Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bearded Roman - Put a little hair on yer art luvin' chest

Bearded Roman - "Away For a Week" -- Came upon this today while searching for information on the Hungarian artist Mihaly Munkacsy. A worthwhile blog and post. Do make sure to visit the associated links as well. I think you'll find them to your liking.


"The Condemned"

The above painting is a relatively new favorite of mine. I wish I could find a larger image of it online. I saw this one on exhibit at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle this summer. I was immediately moved by Munkacsy's classical yet expressive brushwork, as well as his dramatic use of light and gesture. The tension in his work ensnares the viewer; it excites, enthralls, and even disheartens without ever becoming uncomfortable or overbearing. Though I feel the somber weight of Munkacsy's subject, I come away feeling comforted rather than condemned.

From whence does this calm reassurance, this feeling of protection, arise? At first glance it appears to be the result of various technical and stylistic elements such as lighting, color, brushwork, and spacial composition. Consider for a moment the corresponding relationships between the figure standing just inside of what appears to be the doorway, the horizontal line of the table, and the vertical thrust of the walls. Note how the standing figure and walls are harmonized; their force and weight balanced at each end of the table.

Upon second glance, I sense that this condemned man is being sheltered from his fate, buffered, albeit only marginally, by the solidity of the prison walls, the low, heavy ceiling, and by the table that separates him from the person, I assume, charged with taking him away. One could certainly argue that the oppressive solidity of the cell's walls symbolize the harsh reality of the man's inescapable fate bearing down upon him. Perhaps it is a little of both: a buffer and a gavel. Even so, I detect the presence of some profound power--Protection? Forgiveness? Grace? Surrender? Mercy?--swaddling Munkacsy's subject. Whatever this force may be, all I know for certain is that it is not cut from the swaddling cloths of sorrow and despair.

Where else is this feeling present within the above painting? I wonder if you feel it too. (Yes, I realize that you'll probably have to go see it for yourself or at least find a larger image of it online to know.)


ScaughtFive said...

It comes from certainty, I reckon.

Andy JC of OZ said...

It explains a little of where I am at the moment , with the passing of my dog, the walls of reality looming in, on the prospect of a dogless future,
maybey thats the test of a universally good artwork, that people can put themselfs into the picture, or see somthing of that person in themselfs,

Good ones TB,

Merry Xmas to you N Family

xo Andy