Caspar David Friedrich’s Monk by the Sea is undoubtedly a masterpiece. The broad expanses of sky and sea highlights monk, the tiny figure of a man who is standing against natural scenery divided into three zones of color. The monk dressed in a long gown turns away from the viewer and examines the rough sea and sky which roughly take three quarter of the entire painting. Friedrich’s work is particular, precise, and in-depth. The background and the foreground are set against each other with no mid-ground between them. The effect in viewing the image is that the eye cannot easily slide from the foreground monk to the sky; these can only be related by the lap across an unmapped space (Steigerwald, 452). He is trying to communicate an exact emotion of what he sees within himself. The viewer is meant to see himself and reflect upon the supremacy of the universe. He uses a style known as picturesque which tends to draw the viewer into the picture.
The work of Yayoi Kusama is widely known for her fascination with polka-dots which is a signature mark on her work. Her creation of “You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies” shows the perpetuity of endless time (Steigerwald, 485). It consists of a small room with mirrored walls and floor reflecting the sparkling glow of tiny dots of LED lights. The lights are suspended in the space on small strings. The art creates a sense of a vast space; it makes one have a sense of littleness as compared to the space. The fireflies meet you with a startling sense of freedom, and make you get lost in the infinity.
Yayoi uses huge canvases painted all over in tiny circles, while Friedrich uses oil canvas, 110 x 171.5cm. Both artists make us aware of just how small we are in the grand scheme of things. Both images are of natural environments and draw attention to how human beings comprehend nature.
Freidrich’s work lacks repoussoir hence overwhelming the viewer and makes it hard to penetrate into the picture's space. His work has a complicated religious symbolism that cannot be understood, it also represents so many mixed feelings of peace, submission to isolation, seclusion, sorrow, longing etc. The use of polka-dots in Kusama’s work are too much and overpowering (Steigerwald, 453).
Henry M. Sayre, states that the roles of art is to keep historical records, give form to intangibles, reveal the hidden and show the world in a new way. Friedrich has created a feeling of intangible by the use of monk, land and sky. Kusama also has created a feeling of being engraved into the universe. The emotions shown of sorrow, freedom, tranquility etc are unseen or intangible and therefore make art visible (Sayre, 4). The artists see the world the same way as others but translate it differently but help the viewer see the world in their own perspective. Their intent was to reveal to world in a different way that they haven’t seen before (Sayre, 4).
I find Friedrich’s work as a masterpiece, it is more breathtaking and yet complex, he has different emotions into his work. His idea of conveying spiritually by painting nature sets him apart from other artists, on true foundation of beauty and art is feeling and in particular religious feeling (Siegel, 6). His use of person seen from behind as his trade mark to add scale and eliminating everything from view leaving the sky and sea is simply stunning. His panting shows his perception of nature as divine and has brought unusual view of the universe.
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