With the decline of religious painting and prosperity allowing the middle classes the affluence to furnish their properties with paintings it brought about a whole new era of work. Paintings of Portraits, Still Life, Landscapes and Genre Painting were for sale, Genre Painting was a depiction of everyday life. This research was about taking a look at two or three paintings that appeal to me and study the intentions of the artist, look at how the painter drew the viewer into the experience of the occupants of the room. Well one of my choices The Courtyard of a House by Pieter de Hooch wasn’t strictly a room but it still told a story. My second choice was by Johannes Vermeer The Love Letter.
After studying the paintings and doing some research I realised these like the Early Still Life painting were not just random affairs. Careful placement of items, geometric shapes and a story for the viewer were carefully planned and executed.
Johannes Vermeer The Love Letter tells the story of the love of a couple who are apart, the letter being from her love. I first chose this as one of my paintings because I like the secret look we are getting of a private moment. We are viewing the scene from a dimly lit room, a clever way of making the viewer look beyond the darkness into the lit area. For our convenience, the curtain is held back allowing us a peek of a beautiful private moment. To emphasize the depth of field the eye follows the geometric tiles on the floor. I did wonder at the subtle nature of the painting and its reference to the letter being a love letter, but took the title of the painting for granted. It was only after research I learnt about the symbolistic nature of items included in the scene which tell a story rather like the Still Life Paintings I studied earlier.
First the lady has a musical instrument on her lap this was known as a symbol of love, then the story continues, paintings were often used within paintings and carried a meaning. The paintings behind the women show a ship on a rough sea and a lone figure. The sea was used as the symbol of love and passion the ship being the lover. I have read several meanings associated with the lone figure but there is an absence of her lover and I think, to me it shows a love that maybe a secret one, where there can only be stolen moments. Maybe a love of a man she can’t have. The slippers and brush are said to be symbols of a love that is not blessed by marriage, though once again there are variations on the meaning. All in all it makes me feel the lady is in love with a man she can’t have.
The second painting The Courtyard of a House in Delft by Pieter de Hooch I like not for the story it tells but for the way in which he dealt with the space and depth of field, it was said he used pins and string to create the different depth of field. Looking at the courtyard we see a difference in affluence the left side we see a more affluent scene and we feel a need to peek through the house to a street beyond. This is cleverly done by using light and angles, inside the muted light accents the leading angles of the floor and the doorways which all travel to an arch and beyond to the bright street behind. To the right of the picture we have an area which again has been given great depth with the leading lines within the brickwork, wooden bunker and walls. I love this side of the courtyard with the plant growing out of a bed and the broom laying on the floor giving interest to the fore of the picture. There is just enough information to make the mind want to tell a story. The painting shows how he has use the angles of the scene to show depth of field. I love this less aesthetic scene to the courtyard, showing a little of the life behind the facia often seen within the home, it encourages the imagination to construct a story.
As we progress through time there is no doubt painting has had its boundaries pushed and artists don’t just stop at the visual but also the tactile works of art. We will find the application of paint is used in numerous ways. The story told in each painting is cleverly portrayed giving just enough information to interest the viewer and like the cliff hangers in modern day tv, there is enough about the story untold to spark our interest and imagination showing how the occupants in the pictures story unfolds.
Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin and the La Fontaine I chose this one for its similarity to the above paintings. I believe he was influence by Vermeer. The depth to the picture was shown not only by clever use of light but also with the tiled flooring leading to an open door behind. The open door makes us want to look beyond the main focus of the picture to the view behind where we see another woman and a young child. How intriguing what is the story.
Sir David Wilkie is my painter of choice for the 19th Century his is a little different in there are no leading lines in the fore, but we have objects placed before the subjects who are the centre of the painting. It’s a lovely scene with each of the listeners showing their different characters bathed in light looking like the centre of the stage. The enormous number of objects within this picture could be overwhelming, but they are so subtle in their portrayal, they remain unobtrusive. The detail is amazing and what looks like a chalked animal done by a child is shown on the door of the cupboard. In this picture, we can see the clever shaft of light showing through the doorway to the rear giving the painting depth. It is such a cleverly done painting and the pleasure or displeasure shows within the faces and actions. It again tells a story but doesn’t answer the questions. The elderly couple look as if the music is intruding on some deep thoughts, worry, tiredness, memories of the past who knows. A snippet of a story a nugget to wet the appetite enough to draw in the viewer and spark the imagination. This out of all the pictures is my favourite.
David Hockney and his very noticeable style shows even with the absence of content, depth of field can be shown by the placement of items within the picture. The table and contents are the only lead into the centre of the picture, the people and cat being the main subjects, beyond the people the window and balcony lead to the outside. Without the door surround reflecting the outdoor light, this picture would have been in danger of looking very flat. Again we see the light and a window/door are being used to show the depth.
Susan Ryder is my choice here, her paintings are very impressionistic, bright and full of colour. There within the painting is a glimpse of a special moment and although I don’t know of any symbols to tell the story, we feel from the posture and mood of the lady painted, this is a special day. As with earlier paintings the light is used to create depth within the room, furniture leading the eye towards a door which again gives great depth to the picture.
Looking at Genre through time we may see a difference in paint application and method, but the basics are to create a fore, middle and background to the picture creating depth. It can be done by introducing leading lines, or placing the main object between the fore detail and the rear. Doors give great depth within the pictures and intrigue, light also is a major influence on giving depth and focal point. Put together they draw the viewer into the picture by walking the eye through the scene engaging them within the story that the painter is telling.
(Unknown, 2011) (Unknown, Unknown)