Sunday, May 8, 2011
Often referred to as the Nevelson master, the works of the unknown Dutch tyro are finally receiving the attention that has so long been denied them. Their suitability as a teaching device has bestowed on them an importance that their quality could never have achieved. Below is a second very similar painting from the Nevelson master believed to have been retouched by another (and modestly more skilled) hand. In this version a number of changes have been made to ameliorate the faults of the other shown above.
A pattern of lights and darks has been established over, under, around, and through the beak area to camouflage its existence. The shape of the beak has been subordinated to a value structure that arrays lights and darks in shapes unrelated to its beakish outline. This is a little like the images you have seen of rattlesnakes curled up in dry leaves or sofa cushions. It takes a moment for our eye to pick the viper out as their outlines are broken up by the patterns they bear on their thick coils.
The unknown retouching artist has darkened a few passages in the sky to direct attention away from the beak area as well. More contrast and detail has been added to the tree at right to win your eye to another part of the picture. I have heard stories of a bird who will feign a broken wing and flap feebly across the ground as if injured, away from her nest, to distract and lure predators from her young. The detail added to the tree on the right does this, it weights the picture a little differently and pulls our interest over to the right.
The gap between the beak structure and the left hand margin of the picture has been increased also. The closer a beak is to the opposite rabbet of the canvas, the harder it is for the viewer to circumnavigate it. A good clear passageway over there will help.
The reflections in the water and the cheesy little sailboat on the right add vertical shapes to the area to overcome the thrusting knife like shape of the offending beak. The boat crosses and shortens the hard line at its base, deempathisizing its structure even more.
There are sometimes solutions to dealing with problem shapes in nature, often they have to do with deemphasizing them or breaking up their lines through camouflage.