Scott Abel Art History Paper Prof.

Tsui Ludolf 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 rich color and great detail. Monet paints a scene that depicts a typical event day during the Industrial 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, but Monet 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 the focal point and Monet uses some red for the traffic on the bridge, but it is not enough to make 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 Dutch sailing 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 different colors such as light pink, white, and yellow. Backhuysen uses yellow to show the light emitted 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 has a lot more variety to the browns of the ships and the light tan of the sails. Monet’s colors are 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 itself has a virtually uniform pink tint to it. The two artists used different techniques in order to depict shadows and modeling. 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 might use a completely different color to depict a shadow. For example, to depict shadows under 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, and even trace amounts of red. The exception is with the smog in the foreground, because it has several nuances of pink. Another exception is the bridge which has black added to it throughout 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. Monet and Backhuysen had different brushstroke techniques and the difference in these

techniques resulted in different effects on the overall painting. Backhuysen painted with very fine detail and one cannot see the individual brushstrokes. For example, one can see the individual lines on the rocks and plants on one rock. Backhuysen used even more detail 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 detail figureheads. He even painted a crewman aboard a vessel. The result of this is a painting with a high resolution and detail which makes the painting look extremely naturalistic. Monet painted with relatively large brushstrokes which are clearly visible. Although this technique results in the loss of detail, it results in a more naturalistic setting for the foggy city of London. This loss of detail is as if one was looking at a scene through an unfocused lens. For example, the boats in his painting do not have a whole lot of visible detail 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 one structure from another. One detail that Monet puts in that Backhuysen does not is his signature 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 thus altering the composition of each painting. Backhuysen’s composition is more complex with multiple large forms in the painting. There are the large immobile rocks to the center left and some of the rocks boarder the sky. The center ship floats majestically but also precariously away from the rocks. The other vessels take a beating and float on the sea to the right. Even the sky seems to be composed of several parts, such as the yellow

sky and the dark cloud looming over the Dutch vessel. The sea is also composed of several parts which include the white wake off the rock coast and rest which is calmer, but hardly serene. Monet’s painting has less complicated forms in his painting. The bridge gracefully crosses the Thames River and is surrounded by small vessels on its waters. The background is teeming with smokestacks which point upward to the foggy sky. Monet’s painting places more of an emphasis on horizontal and vertical lines where as Backhuysen uses curves throughout his painting. Backhuysen only uses straight lines for the masts of the ships. The painting has few straight lines, because it takes place in a tempestuous natural setting. The lines of the rocks are jagged and irregularly shaped. The sea rolls with many curves and waves while the clouds in the sky are smooth but complex with many round areas. The ships are more linear than the rest of the painting, but still maintain some curves in the hull and sail area. Monet takes a completely different approach, because his painting is of a cityscape. The horizontal lines compose the ships and much of the bridge. The vertical lines compose the smokestacks of the factories of London. In 1667, Ludolf Backhuysen painted Ships in Distress off a Rocky Coast and in 1903 Claude Monet painted Waterloo Bridge, Gray Day. Both of these paintings are similar in the colors that they use and in the use of the waterscape theme. The main difference between the two is that Backhuysen uses an excruciating amount of detail while Monet uses a lot less of detail and makes his painting blurrier. There are other differences in the use of shapes and forms and the use of modeling.

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