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Art is all around us. Some of us loathe art, while many others enjoy art and spend much of their time creating works of art or analyzing and critiquing the work of other artists. A school assignment of mine led me to the Dallas Museum of Art, where I was instructed to analyze and critique two pieces of art, one painting and one sculpture. After a long time of indecisiveness, I finally settled on two works to critique: The Sacrifice of Isaac by Antonio de Pereda, an oil painting, and Takenouchi no Sukune Meets the Dragon King of the Sea, a Japanese bronze sculpture.
The Sacrifice of Isaac is an oil painting created in 1661 by Antonio de Pereda, a prominent Spanish baroque painter. The painting shows Abraham with his son Isaac, and Abraham is seen pointing towards the sky while discussing something with Isaac, who is seen lying on the ground and listening wearing nothing but something akin to a white loin cloth.
I chose to analyze this painting because de Pereda’s use of the elements of art invokes strong emotions that correlate with the biblical story of Isaac. This painting relies heavily on the use of color to guide the viewer through the painting. The sky is dark and cloudy, which relays a sense of doom. The background behind Isaac and Abraham is also extremely dark and covered in shadows, further expanding a dark, gloomy feeling. However, Isaac is shown in a white cloth, symbolizing his purity. Abraham is shown in a large blue robe with a red scarf tied around the waist.
I understand this as de Pereda’s way of showing that Abraham is calm and collected, but concerned and scared of the action he has been commanded to commit, as blue generally symbolizes coolness, whereas red symbolizes warmth, heat, and excitement.
De Pereda utilizes space to contrast emotions of fear with emotions of solidarity. The negative space in the work is all very dark and distorted, and the positive space is shown much lighter and softer, in contrast to the background of the painting. This gives informs the viewer that Abraham and Isaac are in a bad world, but they themselves are clean and pure.
De Pereda also utilizes texture to contrast purity and youth to experience and age. Abraham is given a large, scraggly beard, with a very old-looking, wrinkled face and messy hair. On the other hand, Isaac is shown with a smooth, baby-like body, with a smooth, clean-shaven face and clean, groomed hair. The entire painting has a very sharp, jagged looking texture to it, except for Isaac, who has been given smooth features, and even a lighter skin tone. De Pereda’s use of texture makes the viewer feel that Isaac is young, pure, and clean, and that Abraham is old, wise, and experienced, and that the world around them is scary, dark, and gloomy. The second work I chose to analyze is called Takenouchi no Sukune Meets the Dragon King of the Sea. It is a bronze sculpture created by Oshima Joun and 2 assistants in 1881. It was created with a direct lost-wax method, rendering it a unique sculpture. It depicts Takenouchi, a legendary Japanese warrior-statesman meeting with the Dragon King of the Sea.
The Dragon King and what appears to be a female assistant are shown handing to Takenouchi a crystal ball housed in an ornate casing. All three are wearing heavily decorated armor and clothing and they are standing on pointed, jagged rocks, placed on top of a fancy table. The biggest element of art in this sculpture is texture. Texture is used very profoundly throughout the entire sculpture, and is used to contrast the human Takenouchi to the dragon people. Takenouchi’s figure is very rounded, as well as his clothing and armor, although extremely detailed. The dragon people, however, are extremely angular and pointed, from body features to their armor and clothing. The texture of the dragon people’s armor is used I believe to make them appear to have scales, and make them look much more like fish and less like humans, although their general figure resembles humans more than it does fish.
In this sculpture, the line is heavily emphasized and is very pronounced. Even with Takenouchi, a somewhat round figure compared to the dragon people, his body and clothing have very definite outlines, leaving nothing to be implied. Everything in the sculpture is emphasized almost as if everything was outlined. I think the artist did this to create an image of power within the sculpture, because round, soft lines come off as weak, whereas angular emphasized lines come off as strong (Rumsey). The lighting of the sculpture helps to emphasize the line, as the sharp outlines create sharp shadows on the lower portions of the sculptures, making it appear to be like a “baroque sculpture” of sorts. Art is something that is loved by many and hated by many. Regardless, these two works of art by Antonio de Pereda and Oshima Joun are arguably perfect pieces of art, utilizing all the elements to invoke different emotions and thoughts in every individual viewer. We must respect the artists and their works, whether we like them or not, for they are a great example to follow if one wishes to create a work of art.
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