Edouard Vuillard – (Parallels, Pulls, and Integration)

Edouard Vuillard - The Newspaper - 1910 - 34 x 55 cm - 13.5 x 22 in - oil on cardboard

This is a superb example of how masters assess their compositions.  Vuillard,as Bonnard, was interested in domestic scenes, and he shows us how any subject is an opportunity to create a sophisticated painting.

He was noted for his wonderful shapes and patterns which are a great way to gain control of the subject matter.  In other words not permitting the complexities of detail dictate to the artist.

In this post, however, I will focus on his thorough assessment of the composition.

I will begin with the curtain at the right and how it blends with the tree.  Note how the curtain does not disrupt the rectangle of the window, which permits a rhythm of rectangles, spanning the top of the painting.

He provided a wonderful movement with parallels.  The curtain tie at the right and it’s parallel projecting from the mullion.  Do you feel the movement towards the figure?

There is a marvelous pull which excited me.  That marvelous juicy red triangle!  I love how sensitively and yet boldly he pulls me from the figure, very impressive.

Vuillard has integrated beautifully.  Lets begin with the dark vertical at the right edge and how it connects to the red stripe on the chair.  A more subtle one is the merging of the curtain and curved back of the chair.  Also the connection of the window mullion with another chair and the very impressive integration of the shutter and the newspaper.  It is very subtle. Do you feel Vulliad’s consideration of bending the bottom right of the shutter to permit the connection?

I must mention the lovely yellow pause at the left and it briefly holds you.

There is more to discover.  Enjoy!

Van Gogh – (Pulls, Harmony and Integration)

Vincent van Gogh - The Street Menders - 1889 - 71 x 93 cm - 28 x 37 in - oil on canvas

Van Gogh’s considerations for the viewer are absolutely superb.  He orchestrates your eye movement across the composition beautifully.

Lets begin with a question.  Why is the lower portion of the tree at the right a darker value the the rest of the tree?  The answer is Van Gogh has provided a pull for the focus.  In other words when you look at the primary figure you eye wants move to the dark trunk because it is in harmony with the figure.

The two dark figures are also pulls and provide a second pause in the harmony of the three dak values.

Another harmony is three red notes.  The window, the red beside the dark tree trunk and the worker’s hat.

I love how Van Gogh used doorways and the red window to integrate the figures.  Can you feel the vertical connections?

There is an integration which excited me which I hope you will appreciate.  There is a angled black line in the tree to the right of the two workers at the centre of the painting (see detail below)

The Street Menders - detail

The line is in harmony with the right side of the figure at the left.  This excites me because I can feel Van Gogh assessing the composition.  And I think this is a exceptional integration.

The title is interesting because the street workers are barely noticeable.  Why?  Because Van Gogh did not want information to disrupt his chosen harmony.

Integration and pulls

Don Farrell - Box, Bottle and Bag - 1999 - 23 x 32 cm - 9 x 12.5 in - egg tempera on paper

One of my favourite shapes is the oval, which is clearly indicated in this painting.

Let me begin with the shape which may be read as a shelf.   In reality the shelf does not exist and in my mind it is a shape, (half an oval).  I prefer to work from memory or with my mind.

Now let your eye run along the front of the shelf from left to the right.  Your eye movement will connect to that vertical triangle and then to the line which embraces the shelf.  I’m very fond of that line. Do you sense the oval?

Do you see the shape created with the line and feel how it gently holds you?

Now there is a need to have you engage with the rest of the composition, and I have used pulls to accomplish this.   The small white oval, is the primary pull.  The striped rectangle is the other one, which could be considered stronger than the white oval.  I eventually came to like the competition, and felt the rectangle supported the the items on the shelf nicely.

There are other markings which I like to call pauses for your eye, and every one is assessed when orchestrating the the composition.

Integration can be accomplished in many ways.  Take the horizontal line near the top and how it turns upward at the right.  The angle is in harmony (parallel) with the shadows on the shelf.  This is very important as parallels provide movement which energize the painting, and they are meant to be sensed rather than seen.

Permit me mention something other than a pull or integration.

There is one other line, which is to the right of the white pull and pointing to where the horizontal line turns up.  Feel how it contains your eye movement and how it impacts with the rest of the painting.

I hope you can see that I am composing and not following a formula.

The intuitive coupled with knowledge is the key.



Bonnard (Integration and Pulls)

Pierre Bonnard - The Red Tablecloth - 1910 - 81 x 84 cm - 32 x33 in - oil on canvas

Integration or “knitting the composition together” is primary in composition and Bonnard was a master.

There are many ways to integrate and one is through shape motifs as I talked about in yesterday’s post.

Another way is by providing connections with sight lines or eye paths.

In this painting the strongest one is the vertical line running from the top down through her hand to the oval in the bowl.  Just to the right is a beautifully done subtle vertical above her right shoulder, which connects to a vertical in her blouse, then runs down the handle of the coffee pot.  It then continues down to the napkin.  Note on the next stripe how the shadow on the napkin permits your eye to continue through the napkin.

There is a superb pull for the dog, the dark shape at the figure’s left shoulder.   I find this exciting as I can feel Bonnard’s consideration, of knowing the dark value of the dog would dominate the composition without that pull.

What is a pull?  A pull is something that takes the viewer away from a strong element or the focus in a composition and Bonnard did it so well.

Also, note how the dog’s neck is integrated with a stripe on the table cloth.

Remember the poetic side of painting, which is, you are not meant to see, but rather to feel these considerations.

A last note.  The red vertical at the right.  Is it in front of the table top?

This shows us the level of sophistication of Bonnard’s work, and the connection to Cezanne and many other painters of the period, such as Matisse, Braque and Picasso.




Motifs and Submotifs

Don Farrell - Three Blocks - 1998 - 15 x 25 cm - 6 x 10 in - egg tempera

This small painting is an excellent example for showing the importance of shape motifs. The composition has a rectangle motif, supported by a sub motif of rhythmic loops.

Let me take you to the top area first.  Note how the area is made up from a series of subtle rectangles.  They must be subtle in order not to compete with the focus of the painting.

The chair seats and the three blocks are other notes in the rectangle motif.  The blocks, being the focus, are supported by slightly emphasizing the two rungs just below, (another rectangle.)

There is a very important small rectangle above the middle chair, which echoes the blocks.  In compositional terms this pulls your gaze gently from the blocks.  Pulls are wonderful compositional elements, if they are in tune. They musn’t disrupt the viewer’s gaze or compete.

I will be mentioning and showing more pulls and pauses in the works of many notable artists in upcoming posts.

The sub motif (the loops) which are the shapes of the chair backs, are repeated in the top area as shown in this detail.

These Integrate the chairs with the background, which is very important.

Another important note is how each chair is painted as if you are directly in front.  Very important, as this frees the viewer’s movement as mentioned in the post on Cezanne’s painting “Receptacles, Fruit and Biscuits on a Sideboard”