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“Breaking Home Ties” is a painting made by Thomas Hovenden in 1890. The medium used in the painting “Breaking Home Ties” is oil on canvas. It is also a representational form of art. According to the online dictionary, representational art refers to art that strives to portray the physical manifestation of reality. It is also known as figurative art or objective art. These are images that are undoubtedly identifiable for what they assert to be. Abstract or non-representational art, on the other hand, consists of images with no clear identity; therefore, the viewer has to interpret its meaning. Representational painters try to duplicate what they see in life. Their main focus is to observe and imitate the objects that are placed in front of their eyes. Abstract form of art does not depict or represent a person, thing, or place in the natural setting. More often than not, the content includes its color, size, brushstrokes, scale, shapes, and somehow, its process. “Breaking Home Ties” is a painting that depicts a real life’s situation during the 1890s. It was a time when the US nation was experiencing significant changes. Industries were growing rapidly as cities kept on expanding (Conn 46). Many young men left their rural homes to look for jobs in the urban centers. As a result, the usual American way of life was shifting.
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This was the scenario depicted in the “Breaking Home Ties”. It showed the hopes and fears of Americans during that time. A mother in the picture can be seen resting her hands on the shoulder of her son. Love and concern is expressed all over her face when she bids farewell to her son. The young man is leaving home to seek a better life and fortune in the city but is uncertain of what the future holds for him. Every family member is gathered to share this tender moment including the family dog. There is a sense of sorrow because people wish the youngster could stay. The boy’s father can be seen carrying a suitcase towards a man who is a driver, which indicates that his departure is imminent. This is a family of modest means; for that reason, their son has to leave and look for a brighter future.
The artist has used dull colors to paint the picture (Dearinger 112). The figures put on plain clothing, which is also mismatched. This use of dull colors portrays the family lives modestly. They are not rich, and that is why the son has to go to the city and look for his fortune. It also shows the mood in the painting, which is quite somber. There is a sorrow all over the room because one of their loved parts is going away with uncertainties surrounding his future. The artist used shadow lines to separate the objects in the picture and show the background. The use of close and repeated shadow lines were also used to suggest texture. The use of hatching marks also indicates darker shadows as seen in the paint where the sister next to the boy is seated with the dog. The value used in the picture casts a light that can be assumed to appear from a window. There is a shadow in the background on the far wall. It was also applied to distinguish the characters in the painting. For example, mother and son are well lit in the front while the rest are in the shadow in the background of the room.
The focal point refers to the center of activity or interest in a picture. It does not have to be at the actual center of the piece of art, but it is the main part that portrays the story. Focal point can be defined by color, structure and contrast. It is an element that jumps to the eyes of the viewers. In “Breaking Home Ties”, the focal point is the position of mother and son. It is painted in bright shades while the rest of the room stays dark. Everyone in the room is also looking towards the two, except the father who is heading out. According to definition, balance refers to ways how the application of textures, colors, shapes and other elements of this artwork is arranged. “Breaking Home Ties” is balanced in the ways how colors, shapes, light and texture were used. There are harmony and feeling of completeness in the whole picture. Dark objects are situated on the back burner while light ones are in the front (Edwards 113). Proportion refers to principle purpose of an art to describe the location, size or amount of a peculiar element compared to the others in the piece. The use of proportion in “Breaking Home Ties” brings a sense of balance and harmony. There is a proper depiction of all the parts used in the painting in relation to each other in a form within the painting. All the figures in the painting relate to what is happening at the focal point; therefore, they seem connected.
Thomas Hovenden used this picture to depict the hopes and fears of most Americans at that time. Their normal way of family life was changing as family ties were being broken per se. It is significant to note that the subject matter was a common phenomenon during the 19th century as people were migrating from one country to another and family members were moving to the cities to seek for well-paying jobs and better fortune. In addition, Hovenden had been orphaned when he was six years old before he left his homeland as a young man. Consequently, he was personally identified with the painting. It is apparent from the scene when the mother puts her hands on the shoulder of her son, expressing love and concern before she says goodbye. However, he has to leave home and seek for a better life in the city, though he is doubtful about his improved future. Family ties were being broken, which can be seen from the expression of every family member as they gather to share this tender moment; even the family dog is not an exception. There is an impression of sadness and unhappiness.
In conclusion, the painting was voted as one of the most admired artworks in 1893 at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition because it captured the imagination of many people like no other piece of art had ever done. During this time, most small family farms in the United States suffered a serious decline. Therefore, it was necessary that young sons leave their land and earn a living in the city or in the places, which remained from the frontier. The painting by Thomas Hovenden, hence, depicted a scenario that happened in numerous homes for real. It was a visual embodiment of the turmoil occurring in many families. Hovenden also used various models that resonated with him quite well. Every figure in the picture, including the family dog, can be seen as a relative or a friend of the family. They all share the sorrow and tenderness of the moment.