Thursday, October 7, 2010

Internet Writing Assignment-Best Paper

Erynn Richardson


-The Art Institute of Chicago-

After looking through The Art Institute of Chicago’s “Drawing and Prints” collection, I found Georges Seurat’s Seated Women with a Parasol (study for La Grande Jatte), black conte crayon on ivory laid paper, 1884-85 and Antonio Pollaiuolo’s Battle of the Naked Men, engraving, 1470-75, to be my two favorites.

Seurat’s piece is a rough, shadowy depiction of a women sitting, holding a parasol and wearing a hat. The outline of her large skirt fills the bottom of the piece. As suggested in the title, the drawing is a study for Seurat’s famous A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, 1884, and it as rendered in a similar fashion. However, Seated Women with a Parasol is monochromatic and appears rougher and smudged.

There is an eerie ghostly appearance to this piece. The figure’s head is turned away and left blank, leaving her mysterious. Shades of grey behind the women create an atmosphere suggesting a body of water and the smudged stippling throughout the drawing mimics a rough film grain, giving this drawing a slight photographic quality. The torso is built up to a rich velvety black, which stands out against the light background. The figure’s hand is rendered in such a way that is implies motion caught on film. While I don’t necessarily think this was Seurat’s intention I do find that it adds liveliness to his drawing.

Although it is beautiful it is also, simultaneously, unsettling, which is why I am so attracted to it. The image shifts back and forth from being a lovely black and white drawing of a woman by the lake to an ephemeral photograph of some ghostly apparition on a foggy shore.

The Pollaiuolo piece is my other favorite, namely because I find it amusing. (The title alone, Battle of the Naked Men, makes me smirk.) As the title suggests, this engraving depicts ten very naked men fighting. All the men are rendered with light grey hatching against darker grey and black hatching. All the hatching is done in a downward forty-five degree left to right motion.

This piece is also highly homoerotic: the two pairs of men in the foreground appear with one on top of the other. The man in the top most left corned is behind another man, penetrating him with an arrow. All the men are shown to be in their prime and in ideal physical condition. They all wield large swords, which are suggestive and phallic by nature.

Although all the figures are in motion, they appear stiff, as if they have been posed: holding themselves in staged action poses instead of actually fighting. Staggering the figures, one group in front of the other, creates depth. Space is implied, however, it still feels flat and crowded.

Of the two pieces Seurat’s is my favorite. The violence in Pollaiuolo’s piece is so embellished that I find it too frank to be interesting. Seurat’s piece, however, has a subtle ethereal quality that truly entices me. In my own body of work, I strive to create pieces that are beautiful and disturbing at the same time. Seurat’s piece, for me, emulates this duality, which is why I chose it as my favorite.

photo credit: The Art Institute of Chicago

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