Kakos' 4th Hour

Reactions and comments from my fourth hour Honors American Literature class.


My favorite place in the world to be is underwater. My second favorite place is the front of a classroom.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Drawing Electricity from the Sky

Examine Benjamin West's painting, Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky (1805). You may access this painting via the following link: http://www.frankelec.com/west_fullsize.htm. You can also find the painting on page 87 of your yellow American Literature book. After spending a few moments with the painting, please respond to one or more of the following questions:
1. What do you think the artist is trying to achieve in this painting? Consider the sometimes clashing roles of science and religion and how they function in this painting.
2. What are your reactions to this painting?
3. What do you think Benjamin Franklin thought of this portrait of himself?


Blogger Robn said...

1) The artist behind "Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky" wanted to juxtapose religion and science in a similar environment. However, he was probably looking for more similarities than differences. That is, science and relgion have always been thought of as mutually exclusive, but Benjamin West brought them together to show that they cannot exist without each other. Benjamin Franklin is depicted as drawing science (electricty) from the heavens (God). The two are intertwined, for science seeks to explain the ways of the universe as designed by a creator, and the creator uses the natural laws of science to govern his kingdom.

12:33 PM  
Blogger Robn said...

2) I really like the way Benjamin West brought science and religion together into a mutualistic package/relationship. It calls for more harmony and balance in society, instead of the polarized world we live in today.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Robn said...

3) Initially, Franklin may have resented the connection between himself and religion; being a dissenting agnostic himself. However, Franklin, who holds himself in high regard, would appreciate the intonation that he serves as a transitive between science and religion for all people. He also knew that religious people would hold him in higher regard if he was portrayed not as blasphemer, but as a servant of God seeking to know the ways of the heavens.

12:40 PM  
Blogger JocelynH said...

In the painting of Benjamin Franklin, he looks like he is trying to figure out what electricity is conducted from, in this case the metal key, and how it relates to science. In the background, there are children that look like something that Michaelangelo would draw on the ceiling in which it represents the heavens from above. He looks like he is showing that there is a greater connection to science and to religion than there is or there should be a bigger connection.

In this painting, my first reaction was that I just saw Benjamin Franklin holding the key and thought back to what I had learned in elementary school. We all learned some time in our life that Mr. Franklin was the one who discovered that metal had a connection some how to lightning and that's how electricity was conducted, but what we didn't realize is it's connection to religion. After analyzing the painting at a closer look, I saw the children in the background and it simply symbolized that religion was somehow related to his religion.

After Benjamin Franklin saw the portrait of himself, I think he probably would have liked it and it proved to people the connection with science and religion at a greater glance. He might've also had a strong reaction to what it shows and how "crazy" he is to try and conduct electricity with lightning weather.

12:56 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth B. said...

1) I think that the artist is trying to show that he believes that science and religion should mix because even though they are very different, they coexist with each other. Religion cannot be 100% proven, but Science is all about facts and concepts that can be proven. Usually religion does not agree with science such as people evolving from apes not the seven days view that come religions have. Maybe the artist is trying to show that the two help explain eachother and that they need each other to coexist for man to be able to explain the unknown.

1:32 PM  
Blogger JeffN said...

1) Generally, science and religion have a very difficult time coexisting with one another. Take the idea of evolution and creationism. Only evolution can be taught in schools due to not only the Constitution of the United States but also because of their contrasting ideas. The picture, however, depicts the idea of the invention of electricity having something to do with the religion that Ben Franklin followed.This painting could potentially be saying that even though there is a separation of church and state and that even though the ideas of religion and science are on two entirely different ends of the spectrum, there is a possibility that the two do have something in common, share a common bond that could potentially affect life in the future.

4:12 PM  
Blogger JacobW said...

I believe that the artist Benjamin West wanted to show that electricity was discovered through an act of spiritual not material enlightenment. He might have supposed that the means by which Benjamin Franklin stumbled upon his revelation where far too coincidental to present any other cause except a genuine miracle. The roles of science and religion coincide in the painting because the artist believed it was God who gave the discovery to Benjamin Franklin and the rest of humanity.

I admire the way the artist skillfully fused the two aspects of religion and science into one accumulative amalgam, but I do not find this relationship to be far fetched. However, I believe that the artist was giving Benjamin Franklin far too much credit. The painting depicts him splashed in holy rays of righteous sunshine, and assisted by the profits of the Almighty Himself, as if Benjamin Franklin were an electrocuted profit reaching towards the towering heavens with eyes thirsting for the betterment of mankind; all the while enthronged in rapture, clothed in splendor, and beset upon a moral foundation of stone.

Benjamin Franklin would have looked at the picture and laughed at the fact that our nations love for his acclaimed heroism was ever taken to such an extreme.

4:27 PM  
Blogger BrittanyL said...

Wow, Jacob, those are some powerful statements about the holiness Franklin seems to posses in this painting. I would have to agree with you that the artist does make him look like a divine god. I also think that Franklin would have been offended by this portrait because he does not believe in angels or any other religion; he said himself he was an atheist. He would not appreciate that it looks like he discovered electricity with the help of angels and not on his own.

4:42 PM  
Blogger lindzd said...

This made milk come out of my nose! I find this painting to be more humorous than powerful and awesome. Benjamin Franklin did invent, discover, and improve on many aspects of daily life including his own self-improvement.Really this painting makes science and religion come as a whole under Benjamin Franklin as "lord of the universe" it seems. The painter did an excellent job, and Benjamin Franklin may secretly have liked it but wouldn't have admitted it with his Quaker buddies around.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Raychel H said...

I think the artist was tring to convey a point that what Benjamin Franklin did was truly a miracle. Also that he had angels working with him and helping him acheive such a great thing. Wether it be accidental or compleatly on purpose, Benjamin Franklin DID discover electricity and the painter wanted the world to see his opinion on this event.

I think this is a very interesting veiw of the discovery of electricity, I never really thought too much about it before.

I think that Benjamin Franklin's reaction would have been somewhat humorus, although I'm sure he liked being portrayed as such an important person, he probably didn't feel that a reaction like this was necessary.

6:24 PM  
Blogger kerstinm3 said...

1) I believe that the artist is trying to achieve the fact that what some may invent, without a little help from God would never have come true.Maybe the lightning storm that helped create the possibility of electrcity was made by God. Without it electricty would not have been discovered on that stormy night.Or would it? If you look at Franklin's left hand in it is a piece of paper. Assuming this paper is his thinking behinde the idea of electricty, it is depicted in the painting because it shows that with his thought process he was able to creat an idea that changed the human race and how we live forever. If one idea written out on a small piece of paper can change human race forever what can a big piece of paper do?

7:00 PM  
Blogger Cayleigh B said...

In this painting, it seems that the artist is trying to portray that what Benjamin Franklin did was not necessarliy an act of genious, it was more a miracle. If you look at how the light comes down on Benjamin, it only illuminates his head. The rest of his body is dark. The angel, standing beside him however, is fully illuminated. This could be taken that Benjamin Franklin did not really discover electricity, it mearly just fell into his hands. It was all just a miracle, a coincidence.

7:04 PM  
Blogger KerryL said...

The painting is depicting the way the artist himself views Franklin and his inventions. Not only did the painting show that Franklin shouldnt be the only one credited for his invention of electricity, it showed that the children and a higher power created the experiment and benifited from electricity. The picture took me a while to view and see all of the different perspectives that the artist was trying to portray. Franklin probably thought that this was a crazy painter with odd ideas about how his incredible invention came to be.

7:40 PM  
Blogger KaiaN said...

Personally, I thought this painting was very annoying. Benjamin Franklin is put on a pedestal like a god while the angels are helping him pull electricity out of the sky. Where is the electricity coming from- God? If so, why does this painting make Ben look so amazing? He didn't MAKE it. I think the artist is trying to portray Ben as admirable, and I'm sure Ben loved that he looked so good.

7:41 PM  
Blogger Katy L said...

In this painting I believe that Benjamin West is trying to show us that Ben Franklin was very strong in his faith. I also think the painting is trying to portray the idea that although science and religion beliefs are very different, they may relate somehow.
My reaction to this painting is that Ben Franklin did not discover electricity by himself, but God and the angels helped bless him with knowledge.

7:45 PM  
Blogger KatieC said...

I think that this painting is quite funny and maybe even a little ridicoulous. It's making it seem like Ben Franklin had done something that could relate to the power of God. Quite flattering I must say. Pulling electricity from heaven? I guess I can understand why this painting was done; it was because the artist obviously was or is a fan of Franklin, and his "invention", however I still think it's a bit much to compare the discovery of electricity to a supposed "miracle from heaven".

7:50 PM  
Blogger DanielC said...

I think that Ben Franklin must have thought he was some sort of instrument in the hands of God. That's cool by me. I think its a little prideful if convinced himself of that. For all I know though, maybe that was his destiny, kind of deal. Ben can be credited with discovering electricty I guess. But it still took many more years and other men to learn how to harness it. I think the painting is misleading because it suggests that Ben gets all the glory.

7:45 AM  
Blogger meganJ said...

Quite personally I believe this painting is a little ridiculous. It is as if the artist is trying to make Ben resemble some sort of a god. He certainly discovered electricity, but he himself did not MAKE it. I believe this portrait could be interpreted in several different ways. Take for instance, it could be humbling - the way it shows the dwarfs and angels assisting him. In a way showing that he himself did not do all the work in discovering electricity. Yet i do not believe that the painting was meant to be interpreted that way, especially if one takes into consideration the smug look that is upon Ben's face. The way i veiw the portrait is I resent the way the little dwarfs and angels in the background appear to be his slaves. I believe that Ben would have appreciated this painting, especially after reading the assigned short story about him, he seemed to think of himself very highly.

11:10 AM  
Blogger amandag said...

In my opinion I think that the artist of this painting veiws Ben Franklin as a median for a higher power to reach humanity. Franklin, in this painting, was willing to reach for this oportunity. It's as if the angels have been holding this string up... just waiting for some human to jump at the opportunity to "make this invention." I think that Franklin was a very knowledgable man, but I think that he gives himself too much credit. I believe that this artist is also trying to show that Ben Franklin shouldn't give himself as much credit as he does.

12:52 PM  
Blogger StaceyW said...

Quetion 2: I'm not that impressed. Benjamin Franklin looks either very focused or very confussed, I just can't decide which. Personally I would be confussed, the painting only shows a string, what is he doing with that string anyway. The painting isn't very realistic, i know it's probably not supposed to be, but, how could he work with all those naked babies running around. That one pulling on his string, the nerve, if Franklin wanted the string pulled, he would be pulling it himself. I think the babies are trying to ruin something. Maybe it's religion holding back or trying hault the advance of science and/or reason. I think I ended up answering question one as well as two!

2:37 PM  

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