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Art Appreciation, Analysis and Interpretation (Paintings)


 Introduction

            Painting is one of the forms of artistic expression that is widely used to represent images and ideas in a two-dimensional plane. The practice uses application of color, pigment, paint or other medium on a painting surface referred to as a support base. Application employs the use of brushes, fingers and other tools. Painting describes both a process and its product. The support for this pieces of art could be paper, glass, wood, lacquer, clay surfaces or even walls and concrete surfaces. Paints may also incorporate other decorative non-color elements such as sand or pieces of paper. Historically, the oldest or first known paintings (cave paintings) exist in France’s Grotte chauvet (approximately 32,000 years old). Thus, the art of painting has evolved a great deal since its onset.


 Abstract

 A piece of art is a form of communication that employs a visual language rather than words to express or convey its message. Paintings may express or conceptualize the ideas and intentions of the painter. They can be natural representations of landscapes, still life or photographic representations of abstract objects and life. Artistic painting is often loaded with emotion, symbolism, or a political/historical narrative. Works of art have a setting in time and significance in aesthetics, utility, culture and/or religion. The art subjects for this paper are: Diego Rivera’s “Stone Worker” (Oil on canvas, 1945) and David Alfaro Sequeiro’s “Mother and Child” (Deco paint on amazonite, 1956).The paper’s content analyzes the visual aspects of the work of art and the use of elements and principles of art design in communicating to the viewer. It also analyzes the contextual aspect of the piece of art, in terms of setting in time and significance of the work of art.


 Diego Rivera’s-“Stone Worker” (Oil on canvas, 1945)

This particular piece was painted on a canvas support base by the use of oil based colors. The painting depicts a stone worker shaping a building stone using a hammer and chisel. The picture has a directional focus that draws the viewer to the central, fore-front-bottom part of the painting. The oblique orientation of the worker serves to emphasize this directional focus and sense of motion. This is additionally achieved by the sense of motion of the hammer that is directed by the stone worker to the chisel laid on the stone. Rivera creates a sense of both balance and dominance in the piece by centrally locating the painter on the fore-front of the piece of art.


 Rivera used color extensively as an element of design in creating an impression of depth and also in portraying harmony as well as contrast in the painting. Firstly, he used several hues and tints of grey to create a sense of depth and spaciousness. The front of the workers apparel has a lighter color value that makes it appear closer whereas areas perceived as being a little far are painted with a darker value or tint.


 The complementary interplay of dark and light is shown on the painting with the left edge of the painting being more illuminated than the right. Rivera creates this perception of light by using lighter values on the left and focusing the stone worker’s shadow outline to the left of the painting. Lighter values on the fore-front of this work indicate the location of the light source and direction (on the fore-front, right corner). This is further emphasized by the use of even lighter values on the worker’s hat that even appears shinier due to the effect of lighting. The use of lighter values and warm colors (crème yellow for the background earth) as well as light grey on the painting gives a warm appearance and probably depicts stone quarrying in the hot blazing sun.


 The skilful use of color gives the picture a gentle contrast in lighting and use of lighter values at the fore-front center part of the painting draws further emphasis to the workers activity of shaping the stone. The use of contrasting hues for the surface (crème yellow) and stones (grey) creates contrast that expresses a sense of space and distance or perspective. The repetitive occurrence of bits of stones on the picture breaks monotony and creates a sense of spaciousness because they occupy a large part of the painting.


 The texture of both the stone being worked and the ground appear rough and ragged. Rivera achieved this textural impression by the use of different tonal variations of the stones color. Similarly, the contrast in color value created by the background’s stone wall gives an impression of a rough texture.


 Conclusively, I would say appreciate the fact that Rivera is indeed a virtuoso in the use of color. Rivera uses color as an element of design in bringing out the principles of design as well as other elements of design such as texture to texture. Thus, used color as the single most important element for expressing his art work.


 The probable setting in time at which the painting was done reflect a sense of difficulty in life: it gives an impression of how people had to work hard to earn a living. Thus, it sends out a message about hard work, which was a culture for most southern America nations as they tried to raise there economy during the early 1940’s.


 David Alfaro Sequeiro’s “Mother and Child” (1956)

The ‘Mother and Child’ painting by Alfaro was done on an amazonite support base. This is probably due to its abundant availability in the Southern Americas (Brazil and Mexico). The piece of art takes the form of a portrait photograph of a mother cuddling her baby. The painting is reminiscent of the paintings of the old that have always depicted mother Mary and baby Jesus and probably was inspired by such earlier paintings.


 The central attraction and focus point of the painting lies on the baby in the painting. The picture is relatively symmetrically balanced and proportional because the main component-the mother is centrally located on the painting with the child being slightly to the left. There is sharp contrast between the foreground of the painting and its background as well as between the two main components of the painting-mother and child. The sharp contrast is created by the use of distinctly different hues. The lighting in the painting seems to be centrally located above the mother on the painting. This is implied by the lighter color values used on the baby’s face and mother’s dressing on her forehead. Thus, the light seems to illumine down on them from above their heads. This draws directional focus to the baby which is reinforced by the mother’s lowered gaze towards the baby.


 Alfaro’s clear-cut and distinct use of different color hues creates curvaceous lines in the painting that grant it its sense of space definition as well as rhythm. Alfaro further uses the lines created by the different hues to clearly define the mothers face, the background of the painting’s set up and as well as the baby.


 Alfaro also greatly employs the use of color in expressing the principles of art though not to a greater extent than Rivaro. The bright value of brown hue used on the baby makes the painting appear warm and serves to draw attention to the child who is the focal point of the picture. Darker tints are used to portray depth on the mother’s face and head gear. This creates a sense of depth in the picture.


 The picture is reminiscent of Mary and Jesus, however; it may have been the painter’s expression of joy, love and focus that a new born child gets from the mother. Thus, the painting depicts motherly love and care offered to young babies. It could also be a symbol of mother’s love to a child.


 References

‘Art History’, (2007). Art History: What is art history. Retrieved on 9th June, 2010 from http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/arthistory.html.

Pointon, M. (1997). History of Art: A student's handbook. New York: Routledge Publisher.


 

 
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