Monday, November 15, 2010

Research Proposal

For my research proposal, I decided to compare and contrast The Return of the Prodigal Son as depicted by three different artists: Rembrandt, Tissot, and Chagall. I'm going to talk about their religious backgrounds briefly so there is some personal context, and then I will address their artistic style and a few formal elements--most likely color, lighting, and perspective.

Fun, right? :) You probably don't think so, but I am actually really looking forward to seeing how the paper turns out. My rough draft is due tomorrow, so I'll be spending a few hours on it tonight and polishing it up over the next few weeks. The concept of a rough draft is weird for me--I usually just sit down and write it out in one sitting or two straight from beginning to end and then have a couple of people look over it. This will be a new adventure in disciplining myself to just getting the general ideas down and getting the structure and flow together without worrying about my exact word choice and whatnot from the get-go.

These are the paintings I'll be discussing:




Ooh, they just give me chills.


Ash Att said...

sarah! these pictures are really beautiful. hope your paper goes well for you. keep us informed :)


Jess said...

Excellent choices. It's interesting at the number of people in each painting. I can't wait to read the paper (if I get to be one of the lucky ones.)

Denise said...

Without looking at them, I thought my first choice would be the Rembrandt, but I really like the Tissot (which I have never seen before).

Brooke said...

Sounds like an interesting topic. I love when you talk about this stuff because it takes me back to my Art History days in high school and college. If only I could muster the mind strength and intellect to analyze art again...(*sigh*)

Deborah said...

That is awesome, Sarah. You are so great.

Billy Bob Bambino Bombabious Baby the Third said...

OK - you knew this was coming... LOL!! Have you ever known me to restrain myself - particularly when it comes to art?!? HA!!

Tissot's strikes me because of the setting. The location he chooses for the reunion is interesting. This is a very urban setting and the arches are anachronistic. There's no reason why the reunion could not have happened in this kind of setting, but for some reason I've always pictured it out in the fields (see Chagall's depiction)... There is something powerful about the expression - while this is a more intimate (yet public) setting than the fields, they are not alone either. The way he grips his father, the way the father's knees are bent to receive this returning prodigal, the way the son has buried his face in the crook of his father's elbow... all very evocative and beautiful. It is unclear who the onlookers are, but the one closest would seem to be the elder brother (who is often neglected in the story).

The Chagall depiction is lovely. It reminds me a lot of Minerva Tichert - the use of color and the overall composition are very similar to the way she sets up her paintings. I like (a lot) how the field around them seems to fade away as we focus on the central two characters. They are there, and they are rejoicing, but this moment is for the two. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and life is fresh and new once again. I find the church steeples anachronistic as well, as is some of the dress/costumes. But (as with Tichert's stuff) Chagall captures the feeling and expression of the moment, which is what is required in all good art, anyway.

Rembrandt, of course, is amazing. His use of light and composition is amazing. By setting the reunited father and son off to one side, he draws attention them in a subtle yet powerful and simple way. This is the most intimate of all the settings, and perhaps the most historically accurate. I particularly enjoy the depiction of the son - dressed in rags, only one shoe, head and beard shaved - all expressions of abject humility and suffering. The expression on the father's face is so tender, so full of love and light and joy... he is pulling this wayward back into his arms and offering a blessing at the same time. As in the Tissot, the son buries his face in the father's love, wanting to be close to him... It is also unclear who the onlookers are, but this is no random group - these are intimates and close associates. The elder brother also seems represented, this time being the most distant of the group, which is probably consistent with the story. They are all engaged in the moment, but the "elder brother" seems more removed, more cool about the reunion. I like Rembrandt a lot not only for his realism but for his palette. His color choices are compelling and warm and help create a scene of such intimacy and warmth - something I feel is lacking in the other two...

OK - that's my two cents. I'd be interested to read what you've written. if you care to share, that is... :-)

Sarah said...

Thanks for all your comments, you guys! I'll definitely keep you posted on the results. :)