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Art History Comparison Paper

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Submitted By glowinger
Words 1890
Pages 8
Gloria Wu
Gretchen Halverson
ART-HIST 110
Formal Analysis of Two Landscapes Landscape painting has been around for many centuries depicting the surroundings from trees and mountains to towns and cities. Landscapes show many naturalistic aspects of the world around us from nature itself to the various architecture and cities, and what we see and interpret can be expressed differently on a canvas. Both Echo Lake, Franconia Mountains, New Hampshire and Field of Poppies are landscape paintings depicting different subject matter within 30 years of each other. Echo Lake, Franconia Mountains, New Hampshire was created in 1861, during the transition between Romanticism and Realism, by Albert Bierstadt. This landscape is made with oil on canvas when Bierstadt went to visit New Hampshire, United States of America. Field of Poppies was created in 1890, during the French Impressionism, by Claude Monet. This landscape is made with oil on canvas during the summer in the poppy field near his house in Giverny. These two paintings shows what the artists saw in their surroundings from the lake to the mountain, and from the field to the trees. Both paintings depict how the artists demonstrate their own interpretation of the landscape in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Bierstadt’s Echo Lake, Franconia Mountains, New Hampshire retains the idealized, realistic view of the landscape by depicting every detail he sees compared to Monet’s Field of Poppies where the landscape strongly incorporates expressive brushwork, playful colors, and soft lighting. Both of the landscapes use oil on canvas allowing brushwork to either be visible or not. The slow drying oil allows artists to edit their paintings after the initial stroke of pigment that they place on the canvas, thus they can either add texture or smooth out the oil in their brushwork. For Bierstadt’s Echo Lake, Franconia Mountains, New Hampshire, the brushwork is tight and controlled to get the exact detail that he wanted to interpret and present to create the ideal landscape for its time. The tight brushwork shows how Bierstadt took his time going through each detail thinking about what he is going to do next and making sure that he gets down everything that he sees in this view. The beach and the lake in the foreground and the trees in the background depicts that tight brushwork where it is precise and controlled, but not too loose to create its texture. There are many textures created from the brushwork that Bierstadt used. The lake was given a calm, smooth texture in the foreground; having it flatten, but still provide depth and detail with the reflection of the mountain and how the texture changed when light is being reflective in the distance. The mountains also have a smooth texture of how the trees cover the whole mountain side, but have minimal rough textures where the mountain protrudes outward, and the depth push the change of texture. The trees has a foliage texture that makes that more realistic as if they are alive. The rocks show a rough texture as if they were there. He does not miss any detail as he deliberately applies the right amount of texture, for each distinguish part of nature, as the landscape stretch in depth to its space to withhold the ideal realistic landscape. But this is different from Monet’s Field of Poppies where the brushwork is expressive. The expressive brushwork shows that it was done quickly and retained small amounts of detail in the overall composition, like there is no define detail in the poppies but the color itself, compared to Bierstadt’s detailed landscape. There is no hard specific details in the poppies, the trees, and the mountains, unlike Bierstadt’s Echo Lake, Franconia Mountains, New Hampshire where the crevasses in the mountain and the tree's’ trunk and branches can be seen even from afar. The curvature of the brushstroke on the trees, sky, mountain, and on the poppies created the texture and that slight detail that makes it surreal and blurry, like the landscape was painted from a quick glance. The strong amount of texture in the painting shows that Monet put in the thought and painted what he saw and how he would interpret on the canvas. Though the Field of Poppies was painted with expressive brushwork and texture with minimal detail while Bierstadt’s Echo Lake, Franconia Mountains, New Hampshire was painted with tight brushwork with idealized and realistic view of landscapes, they demonstrated their interpretations of landscapes and how they are seen by the artists. Although the brushwork provided the form of texture and detail, it is the colors that the artists decided to paint their landscape. Bierstadt’s Echo Lake, Franconia Mountains, New Hampshire has many colors affiliated to nature from the hint of blue to green to brown; it is as if the audience was there within the painting itself. The ideal colors that were used produce a naturalistic landscape that complemented each color. Bierstadt maintain the hues in different intensity and values to create a more three dimensional landscape giving the scene depth. There is a strong contrast of light and dark when the light directly hits an area; such as the trees, mountains, and rocks that are directly highlighted by the light, but a harsh, dark shadow is produced along next to it. The interchangeability of light and dark colors makes it a dynamic scene that is realistic and believable. The color catches every detail, the trees across the lake or even the rocks in the foreground; it makes them come alive in the painting. As for Monet’s Field of Poppies, the painting has playful colors. There was a small range of hues that was used, but it mainly stays on one side of the intensity and value spectrum. The use of light colors with a slightly darker tone created a shadow without using the whole spectrum of value. The majority of the painting is covered with a blue skyline and red-orange poppies with a hint of green, green-blue trees, which makes it a playful combination of colors that all work together and appeals to the eye. The colors are not bright but the color of the poppies pop and stand out from the blue and green. By lightening up the colors of the poppies, as it recedes, it creates a defined horizon line. There is no other sense of depth, besides the fact that darker tones start showing up on objects that are perceived to be in the back. Monet wanted to present the colors of the poppies even without detail, which is how he wants to demonstrate his interpretation of what he saw in that field. However, light plays a huge role in how the color was demonstrated in each landscape. Bierstadt’s Echo Lake, Franconia Mountains, New Hampshire provides a realistic depth and feeling to its landscape. The light is coming from the sky above between the cloud coverage highlighting some of the trees, mountain, and lake. Having the cloud coverage allows the light to come through unevenly making strong shadows around the landscape and darken up areas making it realistic due to the intense value. The light enhances the three-dimensional modeling of each object in the painting creating the different values in the forest. The lighting is dramatic in how it shines on certain parts of the painting, like how the lake shines and sparkles as the light burst through the clouds. The viewer can see a variety of value with how the light is portrayed in the painting allowing the colors to reflect and be showcased. But as for Monet’s Field of Poppies, there was no indication of where the light is coming from, but the overall painting has soft lighting. The painting has bright colors and in the distance color seems to darken in the mountains with no value of the colors transitioning between tones. There is small defining shadow for the trees created by the contrast between the light and the shadows that the tree cast. The light covers the painting as if it is shining from multiple points in the sky; both overhead and from the right. Even with the minimal shadows on the tree, as if the light is coming from the right, the poppies do not indicate any defined shadows. The light does not create any three dimensional figure but flattens the painting as if it is two dimensional due to the lack of shadowing. Both Bierstadt and Monet presented their paintings differently in respect to brushwork, color, and light. When I first saw Bierstadt’s Echo Lake, Franconia Mountains, New Hampshire, it presented the landscape of the mountain, forests, and lake beautifully with numerous detail. The detail is incredible with how the foliage presents itself with the texture and pushes the depth of the painting; this is what I find really interesting. It caught my eye with its dramatic lighting that illuminated different parts of the painting to show the contrast of both light and dark and how it is demonstrated in nature. As for Monet’s Field of Poppies, I found the painting to be brighter, playful, and happier with the mix of color that he chose to use. Up close I find it to be blurry and textural from the brushwork due to the quick motion and the time period he is in. Monet was one of the few artists that started the uprise of impressionism, where artists painted the scene at a certain time, and stop painting when the light changes. I believe that Monet wanted to capture the very act of perceiving nature of how people see things because people cannot see sharp details like in Bierstadt’s painting. In conclusion, both artists, Bierstadt and Monet, demonstrate their own interpretations in landscape by either retaining ideal, realistic view through detail or strongly incorporating expressive brushwork, playful color, and soft lighting. These two paintings perceive two different sides of landscape; the traditional and the impressionable aspects. Bierstadt holds his interpretation of the ideal, realistic landscape by maintaining the detail, texture, and spatial aspect through the brushwork, while creating a color and light contrast to show the bright and dark side of nature as well as the three dimensional modeling that is perceived through all the elements. Bierstadt’s landscape seems suggest that at people must really like to idealize the realistic aspect of nature and try to make everything breathtaking. On the other hand, Monet incorporates expressive, textural brushwork in every aspect of the painting which creates a blur effect making the viewer assume that he had done the painting quickly just to catch all the information before any changes can occur in the scenery. The playful colors allows the painting to brighten up with the attention to the poppies in view, but also eliminating the sense of perception and only using the colors to show distance and the horizon line. The soft light covers the whole painting creating minimal changes in tone, which flattens the painting to a two dimensional landscape painting. Impressionism is the biggest aspect of Monet’s paintings since he is painting as if perceived from the human eye (what people would see when looking at a landscape), which is a period that could be looked into further.

Albert Bierstadt, Echo Lake, Franconia Mountains, New Hampshire, 1861, oil on canvas

Claude Monte, Field of Poppies, 1890, oil on canvas…...

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