Frits Van Eeden is a Dutch born artist who professionally trained as a painter and a sculptor. Van Eeden's website indicates that he has "participated in nearly on hundred single and group shows" (para. 9), and that he is currently an Artist-in-Residence at the Brevard Art Museum of Melbourne, Florida. While Van Eeden has many worthwhile and interesting works of art, the piece chosen for this analysis is the acrylic on canvas work, 'De haven uit,' which depicts a fleet of sailboats at sunset on a calm sea. The following critical analysis of this work will focus on a description of the piece, analysis of its form, interpretation of its meaning, and an overall evaluation.
Description of Van Haven Uit
The piece is acrylic on a 152 x 122 cm canvas with the subject of this work being a group of sailboats. The painting carries great depth as the artist uses two distant boats to create linear perspective. The lack of detail on these boats, compared to the relative clarity of the foreground boats, also adds to the depth with the use of atmospheric perspective. The vanishing point is vague, but clearly implied by the sky and sea horizon line. Though there is little overlap with the vessels themselves, the implied line of ships takes the viewer deep into the background. The mass of this painting is in the ocean where the dark colors give it a good weight and overall balances the piece. The volume of the sky, taking up the three-fourths of background, lightens the piece overall with the warm colors of a setting sun. At the top of the canvas, the blue of twilight frames the painting well. The only subjects are the heavy rounded hulls supporting thin masts and sails that stretch to the top of the canvas, and there is high contrast within the boats themselves.
The contour of the hulls and sails are clearly defined and bold, high contrasting lines in the hulls give an invented texture that implies old wooden boards. The boats are arranged in groups along an implied line that stretches into the distance. The artist's gestural lines create ripples on the ocean surface and upon long inspection of the piece, it almost appears that the boats are gently rocking back and forth. At first glance, the visual equilibrium of the piece seems weighted to the left, however, the darker, distant, and isolated subjects to the right, along with the dark purple sea, provide an opposing force that results in visual stability. The subjects, in general, are balanced asymmetrically, and the dark sea provides counter-balance to the lighter sky.
Analysis of Van Haven Uit
There is a warmness to this piece. The subjects themselves imply a unity and type of camaraderie. Except for the darker and more pronounced sails of the two primary vessels, there is little contrast between the subjects. As the eye follows the implied lines of the painting, they are drawn forward to the second boat from the left with the luffing sail. Proportions are appropriate and well maintained as expected for the subject. The scale is manageable for a background of open ocean. There is a clear pattern to the piece as the only subjects are several boats that are all nearly identical. Their placement is not irregular as a linear rhythm follows the perspective to the distant horizon line. The similarity and actual proximity of the subjects gives them a defined unity, the proper use of perspective avoids any unintended monotony, and the unity of the subject visually holds this painting together.
Interpretation of Van Haven Uit
The arrangement of the subject using a diagonal, though shallow, implied line provides directional force as the viewer's eye easily scans through the piece. The implied perspective line also works to bring the viewer's attention to the focal point of the second boat. The piece is effectively arranged and contains strong design principles. The artist relied heavily on broad strokes in creating the background. These stand in contrast to the finer lines of the sails and rigging. The artist holds the viewer's attention by combining the calmness of the background with the implied motion of the subjects. The piece provides perspective and balance and though working with geometric shapes, the artist manages to group them in a pleasing organic manner. The piece reminds the viewer of a working class vessel, possibly a fishing boat. It has the feeling of coming home, a calming affect of another safe return. Most likely painted in the current century, this piece may be viewed as an expression of the heightened security of modern travel contrasted with the historical danger of a life at sea.
Evaluation of Van Haven Uit
Ships in paintings are a historic theme and this piece by Frits Van Eeden adds value to the subject. The simple broad lines offer a fresh view without being abstract. At first, the viewer may find the piece colorful, but uninteresting. However, the painting takes on a life of it's own as it is analyzed. The piece is well balanced with proper illusion of space. The repetition and rhythm contribute to the overall mood. Once studied, the piece becomes a window to the viewer's world.