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Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Power of a Repoussoir

What do I do if I want to get your attention?

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  
The female image in Wyeth's painting is a repoussoir in action:  it captures our attention and leads us to the distant images.
(From Dictionary.com)

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.

Anchored at the bottom of each of the three paintings above is a major light leading our eyes to an important dark area anchored at the top.   Richard Schmid does this in his landscape painting on the right, I used in my painting of squirrels on the upper left, and Pat Weaver does a similar thing in a painting of people on the lower left.

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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1 comment:

Casey Klahn said...

Robot voices should never speak French, but you should continue here. Yes, I'd love to read your lessons.