Art Appreciation Analysis of Art Work Essay

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¶ … Mr. And Mrs. Andrews

By examining the work of painter Thomas Gainsborough, one is able to discover a number of details regarding the culture and society of eighteenth-century England, and his 1750 painting Mr. And Mrs. Andrews is no exception. Closely examining the painting reveals it to serve a dual purpose; on the one hand, celebrating nature and the peaceful beauty it may produce, and on the other, reinforcing the aristocratic power of the paintings' subjects. Before discussing the image in greater detail, however, it will be useful to briefly discuss the artist himself, as a means of placing this work in context.

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Gainsborough was born in 1727, and although he began drawing as a young child, it was not until "he was thirteen [that he] prevailed upon his father to send him up to London to become an artist," where he painted portraits and landscapes (National Gallery of Art, "Thomas Gainsborough," 2011). While in London Gainsborough studied under Hubert Gravelot, and "was intimately involved with avant-garde rococo art and design," something quite evident in Gainsborough's playful, almost lackadaisical Mr. And Mrs. Andrews (a fact that will be addressed in greater detail later) (NGA 2011). More generally, Gainsborough's use of color and curving lines throughout his work demonstrates the influence of his artistic education in London. Furthermore, the particular subjects of Gainsborough's work was undoubtedly influenced by his time spent in Sudbury and the surrounding Suffolk county, and the English countryside was a natural fit for the pastoral rococo images popular at the time. After studying in London, in 1748 Gainsborough returned to Sudbury in southeast England, where he was born, and although he moved twice afterward, he never ventured outside of England.

Essay on Art Appreciation Analysis of Art Work Assignment

Gainsborough completed Mr. And Mrs. Andrews in 1950, two years before moving again, this time to Ipswich. Later in life he "became a founding member of the Royal Academy of Arts," and eventually was "comparatively well off" after moving to "the fashionable spa town of Bath," where his paintings of aristocracy and nature earned him "instantaneous success" (NGA 2011). Despite his popularity, Gainsborough did not take on any students or assistants except for his nephew, "who was apprenticed to him in 1772" (NGA 2011). "In 1777 he received the first of many commissions from the royal family," and in 1780 he had an exhibition of his landscapes (NGA 2011). Beginning in 1784 and continuing onward, Gainsborough would hold "annual exhibitions in his studio" in Bath, until his death from cancer in 1788 (NGA 2011). In addition to his paintings, Gainsborough experimented with other media as well, making prints and even constructing "a peep-show box in which transparencies were seen magnified and lit by candles from behind, producing a dramatic and colorful effect" (NGA 2011). However, painting remained his primary mode of expression. In addition to Mr. And Mrs. Andrews, some of Gainsborough's more famous works include The Blue Boy and portraits of King George III and Queen Charlotte.

As mentioned previously, Mr. And Mrs. Andrews, an oil-on-canvas painting, was completed in 1750, making it one of his earlier works, and it combines the themes he previously worked with in London, namely, portraits and landscapes. The foreground of the painting features the titular characters as well as a dog apparently resting on a small hill. Mr. Andrews is leaning his left arm against a wrought-iron bench on which his wife is sitting, and his right hand is tucked into his pocket, while his arms cradles a long hunting rifle. His clothes bear the trappings of aristocracy, with a white, somewhat ruffled jacket, a high-collared shirt, tricorne hat, short black pants, white stockings, leather gloves, and buckled shoes. His wife is sitting to his left wearing what looks like a bonnet and sun hat as well as an enormous, billowing blue dress with lace detailing, and she appears to be holding some kind of quill. Though her slender form is visible in the lines of her dress, the skirt of the dress itself nearly covers the entire bench, and even rises up a bit on one side in apparent defiance of gravity. The dog stands at the heel of its owner, looking up at him, while Mr. And Mrs. Andrews face the viewer. Mr. Andrew's expression seems to vacillate between amusement and indifference, depending on whether one focuses on his eyes or the corners of his mouth, with the former staring blankly forward while the latter seems on the verge of smirking. Mrs. Andrews appears more straightforwardly pleased, with a slight smile and heavy eyelids. The Andrews, their dog, and the bench are positioned immediately in front of a large tree, which casts some shadow on Mr. Andrews while his wife is more fully lit by the light coming from the right side of the image. The bench features twists and curves, and the front feet almost resemble the exposed roots of the tree, which are visible on the ground.

Moving into the middle-ground, the painting insinuates that Mr. And Mrs. Andrews are enjoying some time outdoors in the late summer or early autumn, as the leaves of the tree have begun to turn yellow and the right third of the image features harvested rows of what looks like wheat, with a collection of wheat in the foreground and middle-ground, an area of bare space recently harvested, and then another collection of wheat in the background. The middle-ground also features three trees on the right side of the image. Passing the vast empty space of the middle-ground leads one to the background of the image, in which two pens may be seen, one containing sheep and the other cattle. A forest separates the cattle and sheep, though the majority of the forest is obscured by the figures in the foreground. In the right half of the painting, behind the sheep, one is able to see the landscape slope upwards in a series of brush-covered hills until the horizon. The sky features billowing clouds against a light blue expanse, through the clouds are considerably darker the further they are from the light emanating from somewhere off the right side of the frame. The shadows seem to suggest the sun is on its way down, casting a golden hue over the fields, but not so low as to create long, dramatic shadows on the ground.

The image is positively serene, although two details do work to complicate this emotion. Firstly, the dark clouds on the left side of the image threaten to encroach on the golden scene, but they are sufficiently far away and blocked by the large tree in the foreground such that they do not present an overly ominous character. In fact, the detail which most prominently undermines the still peacefulness of the scene is the dog, who seems to be impatiently looking up at his master, wondering when they will actually get to the hunting. The Andrews, on the other hand, seem quite content to pose for the image, and the slight expression on their faces seems to suggest that even the full-fledged expression of emotion would ultimately be out of place in this soft, laconic world.

Indicative of Gainsborough's rococo influences, the painting features a number of smooth, curving lines, seen most prominently in the detail of the Andrews' clothing and the bench. The soft curving lines in the folds of Mr. Andrews' jacket and Mrs. Andrews' dress give the fabric an almost impossible stiffness, so although the color and shading are quite soft, the actual tactile impression of their clothing's texture is not very different from the metal bench, which does not feature any straight lines except for the small portion of the seat which is actually visible. Despite this, the muscles of Mr. Andrews' arms and legs are visible beneath his clothing, giving him a physicality and potential for motion that counteracts the stiffness of the material.

At first glance the image seems entirely to scale, except when comparing the figures under the tree to the piles of wheat in the foreground, which are considerably smaller than normal. However, this difference is not particularly jarring, as the rhythm of the image carries one's eye from Mr. And Mrs. Andrews, to the wheat, back towards the sheep, and then around to cattle behind the figures in a smooth arc. Thus, while Mr. And Mrs. Andrews are emphasized above all other features of the painting, and upon first inspection appear to preclude a sense of balance to image, as the left side is exponentially fuller than the left, the landscape serves to carry the viewer's gaze through the entire image before ending up back at the beginning. The motion of the viewer's gaze, then, starts in the intimate, enclosed space under the tree and travels into the open air of the fields before returning to the shadow of the right half of the image. Aside from the dog's impatient glance, the only movement in the image is conveyed by the clouds, which have the appearance… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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