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Portraits - Cultural leaders

Historical images of cultural leaders start with portraits of great authors, beginning with the classical period. Aristotle, Plato, Herodotus, and other ancient Greek and Roman writers laid the foundations of Western intellectual principles and methods. As western Europe emerged from feudalism, Renaissance authors Dante and Chaucer contributed to literary history, followed by Elizabethan literature, especially known for the works of William Shakespeare. Marking the progress of English literature are portraits of such authors as Henry Fielding, Samuel Johnson, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Portraits from French literature feature Moliere, Voltaire, Alexandre Dumas both father and son, and the original creator of science fiction Jules Verne. An important contribution from German literature is the folktale treasury of the Brothers Grimm. Noteworthy American authors include Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, and Jack London, shown in historical pictures.

Other writers important in literary history are the poets, starting with Homer, illustrating once again the cultural importance of ancient Greece. Great poets who followed include William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Robert Burns, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Phyllis Wheatley, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Paul Lawrence Dunbar. Playwrights, some of whom were also poets, are represented by Shakespeare, Moliere, Ben Jonson, and of course the ancient Greek playwrights, for example, Euripedes. Philosophers whose ideas have become milestones in intellectual history include Socrates, Descartes, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Niccolo Machiavelli, Henry David Thoreau. and Karl Marx, seen in historical portraits. The world's cultures have been shaped by these creative thinkers as often as by political and economic events.

Passion as well as talent come together in music of all kinds; however, the classical composers are a special group in cultural history. Portraits of the great creators of music include Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Georg Friedrich Handel, Johannes Brahms, Franz Joseph Haydn, Carl Maria von Weber, Robert and Clara Schumann, Franz Liszt, Frederic Chopin, Jacques Offenbach, Giuseppe Verdi, Richard Wagner, and Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky. Artists throughout history have given form to cultural emotions and ideas. A turning point in art history was the Italian Renaissance, when master painters and architects such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarotti set the bar for artistic vision and technique in subsequent centuries.

Religious philosophers and founders have had historical importance beyond single events, including Jesus, Buddha, and Confucius. Other religious leaders have included Roman Catholic Popes and notable Christian reformers, for example, Martin Luther whose criticisms began the Protestant Reformation, his follower and the founder of Calvinism John Calvin, Saint Ignatius of Loyola who founded the Jesuits, the founder of Methodism John Wesley, George Fox who began the Society of Friends known as Quakers, the early Mormon leaders Brigham Young and Joseph Smith, and many others. Early saints contributed to the spread of Christianity, notably the original Apostles or Disciples, as well as important medieval monks such as Saint Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin in an edition known as the Vulgate, and Saint Aiden of Lindisfarne, credited with restoring Christianity in Northumbria, an area in the north of England. In the same vein, missionaries and preachers are seen in historical pictures bringing Christianity to far-flung places, such as Bartolome de las Casas in Aztec Mexico, Father Junipero Serra in Spanish colonial Mexico and California, Father Damien living among the lepers in Hawaii, and Great Awakening preachers George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards. Other religious figures of importance were church officials at critical periods of history, including Cardinal Richelieu and Cardinal Ximenes, as well as the Puritan Oliver Cromwell who headed the British government between the overthrow and restoration of the monarchy. Important early religious figures include the Hebrew patriarchs and Biblical characters who established the underpinnings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, for example, Abraham, Noah, Moses, King David, and the prophets. Because images of the great prophet Mohammed are offensive to Muslims, no portraits of him are shown, but this is not to deny Mohammad's historical importance as a religious leader. Many other theologians and religious leaders have played an important role in cultural history.

Although not as concrete as portraits of known historical persons, figures from myth and legend have cultural value for ideas or exploits they represent. Among these are classical gods and goddesses such as Zeus and Athena as well as Norse deities like Odin. Not all mythical figures have been human, for instance, werewolves, dragons, monsters, and the fabled animals from Aesop. The supernatural world is represented by images of angels, devils and demons, witches and sorcerers, ghosts, and even phantom ships. The thunderbird is one of many Native American spiritual beings which exert power over human activities, such as bringing rain for crops. Characters from literature are highlighted by the many adventurers in the Arab story collection, 1001 Nights, for instance, Sinbad the Sailor and Ali Baba. Similarly, European folktales have forever established childhood experiences of charmed princesses and evil powers, such as Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel. British folklore includes Beowulf and King Arthur, along with the wizard Merlin. Other memorable characters from literature are Gulliver and the Lilliputians in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, and Rip Van Winkle created by Washington Irving. Symbolic characters may personify a nation, for example, the British lion or Uncle Sam. Finally, Santa Claus is but one of the delightful imaginary and often magical persons in folklore who have appealed to the human creative spirit throughout history.


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