Monday, February 18, 2008
The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit
John Singer Sargent
Oil on Canvas
The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit is a beautifully articulated expression of youth and the relationship among children as they grow through different stages of adolescence. The painting is quite large at 7.28 feet (87 3/8 in) x 7.3 feet (87 5/8 in) and is oil on canvas. The color scheme seems realistic to the time period and looks like a picture taken from just that moment.
Reading an Image
The dominant contrasts between light and dark are the most obvious with the white aprons each daughter is wearing contrasting with the dark background of the hallway behind the two eldest daughters. More specifically the girls are each wearing dark tights under their individually colored dresses which contrast also with their white aprons on top. The youngest daughter sitting on the floor holding her doll, is wearing a light almost white colored dress under her white apron, while the second youngest daughter standing to the left is wearing a red dress under her white apron, meanwhile the oldest two girls are both wearing a dark color, perhaps green or blue, contrasting with their white aprons.
The figure(s) in this painting are four girls, daughters, who are the subject of the piece. The youngest is in the foreground, sitting on the blue and grey carpet holding a toy. The second youngest is standing to the left behind the youngest on the floor. The oldest sisters are standing in the back of the younger two, huddled together, in the center background. Behind the eldest sisters is a dark hallway lined with possible book shelves and paintings, leading to what seems like other parts of the house.
Upon first glancing at the picture the eye is drawn immediately to the white of the aprons on each girl. My eye is drawn to the second youngest daughter in the red dress standing to the left. I notice her first because the white of her apron is the brightest. Perhaps when the artist was painting this picture, the light was predominantly coming from a window on the left side of the room, casting light on her the most. Also her red dress underneath her apron is eye catching, compared to the other girls, with duller, darker colors. I notice the little one sitting on the floor as well. She sits in the middle of the floor, closest to us and is the smallest. Other focal points in the picture are the large blue and white vases' on both the right and middle/left side of the room.
There is a theme of blue/white/grey within the life-size vases and the carpet the youngest girl is sitting on. Also the white apron is a common theme amongst all four daughters.
There is blatant symbolism within the way the girls are positioned in the picture. It represents the stages of youth and adolescence. The youngest one looks maybe 3 years old. She is sitting on the floor with her doll, playing alone. She has a playful, curious expression on her face and seems quite content. The second oldest girl standing to the left seems lonely and out of place. She looks about 6 years old and is too old to want to play with the little one, but not quite old enough to fit in with her oldest two sisters standing behind her. The oldest two sisters seem "clicky" and exclusive in the group they have made between themselves. The second oldest is standing facing the artist and seems maybe 9 or 10 years old. Her older companion is facing away from everyone except her second oldest sister and seems uncompromising and unaccepting of the younger two.
The picture only captures what seems like a corner or portion of a bedroom or playroom of some kind. We can't see a bed, but the youngest daughter is sitting on a carpet that is we can only see the left upper corner of. It leaves the rest of the room and house up to our imagination, but with these basic guidelines the artist has already laid out for us.
The viewer's perspective is what looks like an upper left corner of a rather large room. We, as the onlooker, are placed at the same height as the subjects in the painting. The artist could have been painting the children of family or friends.
The artist uses oil paint on canvas and is able to very convincingly depict real life. By using oil paint, it is easier to show the reflecting of light and the necessary details in painting true life.
The images in the picture are displayed as they were in true life, natural living environment. The girls are depicted playing, inside a home- a daily activity.
The relations of looking in the painting
There are four images in the picture and they are all gazing at the artist except for the eldest daughter in the back left, leaning up against the blue and white vase. She has her body turned away from the other girls and is facing the girl immediately to the right, the second oldest daughter. Her standing away from the youngest two sisters seems to say that she can't be bothered with playing with them, she is too old to be associated with any childhood nonsense. The other three daughters are looking back at us the viewer, and the artist.
As the viewer we are looking at the subjects the way the artist did while painting the picture.
The artist created the artwork from a head on perspective. Three out of the four girls are looking right at the artist and us, the viewer, although the frame of the picture seems like it could be from a corner of a room.
Picture Plane: realism and abstraction
Along the lines of Scott McCloud's triangle picture plane, The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit is very realistic, almost like a photograph. It resembles the human form very closely, but is not a photo itself. The piece lies on the far left side of realism, but not on the very corner, as a photo would. The picture is objective in the sense that the artist paints the images just the way they looked. There isn't much left to the viewer's imagination.