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Triptych is a work of art (usually a panel painting) that is divided into three sections, or three carved panels that are hinged together and, in some cases, it can be folded shut or displayed open. The term Triptych is derived from the Greek adjective “triptukhon” which means three folds. It can broadly bedescribed as polyptych a general term used for multi panel works.  The size of each panel varies according to the subject of the art work, generally the middle panel is the largest but that does not make it a rule. There are examples of triptychs that have equal size panels.

In more common terms a triptych can be defined as an artwork, usually a painting or photograph, formed as a trio. The origins of Triptych date back to Middle Ages, and it gradually became a standard form of altar paintings. It was an art form intended to be displayed together and consisted of a substantial centre with two adjoining smaller wings, which could be folded to protect the panels. Beyond its association with art, the term is sometimes used more generally to connote anything with three parts, particularly if integrated into a single unit.

The triptych art became a popular form of art during and after Middle Ages and was widely used in early Christian art. Its geographical range was from the eastern Byzantine churches to the Celtic churches in the west. But, the format of triptych painting was not only used in Christian faith but also in Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism. For example: the triptych Hilje-j-Sherif displayed at the National Museum of Oriental Art, Rome, Italy, and a page of the Qur’an at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul, Turkey, exemplify Ottoman religious art adapting the motif.  Likewise, Tibetan Buddhists have used it in traditional altars.

In the earlier times Triptychs were mostly used for private devotional use, along with other relics such as icons. From the Gothic period onward, both in Europe and elsewhere, altarpieces in churches and cathedrals were often in triptych form. One such cathedral with an altarpiece triptych is Llandaff Cathedral. The Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp, Belgium, contains two examples by Rubens, and Notre Dame de Paris is another example of the use of triptych in architecture. The form is echoed by the structure of many ecclesiastical stained-glass windows. This form of art was also used by Renaissance painters such as Hans Memling and Hieronymus Bosch as well as Sculptors of that time.

Apart from its presentational and safety perspective the triptychs also provided ease of transportation. During the World War Two triptychs served as a convenient form of art that was widely used for religious service. During the war A private citizens’ committee in the United States commissioned painters and sculptors to create portable three-panel hinged altarpieces for use by Christian and Jewish soldiers for religious purposes.  By the end of the war, 70 artists had created 460 triptychs. Among the most prolific were Violet Oakley, Nina Barr Wheeler, and Hildreth Meiere.

Triptychs provide a long history of religious art and is strongly identified as a religious altarpiece form, but there are many artists who have used triptychs outside that context.Many pre-modern, modern, and as well as post-modern artists have created works in this form and even today examples of triptychs can be found. Some of the best-known examples of triptychs can be found in the works of Max Beckmann and Francis Bacon. Bacon’s 1969 triptych, Three Studies of Lucian Freud, was sold in 2013 for $142.4 million, which was the highest price ever paid for an artwork at auction at that time. That record was broken in May 2015 by $179.4 million for Pablo Picasso’s 1955 painting Les Femmes d’Alger.

Some other examples of triptych are ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ created by Early Netherlandish master, Hieronymus Bosch. It is a triptych painted in oil on oak around the beginning of the 16th century, featuring the creation of the world in its unique way. And Rubens’, ‘Elevation of the Cross’, located in the Antwerp Cathedral, which is oil on wood triptych apparently inspired by Italian Renaissance and Baroque artists, depicting the moment Christ was taken down from the cross after his crucifixion.

Apart from painting triptych is commonly used in modern photography. A photographic triptych is usually arranged with a plain border between them. The work may consist of separate images that are variants on a theme, or may be one larger image split into three.

Triptychs exist in all sizes, depending upon the subject of the painting the size can vary from tiny artworks to canvasses that cover an entire wall. And on canvases triptychs are not mostly foldable, they feature three distinct panels that together form a cohesive artwork when displayed together. Triptychs provide artist with an extra advantage that allows to represent a single narrative from different perspectives.

Traditionally, a triptych is hung vertically and must be read from left to right. But as said earlier there is no hard rule governing it so one can find many triptychs that use horizontal displays.

Conceptual art

Conceptual art emerged in the late 1960s, with an aim to redefine art. It was a movement that emphasized ideas and theoretical practices rather than the creation of visual forms. The term conceptual art was coined in 1967, by the artist Sol LeWitt in his essay “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art”. In that easy he wrote, “The idea itself, even if not made visual, is as much a work of art as any finished product.” Conceptual art challenged the definition of art as well as underlying ideological structures of artistic production, distribution, and display.

Conceptual art can also be defined as an art work that gives more importance to idea or concept behind the work rather than the visual appearance of finished art object. Conceptual art can be – and can look like – almost anything because, it’s not about how perfectly the idea is expressed but it’s the idea itself that matters. Therefore, unlike a painter or sculptor who will think about how best they can express their idea using paint or sculptural materials and techniques, a conceptual artist uses whatever materials and whatever form is most appropriate to putting their idea across – this could be anything from a performance to a written description.

Conceptual art began in 1960s but as far as the depths of conceptual art are concerned it can be traced back to Marcel Duchamp’s fountain, which is considered as first conceptual artwork. Conceptual art was an international movement happening simultaneously across Europe, North America, and South America, and was gradually adopted by many artists across the globe.

In conceptual art the execution is a perfunctory affair, it’s the idea or concept that constitutes the most important aspect of the work. Conceptual art movement was a brave and significant step that attempted to bypass the increasingly commercialised art world by stressing thought processes and methods of production as the value of the work. The art forms they used were often intentionally those that do not produce a finished object such as a sculpture or painting. This meant that their work could not be easily bought and sold and did not need to be viewed in a formal gallery situation.

In one of the examples of conceptual art a French artist Daniel Buren pasted 200 green-and-white striped posters around Paris without authorization, in the middle of the night.  Buren created a series of striped materials—including posters, billboards, fabric, and clothing producing in 1966. Buren considered this motif of alternating colored and white vertical stripes (each precisely 3.4 inches in width) to be a stand-in for painting, and hoped it would free painting from its traditional burden of having to tell a story, represent something or someone, or express emotion.

Like many conceptual artists as well as the object of whole movement of conceptual art Buren also hoped to liberate painting from the confines of the museum, by pasting his work in highly trafficked public spaces. Buren was concerned that museums and galleries were assuming the authority to define art. As he put it, “The museum/gallery instantly promotes to ‘art’ status whatever it exhibits with conviction, i.e., habit, thus diverting in advance any attempt to question the foundations of art.”

Conceptual art like many other art movements has not seized in time but it continued its influence on generations of artists to follow. One can even find examples of conceptual art in 21st century, practiced with same rigor and honesty.

 Art Term


A painting technique that describes the soft transition between colours. The Mona Lisa, is a key example of sfumato, which derives from the Italian word for smoke. Leonardo da Vinci described it as: “without lines or borders, in the manner of smoke or beyond the focus plane.” In English, it has come to mean softened or blurred edges and lines when applied to artworks.




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