    4. suddenly raised to a high position.
    5. receiving numerous honors.
  2. In the opening paragraphs (lines 1–7), the author characterizes the PRB as all of the following EXCEPT
    1. young.
    2. revolutionary.
    3. rebellious.
    4. anti-war.
    5. passionate.
  3. The word burgeoning in line 11 means
    1. bursting.
    2. developing.
    3. flourishing.
    4. expanding.
    5. prospering.
  4. The PRB believed artists should do all of the following EXCEPT
    1. paint meaningful subjects.
    2. paint existing rather than imagined landscapes.
    3. use vibrant colors.
    4. choose subjects that address social issues.
    5. portray people and nature in an idealized manner.
  5. According to the passage, the art world
    1. disliked the PRB's emphasis on realism.
    2. disdained the PRB's choice of subject matter.
    3. appreciated the PRB's attention to detail.
    4. embraced the PRB's style, especially their use of color.
    5. was offended by the PRB's attempts to change the Royal Academy's style.
  6. The PRB's rebellion was rooted in
    1. a fascination with religious and mythological subjects.
    2. similar artistic rebellions in Europe.
    3. a belief that their peers' work lacked integrity.
    4. a distrust of realistic landscapes and poetic themes.
    5. a conflict over the use of color in painting.
  7. According to the author, the most distinguishing feature of PRB works is their
    1. surrealism.
    2. contrast to Royal Academy art.
    3. everyday subject matter.
    4. stoicism.
    5. vibrant colors.
  8. The author's main purpose in this passage is to
    1. describe the lives of the founders of the PRB.
    2. describe the artistic principles of the PRB.
    3. compare and contrast revolutions in art.
    4. describe the controversy created by the PRB.
    5. describe how the PRB influenced future artists.
  9. It can be inferred that members of the PRB
    1. were more socially conscious than members of the Royal Academy.
    2. were more educated than the members of the Royal Academy.
    3. were more popular than members of the Royal Academy.
    4. were bitter about being excluded from the Royal Academy.
    5. had a great deal of influence within the Royal Academy.

Questions 10–18 are based on the following passage.

In the following passage the author tells of public art and its functions.

In Manhattan's Eighth Avenue/Fourteenth Street subway station, a grinning bronze alligator with human hands pops out of a manhole cover to grab a bronze "baby" whose head is the shape of a moneybag. In the Bronx General Post Office, a giant 13-panel painting called Resources of America celebrates the hard work and industrialism of America in the first half of the twentieth century. And in Brooklyn's MetroTech Center just over the Brooklyn Bridge, several installations of art are on view at any given time—from an iron lasso resembling a iant charm bracelet to a series of wagons that play recordings of great American poems to a life-sized seeing eye dog that looks so real people are constantly stopping to pet it.

There exists in every city a symbiotic relationship between the city and its art. When we hear the term art, we tend to think of private art—the kind displayed in private spaces such as museums, concert halls, and galleries. But there is a growing interest in, and respect for, public art: the kind of art created for and displayed in public spaces such as parks, building lobbies, and sidewalks.

Although all art is inherently public—created in order to convey an idea or emotion to others—"public art," as opposed to art that is sequestered in museums and galleries, is art specifically designed for a public arena where the art will be encountered by people in their normal day-to-day activities. Public art can be purely ornamental or highly functional; it can be as subtle as a decorative door knob or as conspicuous as the Chicago Picasso. It is also an essential element of effective urban design.

The more obvious forms of public art include monuments, sculptures, fountains, murals, and gardens. But public art also takes the form of ornamental benches or street lights, decorative manhole covers, and mosaics on trash bins. Many city dwellers would be surprised to discover just how much public art is really around them and how much art they have passed by without noticing, and how much impact public art has on their day-to-day lives.

Public art fulfills several functions essential to the health of a city and its citizens. It educates about history and culture—of the artist, the neighborhood, the city, the nation. Public art is also a "place-making device" that instantly creates memorable, experiential landmarks, fashioning a unique identity for a public place, personalizing it and giving it a specific character. It stimulates the public, challenging viewers to interpret the art and arousing their emotions, and it promotes community by stimulating interaction among viewers. In serving these multiple and important functions, public art beautifies the area and regenerates both the place and the viewer.

One question often debated in public art forums is whether public art should be created with or by the public rather than for the public. Increasingly, cities and artists are recognizing the importance of creating works with meaning for the intended audience, and this generally requires direct input from the community or from an artist entrenched in that community. At the same time, however, art created for the community by an "outsider" often adds fresh perspective. Thus, cities and their citizens are best served by a combination of public art created by members of the community, art created with input from members of the community, and art created by others for the community.

  1. The primary purpose of the opening paragraph is to
    1. show how entertaining public art can be.
    2. introduce readers to the idea of public art.
    3. define public art.
    4. get readers to pay more attention to public art.
    5. show the prevalence and diversity of public art.
  2. The word inherently in line 18 most nearly means
    1. essentially.
    2. complicated.
    3. wealthy.
    4. snobby.
    5. mysteriously
  3. According to lines 12–25, public art is differentiated from private art mainly by
    1. the kind of ideas or emotions it aims to convey to its audience.
    2. its accessibility.
    3. its perceived value.
    4. its importance to the city.
    5. the recognition that artists receive for their work.
  4. The use of the word sequestered in line 20 suggests that the author feels
    1. private art is better than public art.
    2. private art is too isolated from the public.
    3. the admission fees for public art arenas prevent many people from experiencing the art.
    4. private art is more difficult to understand than public art.
    5. private art is often controversial in nature.
  5. According to lines 33–42, public art serves all of the following functions EXCEPT
    1. beautification.
    2. creation of landmarks.
    3. the fostering of community.
    4. the promotion of good citizenship.
    5. education.
  6. Which sentence best sums up the main idea of the passage?
    1. Public art serves several important functions in the city.
    2. Public art is often in direct competition with private art.
    3. Public art should be created both by and for members of the community.
    4. In general, public art is more interesting than private art.
    5. Few people are aware of how much public art is around them.
  7. The author's goals in this passage include all of the following EXCEPT
    1. to make readers more aware of the public art works.
    2. to explain the difference between public art and private art.
    3. to explain how public art impacts the city.
    4. to inspire readers to become public artists.
    5. to argue that public art should be created by artists from both inside and outside the community.
  8. Which of the following does the author NOT provide in this passage?
    1. an explanation of how the city affects art
    2. specific examples of urban art
    3. a reason why outsiders should create public art
    4. a clear distinction between public and private art
    5. an explanation of how public art regenerates the community
  9. Given the author's main purpose, which of the following would most strengthen the passage?
    1. a more detailed discussion of the differences between public and private art.
    2. specific examples of art that fulfills each of the functions discussed in paragraph 5 (lines 33–42).
    3. interviews with public artists about how public art should be created.
    4. a specific example of public art created by a community member versus one created by an outsider to expand paragraph 6 (lines 43–52).
    5. a brief lesson in how to interpret art.
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