Jean-Léon Gérôme & Louis Lozowick
Made by Amber Jones
Created: October 20th, 2014
Over the weekend, I visited the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. At the gallery, I decided to analyze two pieces: One by Jean-Léon Gérôme, and another by Louis Lozowick.
Gerome's piece, titled "View of Medinet El-Fayoum"
Oil on Panel. c. 1868-1870
Jean-Leon Gerome was a French painter who was part of the popular 'Academicism' art movement in the 19th Century.
Lozowick's piece, titled "Construction"
Lithograph. c. 1930
Louis Lozowick was an American painter and printmaker.
In this piece, Gerome uses a very wide depth of field. Viewing this piece, I can see detail very clearly up until the large white building. The vanishing point appears to be behind the building in the background where the crowd of people in dark clothing is standing.
Gerome also uses a very muted, natural color palette. The most prominent colors in this piece are the browns that are used in the sand, and the blues that make the water and sky. The colors that he uses in this piece are very realistic. Nothing appears to be overly bright or dark. Also, all of the shadows and highlights seem to be drawn in a uniform way. The reflection of the person walking on the bridge in the river also makes the piece more realistic. Also, the way he uses shading and color value makes this painting very realistic. Every object/person in this piece is seen to be lighter on their ‘right’ side. From this, I assume that the sun is coming from the upper right corner of the scene. The way Gerome painted the scene; he creates a sense of movement through the repetition of the shapes of the bodies. This motion carries itself from the very bottom left, where the man and woman on the horses are, all the way to the crowd in dark clothing next to the white building. I’m not sure of the historical background behind this piece, but I can infer that the man and woman on the horses in the bottom left corner could be very important. It appears that the crowd of people is leading them to the white building – they are also drawn with the most detail. What drew me most into analyzing this piece was Gerome’s use of color. Although it may not be the most detailed painting I viewed that day, his usage of color illustrated a bright, beautiful day of a landscape I’m not familiar with. The size of the piece itself was also interesting, my experience with viewing it felt more intimate because I had to step much closer to it than others – in order to take in the detail I had to become closer to the piece. I enjoyed this interaction much more.
Lozowick’s pieces all seem to be characterized by incredibly geometric cityscapes. Nothing drawn in this piece is geometrically inaccurate, as opposed to many other abstract artists. However, there seems to be a pretty rapid shift in perspective from the scene with the truck and the scene with the staked pieces of wood. From my analysis, there seems to be two distinct scenes, however I’m not entirely sure that this is the case. The way he uses shading to divide the most space-taking objects make it seem that there are two distinct scenes. On the top scene, Lozowick uses mostly dark greys/blacks, with highlights only on the truck, and behind the truck on the building. The inconsistency and softness in the shading make it appear to be at night in this scene. Softness, meaning that the outlines of the shapes aren’t as clear, especially when compares to the bottom scene shading. That, of which, is very harsh, and very crisp. The highlights in this scene are significantly brighter, and the shadows are a lot darker. The difference in contrast of both scenes seems to create a better sense of separation. Because of the title of the piece, I can infer that these are two difference scenes of the process in construction. In the top of the two, I can see a construction worker loading something on the back of a truck. In the second scene, it looks like a factory or plant. The unnaturally harsh lighting makes me infer that this is in a building with non-natural light. The placement of the ladder and the scattering of a few workers to the left makes it appear to be in a large indoor space. Also, it almost looks like the man within the white chunk to the left of the stacked wood is a photographer. (It looks like he is holding a camera, standing next to a tripod). He could possibly be there to take progress pictures of the building to be constructed – he could possibly be outside, in a completely different scene. What drew me to this piece is its apparent realism – based on the accuracy of the objects, it seems like this is a real scene. However, as you continue to view the piece, you can eventually depict multiple scenes in this one print.
“Jean-Léon Gérôme, View of Medinet El-Fayoum, c. 1868–1870”
In this piece, Gerome creates an imaginary scene to replicate what life would be like in ancient Egypt, in a city close to Cairo. In this scene, there seems to be a procession headed towards a temple. I assume that this procession might be a wedding procession, because the two people at the back (on the brown and black horses) of it are wearing the brightest clothes and based off of the dresswear of both people, it looks like the person to the left could be female, because they aren't wearing a white headwrap like most of the other people there.
Because Gerome is considered to be a great painter in the "Academicism" field, I assume that the point of his piece is to accurately depict what life in Egypt would be like at that time. I think Gerome wanted to accurately capture this by being as realistic as possible. When I was viewing works in the gallery, I was immediately drawn to this piece because of how clear the image appeared to be, despite how small it was. In the piece, one of the things that I almost immediately realized was how Gerome created rhythm in the repetition of the bodies moving in the procession. Their darker value in contrast with the lighter color of the sand creates a separation that guided my eyes to the white building in the background. Another thing Gerome uses to his advantage is space. In this context, I consider the mostly flat, non-textured parts to be negative space. Gerome balances the positive and negative space in a way that dictates how the viewers eyes should move. I believe that he intentionally uses the negative ('empty') space of the plain sand and sky to shape the rest of the scene. And although (most) of the lake could be considered negative space, the bridge with the person standing on it, and its reflection included move towards the temple.
I feel that a word that comes to mind when I view this piece is "regality". I think that this is a depiction of a very dignified ceremony and/or group of people. I think that the richness in the tones of the sky and sand, in addition to the pops of color across the crowd gives a very crisp and purposeful feeling to the painting.
I'm not sure of a lot that can improve this piece, but one thing that comes to me is the background shading. I understand that the background isn't supposed to be the most prominent part, but I think that it should be given something else. Possibly a darker shade than the foreground sand, or some type of better fading. I'm not exactly sure how clear that day is, and how far I'd actually be able to see if I were standing at the perspective of this piece on that actual day, but something about the background feels slightly off to me.
Despite that minor detail, I think that this work of art is incredibly successful in achieving its goal - to inspire and educate. And it is definitely a valued work of art because it's part of a very important movement which valued clarity of facts and the work itself that attempts to illustrate these facts.
"Louis Lozowick, Construction, c. 1930”
Louis Lozowick's piece, titled "Construction" is a lithograph combining several drawings of various scenes that you could find at a construction site. In this piece, I particularly found two distinct ones, but there could possibly be more. At the top of the piece, it shows a construction worker loading something on the back of a truck. In the background of this scene is a skyscraper. Based on the lighting of this scene, I assume that it is at night because of the way the truck and building is highlighted. Under the scene with the truck, There is a huge stack of wood. To the left of this are two or three possibly separate scenes. At the bottom if a pile of wood, in the middle is a group of people working on sawing or cutting the wood, or possibly assembling them into a fence. Above these workers is a cameraman, possibly taking progress pictures of the building to be created. And to the right of the stack of wood is harder to see, but it is a ladder placed against a wall or some type of construct. I cann't see or identify where this ladder would possibly be placed.
Although Lozowick wasn't considered as a strictly "abstract" artist, I picked this piece as my abstract art piece because although the shapes and forms in this piece are geometrically/anatomically accurate, the combination of these shapes and forms create a scene that wouldn't be possible in real life. I think the most utilized principle here is contrast. I can identify two different distinct scenes in this piece because of how Lozowick played with the value of shades he uses to create the scene. The top scene has significantly less contrast or difference in color value than the bottom scene. From this I can see that the top scene is set in the night, and the bottom in the day. In addition to value, Lozowick takes advantage of his usage of space. Almost all of the piece is filled with positive space. For the most part, the piece has a grainy texture created through the lithographic process, however there are some breaks in almost-solid colors and textured objects which creates a sense of dominance, with the dominant element as these textured objects. For example, in the bottom scene, the black and white chunks create the form of the stacks of wood, which become the most prominent objects in that scene.
From what I can see, this piece illustrates a contrast in two different scenes that are prominent in construction of large, modern-day buildings. However, when I look at this piece, I feel a sense of chaos and disorganization amidst a supposedly rigid and structured process. Although the wood is stacked in such a way that prevents it from falling, it acts as if it is holding up the ground above it, including the truck and the skyscraper in the background of the truck scene. The ladder looks like it is trying to support this stack of wood as well. Looking at this makes me feel as if the structure could collapse at any point in time. I believe issues surrounding proper building regulations and structures were prevalent at the time. I could possibly look deeper into this and say that this structure could represent the concept of urban development itself, and despite how much the process has grown, its a chaotic phenomenon that sometimes promotes more disorder than order. Such as the issue of urban sprawl or even gentrification.
I'm not entirely sure if this piece can be improved on at all. This might be a personal fault, but I'm not sure what the guy is loading onto the truck in the top scene. If that object could be defined a little more clearly, it could make interpreting that section a little easier. Despite that, I think that this piece meets the goals of Lozowick and the goals of Precisionism. This piece was meant to depict the life and aesthetic of American construction, which was incredibly prevalent at the time, when cities were being expanded and renovated at a tremendous rate. I think what this piece does well is the depiction of construction as opposed to the actual finished structures themselves. I think this piece gives a good peek at the underlying process rather than what is already obvious to the viewer.