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The Tragedy by Pablo Picasso was painted in 1903 in Barcelona, Spain (nga.gov). The piece was constructed by oil on wood. It stands at 41 7/16 x 27 3/16 inches (nga.gov). The time at which The Tragedy was created is known as Picasso’s “blue period.” At this time he was dealing with the recent suicide of his close friend Carlos Casagemas (Artist Pablo Picasso). “The blue period” was defined by gloomy and depressive subject matter, and an overuse of blue colors. Both of these characteristics are evident in The Tragedy.
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The scene in the painting is that of a middle aged man, a woman, and a young boy standing on a shoreline. The scene is dark blue and gloomy which helps to create an overwhelming feeling of sadness evident in the painting. The three of them are position at an angle from the viewer and the woman stands with her back to the viewer. Their body language tells us of stress and depression. Picasso provided little detail to the sky or ocean, both of which are blue. The dark sand also lacks detail and has been mixed with shades of blue. The bodies and clothes of the people are the only detailed parts of the work. This was done to make sure that the viewer knows the importance of the piece is human emotion. The three of them are without shoes, and their clothes are dark in color suggesting that they are wet.
Picasso mostly used line and color to complete the visual elements of The Tragedy. The colors of the blue period reflected the depression of his own life into his art. This is especially true in this work. The lines in this piece are mostly vertical. Most are a part of the makeup of the people. Two strong vertical lines outline the woman and one strong vertical line holds up the right side of the man. Other vertical lines make up the remainder of the man and also the boy. These types of lines are also very emphasized in the makeup of their clothes. One strong horizontal line separates the water from the sky. The strong horizontal line helps to balance the painting which is mostly dominated by vertical lines.
The work is mostly still with slight motion apparent where the water meets the shore. Picasso used several white, flowing lines to represent this motion. Otherwise the ocean and the sky are calm and still. The painting is not quite symmetrical. The woman stands to one side of the scene, and the boy and man to the other. Though this would seem to set the piece off balance, Picasso did a great job of keeping the work very well balanced through the use of color and line. The scale of the people in comparison to the water and sky is not well proportioned. The people almost seem too big for the scene. Though this is so, I believe it is an effect used to again show the focus of humans and their emotion to this work.
The deep blue’s of this art is what caught my eye. When I saw this piece I knew I needed to know the story. After some research on the piece I feel as though the story Picasso is telling us is still unknown. Perhaps he wanted the individual viewer to interpret the story in their own way. One review on the work (The Artist Pablo Picasso) suggested that the man, woman, and boy are a family. This review suggests that the family is not stranded on the beach as many would assume at first look, but rather that they are a homeless family who live on or near this beach. The reviewer says that the way the family stands suggests this possibility. He argues that the family seems familiar with the area and stands aloof as if in deep thought rather than looking as though they are distraught and confused as they would if they were lost. A second review of the work written by Jon Corey suggests that guilt is a main theme in the work. He says that multiple characteristics of the man’s posture suggest that he is the guilty party. These characteristics include a dropped head and one foot a step back from the other. He says that the body language of the woman implies that she is “the one who reprimands the man.” Corey also suggests that the three subjects are not a family. This is illustrated through the distance between the three of them. We assume that if they were a family there would be a stronger feeling of connectedness between the three of them. Although I agree more with the latter analysis of the work, Corey does not tell us his view of where the three of them came from. In my personal opinion I think that the three of them did come from the sea, but like Corey I do not think they are a family. They all look cold and wet as if they had just washed ashore. I feel that that they are the only three survivors of a ship that capsized. Perhaps guilt is a theme of the piece in that they feel guilty of being the only survivors.
Blue is my favorite color, and though it represents sadness especially in this particular work, I am still very drawn to it. I think that the mysteriousness of the work also draws me in. I am not typically a fan of Picasso, but I like this piece. It is something that I would have in my own home if given the chance. I am still interested to know if there was an intended story behind the work or if it was simply meant for me to tell my own.
Artist Pablo Picasso, The. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.theartistpablopicasso.com/pablo- picasso-painting-tragedy.htm (2010, April 21).
Corey, Jon. (2007, November 13). Art History. Retrieved from: http://quazen.com/arts/art-history/pablo-picassos (2010, April 21).
National Gallery of Art. (2010). Pablo Picasso’s The Tragedy: Metamorphosis of a Painting. Retrieved from http://www.nga.gov/feature/picasso/index.shtm (2010, April 20).
Claude Monet: The Japanese Footbridge 1899
Claude Monet was a French artist who lived from 1840 until 1926. This painting titled The Japanese Footbridge was completed in 1899. The piece is a scene from his own water garden at Giverny (nga.gov). The scene was recreated by him over 250 times during the later half of his life. He became so obsessed with painting this particular scene that eventually became the only topic of his works (nga.gov). There are multiple other works by Monet with same or similar titles and content. This piece is 32 x 40in and was created by oil on canvas (nga.gov).
Monet was a major part of the impressionism movement. The term “impressionism” was actually an insult made toward a work by Monet (Frank 366). The term stuck and the movement grew. The focus of these artists was landscapes, seasons, and time of day. The impressionist wanted to portray “what the eye actually sees rather than what the mind knows” (Frank 365). From this movement The Japanese Footbridge was created.
The painting depicts a stream surround by very tall and thick grass. The stream is covered in light pink lily pads. The water is not clear, but rather emphasizes the reflection of the grass surrounding it. As an impressionist piece the colors are not separated, but instead meshed together making a less vivid image of the scene. Starting the bottom of the work you see the scene as if from almost eye level with the water. At the top of the canvas a blue-gray bridge crosses the stream leading to either side of the grassy banks. There are trees in the background giving us a sense that the stream winds out of view. Like most of Monet’s work and that of other impressionist there is very little to the scene. The bridge, water, grass, lily pads, and background of trees complete the scene giving us no view of the sky or what lies to either side of the stream.
The visual elements of the work give the viewer a feeling of peace when viewing the painting. The lines are soft and curved. The curve of the bridge is the most prominent line in the work. The soft yet bold line of the bridge combined with its blueish-gray color sets the mood for the viewer. Although it is a peaceful scene, the balance of the color scheme sets the mood to neither happy nor sad. The dark greens and blues contrast the light pinks and white. The scene is very still which also helps the viewer to feel at peace. There is no recognizable notion to movement of the water leading us to believe it is either a still stream or a very slow moving one. This lack of notion makes me feel as though time is standing still in the painting. The center of the work is light in contrast to heavy. The heaviness or mass in the piece is focused in the background and to the sides. This mass is concentrated in the thick forest of tress in the background and the overgrown grass to the sides. The focus of light (color) is on the bridge. In a few spots on what we see as the front of the bridge the color is very light blue. It almost does not match the rest of the bridge. Monet used this to give the illusion that the sun is reflecting off the bridge. Knowing that time of day was important to his work, I must conclude that this is a scene at either sunset or sunrise.
The painting is almost perfectly symmetrical. The stream runs directly through the center of the work dividing the two grassy banks into two small equal proportions. The way the water winds smoothly around the lily pads leads the eye to the trees of the background. In this background there is a dark spot in the trees that falls in the center of the work. This spot helps to divide the work to be even more symmetrical. The bridge railings were positioned just enough off center to prevent the work from being perfectly symmetrical, but the work is still very well balanced. A reflection of the bridge falls in the bottom of the painting extending the balance from not only left to right but also top to bottom. With the reflection of the bridge Monet makes it clear to us that this is a wooden bridge by revealing the bottom of the bridge in the reflection. In the reflection we see brown that we do not see if the actual bridge.
I have found from this class that I enjoy impressionism more than any other types of art. I cannot say that this is my favorite piece by Monet since I favor the work Impression: Sunrise as one of my favorite works of art in general, but I do like The Japanese Footbridge. I like the serenity of the scene and I love the bridge. I think the things I do not like about the painting are the view and the colors. I feel a little trapped in the small scene Monet provides for us and I want to be able to see what lies outside of what he is allowing us to see. I also find the colors a little dull. Like all artists I am sure he had a purpose in choosing his colors, but something a little brighter would have made the piece better for me. Even the use of more light could have brightened it up just enough to take away that neutral feeling of neither happiness nor sadness. Over all I think it is a good painting. He used the visual element and the principles of design in a way to make the piece easy on the eye and enjoyable to look at.
Frank, P. (2009). Prebles’ Artforms. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
National Gallery of Art. (2010). The Collection. Retrieved from
http://www.nga.gov/collection/gallery/gg85/gg85-74796.html (2010, April 19).
The Shipwreck By Claude Joseph Vernet
Claude Joseph Vernet was a French painter in the eighteenth century. He was the most famous water and landscape artist of his time (nga.gov). He was well known for portraying weather and time of day in his work (nga.gov). Most of his pieces included scenes of either rain, lightning, clouds, moonlight, sunset, storms or a combination of these subjects (nga.gov). He “Specialized in [these] stormy seascapes, often depicting sailing vessels in distress” (nga.gov).
Vernet’s painting The Shipwreck is an example of one of these specialized seascapes. The piece is 44 Ã- 64 inches and was created with the use of oil on canvas. The scene in The Shipwreck is that of a ship being washed under by massive waves. The ship has approached the beach, and the few remaining on board are just seconds from either safety or disaster. Most passengers have made it to the safety of the beach and are frantically watch as the ship is overcome with water. The wind is so powerful that the sail of the ship is being pulled inland and is running almost parallel to the beach. Those who have escaped the sinking ship have done so by climbing down the ropes of the sail and dropped safely off the rope and onto the beach. The survivors stand holding ropes of the sail in what looks to be an attempt to stabilize the ship just long enough for the remaining passengers to escape via this route. Two people hang from the ropes of safety as though debating when to let go and make the fall to land. A person on the beach stands beneath them with their arms raised as to say “Jump and I will catch you.” Four people have made it to the top of the sail and are approaching the safety of the ropes. Another person climbs the sail in an effort to reach the top and make his way down the rope. One last person can be seen on the deck of the ship. His back is to us as he leans over the side of the ship that is yet to go under. He leans hard. It makes the viewer ask if the man is on his way overboard or if he is his last attempts to reach out for someone who has already gone overboard.
To the right a person is stranded on a boulder that lines the beach. To the left another bolder strands two more people. Behind these two people a huge wave crashes against the tall rock shore line. In the front left hand corner a group of people have made it away from the crashing shore and to a safer place. Three of them attend to a limp woman who seems to be injured or even unconscious. Another man in this area rolls a barrel up the beach to a safer place.
In the back ground another ship can be seen. It also looks as though it too will soon be taken by the storm. Atop the tall rocky shoreline a castle can be seen in the distance. Vernet used lightening from the storm to create light in this piece. A huge diagonal streak of lightening hangs in the sky just above the second ship. The sky is lit in pink around the lightening while the rest of the sky is covered in dark, stormy grays and blues. The lightening streak has a sharp line that shows its strength and assertiveness in the sky. This line points directly to a city in the background of the painting. The city is lit by the lightening in a warm pink. The warmth of the city symbolized a safe place. It says to the viewer; If only the ship would have washed ashore here, everything would be okay.
Vernet used other sharp, assertive lines as well. The mast of the ship which hangs over the beach holds a sharp line that points toward the upper left hand side of the painting. The eye follows this line upward and to a broken tree branch that hangs in the rocks of the shore. Vernet used color to show us that this tree has recently been broken in the midst of the storm. The remaining tree limbs blow hard to the left indicating the direct of the overpowering wind. From there the eye is caught by the white of a breaking wave against a dark background. This is when the two people stranded on the boulder are noticed. From the boulder the eye is taken by horizontal lines of the waves of the sea and carried over to the sinking ship. This is when the viewer takes more detail to deck of the ship. From here the viewer is also made aware of a man stranded on a second boulder.
Line and color are the strongest visual elements in this piece. Though line plays a great role in the flow of the work, I feel that Vernet’s use of color is what made the painting great to me. The dark sky is lit by the lightening in a pinkish orange. This color is reflected on the city in the background. Above the city the sky is purple. The purple blends into a dark blue and grays which then become lighter blue in spots above the ship. These lighter blue spots were used to portray the sun that is hidden behind the dark, stormy clouds. The portrayal of the sun is also evident on the beach. In the area that is the focus of the piece, the sun shines down and lights the people. The sand here is lighter, and the ocean is green in this area rather than blue. In the sky above this area a break in the clouds reveals the blue sky. This is where the sunlight is coming from. I think the use of light here gives the viewer a sense of hope, and the knowing that these people will survive. In contrast to these people, the last man aboard the deck of the ship is very dark. A small area of light reflects of his back just enough to make him noticeable. I feel that this man was painted in dark colors to portray his fate of not surviving this shipwreck.
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The color and the seascape is what made me choice this painting. I love the blues, greens, and purples of the piece, and water is my favorite subject when it comes to art. After close attention to the detail of this piece I respect it in a different way. The symbolism of light and dark in this painting is beautiful. I have never really thought of art in that sense until now. It has opened my eyes to how perfectly the visual elements can be manipulated to create something meaningful.
Claude Joseph Vernet: The Shipwreck. (2010). Retrieved from the National Gallery of
Art website: http://www.nga.gov/feature/artnation/vernet/index.shtm.
(2010, April 24).
Vincent van Gogh’s Girl in White
After research on Starry Night by van Gogh, I have taken interest in him. I wanted to research another piece by him so I choose Girl in White. I choose this piece for two reasons. The first reason was because I wanted to study something far different from Starry Night. At first glance of this piece it is easy to see that the content and colors used are considerably different in the two paintings. Secondly, the time at which this was painted is interesting to me. I know that he died in July of 1890 after a self inflicted gun shot wound to the stomach (Life of van Gogh ). Girl in White is dated 1890 (nga.gov) as well, meaning this piece by him was created in the midst of his final emotional breakdown.
Girl in White was done in the post-impressionist style which van Gogh is known for. It a 26 1/4 x 18 1/16 inch oil on canvas (nga.gov). The content is exactly what it sounds like it would be. A girl dressed in a white dress stands in the center of the painting. She is surrounded by tall flowers and appears to be standing in the middle of a field. There is little detail to the work. The flowers in the piece hardly even resemble flowers. Van Gogh simply used long, thick brush strokes to represent these flowers. They are slightly off color to the rest of the back ground which makes them more noticeable. He also painted occasional small red circles which represent the buds of the flowers.
The girl is dressed in a white dress. To me this dress looks to be a wedding dress, but she wears a large sun hat on her head which means this probably is not a wedding dress. Although titled “Girl,” this does not look to be a girl, but rather a woman in her mid to late twenty’s. What little facial features van Gogh did provide make to woman appear to be stressed and unhappy. If this were a young girl I would expect a lighter mood expressed on her face.
The lines in the piece are all vertical. The woman appears to be very tall because of the way these lines were used. The long straight lines of her dress, long arms, and near abnormally long hands and fingers make this so. A curved line used in the hat which falls across her forehead helps to break up all the vertical lines. Without this line, the painting would seem too sharp and less appealing to the eye. The placement of the woman on the canvas also gives this vertical appearance. The very bottom of the canvas consists of the lower half of her dress, but her feet are not showing. The upper part contains a small amount of the surrounding field, but the woman’s hat nearly reaches the top of the canvas. Her body takes up most of the space vertically, yet more of the field is apparent to the left and right of the woman. This combined with many vertical lines emphasizes her appearance of being very tall and thin.
Van Gogh used light in an interesting way in this piece. I feel that it is hard to focus on this woman’s face because it appears dark and shaded from light. Instead the eyes are more drawn to the lighter areas of the woman which focus on her dress around the breast area and lower stomach. I do not know if this was meant to be symbolic of fertility in anyway, but it seems possible.
The colors in this piece are plain and far different from a lot of his work toward the end of his life. Van Gogh painted with dull colors in his early works, but had taken a drastic turn in color scheme in his later pieces. I personally feel like this piece is reflective of the emotional pain he was enduring at the time this was created. Since dark colors a usually associated with death and dying, which I believe van Gogh was debating at the time this was created, I feel that the light colors used here represent his peace he associated with no longer being in his cruel world. It is known that van Gogh used color to express emotion in his work and this helps me to draw this unusual conclusion.
When I look at this piece and consider the artist, and the year it was created, a story comes to my mind. I do not know if the story I create is anywhere close to the truth. I did not research this piece by van Gogh specifically, instead I wanted to take my own view of it and analyze it without any outside bias. The story I see is that of van Gogh’s lover after his death. She is dressed in her wedding dress when she hears the news of his death. In deep sorrow she wanders aimlessly into a field. There she stands with no direction of where to go, and the confusion and sadness is shown on her face. The light reflected on her breast and stomach could be symbolic of their plans to have children or symbolize that she is already in the early stages of pregnancy.
Life and Art of Vincent van Gogh. (March 23, 2010). Retrieved from http://lifeofvangogh.com
National Gallery of Art. (2010). The Collection. Retrieved from
http://www.nga.gov/collection/gallery/vangogh/vangogh-46505.html (2010, April 28).
Thomas Moran’s Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
Thomas Moran was born in England in 1837. He moved to the United States as a young boy, and grew up in Pennsylvania. Though born in England, he is considered an American artist (nga.gov). The subject of his art was always American landscapes. Grand Canyon of Yellowstone was completed in 1872 and is considered a part of Moran’s western collection. This painting is said to have “launched his career” as an artist (nga.gov).
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is a landscape scene from Yellow Stone National Park in Wyoming (Smithsonian). The view is from inside of a canyon. The viewer looks out over a ledge and straight ahead to a water fall in the distance. A mist has built up from the fall and it clouds the view. From the mist, the eye catches the blue water of the Yellowstone River (Smithsonian) and carries the viewer back to the ledge. Two people stand in the distance at the edge of the ledge. It is said that one of these two people is Moran himself (nga.gov). Also in the distance what appears to be a horse and people with luggage are making their way up the trail toward to viewer. The viewer is looking west. I think this is important to the work because it symbolizes Moran’s plans of exploration further west. It is as if he stopped here and took in the view of the direction he was headed. I know that the viewer is looking west because more vegetation is apparent on the right side of the canyon. More vegetation indicates a northern direction. I know this from personal experience in the western United States.
Moran used light to show us how huge the western sky is. He did this by creating large dark and light areas throughout the piece. This is significant because starting with the position of the viewer the ground goes from dark to light, back to dark, and again to light in the far off distance. The first dark area is not as important as the second because it is likely only the shadows of the canyon. The second dark area however is representational of a cloud over head. This is noticeable because of the way the ground is again lighter in the distance. If you have ever experienced the huge western sky this is easy to catch on to. I think Moran did the piece this way because he wanted to include the feeling of the large sky without actually showing it. The view from which the scene is painted does not allow much room for the sky so he had to show its enormousness in a different way.
In the far distance above the canyon the land flattens to a plateau. In the even further distance snowcapped mountains can be recognized. This is also another indication that the viewer is looking west and toward the Rocky Mountains.
The scale at which Moran painted himself and the other people helps us to grasp the vastness of canyon. They are so small that they are almost not even noticed. This gives the viewer an idea of how huge the canyon really is. Moran was painting for those who had never seen anything like this before, and he wanted them to be ale to feel completely engulfed into the scene as he had felt.
I do not feel that Moran did anything too fancy with the piece as far as visual elements are concerned. I think he painted what he saw the way he saw it, and that is what makes it great. I think this is obvious by his use of colors. They consist of dull browns and earth tones. They are not popular or catchy colors that would typically draw you into a painting, but they are the true colors that he saw. Because of this I can appreciate this painting more than any other that I have studied. I know that it is real. There is no underlying meaning or message to be heard. It is just truth. He wanted you to see the canyon as it really is and appreciate its natural beauty.
Landscape pieces are my favorite subject in art. I am especially fond of Moran’s western collection because of my own personal attachment there. I can relate to his art better than any other artist I have studied because I know what he felt when he painted these scenes. I know that I felt the same way the first time I traveled west. It is an indescribable feeling of beauty and you become completely engulfed in to it. To me there is nothing else like it, and I long to be back there almost every day! I am so glad I found this piece because it helps to fill in a little piece of me that is missing.
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