Showing 101 - 110 of 175 Visual Arts annotations

Summary:

A long hallway stretches almost all the way to the end of the viewer's perspective. One solitary figure about halfway down the hall makes a quick exit from our view as it ducks into an abutting room. The hallway is colored in somber tones--browns, greens, and muddy yellows make up most of the coloration. These colors make the hallway appear as though it is composed of awkward rivers flowing across the plane of the floor, suggesting a sort of moat or barricade across which travel might be difficult. Additionally, the archways are not stylistically consistent--the arch closest to the viewer is more plain, more bleak, and seems to cordon off the viewer's end of the hall from the remainder of the corridor.

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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

A figure stands left of center, erect and facing forward in a room. He is, as described by the painting's title, standing between the tall grandfather clock and the bed. Vibrantly colored and painted with a tumultuous energy, this image does not immediately connote Munch's typical themes of death and sickness. Yet his hands hang limply by his side, and the clock (sans hands or numerals) and bed can be understood symbolically, not only as a statement of the relationship between time and sleep, but also as to where Munch sees himself in his artistic career. (He appears to be stepping forward into the room, no longer concerned with time, "impassively awaiting death" (Loshak, p. 106).

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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

A skeletal figure - death - sits atop a horse and brandishes a scythe. His horse, presently in front of the viewer, runs the wrong way along the racetrack. The track stretches far into the distance, all the way to the horizon. The landscape and sky are of muted color; a solitary dead tree bordering the racetrack on the right side of the painting sets the emotional tone of the landscape. At the bottom of the painting, a snake winds its way along the ground.

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Guernica

Picasso, Pablo

Last Updated: Aug-22-2006
Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

This 25-foot-wide by 11 foot high mural was created in one month. Picasso’s most famous work depicts the Spanish Civil War event in which Fascist dictator Francisco Franco hired the Nazi Luftwaffe to destroy the small Basque town of Guernica. Thousands of civilians were slaughtered and wounded as the undefended town was razed in a single 3-hour bombing attack. Commissioned to design a mural for the Spanish Pavilion on any subject of his choosing, Picasso drew on photographs and published accounts of this bombing to provide the symbolic images and theme. (Pablo Picasso, A Retrospective, ed. William Rubin, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1980. p. 303). The black and white newspaper text is suggested in the patterned treatment of the horse’s body.

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Ennui

Sickert, Walter Richard

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

The scene is painted on the diagonal, which is both destabilizing and draws the viewer immediately into the picture. In the right foreground looms a large oval or round brown table on which sit a box of matches and a half-full tumbler of clear liquid. As the viewer’s eye follows the tumbler diagonally back, a gray-haired, balding man wearing a brown suit or robe is seated at the table, leaning back in his chair, smoking a cigar.

Behind the cigar smoker, near a corner of the room, standing with her back to the man, is a woman dressed in a white blouse and black skirt. She leans with her bent left arm on a chest of drawers and rests her chin on her right hand, leaning on her bent right elbow. Her features are not clearly visible, but her eyes appear to be closed. A painting of a woman’s upper body hangs above her on the wall that faces the viewer.

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A Widow

Dubuffet, Jean

Last Updated: Aug-15-2006
Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

An abstract rendering of a widow fills the frame of the painting. Gloriously and erratically colored, she sits confidently upon a chair and looks directly outwards at the viewer. Behind the suggestion of a veil--the vertical lines descending from her head might also be interpreted as hair--she cocks her head and holds an expression upon her face that is difficult to discern. Is she sad? Is she bored? Does she desire a new companion?

Dubuffet has accentuated the widow's most feminine attributes: her breasts, hips, and eyes are exaggeratedly large, while her waist is too small, as though confined by the most constricting of corsets. The bright colors of the painting suggest anything but sorrow; instead, like a beautiful bird that attracts a mate with its colorful plumage, this widow seems ready to begin a new affair.

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Portrait of Dr. Gachet

Van Gogh, Vincent

Last Updated: Jul-28-2006
Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Dr. Gachet looks beyond the viewer with melancholy gaze. His eyes, drooped with sadness, appear to search resignedly for something in the distance; his skin tone is sallow. He rests his head on one hand, while the other hand rests precariously on the table beside him. Lines of color swim around and through the doctor--a technique distinctive to Van Gogh--all of which are directed almost uniformly towards the top left corner of the painting. Amidst this hubbub of color and energy, the Doctor rests impassively in what seems a commentary on his mental health.

Upon the red table rest two books and a vase of flowers. The books are titled Germinie Lacerteux (1864) and Manette Salomon (1867-68) and were written by two brothers who worked in close collaboration, Edmond and Jules de Goncourt. According to M. Therese Southgate, the books may thus represent the close relationship between Vincent van Gogh and his brother, Theo, which Southgate calls "symbiotic, and eventually tragic" (Theo became insane after Vincent's death and died six months later). (See page 207 of alternate source.) The vase contains flowers of foxglove, from which the heart medication digitalis is derived. The flowers, therefore, may represent the physician aspect of Dr. Gachet.

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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Summary:

Dr. Gachet's head and upper body face the viewer and fill the picture. The background of an outdoor yard and fence, visible above and to the left of the doctor, is sketchily rendered so as not to interfere with the foreground image of Dr. Gachet. Van Gogh does not center Gachet but instead cuts him off on his left-hand side. This positioning contrasts with typical portraits of the era, where aristocrats are often centered and beautified, and in this way suggests the humility of Dr. Gachet.

Van Gogh does not depict his doctor as a force larger than life; to the contrary, the doctor is rendered as a line sketch and colorless. His hands are knobby and without definition, his body and appendages are squiggly lines that seem to blend into his clothing and pipe. His hair is receding and his brow is creased with lines of concern.

Van Gogh focuses on the doctor's humanity rather than on his medical skill. Gachet does not appear in medicinal environs or with any of the tools of his trade. Instead, Gachet clutches only a pipe and looks deeply towards the viewer with eyes of raw concern. The attention to detail given to the eyes suggests that Van Gogh views his doctor's humanism and empathy as his defining qualities; tellingly, Dr. Gachet has only his title to indicate his training.

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Gassed

Sargent, John Singer

Last Updated: Jul-10-2006
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

John Singer Sargent was commissioned by the British War Memorials Committee to paint a work for the Hall of Remembrance. Sargent visited a casualty clearing station at Le Bac-de-Sud in France, which provided the inspiration for this vast work (7x20 feet) painted in 1918.

Mustard gas (yperite, or bis(2-chloroethyl)sulfide) causes terrible pain by blistering skin and mucous membranes, by blinding and choking its victims. Used during World War I, it caused intense suffering; dying could take weeks. In the painting, soldiers who were blinded by mustard gas, are being led to a dressing tent. The foreground of the painting has a jumble of bodies, soldiers in various poses lying on the ground. The colors are muted, the soldiers appear subdued. These elements, combined with the huge size, make the painting reminiscent of ancient Greek or Roman sculptural friezes.

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First Operation Under Ether

Hinckley, Robert

Last Updated: Jun-30-2006
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

The dentist, William Thomas Green Morton, gave the first successful public demonstration of anesthesia on October 16, 1846 at the Massachusetts General Hospital. This painting depicts the patient, Gilbert Abbot, sitting in a chair in the surgical amphitheater, eyes closed and neck exposed for the excision of a small vascular tumor of the jaw.

The surgeon, John Collins Warren, a distinguished Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School is leaning slightly forward, delicately holding a surgical tool vertically at the hidden point of incision. Morton holds his specially designed glass apparatus used to contain the anesthetic agent, ether.

Eleven other men watch the proceedings from the floor of the amphitheater, with varying levels of surprise and concentration. One is rising, as if in amazement, from a chair, and another steps up on a chair to see better. Two attend the patient: one holds his head and the other holds the right hand and checks the pulse at the wrist. Numerous men are seated in the gallery, and are painted with less and less detail, the higher the row.

The men are all dressed formally in dark suits, some with fur lapels, except for the patient, who is in white shirt with tan pants and dark shoes. This operation occurred before antisepsis and germ theory were discovered.

Hinckley used light and line to focus attention on the surgery. A strong diagonal line from the side wall of the gallery ends at Warren’s head. Light reflects off Morton’s ether inhaler, such that one can even see the sponge inside. The white of the patient’s shirt and the cloth and bowl on the instrument table in the foreground also serve to direct attention to the operation. Light glints off the surgeon’s head, although not as dramatically as in Thomas Eakins’s The Gross Clinic (see this database). Warren’s pronouncement at the end of the surgery, "Gentlemen, this is no humbug," paved the way for the rapid acceptance of anesthesia for surgery.

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