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Ludolf Backhuysen and Claude Monet

Ludolf Backhuysen and Claude Monet

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Published by Scott Abel
An essay for Dr. Tsui at Washington College
An essay for Dr. Tsui at Washington College

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Published by: Scott Abel on Dec 27, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Scott AbelArt History Paper Prof. TsuiLudolf Backhuysen painted a seascape named
Ships in Distress off a Rocky Coast 
in 1667 and Claude Monet painted
Waterloo Bridge, Gray Day
in 1903 while in London.Backhuysen’s oil painting depicts an epic man verses nature struggle for survival in richcolor and great detail. Monet paints a scene that depicts a typical event day during theIndustrial Era in London, but does so in a way that gives you a true sense of that time and place. Both paintings are similar in that they depict a waterscape with a mostly cloudy background, people in motion, and each depicts an important theme for these eras.However they are different in that Monet’s brushstrokes are more visible, but his overall painting has less clarity while Backhuysen uses more effective modeling and detail.Furthermore, each artist painted using different shapes and forms.Backhuysen and Monet both use a similar palette of gray, green, red, blue, and brown. Both paintings use gray as a color for the water and have a green tint to them, butMonet used green as the shadow of the Waterloo Bridge. Each artist used red in his painting, but with different uses. Backhuysen uses red in the Dutch flag which is thefocal point and Monet uses some red for the traffic on the bridge, but it is not enough tomake it the focal point of the painting. Blue is present in the Dutch flag and in the water around the horizon and Monet uses blue in some of the boats in the Thames River.Brown is an important color in both oil paintings. Backhuysen uses brown for the Dutchsailing vessels’ timbers and for the rock to the left of the painting. Monet uses dark  brown as the color for the bridge that cuts the painting in two.
Despite the similarities of the palette, the two waterscapes have some differentcolors such as light pink, white, and yellow. Backhuysen uses yellow to show the lightemitted from an absent sun and this light is reflected off the sails and water. The crests of the waves being repulsed from the rocky coast are glossy bright white. The painting hasa lot more variety to the browns of the ships and the light tan of the sails. Monet’s colorsare a lot flatter and this is especially true for the sky over London. Monet uses a lot more pink in his atmosphere and it is generally smog and pollution. However, the sky itselhas a virtually uniform pink tint to it.The two artists used different techniques in order to depict shadows andmodeling. Backhuysen used modeling greatly in his painting for virtually all aspects of the picture. In order to depict shadows or modeling he made the colors either darker or  brighter by adding black or white. This technique is used in the sky, clouds, sea, ships,and rocky coast. Claude Monet doesn’t always use black to show depth; rather he mightuse a completely different color to depict a shadow. For example, to depict shadowsunder the bridge he used dark green in stead of making the murky gray water darker. For the traffic on the bridge he uses different colors to depict a little sense of depth. The boats on the Thames River don’t just have nuances of blue, but also brown, black, andeven trace amounts of red. The exception is with the smog in the foreground, because ithas several nuances of pink. Another exception is the bridge which has black added to itthroughout the structure.The most noticeable difference between the two paintings is that the Monet painting doesn’t have the crisp detail and clarity that Backhuysen’s painting has. Monetand Backhuysen had different brushstroke techniques and the difference in these
techniques resulted in different effects on the overall painting. Backhuysen painted withvery fine detail and one cannot see the individual brushstrokes. For example, one can seethe individual lines on the rocks and plants on one rock. Backhuysen used even moredetail in his depiction of the Dutch sailing vessels. For example, you can see the many parts of each vessel and especially on the bow of the vessels where he painted detailfigureheads. He even painted a crewman aboard a vessel. The result of this is a paintingwith a high resolution and detail which makes the painting look extremely naturalistic.Monet painted with relatively large brushstrokes which are clearly visible. Although thistechnique results in the loss of detail, it results in a more naturalistic setting for the foggycity of London. This loss of detail is as if one was looking at a scene through anunfocused lens. For example, the boats in his painting do not have a whole lot of visibledetail to them. Furthermore, on Waterloo Bridge there is not a significant amount of detail in the carriages and people. Even in the far background one cannot distinguish onestructure from another. One detail that Monet puts in that Backhuysen does not is hissignature and the year he painted the work in the lower left hand side. The fog of London plays an important role in the painting, because the closer the object is to the horizon the blurrier it gets.One major difference in the painting is how each artist created the forms and thusaltering the composition of each painting. Backhuysen’s composition is more complexwith multiple large forms in the painting. There are the large immobile rocks to thecenter left and some of the rocks boarder the sky. The center ship floats majestically butalso precariously away from the rocks. The other vessels take a beating and float on thesea to the right. Even the sky seems to be composed of several parts, such as the yellow

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