Dance of Life Essay
Dance of Life
The painting “Dance of Life”, created by Edvard Munch in 1900, is a painting that portrays people in different stages of life. It portrays two women who seem sad, a third woman who seems happy, and a bunch of other women dancing with men. The painting implies that life is difficult and that it can be depressing at times, but that it always goes on. The arrangement of the women in a half circle represents the phases of life. The women on the end of the half circle are both standing alone. The woman on the far left stands alone, representing youth, and wears white, representing innocence.
The woman on the far right stands alone, representing the loneliness of old age, and she wears black, representing death or loss. The women dancing in the background represent the different phases of life and the enjoyment that can be found in every phase of life. The woman in the center of the painting represents the idea of being out of step with the ‘dance of life’. She wears a red dress, different from all the others. Red represents danger or anger which can be perceived as negative, but by painting her in the center the artist respects her unique position in life and implies that her difference from the rest is a positive quality.
The way that others are turned towards her represents how people in society center so much of their lives on attention to others’ decisions. More than half of the painting has a green background representing life and vitality. The top quarter of the painting is a blue body of water that simultaneously represent tranquility. The juxtaposition of these two represents the necessity of having balance in your life. The green, as well as the people dancing, represent the joy to be found in life. Most of life should be joyous, coupled with the tranquility, silence, and reflection represented by the blue and the three girls not dancing.
The different colors used in this painting represent all the different aspects in life and how important it is to acknowledge all of them. The artist doesn’t use harsh lines or defined shapes in this painting. All the shapes are smooth and rounded. It really adds to the implication that life flows. The smooth shapes help the painting transition from left to right. The smooth shapes support the half circle shape and it all works together to create a path for the eye to follow. There’s not a large contrast of darkness and light; most of the painting is dark except for one column where the sun is, which casts more light on the girl in white.
This gives the idea that there’s more light, more carefree-ness in the youth. The entire painting is two dimensional. Though there are clearly different rows and elements to this painting, the grass, water, and sky all seem to run together in a flat way. This gives the feeling that we are bigger than life; that we are bigger than the problems of the world around us. The painting has three central points of interest; the three women in their different phases of life are set up as the most significant points of the painting.
It represents the phases of life and brings to mind the emotions associated with those phases. The young girl in the white dress stands next to flowers which only accentuate the idea of youth and imply that the girl, like the flowers, will still continue to grow. The older woman on the end seems to have a morose, solemn look about her. It implies introspection and reflection on the long life she’s lived. It gives pause to the viewer and causes them to be solemn. One reason the painting conveys its message so well is because of the way the women are set up in contrast to each other.
The harmony in the painting is created in the way that the women wear white and the men wear black. It creates a calm background which sets up a better backdrop to set the three women apart. The sun setting over the water creates a smooth backdrop and adds an idea of resignment to the painting; as though it’s okay to accept this ‘dance of life’ as a way of living. Unity is completely achieved in this painting as all of the people have something in common; be it gender, clothing color, or disposition. This is a closed compositional painting and it’s emphasized by the circle closing off at the edges of both paintings.
It represents the idea of the circle of life and ensures that every aspect of life is contained in the painting. The lines and structure of this painting seem unintentional. The lines of the grass and the separation between the water and the sky aren’t straight or harsh. They’re smooth and blurred, creating an intentionally casual dynamic. The point of view of the painter is that life is short and that people are happiest in their youth. The older woman seems to have a look of remorse or regret on her face as she stares at the lady in red.
The painter seems to be saying that we, as the viewers, should enjoy our youth and live without regrets. It also gives implications about life and the human experience; life is contained in a short circle and passes by quickly. In any phase of life, there are things to be enjoyed and appreciated because life passes by way too quickly. The painter’s view of the world is that there’s good aspects of every part of life. He seems to think that youth is the best part of life and that mistakes are central to life. The way that everyone circles around the woman in red represents that life circles around mistakes and trials but that it’s all surmountable.
The painting accurately describes the way that the artist sees the way the life begins and ends; the way that we start as the girl in white—innocent and hopeful and young—and that we end as the lady in black—feeling morose and sad and as though life has slipped away all too suddenly. The way that she looks at the girl in red implies that the painter thinks that in our old age all we have to look back on is the choices we made, the friends we choose to keep, and the happiness that we choose to create. Though this was painted in 1900, it very accurately represents our culture right now.
It’s a reminder to seize the day, to live for the moment, to make the most of whatever phase of life you’re in so that you won’t look back at the end of life and regret choices or missed opportunities. This painting causes me to reflect on my life and the decisions that I make. It makes me want to focus more on being happy with the phase of life that I’m in and to appreciate being youthful and carefree. It reinforces the desire to not make decisions that will keep me out of the circle. The painting gives the feeling that life is to be enjoyed, and that no matter what it will keep going.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 19 February 2017
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