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In Monet’s Water Lilies, the most abundant color is a deep blue. This forms the background of the piece. Since the painting is of lilies on a pond viewed from the side, one would expect there to be a line separating the water from the sky, but there is not. In fact, the are no straight lines anywhere in the painting. It is very open – the eye is not constrained to the boundaries of the painting. The lily pads and their stems are formed with soft brushstrokes of bright green, and the flowers with light blue or yellow. There is not much use of perspective in the painting: no linear whatsoever and slight atmospheric perspective. This is evident in the slight blurring of the stems which extend under the water’s surface. Also, the lily pads and flowers which appear to be further away are slightly less defined and more blue. The primarily horizontal elements and strokes draw the eye to the sides and down. The entire painting has a slight texture due to the thick oil paint used but the only heavy texture is on the flowers. The flowers in the lower half of the painting are yellow with a red dot in the center. This red dot is complementary to the green of the pads and stems which makes the flowers seem almost 3 dimensional – the clear focal point of the piece.
When I first saw the painting, the bright green and blue colors immediately caught my eye. The soft brushstrokes and interesting texture made me feel calm; it seemed as though the artist was trying to convey this feeling. It gave me an almost dreamlike frame of reference because of its nebulous perspective and like of hard lines such as a horizon.
Bouguereau’s Nature’s Fan is a nearly photorealistic portrait of a clothed mother seated next to her naked child in a clearing of a forest. The mother is dressed in modest attire and the child, a young boy, appears to be about 4 years old. She is fanning him with a small branch, giving the piece its title. In the background, soft light illuminates some grass as well as the leaves of a tree. There seems to be a mist in the air of the forest giving the portrait atmospheric perspective. There is no texture on the painting. The mother’s face seems to convey melancholy, although it is difficult to determine her emotions. The child seems happy according to his facial expressions and playful hand movements.
When I saw the painting I was taken aback by its technical significance. The use of lighting really makes the scene seem romantic – in the literary and cultural sense. I interpret the scene as a mother unhappy with the constraints of society, e.g. clothing, bringing her child back to nature to raise him. This may not be the correct interpretation, but the title also seems to suggest the romantic movement.
Of the two, I preferred the Bouguereau piece. Although the Monet was very emotive in its brush strokes and texture and initially more eye catching because of its colors, Nature’s Fan appealed to me more because of its realistic lighting and possible literary meaning. I appreciate the emotional expression of Water Lilies, but a portrait of two people with complex emotions got me thinking more.
One other piece of art that affected me greatly was a full round sculpture of a naked, dying man by John DeAndrea titled Dying Gaul. This is a reproduction of a Hellenistic Greek sculpture. The current special exhibit in the museum is various works of art from the Louvre’s Tuileries Garden, many of which were sculptures of this style. I was awestruck by the power and majesty conveyed by these greek sculptures, but Dying Gaul caused the most significant reaction. The artist attempts, and succeeds, at reproducing a Greek sculpture in a realistic style. As a result, the man does not have perfectly chiseled muscles and other ideal features. Where the original Greek sculpture falls short of conveying defeat, despair, and death, this reimagining does an amazing job. I felt that this was a much more realistic and relatable piece of art than the ancient Greek version.
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