View of the Waterfall at Tivoli and Woman VI

Made by Brian Lai

A look into two pieces of art - one realistic and one abstract - from the Carnegie Museum of Art.

Created: November 9th, 2014


For my realistic painting, I chose The View of the Waterfall at Tivoli because the beauty of the scenery really caught my eye. 

As I first observed it, my initial reaction was to look up into the sky and the immediate horizon that contrasted with it. My eyes then shifted to the stone faces illuminated by the setting sun and the buildings, and then followed the waterfall down to where the people were. Overall, my eyes moved as they would have if I was physically at the waterfall. The painter places the viewer at the base of the scene and places the elements of higher elevation on the sides, invoking the initial reaction of looking upwards.

There is a sense of warmth and softness in the painting, sourcing from the warm colors and various other aspects. The people in the painting are wearing clothes that expose skin. Even though there are many rocks, they are rounded and overgrown with vegetation. 

Although there is an immediate foreground, the focus seems to be more towards the background, or rather even a lack of focus - the painting has a way of making you relax and not focus on any specific part, but rather step back and enjoy the painting as a whole. 

As I let my eyes wander, I became more aware of the minor details and interactions between the objects in the painting. In the bottom left, there is a man conversing with two women and it seems like the conversation is going well. There is no visible tension, and the women both seem interested in what the man has to say. In the bottom right, there is a man with his dog, further giving a therapeutic feel to the scene. The buildings in the background have vegetation on them, emphasizing a balance between man and nature. The waterfall, a powerful natural phenomenon, is depicted in a calm manner as well; you can see the rock wall behind the waterfall at points and there is not so much splashing. Overall, the atmosphere is very harmonious and calming.


(*NOTE: Picture is sideways - left side is the top.*)

When I first looked at this painting, for a moment I really was not sure what I was looking at. I originally stared at the center of the painting and worked my way outwards, but the dark boundaries didn't really trigger a response in my mind. My confusion was halted when I reached the top of the painting to see what resembled a pair of eyes. From there my eyes traveled down the painting, looking over the body of this human form. 

When humans see each other, one of the first things (I think?) that we look for is the eyes - I think the artist plays on this by making the eyes one of the more recognizable features. From there, the viewer can piece together that the mess is actually a body. 

The distinction between foreground and background isn't very apparent, and that is mostly why I couldn't discern what I was looking at at first. 

The color scheme is all over the place - they are placed in areas that clash with immediate surrounding areas, and there the black edges are created in a way that it mixes with the other colors and creates a sense of dirtiness. 

Overall, this painting made me feel very uncomfortable. The eyes, while they are clearly eyes, do not closely resemble human eyes at all. The pupils are very thin and tall rather than circular, making me feel like I was looking at some sort of creature. All the other characteristics of the woman are exaggerated to look extremely unflattering (at least to me, sorry!) to a very unrealistic extent. The shoulders are impossibly broad. The skin is an abnormal pink, fleshy color rather than a fair-pale or a healthy tan. Overall the complete antithesis of a "traditional lady".


I had completely opposite reactions to the different pieces of art. The first was a calming experience where I could almost project myself into the scene of the painting while the second made me feel extremely uncomfortable.

 I feel the first painter did a very good job depicting the scene that he wanted to depict. Everything was laid out in a way where I could slowly look over the scenery and take in the smaller details at my own, relaxed pace, all the while feeling the warmth and harmony from the color scheme and object interactions. 

I cannot say that I know what the second painter was trying to get across completely, but I did feel a certain impact from the way the painting was laid out. The sudden realization that the mess I was looking at was actually depicting a human left me quite astonished and appalled to a certain extent. 

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A look into two pieces of art - one realistic and one abstract - from the Carnegie Museum of Art.