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Art History Essay

1316 words - 6 pages

Feb. 19, 2013

A Formal Analysis of John Constable’s Seascape with Sailing Vessels on the Horizon


John Constable is one of the first Romantic artists to view landscapes for their own beauty. He painted during the Industrial Revolution and as a result viewed industrialization as the degradation of the natural environment. Constable’s dystopic view of the Industrial Revolution is evident in his paintings in which he juxtaposes elements of the natural world and industrial world to convey a certain message. In his painting Seascape with Sailing Vessels on the Horizon, Constable contrasts the pollution of the sea with the serene, vast sky to depict the grandeur of nature and its ...view middle of the document...

In the background, a couple of ships are created from specks of white and dark grey that are sailing on the left side of the painting. These colors are used to almost make the ships inconspicuous to the viewer’s eye because any other color would have made the ships stand out. Inferring from the colors used in this painting, Constable seems to be emphasizing the impurity of the sea and how it may have been tainted by ship pollution due to industrialization. The juxtaposition of colors in the sea and colors in the sky further magnifies the sea’s filthiness in contrast to the untouched beauty of the sky. From his usage of color in Seascape with Sailing Vessels on the Horizon, Constable seems to be enlightening the viewer on marine pollution caused by industrialization.
John Constable uses various forms, shapes, and lines in the painting to convey and contrast a tumultuous sea versus a passive, tranquil sky. When the viewer of the painting looks at the sea, they notice the chaotic brush strokes that form crests and disorderly diagonal lines that create waves. There are also many specs of white depicting the foam in the sea, especially to the far right where a big splash is occurring. The confusion and fast-paced nature of the sea evokes a sense of turmoil and conflict that is occurring in the ocean. Many crests of the waves are pointing upward to the sky, moving the viewer’s eyes to look at the horizontal and uniform brush strokes of the clouds. The nonchalant, wispy brush strokes of the ships in the background detract the viewer’s attention away from the ships. The ships are barely noticeable and the contour outlines of them are only visible because they are positioned parallel to the horizontal horizon of they sky.
The texture of the sea is very different from the sky. The lines and colors of the waves are much more choppy and the paint is literally distinguishable and layered. The sky and clouds, however, are blended in too each other creating a sense of unity and oneness in the “heavens.” Constable uses myriad strokes of lines to form the composition of his painting and direct the reader to notice the turbulence of the sea in contrast to the stillness of the sky. Again, he is conveying the havoc of industrialization by painting commotion in the sea and juxtaposing that to the quiet arrangement of the sky.
The medium Constable uses also reflects what he is trying to convey to the reader. He paints Seascape with Sailing Vessels on the Horizon in oil on brown paper and that suggests that the brown color used is the underlying tone in the painting. The brown color connotes to pollution and so Constable is using the meaning of that base color as the theme for his painting- industrialization is defiling the natural environment. The oil medium used in this painting also augments the tarnished effect the sea...

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