Student Resource

Force Exam Help

From forces of nature and forceful feelings to force as a method, explore how artists have used force in art

Auguste Rodin, ‘The Kiss’ 1901–4
Auguste Rodin
The Kiss 1901–4
Tate
Jenny Holzer, ‘[no title]’ 1979–82
Jenny Holzer
[no title] 1979–82
Tate
© Jenny Holzer, member/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Doris Salcedo, ‘Shibboleth IV’ 2007
Doris Salcedo
Shibboleth IV 2007
Tate
© Doris Salcedo
William Etty, ‘Hero, Having Thrown herself from the Tower at the Sight of Leander Drowned, Dies on his Body’ exhibited 1829
William Etty
Hero, Having Thrown herself from the Tower at the Sight of Leander Drowned, Dies on his Body exhibited 1829
Tate
John Martin, ‘The Great Day of His Wrath’ 1851–3
John Martin
The Great Day of His Wrath 1851–3
Tate
John William Waterhouse, ‘The Lady of Shalott’ 1888
John William Waterhouse
The Lady of Shalott 1888
Tate
Joseph Mallord William Turner, ‘Snow Storm - Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth’ exhibited 1842
Joseph Mallord William Turner
Snow Storm - Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth exhibited 1842
Tate
Jackson Pollock, ‘Summertime: Number 9A’ 1948
Jackson Pollock
Summertime: Number 9A 1948
Tate
© Pollock - Krasner Foundation, Inc.
Tania Bruguera, ‘Tatlin’s Whisper #5’ 2008
Tania Bruguera
Tatlin’s Whisper #5 2008
Tate
© Tania Bruguera
Roy Lichtenstein, ‘Whaam!’ 1963
Roy Lichtenstein
Whaam! 1963
Tate
© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Force can mean power, energy or strength; it could refer to aggression, control or weapons. You could also think about how it is used in phrases as a starting point for your ideas – forcing someone’s hand, the forces of nature, a force of emotion

Forces of nature

John Martin, ‘The Great Day of His Wrath’ 1851–3
John Martin
The Great Day of His Wrath 1851–3
Tate

In the first half of the 19th century, John Martin painted apocalyptic scenes of landscapes torn apart by the forces of nature – epic storms, and hell on earth. Turner used quite a different style to show the potency of storms, with a more romantic approach to landscape painting.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, ‘Snow Storm - Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth’ exhibited 1842
Joseph Mallord William Turner
Snow Storm - Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth exhibited 1842
Tate

Forceful feelings

John William Waterhouse, ‘The Lady of Shalott’ 1888
John William Waterhouse
The Lady of Shalott 1888
Tate
William Etty, ‘Hero, Having Thrown herself from the Tower at the Sight of Leander Drowned, Dies on his Body’ exhibited 1829
William Etty
Hero, Having Thrown herself from the Tower at the Sight of Leander Drowned, Dies on his Body exhibited 1829
Tate

There is something forceful in works about tragic love, often based on mythology. The hero of Etty’s epic painting throws herself from a tower when she sees Leander has drowned. Waterhouse’s Lady of Shalott suffers from a curse forced upon her. August Rodin’s sculpture The Kiss shows two figures so passionately in love, they appear to be alone in the world.

Forces and impact

Roy Lichtenstein, ‘Whaam!’ 1963
Roy Lichtenstein
Whaam! 1963
Tate
© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

A force is responsible for a sudden impact. Roy Lichtenstein paints a plane crash and highlights the force of the explosion with the onomatopoeic Whaam!. Jenny Holzer prints instructions on how to induce fear, using the word ‘force’ to indicate and incite pressure. Both artists chose to use words rather than gesture, to convey meaning in an instantly abrupt way.

Jenny Holzer, ‘[no title]’ 1979–82
Jenny Holzer
[no title] 1979–82
Tate
© Jenny Holzer, member/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Jenny Holzer, ‘[no title]’ 1979–82
Jenny Holzer
[no title] 1979–82
Tate
© Jenny Holzer, member/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Jenny Holzer, ‘[no title]’ 1979–82
Jenny Holzer
[no title] 1979–82
Tate
© Jenny Holzer, member/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Force as a method

Jackson Pollock, ‘Summertime: Number 9A’ 1948
Jackson Pollock
Summertime: Number 9A 1948
Tate
© Pollock - Krasner Foundation, Inc.

In the 1960s, artists such as the Vienna Actionists used force as a method of painting. They threw and driped paint at canvases, like Jackson Pollock. The focus was on the process of making art rather than art as a finished product. Tate’s exhibition A Bigger Splash explored artists who saw painting as performance, done with vigour and violence. It included artists such as Niki de Saint Phalle who tied balloons of paint to canvases, which were then shot at by visitors, causing the paint to explode.

Forced interactions

Tania Bruguera, ‘Tatlin’s Whisper #5’ 2008
Tania Bruguera
Tatlin’s Whisper #5 2008
Tate
© Tania Bruguera

Tate has staged art that forced interaction between visitors and the gallery space. Tania Bruguera's performance piece, Tatlin’s Whisper #5 involves two men in police uniform riding horses through a crowd. Doris Salcedo drilled a monumental crack across the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, as if an earthquake tore the concrete floor apart.

Doris Salcedo, ‘Shibboleth IV’ 2007
Doris Salcedo
Shibboleth IV 2007
Tate
© Doris Salcedo

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