In the history of art, we have seen many paintings which share the same content, but were done by different artists in different movements. Each of the artists has a different style, different ways to observe what they see to translate into a painting. An example is the “The Regatta” by Theo van Rysselberghe in 1892, and the “Slave Ship” by Joseph Mallord William Turner in 1840. “The Regatta” is an oil on canvas painting, with the size of 25 x 33 inches. This painting depicts a seascape scene with some boats sailing on blue sea in the far side.
On the left, a tall cliff dominates almost a half of the painting. Rysselberghe painted “The Regatta” with two main colors, the blue of the sea, and the yellow-orange of the cliff. “The Slave Ship” is an oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches painting. This painting depicts the scene with a ship sailing in the background, kind of being blended between the high waves and the deep blood-like red sky.
In the foreground, people in pieces floating among the fierce fish, and sea monsters. Turner used various colors in this painting, but red hue dominates a large area.
Both “The Regatta” and “The Slave Ship” are oil on canvas. However, “The Regatta” was painted by medium brushstrokes, and “The Slave Ship” was used small brushstrokes. “The Regatta” is a very open space painting. The focal point is the sailing boats in the background. The viewers’ eye will start at the boats. They are painted from large form in front and smaller scale gradually going to the back. The big cliff on the left catches the viewers’ attention next. Finally, they will rest on the vast ocean. This composition creates depth for the painting.
On the other hand, the composition of the “The Slave Ship” is different from the “The Regatta”. The eye will focus firstly on the foreground, where the shattered people are floating among the fish, then the dramatic sun on far back, and the dim ship comes last. The rhythms of these paintings are totally different. The rhythm of “The Regatta” is smooth; it’s contrary to the tumultuous rhythm in the “Slave Ship” painting. Both paintings vary in shapes, there are no same shapes repeated except on same kind of objects.
Rysselberghe used blue and yellow-orange hues on his painting; the two complementary color hues. The intensity is quite bright. There are a lot of tinted blues on the water and tinted yellows on the cliff. In “Slave Ship”, red and blue are mainly used. Turner used dramatic colors to depict a horror scene. In “The Regatta,” Rysselberghe limited using lines, except around the edges of the cliff. Turner also did not use lines in his painting as well. This similarity makes every area in the paintings come together, creating a smooth, continuous layout. The shapes of elements in both paintings are clearly defined.
The difference is Rysselberghe used geometric shapes; such as cylinders and triangles. In contrast, Turner used organic shapes to paint his elements, except the ship. Rysselberghe constructed his painting with little dot brushstrokes all over the painting. Those dots are various in size, and also in colors. He used complementary colors, one on top of another to simulate the depth of the object. For example, on the cliff, he used green dots on the area of orange dots, so the green pattern pops out. In “Slave Ship”, Turner used a completely different technique from Rysselberghe’s.
He painted with small brushstrokes, played with various colors, and light to create a dramatic scene. The effect of using small brushstrokes brings smooth textures for the painting. The scale and proportion in the two paintings are different. In “The Regatta,” the cliff is quite big and close to the painter. The boats are in the same shapes but in different sizes as they move toward the horizon. In “Slave Ship,” the scales of the elements are small. Although they gather mostly in the foreground, they are not easy to recognize, even to the ship.
The sky and the sea occupy upper and lower half of the painting. Rysselberghe used linear perspective in his painting. It is the horizon and the invisible tilt line from the bottom of the biggest boat to the last boat on the right, and the tilt down edge of the cliff and the bottom of the cliff. Unlike Rysselberghe, Turner used atmospheric perspective. He used it to create a depth for the environment. The horizon where the sky and the sea meet does not appear. In addition, the sky seems to come out from one point, where the sun is.
Those two effects create an illusion that the horizon is so far that it can’t be seen by human vision. Asymmetrical balance is applied in “The Regatta”. The emptiness of the cool colored foreground to the right contrasts with the domination of the hot colored cliff to the left. This contrasty makes the painting shifts to the left. On the other hand, Turner employs the symmetrical balance in “Slave Ship. ” The sunlight divides the scene into two sides. In the foreground, the sinking people and the fishes on the left are symmetric to the group of people and fish on the right.
Rysselberghe delivered a peaceful mood for the viewers. The combination of the sunlight, clear blue-green sky, the soft waves, and the sailing boats helps the viewers feel the painter’s emotion in his painting. On the contrary, Turner depicted a horror scene. A ship which seems to be swallowed by the waves, hands and legs of human in the water, being eaten by fierce fishes and sea monsters. Also blood-like red sky and a very high intensity light of the sun make the scene dramatic and horrible. Despite both paintings depict the seascape, they have different meanings.
If in “The Regatta”, the viewers see a peaceful, beautiful scene, in “Slave Ship” they see dead slaves, who are thrown over the board just because of the greedy captain of the ship. “The Regatta” belongs to the Neo-Impressionism movement. The use of the dot brushstrokes and the limitation of using lines are the hallmarks of this movement. They are also the distinct about this movement. The “ Slave Ship” painting belongs to Romanticism movement. The hallmarks of this movement are shown in the expression of emotional state and the visual effects of light and colors.
The Neo-Impressionism marked a beginning of new generation of artists who took the concept of Impressionism art and searched for new methods. They started to explore the effects of using light and colors based on science. The invention of color theory played an important role in defining this movement. Romanticism artists also experimented with light and colors. However, they exaggerated the effects of light and colors to reflect the feeling of people over powerful nature. The Neo-Impressionism and Romanticism share the same content of nature and experiments in using of light and colors.
However, the technique that artists used are different. Rysselberghe used tiny dots of primary colors put next to each other to generate the secondary colors. Turner, on the other hand, mixed colors together to create powerful effect and light and colors. The Regatta by Theo van Rys Slave Ship by Joseph Mallord William Turner Bibliography http://www. history. ucsb. edu/faculty/marcuse/classes/4c/turner. 004. htm http://www. victorianweb. org/art/crisis/crisis4e. html http://jackiewhiting. net/ArtHist/Movements. htm Book: History of Modern Art by H. H Arnason and Elizabeth C. Mansfield.
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