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"Portrait of a German Officer"
Transcript of "Portrait of a German Officer"
On the Artist
Use of Color
Analysis of Artwork
Background on Painting
His works encompass the defining nature of his subjects and seek to represent much more than observed reality going into emotional representation.
Prussian Lieutenant Karl von Freyburg, one of Hartley's close friends while in Germany shows up as a recurring motif in this painting.
This painting is contrary to his usual works (rooted in reality) and instead selectively emphasizes certain visual elements
Examples: The KvF are his initials,
4 was his regiment number
24 was his age when he died
This painting is only a piece of a whole concentration on Karl von Freyburg dedicated to him after his death. Hartley refers to these as "War Motifs"
The painting is dramatized by strongly outlined forms and two dimensional space. Because there is no established perspective, everything appears to be in the foreground, which symbolizes that everything is important
68in by 41in, allowing you to see every detail
Adopted as the national flag in 1892, the red, black, and white striped flag serves as a combination of the Prussian and Hanseatic flag colors, it is known today as the flag of the German Empire as opposed to the flag of the German country. This then gives context to the painting itself and the time period of which it is portraying
This work is abstract in nature depicting a powerful imagery in war like the iron cross the medals, banners, and flags as well as the imagery associated with Hartley's recently departed friend, Lieutenant Freyburg
The colors in some parts of the piece are very subdued while other times are very vibrant, and this juxtaposes the sense of mourning that is the viewer's first impression of the piece
The theme for the entire "War Motifs" collection, is based upon the feelings associated with World War I and the death of friends.
Marsden Hartley was born in Lewiston, ME (an American citizen)
Alfred Stieglitz gave Hartley gallery opportunities which allowed him to go to Germany
He started painting advanced abstractions during World War I while living in Berlin.
He was fascinated by cubism and visual fragmentation as well as German expressionism (course brush work and dramatic coloring).
He was inspired by Cezanne, Picasso, and Matisse
Painting specialties: landscapes, portraits and still lives, all of which are embedded with spiritual expression
The background is essentially black because it is two dimensional, whereas the foreground is a melded mixture of flags and various symbolic objects to the war. Furthermore it symbolizes a sense of mourning for his friend and inspiration for the piece, Karl von Freybug
Bold, complimentary colors of red and green are used, but there is also a contrast of the cool and warm colors, the black and white, and the highly versus lowly saturated colors. The colors themselves (the black, red and white) are also a motif of the German flag and various other flags.
This painting is oil on canvas, showing a sense of permanence and time. Oil painting requires weeks to even dry, much more to paint. Furthermore oil painting is highly expensive, dramatizing, and allows for texture, which creates dimension and significance.
He uses cubism and German expressionism.
Very textured - the brush strokes are broad and coarse, giving it a sense of ruggedness adding to the feeling of war, as if the painting itself has been through war. He adds visual fragments making the painting much more than some of its parts, but a cohesive memorial to not only his friend but to the tragedy of battle.
The iron cross symbolizes the German military. It was a military declaration awarded in Prussia that was incorporated into the German Empire.
Red, green, black, white, yellow and blue are nationalist and regional associations in the German Empire during that time period. The colors are contrast pairs, meaning that they are on opposite ends of the color wheel, causing the colors to emphasize one another, distinguishing the individual shapes
This is for you Lucy Haskell!
Hard core outlines
The dominating colors of the piece red, yellow, and black, represent the colors of the german flag, tying it back to World War I
German Empire Flag
German (Country) Flag
Marsden Hartley's "Portrait of a German Officer" as well as the rest of his "War Motifs" were in memorium for his good friend Karl von Steyburg, symbolizing World War I.
He used two dimensions rather than three, avoided a focal point, and made the painting so large in order to show that everthing in the painting is equally significant, just as everyone involved in the war was significant.
The chaos in the painting as well as other more specific parts of the piece (ie. the flags, checkerboard, medals, banners, and iron cross) all symbolize the choas that comes with war, all of which accent Steyburg's presence in the piece, which symbolizes the loss within war.
Red cross: The red cross on the white background has multiple meanings, one of which could symbolize the red cross organization which came about in 1881 and helped war victims in WW1, possibly Hartely's friend included.
The script letter E in the iron cross symbolizes the regiment in which Arnold Ronnebeck, Karl von Freyburg's cousin, served in.