In his popular Fifth Symphony, Beethovan gets our attention with a precise da/da/da/DUM. And Welsh poet Dylan Thomas opens one of his poems, "And death shall have no dominion." Not so unlike these attention grabbers, Andrew Wyeth in "Christina's World" does this:
|"Christina's World" Egg Tempera Andrew Wyeth|
What fascinates me about this device is its flexibility, its potential for free expression within a traditional pattern, one that yields unity while bringing us into a painting. (In case you'd like a more in-depth definition, I explained how repoussoir works in one of my Empty Easel articles a couple of years ago.)
I particularly enjoy paintings whose notan (see last week's post) is interlocked within a repoussoir. When I see this working in a painting, it reminds me of an Italian sonnet , a device that acts like a repoussoir: two major parts where the first is an argument, the second a resolution.
Paintings employing a repoussoir within the notan pattern have two major parts as well: one overall light or dark value usually anchored at the bottom of the painting leading the eye to an opposite value anchored at the top.
If as you look at each of these paintings you squint your eyes, you can see this happening. You experience in each piece a repoussoir built within a notan pattern, three totally different paintings each saying entirely different things, but employing the same device: a visual sonnet. Now, that's captivating!
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