Friday, April 30, 2010

Reader dissection invitation

Avvakum by Myasoyadov

I am back on the East coast again. I did 800 miles today. I am going to do the same thing I did last week ( or month? I don't know I lose track of time) and open up the subject to comments.

This unpleasant scene is very well composed and tomorrow night I am going to dissect it. I invite you to log on to the comments and take a scalpel to it yourself. Tell us, what design ideas do you see here? I have written about many of the devices used in this machine in prior posts. How many can you find?
See you all tomorrow with my take on this painting.


Debra Norton said...

This is what I see: (I feel like I need bullets, but I can't find any so I'll have to make do with stars.)

*The people in the foreground and the buildings in the background form a circle which spirals into a smaller circle, centering on the man wearing the tall hat.

*The snowy road behind the crowd draws the eye back to give depth.

*I see a diagonal from lower left to upper right. And if I work hard enough I can make it into an X.

*My eye goes first to the dark haired man on the stake I'm assuming is Avvakum since his face is showing, then to the man in red on the left and then to the man in the tall hat and tan coat.

*The horizon divides the picture into one third/two thirds.

Stape, I love this blog! I've learned so much! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Karla said...

I notice the man in the yellow coat which seems to stand out and is "central" to the painting. Then I noice the use of warm colors in the fore-ground. The red coats, sash and even the glow of the fire. I too noticed the use of the spiral formations. said...

All lines lead to the burning pyre of heretics. 9Horizon line, diagonal line spiraling line etc. Check out the fore ground spear as a line. Red and Sienna (used as red) rings the fire. The burning ring of fire..down down down and the flames grew higher.

Darren said...

-The main thing that struck me was horror vacui.

-Then my eye went to the guy in red on the left. He's holding a rifle and even though he's facing into the picture the gun shoots me out to the left. It took me awhile to figure out that the guy leaning on the walking stick is not also leaning against the barrel.

-Then it went to the hand of the woman who's reaching (on the right). Her hand is by itself, surrounded by smoke and IMO the main leading line in the painting (along with the rifle) leads to it.

-Then I wondered, 'what's going on?' and finally found the dark haired guy on the stake.

As for Debra's bullets, I agree in a different and given what's happening in the scene, hopefully humane way. Better to be shot than burned.

Doug Williams said...

Hi Stape,
Thank you for these brain teasers...

As far as composition shapes, I see this as being full of triangles. It's like one of those puzzles asking how many you can count - in the buildings, the spires, and many among the figures and their heads. For example, there is a nice triangle from the hat to the end of the sword on the left to the elbow of the man in the center. A similar triangle stretches from the hat to the elbow and to the head of the victim in the upper right.

The crowd as a mass forms a nice flattened diamond shape. The overall dark shape forms a "C," from the upper head on the right around through the crowd and to the figures in the foreground. This sets up one center of interest at the raised hand on the right and figure above.

It's a very dynamic scene where the eyes keep wanting to wander. Some of the "arrows" that point the eye toward the center include a slanted line of the gun, a raised arm, the bent figures on the stakes and in the foreground, and the direction of the flames of the fire.

Values are darker on the left half, lighter on the right; darker on the bottom two thirds, lighter on top third. Overall, it's low key, with muted colors of blues, yellows, reds and earth tones. The lighter snow, sky and smoke provide contrasts for darker shapes. The blonde victim's hair color may have been chosen to be light to contrast with the darker tower.

Sorry for being so wordy... Greetings to all who enjoy these posts.

Plein Air Gal said...

Amazing how we all see different things! I personally did not see the spirals and have to really push it to see them. Immediately evident to me is a big Z in the composition, which leads me through the crowd towards the middle ground, but also pushes my eye to the right side. The road forms another right slanting diagonal to push me back over if my eye strays to the left. Except for a really tiny opening at the road, the buildings form an almost solid line across the canvas to keep the eye from straying to the background, and just in case we DO make it back there, the clouds (or smoke) above the distant mountain pushes us right back down! The steeples behind the stakes give additional weight to that side of the painting and also serve as a stopper to keep the eye from straying farther back. And the one thing that impresses me most in the design is that the men on the stakes are almost completely surrounded by smoke and lack of any detail, making them stand out from all the other busy-ness in the picture. To me, all that detail and busy-ness just says "Yes, the whole town has turned out, but what's going on with those guys is the reason WHY". And yes, warmer colors in the foreground.

billspaintingmn said...

Contrasts and counter ballences is my first sense.
Hot/cold, light/dark, joy/pain,
near/far, and so on.
The lead in is between the croud and the smokey flames.
I get a feeling that the women in the lower right has compassion for the victim(s)/ the croud seems to enjoy these buggers demise.
Talk about a smoke em if ya got em~

mary teabo said...

The contents of the painting seem to march inward and also appears to have a zig zag design

alotter said...

I notice the failure to link the darks. Can you tinker with the image to show how much more effective the painting would have been if the darks had been linked?

Unknown said...

all the good ideas are taken, but I was immediately caught by the use of
counterpoint - alot of dark figures against light background, especially the two poor victims, and then there is a line of snow behind the distant crowd to create a contrast between the crowd and the fence. The second victim's reddish blonde hair is seen as a light against the dark tower behind him.. The buildings are simplified to create distance.
There are alot of directional lines all leading to the main figure, which I think is the victim closest to us looking our direction. The spear, the line of fire through the smoke, the top edge of the smoke itself - all point directly to this guy. He's the big idea - has the greatest contrast and all lines lead to him.
It's a magnificent work, though horrific in content. There is great energy and movement in all the figures.

Dot Courson said...

1.Triangles everywhere - like arrows saying "look here!"
2 Lights against dark and vice versa.
3.Subjects and objects (even chimmeny smoke) directing visual traffic to the guys on the stakes.
Also limited use of color except red- but I can't make any sense out of that. Unless it's 3 spots (trinity)symbolism or something.

Carol Nelson said...

All the action in this painting is going on in the lower right corner. The man being burned is looking at the frantic woman who is being held back by the man in red with a staff. Everyone else is passively observing the burning, but this woman is desperate to help the man at the stake.

It's horrible to think that people were actually killed this way.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I will do what I did before and rather than answer each of these individually I will write the post. If I answer each of these I will have nothing to say out front.