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Every piece of art is unique. Each piece of artwork has a specific composition, color scheme and many other details that make up the significance and importance of the work. Works of art can be from different periods of time, be created with different materials, and also have different subject matter while still having similar characteristics. Through comparing and contrasting works of art by Casper David Friedrich, Paul Cezanne, and Mark Rothko evidence of how 3 vastly different paintings have similarities is explored.
Monk by the Sea, completed in 1809 by David Friedrich, is a large painting that depicts a small figure of a monk in the foreground getting engulfed by the vastness of the sea of the background of the painting. Paul Cezanne’s The Bay from L’Estaque, a painting featuring bright colors and a geometric landscape, was completed in 1886 and embodies the view of the bay from a small costal town in the South of France. Furthermore, almost one hundred years later, Maroon on Blue by Mark Rothko was produced and is a large painting composed of two large, dark squares being separated in the middle by a bright red contrasting rectangle. All of these paintings differ greatly when first approached aesthetically. They have no similar colors, subject matter or painting techniques in common. However, the one thing that ties these three paintings together is the artist’s use of depth to create and enhance the composition.
Although the sense of depth is created in different ways in each of the paintings, all three of the paintings have a sense of depth in the composition that draws the viewer in and makes them feel enveloped by the painting. In Monk by the Sea, Friedrich creates a sense of depth within the painting in multiple ways. Firstly, the large scale of the painting gives the viewer the feeling that the painting is surrounding them when being viewed from close up. Secondly, having the sea and sky take up the majority of composition and having the figure being so small in comparison creates a feeling of the figure being engulfed his surroundings which forces the viewer to relate to.
In The Bay from L’Estaque, Cezanne creates depth in the composition by using complementary colors and having objects in the foreground be more defined while the landscape and mountains in the background are more blurred. Cezanne also created depth by using flat brush strokes to define an object, which make the objects and planes appear detached from the ones surrounding it. Similarly to Cezanne, Mark Rothko creates depth in his painting Maroon on Blue by bold use of contrasting colors. The two large squares on the top and bottom of the painting are dark in comparison to the bright red rectangle that breaks the composition. By having two large dark shapes surrounding the bright contrasting red rectangle, it creates a perception of a tunnel that surrounds and draws the viewer in. Also, similar to Friedrich, Rothko used the large scale of his painting to create depth. Because the painting is so large in comparison to the viewer, the viewer feels surrounded by the large black squares and sees light at the end of the tunnel in the contrasting red.
Furthermore, despite initial aesthetic differences among all three paintings, once compared and analyzed the similarities emerged. By using large scale, contrasting colors, and different painting styles, the paintings of Friedrich, Cezanne and Rothko all created a sense of depth that drew the viewer in.
Portraits and people in an environment have been a common theme of paintings throughout centuries. From renaissance paintings of nobles surrounded by their wealth and possessions to early American paintings depicting farm life, portraits and figures in the environment are essential to understanding the culture and life style of a period of time. Through the analysis and comparison of the The Great Bathers, by Paul Cezanne, the Joy of Life by Henri Matisse and Luncheon on the Grass by Edouard Manet the significance and similarities of portraits and figures in their environment is explored.
The Great Bathers by Paul Cezanne, completed 1898, is a large painting with blotches of colors depicting a group of women bathing in a natural environment. In a similar style, Henri Matisse’s large painting Joy of Life, features a group of figures dancing, relaxing and enjoying the outdoors on a nice day painted beautifully with bright colors, thick lines and contrasting shapes. Lastly, Edouard Manet’s also very large painting of Luncheon on the Grass portrays the image of two men and two women having a picnic in the grass.
Although all three paintings have the same general content of figures in a natural environment, the styles and context of all 3 paintings differ greatly. The Great Bathers by Cezanne portrays multiple nude women and figures in a natural environment framed by limbless trees nearby a body of water. Cezanne wanted the figures to fit into the natural architecture of the landscape, and used similar colors and a very loose painting style to have the figures naturally assimilate to the environment they are in. Similarly in Matisse’s painting Joy of Life multiple figures are relaxing, playing, dancing and conversing in a large open field dotted with trees. The figures are similarly painted in a loose style with vibrant colors contrasting against the landscape. The lines, forms and planes are all undefined but create a cohesive look of the figures being very natural in the environment in which they are.
Contrastingly, although Edouard Manet’s painting still features multiple figures in a natural environment, the style and emotion of the painting is different. While Matisse and Cezanne’s paintings were both bright, filled with contrasting colors and a loose style, Manet’s painting is very technically precise, features a darker color palate and the figures are not as harmonious with their environment. Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass depicts two clothed men, and two nude women eating lunch in dark field surrounded and enclosed by trees. The viewer is forced to make eye contact with the nude woman who is gazing out of the painting unsettlingly to the viewer. Because the women are nude and the men are clothed and presumably wealthy it creates different, somewhat dubious dynamic between the figures.
Overall, all the Cézanne, Matisse and Manet’s paintings all featured different scenes of multiple figures in a natural environment. From the bright loose style of Matisse, the cohesiveness of figures and their surroundings by Cezanne and the unsettling content in Manet’s painting, all 3 paintings are significant to contributing to the culture and time in which they were created.
Art transcends time. Some are art pieces are created decades before the movements in which they belong even take place. Whether rebelling against the current trends or just interested in something before their time, artists de Velde, Kandinsky, and Gorky are from 3 different periods of time but all have similar styles reflected in their works relating to abstraction and the importance of the line. Through the understanding and analysis of Henry van de Velde’s cover illustration Dominical, Vasily Kandinsky’s Composition IV, and Arshile Gorky’s Agony different forms and styles of abstraction are explored and investigated.
Created as a cover illustration, Art Noveau artist Henry van de Velde’s Dominical is a black and white illustration of the horizon, ocean and sun setting. Although the natural scene is made up only of thick to thin, loose lines, the depiction of the sunset is still evident within the abstraction. Contrastingly, expressionism artist Vasily Kandinsky’s Composition IV is large non-objective painting of multiple colors, broken up and defined by varied geometric line strokes. Similar to Kandinsky, Agony created by abstract expressionist turned refugee surrealist artist Arshile Gorky, is a painting of warm reds, browns, and yellows, broken down into geometric shapes defined by very thin black lines and accents.
All three paintings feature a different type of abstraction yet all aesthetically relate through the use of black lines to define shapes and patterns. Gorky uses black lines in a very minimal way to not disrupt the composition rather to compliment it. Gorky’s Agony is extremely non-objective, yet images of botanicals and genitalia are abstracted to an almost unrecognizable form while still creating a sensual mood to the painting. Similarly, Kandinsky’s Composition IV is also a large non-objective abstract painting. However, where Gorky heavily abstracted images, Kandinsky strived for completely autonomous expression, having no recognizable images or necessary structure of the painting. Instead Kandinsky created his non-objective painting using multiple layers of color, broken and defined by premeditated black geometric lines.
Dominical, is similar to Kandinsky and Gorky’s paintings in that the composition is abstracted, and all 3 compositions incorporate the use of black lines but Henry van de Velde’s, Domincal, does differ from the other two paintings in the type of abstraction it depicts. Where Kandinsky and Gorky’s paintings both are very non-objective and heavily abstracted, Dominical is abstracted by the use of lines to create an image but still depicts a readable scene. Also, both Kandinsky and Gorky’s paintings are linear compositions on a large scale; Dominical is a cover illustration so it is physically smaller than the other paintings.
All three paintings were created years apart but reflect a similar style of abstraction. Both objective and non-objective all three compositions rely on the use of geometrics and black lines to help divide and separate the space. Color is used in Kandinsky and Gorky’s paintings to elicit mood while remaining in black and white Dominical depicts a scene rather than an emotion. Overall, despite all three paintings being created at different times by different artists, similar styles emerge through repetition of shapes and lines.
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