Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fun With Triangles

Taking a short break from the drawing board yesterday, I had an itch to explore one of my favorite artists, Gustave Caillebotte (Kai-buh-t), so spent a half hour 'discovering' some works of his that I had not been familiar with before. My favorite painting in the vastness of the world of fine art, Caillebotte's Les Raboteurs de Parquet (The Floor Scrappers), acts as my screen saver and I never tire of seeing it first thing in the morning when the computer gets turned on. So, in my desire to spend a few minutes relishing some more of this artist's output, I came across the images, both left and right on the top line of the above montage, and it got me to thinking . . . triangular composition. I know, you're saying to yourself, "here he goes again . . . more compositional chatter" . . . well, yes, here I go again.

Triangular composition, a format I don't often use myself, is not one that is often seen in the output of historically noted artists, but seeing those two works by Caillebotte, I was immediately reminded of two specific works I have been familiar with, one by Edouard Manet (the one in the center on the top line of three works above), Boating, painted in 1874 and the other, (center of the lower line above) by Mary Cassatt, The Boating Party, 1893/94. I was immediately taken with the fact that all four paintings involved water and boaters and wondered if that sort of material/reference lent itself to the format of a triangular compositional idea more readily than other subject matter. So, I explored a bit further and came up with the other two works in the lower line, both watercolors by Winslow Homer, and marveled at the intricate nuances that each of the four artists represented here used to develop most interesting and unique compositions tied to a triangular format. 

Taken individually and seen apart from each other, one might imagine that each singular painting was developed with little connection to some specific concept or plan and generated out of a desire on the part of the artist to portray a particular moment in time. When viewed, though, in related context as above, it can be easily and clearly seen that all six works have a strong link in the way in which each artist carefully placed his or her subjects within the confines of a strong triangular shape.

I've said before and will no doubt say it again, and again . . . well balanced and thoughtful compositional ideas don't just happen or materialize out of thin air. Careful planning and deliberation of placement of the important elements of a compositional idea are key to reaching a pleasing end result. Four artists, here, working at different times (pertaining to the date of completion of each work represented above) have ended up with results that, when taken in tandem as above, might be thought as having been influenced by each other looking over the shoulders of one another, when in actuality, it was simply a matter of each one knowing the ideas behind the layout of a well balanced work within the confines of a well established and historically tried-and-true compositional format.


Robin Murray said...

Hi Terry,
Wow that's crazy coincidence! I was studying the work of Delacroix yesterday and was very intrigued by the triangular composition in his painting "Liberty leading the people" I think it produces a very powerful focal point. Great post by the way!

Anonymous said...

You know this is one of my favorite works well in paintings but even more so in sculpture. You have a wonderful eye, especially in black and white!

Kathryn Hansen said...

wow...super interesting post! I really studied the 6 pieces you had together...some even took it further with other design elements: spacing, repetition, value changes, etc. this is why it's so good to study the masters!!