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Critique of the paintings by the artist A.E. Backus Essay

Albert Ernest “Beanie” Backus is a gifted painter born on January 3, 1906 in Ft. Pierce, Florida. He studied at the Parsons School of Applied Art in New York but his talent in creating wonderful works of art is considered to be only self thought. He devoted his time in creating Florida landscapes after he came from the war and his works became widely popular through his exhibitions in Miami and Palm Beach. (“A. E. Backus: A brief biography,” 2007) Backus is famous for his creative works that feature picturesque Florida views like sunsets, the vistas of the Everglades, and spectacular beach and river views.

One of his artworks, titled the “Early Taylor Creek” was in fact a nice example in his set of landscapes. Created in memory of S. N. Baruch, this work of art shows a view of a boat resting on a side of a creek with palm trees and a house looming on its background. The outlines of the shapes and lines are not overly emphasized and are applied in light strokes creating a wispy sort of image to the view. The colors used are mostly in the hues of light green, brown, and blue giving the impression of solemnity and mildness to the artwork.

The shading of the colors in the picture is applied subtly while the texture gives a rather unrealistic and semi-solid sense of touch on the surface because of the way the lines are applied in wispy strokes. (“Permanent Collection,” 2007) When it comes to the application of the principles of design, this work of art can undoubtedly be considered as one having a nice visual balance. The informal type is used in this work wherein unlike objects are placed on either side of the picture to create the illusion of balance.

With the boat serving as the central point, Backus created equilibrium by painting a clump of trees on the right side and pairing it with the picture of the house, an expanse of grass, and a withered trunk on the left. (“Principles of Design,” 2007) Variety is the principle that artists use to make a certain artwork interesting by creating complex relationships in their works to make it appealing and lively. For some painters, however, the concept of variety is out of the question when they want simplicity to rule in their creations.

Here in Early Taylor’s Creek, the principle of simplicity is the one used because it displays elegance despite of its plainness in subject. The boat resting on the side of the creek and the house on its background, on the other hand, shows the application of the principle of emphasis since these are the objects that stood out most on the painting. (“Principles of Design,” 2007) When it comes to contrast, the concept of low contrast is applied in this work since the colors used are mainly in the same hues and the shapes doesn’t give an impression of obvious difference on the whole of the artwork.

Repetition is displayed here by the withering trunks on both the left and right side of the picture and it also showed good rhythm by the way Backus painted the trees and the grass swaying in the same direction to emphasize movement. Also, the principle of scale showed here are shown in correct proportions to the standard size references of the actual objects making it look realistic in nature. The spacing of the objects in the picture is done well and the motions as well as depth are also simply well-displayed.

(“Principles of Design,” 2007) Backus has an unrequited passion for wildlife and plants and through his natural talent; he was able to produce captivating paintings of tropical flowers and other flora. One of his particular favorite as his subject is the hibiscus which is a native in Hawaii and Malaysia. One of his paintings featuring this ubiquitous flower is his work called the “Offering to the gods” which features a native mask standing amidst a background of several leaves with a red hibiscus lying on its side.

(“Wikipedia,” 2007) Studying the elements and the principles of designs applied to it, this artwork can be well considered as the opposite of Early Taylor’s Creek. The lines and shapes used here are well defined and geometric compared to the earlier landscape giving it a solid and distinct impression. The colors used here are mostly in black and in shades of dark brown, green, and red which gave it a rather gloomy and mysterious kind of feel.

The shading applied also added to the factor of the artwork’s shadowy appearance. Due to the smooth application of strokes and the defined lines, the Offering to the gods was able to attain the kind of solidity that lacked in Early Taylor’s creek. (“Backusgallery. com,” 2007) In examining the principles of design used here, it is noticeable that this creation didn’t use the principle of balance. All the weight is placed on the left side of the picture because of the mask and the clump of leaves behind it.

Only the hibiscus flower was placed on the right but its bright red color somehow made up to its lack of size when compared to the dull colors of the objects painted on the left side. Simplicity isn’t also applied here because when you first look at the picture, you will quickly notice the stand out image of the mask looming over the startling red hibiscus lying prone on its side. (“Principles of Design,” 2007) When it comes to the principle of variety, what lacked in Early Taylor’s Creek was abundant here in this work.

Because of this picture’s mystifying look, it possessed a certain complexity that only the aspects of variety can only give. However, emphasis is hard to distinguish in this artwork because there are only two subjects painted here and both are certainly noticeable. The native mask can be considered as the focal point of the painting because of its appearance and size but the hibiscus can also be taken in as the important subject because its bright red color stands out from the shadowy background of green, brown, and black.

On the other hand, the concept of high contrast is used here because of the emphasis of the color of the hibiscus over the shades of the mask, leaves and the background. (“Principles of Design,” 2007) The concept of repetition is out of the topic since the two subjects here are far different from each other. The principle of scale, however, was quite noticeable in this painting because of the monumental size of the mask over the hibiscus flower.

Motion is not applied since the subjects portray a fixed position and the principle of rhythm is also disregarded since it is connected to the concept of repetition. The depth possessed by the artwork is also unfathomable because of the mysterious and gloomy quality brought by its subjects. (“Principles of Design,” 2007) The Early Taylor’s Creek piece is more appealing to me because of its sheer simplicity and elegance. Its concept is also easy to understand and interpret compared to the dark ‘feel’ that the Offerings to the gods give.

I also find that the principles of design are well applied here because the concepts of balance are applied soundly and the lack of variety makes people to easily connect with the message it communicates. Movement and rhythm are also very well handled making this painting more realistic in nature. The Offerings to the gods’ concept may be appealing because of its mystifying aura but Early Taylor’s Creek is still my choice because of the light and placid feel it displays. References: Backusgallery. com. (2007). A. E. Backus: A brief biography. (2007). Permanent Collection. (2007). Principles of Design. (2007). Wikipedia. (2007).


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