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Interpreting The Work of Art at The Getty Center in Los Angeles

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The Getty Center in Los Angeles is an American museum that showcasesa selection of breathtaking pieces of art. There are diverse works by world-renowned artists, each telling a different and unique story. In this research paper, I have chosen to study ‘Spring,’ a work by the artist Edouard Manet, as this was the most captivating piece I saw at the Getty Center during my visit there.

Spring is a portrait piece completed by Edouard Manet in 1881, onlytwo years before he died. Manet was a French painter, born in Paris, and wasone of the most significant painters of the Impressionistmovement.Spring was first put on display for the public in 1882 and was meant to be the first part of a quartet of paintings depicting the four seasons. The painting depicts Jeanne DeMarsy, a young,Parisianactress,wearinga floraldress, bonnet and carrying a parasol. Monet’s rendering of her soft facial features and Parisian themed outfitexemplifies the season of spring (Johnston, Sona, Tucker 81).

Thisparticular workis an elegy to the season of growth and rebirth,which can be seenclearly in Jeanne’s soft, pale skin with hints of rosy hues on her cheeks and lips. The background shows leafy greens and stems, classic details of a garden, which seamlessly contrast to thewhite dress, tangloves and matching parasol. She is conscious of the artist’s attention, depicted by her sideways gaze. This shows a self-awareness of the character, which was a common theme in Manet’s paintings of the era.

“Woman with aHat”.It can be argued that Manet’s piece bears more than a passing resemblance resemblance to Woman with aHat, paintedby Henri Matisse in 1905. The work was initially exhibited at a place called Salon d’Automme in Paris and was an early example of the short-lived artistic movement known as Fauvism. Fauvism, or the style of ‘wild beasts,’ rejected the ephemeral focus and natural colors ofImpressionism. Instead, Fauvist artists opted for strong, aggressive colours, strong lines and near-surreal depictions of their subjects (Tracy, Lauren 81).

What makes these two works of arts interesting, is the gaze of the two central figures. In Woman with a Hat, the subject is the artist’s wife, who posed for a half-length portrait. Thepainting seems to portray the fashions and confidenceof the French bourgeoisieat the time, complete with elbow-length gloves and anelaborate,perched headgear. A closer look at the dress reinforces a senseof elitism and opulence.

The walls of The Getty Museum are filled with an incredible assortment of fine art, all part of the J. Paul Getty collection. Manet’s Spring hangs with a number of other paintings by his contemporaries on the second floor of the building. The room is skylit, with wooden parquet flooring and chocolate colored walls. This choice of soft, even mundane, coloring helps to keep the eye focused on the art.

‘Still Life withApples’, by Paul Cezanne,is an equally captivating piece of work that hangs adjacent to Spring.The focus of this paintingisa bowl ofsix apples, with others left tantalizingly outside the bowl. The painting seems to symbolize the freshness of life, with buoyant lighting and realistic tones capturing a diverse variety of objects.It is a moment in time, an enigmatic work that plays with the sense of perspective in the frame.

‘Irises’, by Vincent Van Gogh, is also hung close toSpring. This appears to have been done deliberately,since the three paintings complement each other in terms of style and palette. Iriseswas one of several paintings completed by Van Gogh while he was in an asylum in France. The artist stated that he felt these paintings kept him from going insane, and referred to them as “the lightening conductor for my illness” (Fieberg, Jeffrey E., et al 51). It is believed that this painting was inspired by Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints,because of the similarities in strong lines, flat colors and unusual angles.

Difference between Direct Experience and Mediated Experience.These two terms denote the way in which a person can experience pieces of art such as the ones previously described. Direct experience is a firsthand opportunity to interact with the subject matter and the phenomenon being able to examine it‘up close’ (Falk, John, Dierking 33). This is vital for such artworks, as it gives the audience a better insight into how the various pieces were created. For example, it is possible to see what type of brushstrokes have been used, the type of paint, or the care and attention of the artist. Consequently, this is additional information one can use to interpret the mood of the artist. This kind of detail, this freshness of experience with pieces of art, is lost in a mediated experience.

The two perspectivesare, however, similar in that they both tell the key parts of the story to the audience, based on the message of the artist. Although directexperience is the preferred way to understand one’s connection with apiece of art, the importance of a mediated experience cannot be ignored either,as it allows a viewer to see works that they might otherwise be unable to.

I found Spring,the work of Eduoard Manet,to be an astonishing painting. It is a piecethat one cannot forget,for it captures the imagination at first sight, and gets richer with each viewing. It carries a sense of lightness, a joy of looking at everyday life that one might only see in a certain light or perspective for a second, before it becomes a memory. The texture and detail of the subject in the painting give an insight into what compelled Manet to paint, and what made Impressionism such a popular artistic movement in the 19th and 20th Century.

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Interpreting The Work Of Art At The Getty Center In Los Angeles. (2018, November 05). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 22, 2022, from
“Interpreting The Work Of Art At The Getty Center In Los Angeles.” GradesFixer, 05 Nov. 2018,
Interpreting The Work Of Art At The Getty Center In Los Angeles. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Sept. 2022].
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