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Posts Tagged ‘mood’

Claude Monet (1840-1926) painted “On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt” in 1868.  He was only twenty-eight.  It’s brilliant.  The brush strokes are lively, the colors are tranquil.  But is the feeling of the painting as a whole tranquil?  I don’t think so.  I think it’s gloomy. Why does this painting have a dark mood despite its bright colors?  Why do we imagine this  woman to be sad? The inclusion of the boat at that angle, lifts the mood a bit, but still,  what a downer.  Why would such a young man paint an image with so much tension in it?

He didn’t.  What you see above is a horizontal flip of the real painting.  What Monet painted is reproduced below here. This is what we see at the Art Institute.  Isn’t this more tranquil?  Aren’t we more inclined to empathize with this woman rather than the woman on the right?  The boat, again, complicates the picture. Here it slants down, making us suspect that all is not well in this life.  If he had painted the boat slanting up from left to right, the image would be unbearably cheerful, even  corny.  Try it.

What’s interesting and important to note is that the information conveyed in each version is the same. So, it’s not about information.  If it’s not about information, what then?  I can tell you this much: it’s about feeling and empathy.  This is the third of left-right flips. If you follow these posts, it’ll dawn on you.  This should be fun.  (Go to Topics in the column at right and choose Left-Right)

Let’s go back to the boat again. Look what happens when we take out the boat altogether.  Would you agree that the boat is not there because Monet wants to tell us that the woman rowed it to the bank of the river? The boat is not part of a narrative, but is needed to complicate the mood and lend depth to the image.

Click the thumbnails  to enlarge and then play with the boat question.

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

www.khilden.com

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The lake has presented us with oceanic drama lately.  A student in my landscape painting class said, it’s like being on Cape Cod.

My little palm sized Sony does its best, but fails at recording the dramatic impact, the roar, the wind, the chill, the sheer excitement.  All I get is a composition.  Lines and texture.  I’ll take it.

Now look at these two versions.  I just flipped the photo horizontally in Photoshop.

Same information: two people walking on the beach.   But what a difference in mood!  Can you see that one is emotional and gloomy;  and the other tells an optimistic but shallow tale?

See also post August 14:  George Innes, “Going Home.”

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

www.khilden.com

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

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The invention of photography in the 1830’s freed up the imagination. You want a portrait?  You got it.  Takes only a few minutes. No need to pose in front of a painter for hours.  How about a picture of your wonderful garden in bloom.  Ditto.  A few minutes.  The ships in the harbor, the mountains, the cathedral, the cows in the field, we know all that and take it for granted now.  What this means for the painter is that the portrait he paints of you or the landscape she paints of your garden is as much a reflection of the artist as of the object being depicted.  The imagination has, of course, always been at play throughout our history, but since the invention of photography (which can document reality with far greater accuracy) the pictorial imagination has truly come into its own.  I would even say, the imagination is IT.  Our artmaking is about the imagination itself. You can let it run free.  You can turn trees into shrubs, a meadow into a river or a frozen pond, you can turn the blue sky pewter gray—if you think all this will make a better picture.  Who decides what will make it a  better picture?  YOU.

All these developments took place in the imagination of my student Spike S. as he faced a radiantly illuminated October park scene  with a blazing, rotund maple tree. Because the sky is muted in his painting (pastel), the foliage is all the brighter.  The ground, now a mysterious surface of water or ice, recedes visually and in doing so allows the foliage to glow.

Another student, Beatrice K, faced the lake through a tangle of shrubs and trees, only one of them in bright fall colors.  She edited out the confusion.  The painting (oil on canvas) became a serene meditation: sky, lake, beach, rocks, a dead tree trunk and a small tree at the right that appears to be raging at the dying of the October light.

The painting, then, is not a documentation of the arrangements of molecules masquerading as trees, rocks and ground, so much as an independent object that came out of your mood that day.  The word “mood” makes it all sound so facile, doesn’t it.  You  can’t imagine how hard the work of the imagination really is.

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