Formal Analysis of Art

The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh is a combination of opposites: beauty and plainness, complexity and boredom. Light plays a key role in this painting. It blends urban artificial light with the natural light of stars. Van Gogh is a real master of texture and color: glowing stars among swirly clouds. Such power of creation involves the impressive use of color showing emotions of an ardent disposition. The artist uses color in such a way that it expresses him very forcibly. His persistence in such communicative values of color develops a special demonstration in The Starry Night. The direction, thickness and shape of the brush create a delicate, three-dimensional image. Van Gogh’s abundance of squeezed dots, right angles and streaks enhance the colors’ intensity. He paints applying the modern theory of color, harmoniously pairing yellow which means light and blue which means darkness, rebirth and death. As we see, van Gogh uses his interpretation of the white and black so common for religious motives. Trees, stars and suns are endemic for Protestant-like symbolism that he supported. In the sky, we can count 11 stars – 11 apostles who remained true to Christ. The painting also shows artist’s sadness and loneliness, hardships of his life. The Starry Night symbolizes peaceful death which van Gogh wanted so much and then – rebirth.

Sol LeWitt communicates us a different idea with his Wall Drawings. These drawings are very minimalistic. The artist did not even do all the drawings by himself – the assistants helped him. The instructions he gave them were vague so that the outcome was not completely controlled by LeWitt. With this, he tried to show that art is not unique but very simple. Despite it, the result is beautiful, overwhelming and striking. LeWitt emphasized materials and process rather than giving work some special message to be interpreted. He used natural materials like wood, paint and canvas to let these materials speak for themselves demonstrating their own decay, vulnerability and destruction.

The work Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor) is an enigmatic and complex painting, which raises many questions. Velazquez depicts the royal family and himself at work. Painting captivates our attention with its naturalistic effect. Some critics even presume that Velazquez predicted the invention of the camera by catching the moment so precisely. Being a court artist, this painting has to be understood within the frame of royal courts. With the increase of royal power, more and more emphasis was exerted to differentiate between the royalty and the public. Informality and spontaneity of Las Meninas is relaxing, but at the same time it makes you cautious. Infanta Margarita is made the central figure, just a little bit to the left. The light streams from the window as if it adds up even more significance to her. King and Queen’s daughter is surrounded by people who, with their gestures, acknowledge her authority. The glances of people on paintings are prudent and penetrating; without the observer they lose their power. That is why the observer becomes like a part of the painting. The mirror behind Infanta indicates Velazquez’s control over this illusion.

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper is a tribute to loneliness and feeling that no one needs you even in the crowd of people. The background of the painting serves the role of the psychological assertion, which emphasizes the coldness of the place. The fluorescent light here plays a special role. It is new, alienating, intimidating and dehumanizing. This light creates an artificial feeling of some clinical building but not restaurant: unreal warmth of the endless loneliness in a big city where people wear dull and dark colors in order not to disturb it. The faces of men and women are hawk-like. The restaurant looks very modern for that time: with the contrast to technology and nature it repels and attracts at the same time.

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