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Visual Analysis #2: Artwork

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Jeff Brady

on 5 September 2010

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Transcript of Visual Analysis #2: Artwork

The piece of art I chose is the painting, "Disappointed Love," by James Francis Danby. According to the Victoria and Albert museum, the painting is oil on panel and was painted in 1821. The Victoria and Albert museum mention that it was the first painting Danby submitted for exhibition and was highly criticized at the time for everything from the use of color to the "ugliness" of the girl. However, despite the early criticism, it became one of Danby's most widely popular works. The girl, in her white dress, works in contrast to the darkness. At the same time, the white of the dress is also symbolic of innocence. The light blue color of the shoes and the ribbon on the girl's bonnet also contrast against the darker, subdued colors of the landscape. In this way, the shoes and ribbon also call attention to the girl and her actions as the subject of the painting. In contrast to the symbolism of innocence portrayed by the white dress, the red of the shawl implies something a little less pure. The red shawl does not match any of the colors of the girl's outfit, calling into question the wearing of it. Perhaps this was a "kept woman" with the red being symbolic of prostitution. Another explanation might have to do with what may be to come in the girl's future now that her heart has apparently been broken. Also, the red shawl may simply be placed in the painting to denote the innocence that has now been lost with the breaking of her heart. Next to the girl appears to be a purse or case of some sort. On top of the case is what appears to be the pages of a letter. In front of the girl appears to be one of the pages of this letter, torn and strewn on the ground and in the water. While the viewer can attempt to surmise, from these elements, that the contents of the letter are the source of her distress, what is most interesting is the way in which Danby has the pieces of the letter floating off into the darkness on the right side of the painting. The pieces floating off into the darkness is indicative of a journey down an uncertain path into a dark or bleak future. The viewer possessing an understanding of the Romantic period will instantly grasp the imagery of the sublime in this symbolism . Despite the criticism, Danby's use of color is the means through which he places emphasis where it is wanted. By subduing the colors of the landscape the emphasis is placed on the girl and her personal items. Also, the fading into black on the right side of the painting creates a contrast between the two vertical halves of the painting adding additional emphasis to the girl. Balance is created by placing the dark green foliage opposite the black background and by centering the subject of the girl, her articles and the floating paper. I chose Danby's "Disappointed Love" mainly due to my interest in paintings from the Romantic period. This interest stems from being raised in a rural community, I can appreciate the idealization of nature that occurs during the period. I can also appreciate the sense of awe that is conveyed for nature through works from the Romantic period. For this piece in particular the sense of uncertainty and the unknown that is conveyed by the darkening background, and the paper drifting into that background, is well used. One place in which the landscape can be seen as reflecting the despair of the girl is through the plants in the foreground. Despite the brilliant greens of the trees, that might indicate spring or summer, these plants appear to be wilting.
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