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|o View Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night on p. 61 and Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing No. 681 on p. 64 in Ch. 4 of A World of Art and describe both paintings in terms of their lines. What does each artist’s use of line communicate about the artist’s personality and view of the world?|
Van Gogh evidently found nature to be as compelling and formidable as God himself. “The Starry Night” emphasizes this. According to Sayre, Van Gogh was mentally tormented and this is evident by the use of the artist’s technique in his painting. The lines are harsh and jagged. Those of the church spire, the trees in the forefront, and the eaves of the houses are strong and dark. The swirls in the night sky are as strong, possibly indicative of his views of God’s and nature’s power. Perhaps Van Gogh’s view of the world was simple: he knew that the world was greater than him and therefore uncontrollable. The lines in “The Starry Night” truly demonstrate his lack of control. Still, despite the heaviness of the lines and the swirls, there is a calming effect evident in the painting with Van Gogh’s inclusion of church and solitude and serenity of the small village.
In contrast, Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing No. 681 demonstrates the work of an artist who seemingly found that the world was easily controlled. His lines are perfectly formed. The diagonal, horizontal and vertical lines perhaps indicate some disorder in the world, but disorder that can still be explained, if not contained.
o View Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez on p. 155 in Ch. 8 of A World of Art and describe the formal qualities of this work in terms of its organizing space. Do the formal qualities working together create a particular effect? If so, what is it and how is this accomplished? You might find it helpful to also watch the Closer Look discussion of this painting on the MyArtsLab website under Ch. 8.
Velazquez’s Las Meninas is very complex in that the artist’s focal point, the Infanta, is shrouded in light and surrounded by her maids; however, the maids are supposedly the actual focus-at least in title only. The painting has many more elements that catch the viewer’s attention and curiosity. For instance, in addition to the princess and the maids are the artist himself and the King and Queen of Spain whose reflection can be seen in the mirror on the back wall. The attention of the subjects in the painting faces forward, their gazes staring directly ahead. This calls into question again who the real focal point of the painting is and leads one to possibly believe that it is not the princess or even the maids, but the King and Queen who should demand the most attention. Then again, it could not even be them, but all of the faces that stare back at the viewer.
Still, there are other elements that make the Infanta and her maids-in-waiting central to the painting. These elements include the straight lines of the portraits on the wall that frame the scene in darker tones, the straight lines and light from the open doorway, and the lighting that places emphasis on the young princess. The complexity of the scene, however, demands that the viewer analyze each face and element.
o View Nighthawks by Edward Hopper on p. 510 in Ch. 21 of A World of Art and describe the formal qualities of this work in terms of its color and light. Do the formal qualities working together create a particular effect? If so, what is it and how is this accomplished?
The inside of Hopper’s diner in his painting Nighthawks is a safe haven from the darker, desolate world outside. The light inside perhaps signifies warmth, in spite of the possible superficiality of the relationships of those in the diner. The lines and dark mahogany of the diner counter cage the diner worker and separate him from the others. He is merely a worker, not a participant in their loneliness, for he is there to work and not there because he is one of ‘them’. The lines of the counter keep the others separated. Even inside, they are alone—even though they are together.
Hopper’s use of dark tones—blacks and grays on the outside of the diner-- could have deeper symbolism. They could indicate the darkness and loneliness of the diners’ spirits, which is why they have chosen to go where there is light—inside. The man who is dining alone melds into the darkness: he is the only one who is faceless. However, he is also partly illuminated, perhaps symbolic of his possible.
Hopper creates the effect of loneliness and the desire for the human spirit to combat their solitude through human interaction. The formal qualities in his painting ultimately symbolize the starkness in the world that is alleviated only with the togetherness of others.