Sample Critical Art Analysis of an oil painting by Earnest Etinne Narjot (1826-1898)
This is a critical analysis of an oil painting by Earnest Etinne Narjot (1826-1898). Included in this paper are assessments with regard to the major elements of the painting, namely its content, composition, color, line, light, and space.
To effectively describe and interpret a portrait, there are two particular areas to be assessed, and these are: 1) the descriptive or literal subject matter, and 2) the deeper message that the painting aims to project to people. As I view this oil painting by Narjot, the first thing that caught my attention is the image of a mother looking down at her baby. Upon closer scrutiny, I observed the facial traits of the two people involved in the painting—the mother is looking at her baby lovingly and affectionately, while her baby is looking up at her with an innocent and smiling face. From these observations, it could be construed that the human body is the most important form in this painting because it leads to the deeper meaning of the image, which is the second area of subject matter to be described. As I have perceived, the deeper meaning of this image is for the artist to effectively portray and honor a mother’s unconditional and selfless love toward her children. This universal truth is almost tangible in the painting, as it successfully presents emotions such as calmness, comfort, warmth and security—the same feelings that one would experience when you are in your mother’s arms.
Balance. As for balance, I have observed that the focus of the painting—the mother and her baby—are located in the center and in front of the painting. Because of such positioning, viewers would surely first recognize the mother and her baby upon looking at the picture. Aside from these, I have also observed that the mother is sitting on a chair, while behind her is a brown curtain. However, although there are numerous entities and beings portrayed in the image, asymmetrical or informal balance is maintained because the smaller item on one side—the baby—is balanced by a larger item on the other side—the mother. Hence, the essential images in the painting are effectively balanced.
Directional Focus. As was earlier established, the first thing that caught my attention in the painting is the mother and her baby, located at the center of the painting. However, I observed that the baby is actually more pronounced in the picture because he or she is covered in white blanket, as opposed to the mother who is wearing a black blouse. With this, it could be concluded that sharp and bright colors could first catch one’s attention, as compared to dark colors. Moreover, another reason why the baby is more prominent in the painting is because the light is concentrated more on the baby, specifically on the face; hence, he or she is more saturated in light, and viewers are more inclined to recognize the baby first as the painting is examined. Lastly, the objects in the picture are in proportion and in correct scale to one another.
Hues Used. The hues used in the painting are brown, black, and white. I have observed that the brown color of the curtain is quite light, that it could be considered as orange. I have also perceived that such color contributes to the warm and comfortable atmosphere of the painting, which complements the content of the image. Moreover, the fact that the mother is wearing a black blouse while her baby is wearing a white cloth effectively provides contrast at the center of the painting—since black and white are contrasting hues, viewers’ perceptions are more attracted to the center of the painting, making the mother and the child the focus of the picture.
Values Used (Lightness or Darkness). From the painting, it could be observed that there is a complementary interplay of the darkness and lightness used by Narjot in his artwork. First, the shadow that could be found on the mother’s and the baby’s faces indicate that there is greater intensity of light in the center of the image. In fact, the light is bright enough for the viewer to see the pattern of the mother’s blouse as well as the baby’s blanket. To create these values in the painting, I have observed that the light the illuminates the focus of the picture comes from the top of the painting, the ceiling perhaps, because the ray of light could be traced from the top of the curtain towards the mother’s face.
The light was bright enough to tell the pattern of the mother's blouse and the baby's blanket. It seems that there was a light on the ceiling because the light ray was from top of the curtain to the mother's face.
Saturation Used. As was earlier mentioned, the saturation of the orange-like brown curtains contribute to the warmth and comfort portrayed in the painting. On the other hand, the saturation black of the mother’s blouse represents her elegance and grace as a woman and as a mother as well. In connection to this, the colors used in the painting are also effective means by which emotions are clearly expressed from the painting. More specifically, the saturation of the colors and their valuable contrast are the key to focus the attention of the viewers to the center of the image, wherein the mother and her baby are located. Hence, such competence in saturation and style of Narjot present to the viewers the deeper meaning of the picture and not its mere literal interpretation.
The lines used in the painting also help to effectively convey to viewers the emotions involved in the painting. I have observed that curved or round, soft, horizontal, and diagonal lines are mostly shown in the image, more specifically in the part of the mother and her baby. As a result of the curved lines, a sensuous, natural, and rhythmic feeling is portrayed in the image. Moreover, the soft lines also help create tenderness and warmth in the painting, more so between the mother and the child. Lastly, the horizontal lines show tranquility and calmness, while the diagonal lines provide spontaneity, because they stimulate the viewers’ eyes. Hence, action or movement—specifically with regard to the baby’s blanket and the mother’s caress—are clearly and delicately portrayed in the image.
Generally, the light used in the painting is organic and soft in nature—there is no sharp contrast of light, but rather, a gentle distinction is clearly shown in the image. This, then, further contributes to the coziness and warm love that could easily be felt by the viewer as he or she observes the picture. Moreover, as was earlier mentioned, the source of light in the picture comes from the upper part of the painting; and since this light travels from the curtains to the center of the picture, specifically the mother’s and the baby’s faces, my attention is immediately drawn to the mother and her baby.
I have observed that the beings and key elements in the painting—the chair, curtain, and of course, the mother and her baby—are arranged and ordered in the picture, so as to show an effective use of space. Moreover, it could also be perceived that the mother and her baby are very closely drawn together, but not extremely close that space between them is sacrificed. Hence, although there are numerous entities in the picture, these images in the painting are still effectively and orderly arranged.
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