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Art Critique for Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

Updated on July 8, 2020

Phil Lear The Old Castle

This painting is based on modest Mussorgsky’s composition, Pictures at an Exhibition. Pictures at an Exhibition is a suite of ten pieces composed for piano by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky in 1874. The suite is Mussorgsky's most famous piano composition and has become a showpiece for virtuoso pianists. I could easily picture this painting being set to classical music perhaps something ominous with low deep sounding music with an atmosphere of doom and foreboding.

Phil Lear has an extensive use of line in this painting, what with all the dead trees, which lead the eye making the scene eerie and dark. His use of color is mostly various shades and hues of brown with some cool blues and some oranges where the ground is somewhat warm from fallen leaves meaning it likely set in autumn. However as one looks up at the top of the painting, they will see more cool colors in the sky, which is separated from the ground, as is light and more transparent. The same goes for value, it is bright near the bottom and gets dark on the sides and in the center, the “castle” being one the darkest elements in the scene with it dim windows and empty doorways you get a sense the building has long been abandoned and the dark castle is contrasted by a bright sky above it, but the scene then recedes back into darkness, as you go to the right where the brown bear has come from which indicates going forward into the light from the darkness.

The textures vary wildly from the brown fur of the beer to the dead branches of the trees and dim building in the distance with its jagged and decrepit rooftops. The painting is also asymmetrical, it is tilted at an angle giving more visual interest. There is a well-defined form from the building or edifice as well as the bear and the surrounding trees.

Lawrence Alexander “Peter” Harrison English (1866-1937) The Garden of the Gods Oil On Canvas Ca. 1903

The exact site of the painting is unknown, but it is believed to be from glen Eyrie.

This painting is somewhat abstract as it relies more on color than on value, it is more abstract than realistic, it almost seems as if it were taken by a camera out of focus because the colors blend into each other. Space is used to separate the earthy rocks and the blue sky. The ground is warm with varying shades of brown, some of the trees are very dark so dark that they’re almost cool, but the lighter brownish colors of the rocks and surrounding area contrasts both the trees and the sky which is cool, but also bright which creates contrast with the rest of the painting. There are no hard lines within this painting only implied lines, lines implying where one object begins and another ends, or vice versa.

The painting The Garden of the Gods can be described abstract or perhaps more accurately as impressionistic compared to some of the more realistic paintings in the exhibit and it’s blurry seemingly out of focus or far away it lacks value and mostly uses color to define shapes space. The texture I feel is lacking somewhat the value helps bring out that texture but it's not quite right. I like the imagery of the garden of the gods though it does seem recognizable here it doesn’t fully capture all the color value shape and texture of the real garden of the gods.

This may have been the standard when it was painted or maybe the artist didn’t have a classical art education and couldn’t paint as realistically as other artists or like Picasso just wanted to be abstract for the sake of it. Most of this is speculation as not much is known about the painter other than he donated the painting as a gift and he lived in England in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Although after a quick search online if found that the artist painting more realistic when working with human subjects so portraiture may have just been his strong suit with other types of art not quite being his forte.

John Singer Sargent Portrait of Elsie Palmer or The Young Lady in White.

The painting is in the movement of Realism it’s very detailed almost photographic in its attention to detail the subject is almost monochromatic with varying shades of white exempts for the hair which is brown and very real looking. The only detail I would say the painter missed is her eyes they are slightly cross-eyed although the glare of an adult is still there, but I can’t help but notice it. The backstory is the painting is very interesting, she was raised by her mother who died when she was young, and she became a sister and a mother to her younger sisters. And the artist Sargent was born in Florence Italy he moved to Paris to further his studies although he was a masterful painter in many subjects, portrait painting was what defined most of his career.

In the painting, you see the use of implied line as you can clearly see the difference between the subject the girl and the back there is also the use of implied line to separate value and define shape within the painting. The painting is almost monochromatic in its color scheme save for the hair and background and floor, it also has a lot of curves throughout the painting to make the fabric seem real and smooth. When looking at the painting you can see all value distinguishing all the parts of the painting making it clear and distinct unlike the more abstract form of art. All this value color and implied line also help define the texture of her dress of the wall behind her the floor below as well as her skin and hair it is all very realistic and natural-looking.

Lots of well-placed value which clearly defines positive and negative space within the portrait in this painting and an efficient use of color added onto the value to accentuate the value and make it pop more. This painting also very well creates form, with her dress curving around her body and folding in on itself and how everything reflects and absorbs light thanks to the value texture and color.


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