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Drowning Girl, Lovers Comparision Essay

Themes of Love and Loneliness feature in some of the most famous pieces of art in the world, such as The Kiss (Gustav Klimt) and The Subway (George Tooker). Artists use certain methods to evoke certain emotions. Roy Lichtenstein and René Magritte are world-renowned artists both known for different art styles and different views on art itself. Roy Lichtenstein is a Pop artist and painted Drowning Girl whilst René Magritte, generally a surrealist, painted The Lovers. Both paintings focus on using the elements and principles of design to portray the themes of Love and Loneliness. By analyzing these two artists and their artworks this report will evaluate how successful the artworks and artists are at conveying the themes of love and loneliness.

Run for Love, Tony Abruzzo,
DC Comics (1962)
Run for Love, Tony Abruzzo,
DC Comics (1962)
Drowning Girl was painted by American Pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein, in 1963. This work depicts the face, hand and shoulder of a woman drowning in a swirl of water. Above the electric-blue hair of the crying woman there is a thought bubble captioned “I don’t care! I’d rather sink than call Brad for help!” This work has been cropped out of a comic entitled ‘Run for Love’ and then hand-painted and slightly adjusted by Lichtenstein using oil and synthetic polymer paint on canvas. “I’m never drawing the object itself; I’m only drawing a depiction of the object – a kind of crystallized symbol of it.” – Roy Lichtenstein. This work reflects the theme of loneliness as it features a woman describing how she would rather give in to her own death than call Brad (whom we first presume to be her partner) for help.

The Lovers (commonly known as Les Amants) was painted by surrealist artist René Magritte. The Lovers features a man and a woman (whom we assume to be ‘lovers’) standing together, cheek to cheek, almost as if they were posing for a holiday snapshot. The couple each have a white cloth wrapped around their faces that curl behind their shoulders. In the background you can see greenery, trees in the distance and a hill that slopes down towards the middle of the canvas. Magritte has used oil paint on canvas to produce The Lovers. At first glance, this painting has a very eerie, mysterious feeling.

René Magritte’s mother committed suicide by drowning herself in the River Sambre. According to popular belief, the young Magritte, age 14, witnessed his mother’s body as it was retrieved from the river with her wet night dress clinging to her face. Many believe that this childhood event influenced many of Magritte’s paintings in which the faces of people have been obscured, including The Lovers. Magritte denied these accusations, however it is almost suspiciously ironic how an image of a childhood event has nothing to do with a painting extremely similar to that image.

Whilst Roy Lichtenstein uses colours and dominance to show strong emotions of isolation, René Magritte uses tone and texture to create a more realistic and mysterious image. In Drowning Girl Roy Lichtenstein uses bold and subdued colours to create a certain vibe. The reason as to why the woman’s hair is coloured such a bright electric blue is to represent that the woman is an individual who holds very strong thoughts and emotions. The muted blue of the swirling waves surrounding and trapping her represents the depressing and lonely state she is in with this ‘Brad’ personality, as blue is a colour often associated with sadness and depression. The woman is trapped in a sea of sadness. In both the waves and the woman’s hair, Lichtenstein has painted strong black strokes to represent the movement of both the hair and the waves. The bold and subdue colors in Drowning Girl help to communicate the meaning by somewhat also adding a sense of life, existence whilst keeping to the lonely and melodramatic theme of such a comical, unrealistic painting.

Dominance gives a painting interest and helps to direct the focus on one particular shape or segment of the artwork. Lichtenstein uses this principle of design, as the painting concentrates heavily on the woman’s face (taking up approximately 50% of the painting). This is very effective and really conveys the woman’s emotions through her facial expression. The face resembles an expression of dismay, distress and exaggerated sadness. Drowning Girl is a very melodramatic painting and Roy Lichtenstein decided to crop out so that she was the only being you see in this painting, which creates a sense of loneliness in itself. Lichtenstein then greatly enlarged that cropped out image of the woman so that her face would be another major focus point (along with the thought bubble) to help depict a theatrical loneliness by using her facial expressions.

Tone gives a two-dimensional drawing the illusion of three-dimensional form. René Magritte used tone to create a more realistic image that therefore adds to the mysterious and unsettling ambience. “Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.” – René Magritte. The way he used tone to display the way the cloths are settled around the couple’s heads was sensationally creepy. The darker tone of the background helps brings the couple forwards and really corroborates the sense that they are posing for a photo, which consequently also promotes mystery. Why do they have white cloths wrapped around their head? Why are they taking such a photo? If they aren’t taking a photo what are they posing for?

Even though language isn’t an official element or principle of design, it is a crucial visual element to Drowning Girl as is the lack of lines in The Lovers. The statement “I don’t care! I’d rather sink than call Brad for help!” is so vague and ambiguous whilst being incredibly dramatic that it evokes mystery and engages the mind of viewers. Raising multiple questions about the relationship of ‘Brad’ and this woman. We see ourselves wondering how badly has Brad hurt her?

What could have possibly happened between the two in order for her to place her pride before her life? This little thought bubble communicates the theme of loneliness because it exclaims how this woman seems extremely weakened by Brad because she states that she would rather drown in the water than be saved by Brad. The other major focal point of Drowning Girl is the woman’s face as it takes up a majority of the 171.6 x 169.5 cm painting. Magritte’s lack of sharp lines in The Lovers also modifies the painting to look more life like. Unlike Roy Lichtenstein who uses distinct lines to outline shapes, forms and movement in Drowning Girl, René Magritte tries to avoid using lines and instead to use tone wherever he could in order to once again make the painting more realistic which then adds to the ominous and obscure atmosphere of The Lovers.

Certain artworks behold different meanings to different people. The Lovers is a cryptic painting where the theme is found through investigation whilst Drowning Girl uses the theme of loneliness to then convey a message. René Magritte’s The Lovers is an almost chilling artwork that evokes mystery. Magritte wanted those who view the artwork to question what they see and to find a meaning that’s apparent to them. “My painting is visible images which conceal nothing…they evoke mystery and indeed when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question ‘what does that mean’? It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable.” – René Magritte. By laying cloths around the couple’s heads the painting immediately changes from a ‘holiday snapshot’ to a mysterious, unsettling image.

Whilst many associate this painting with ‘blind love’, to me this painting symbolizes, due to the name and pose, a couple, “Lovers” who are each isolated and hiding things from each other. They do not truly love one another and may “love” each other for the wrong reasons. The white cloth represents the shield they are putting up and hiding beneath. This painting can also represents the death of love, as the cloth clinging to their faces can be associated with the death of his mother. The Lovers also evaluates how people can falsely exploit the title of ‘lovers’. Lichtenstein gives Drowning Girl a very over the top, melodramatic feeling and mood whilst conjuring a little mystery.

By creating such a melodramatic atmosphere Lichtenstein is also mocking or parodying comics (and other forms of media) about the oversimplification and stereotypes of people, gender, emotions authors use in order to sell to the audience. There is a woman who typifies the comic representation as she is a clichéd beautiful woman in a state of mental breakdown and depression due to some incident or situation concerning her relationship with the out of frame, Brad. “Well, I had the idea of ‘The Hero’ Brad. ‘Brad’ sounded like a hero to me, so all heroes were to be called Brad—a very minor idea, but it has to do with oversimplification and cliché.” – Lichtenstein. Lichtenstein is able to use loneliness to convey a statement about society’s commercial depiction of gender.

The most engaging aspect about both these paintings are that they both evoke mystery and even after the viewing of the artwork questions in your mind still remain whether it is to do with an out of frame character or literally, a white cloth wrapped around one’s head.

Both these paintings do a fantastic job at using the elements and principles of design to support and depict the message or feeling the wish to convey. In Drowning Girl Roy Lichtenstein uses colour, language and dominance in order to create a very lonely, sad melodramatic feel to the painting whilst René Magritte tries create a mysterious, ominous and almost chilling ambience in The Lovers. Magritte uses this mysterious feel to convey a hidden message to do with love. However Lichtenstein uses this evident loneliness in Drowning Girl to convey a completely different message about society’s commercial depiction of gender. Therefore, artists Roy Lichtenstein and René Magritte have both managed to create successful pieces of art following the themes of love and loneliness.

Love and loneliness are some of the two most painted themes in the art world. Many artists love to convey these themes as it allows their artworks to be filled with so much emotion. Generally a surrealist, René Magritte painted The Lovers whilst pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein painted Drowning Girl. Both these paintings do a successful job at reflecting themes of loneliness by using different Elements and principles of design.

Artists generally do use many different types of methods and mediums to depict certain messages, evoke certain emotions and engage certain thoughts from the viewer. Despite this artworks often promote different messages, meanings, emotions and thoughts to each individual viewer. These themes, meanings and messages may depend on variables such as the current situation the viewer is in, situations they have been in before and the way they look at life. Different people evoke different emotions at different times. The world around us is too concerned and convinced about how they ‘should’ feel when viewing an artwork or whether they ‘like’ and artwork or not due to absurd factors. What do others think about the artwork? Was the artist famous? Did their paintings sell for millions? Art is whatever you perceive it to be, don’t let people tell you otherwise.


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Gershman, R. Art Story – Roy Lichtenstein [online], Available from: URL: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-lichtenstein-roy.htm (accessed 24 Aug.2013).

Les Amants [online], Available from: URL: http://www.artsmypassion.com/Les-Amants-p/b2307.htm (accessed 26 Aug.2013).

Magritte Gallery, Les Amants (The Lovers) [online], Available from: URL: http://www.magritte-gallery.com/index.php/les-amants-the-lovers-lithograph-rene-magritte.html (accessed 23 Aug.2013).

MoMA, 2011, Drowning Girl [online], Available from: URL: http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=80249 (accessed 25 Aug.2013).

NGA, René Magritte, Les Amants (The Lovers) [online], Available from: URL: http://nga.gov.au/International/Catalogue/Detail.cfm?IRN=148052 (accessed 23 Aug.2013).

Powers, S. Art Story – Magritte [online], Available from: URL: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-magritte-rene.htm# (accessed 25 Aug.2013).

The Lovers, 1928 by Rene Magritte [online], Available from: URL: http://www.rene-magritte.org/the-lovers.jsp (accessed 21 Aug.2013).

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