Good Example Of Museum Tour: Rivera And Bierstadt Research Paper
Diego Rivera’s El Albañil
Diego Rivera is one of the most famous Mexican painters from the twentieth century. Although he was born in Mexico, he was also quite active in the American art scene for a large part of his life. There are paintings and murals by Rivera strewn about the United States, including some in Detroit and San Diego; he was an incredibly prolific painter, and along with his wife, Frida Kahlo, developed a number of new stylistic elements in Mexican and Latin American art. Unlike many parents of the time, Rivera’s parents were supportive of his art, and gave him all the support and attention he needed to ensure that he developed fully as an artist. It was from this environment that his style grew and matured. It is important to understand the background of an artist to understand the art that they choose to create.
The painting that the San Antonio Museum of Art currently has on display by Rivera, entitled El Albañil, is a fascinating piece if only for its recent history. In an interesting turn of events, this piece was lost for many years; in 1997, however, the painting was rediscovered in a private collection and recently sold on the relatively popular television show The Antiques Roadshow. Because of its history, the painting does not have the same vibrancy as some of the other Rivera paintings that are in existence; however, its subject matter is also not one that is particularly uplifting or exuberant.
The title of the painting is El Albañil, which translates in English to “the bricklayer.” The painting is an unflinching interpretation of the working class poor of Mexico; Rivera often painted the poor. He was something of a socialist, and fought his entire life for the betterment of the working class people in Mexico. El Albañil depicts one of these men. The man stands in a three-quarter pose, head turned towards the artist; it seems as though he has been interrupted in his work, and he wears an expression that can almost be described as scowling, although he may be squinting at the artist. His irritation or impatience is underscored by the hand he has placed on his hip; he seems upset at the interruption and almost as though he is trying to get back to work as quickly as possible.
In this oil painting, Rivera has captured the soul of a worker: the man is the focus of the painting. Everything in the background of the canvas seems to melt together into large blocks of color, and there is almost a sense that the bricklayer is inside a room. However, Rivera has left the background of the painting unclear, and the eye is continuously drawn to the man’s form. He does not seem to have begun his work yet, because his clothes and face are still clean; his pants are bright and white in what appears to be the morning light. Rivera has used the background color-blocking to create a semblance of the rule of thirds in the painting. Although the figure stands in the center, the different color blocks in the background break up the image into three separate sections in both the vertical and the horizontal plane. This gives the image more depth and interest once the eye leaves the central focal point of the bricklayer himself.
Albert Bierstadt’s Passing Storm over the Sierra Nevadas
Bierstadt was one of the great American painters of the late nineteenth century. He was an adventurer at heart, and it was this sense of adventure that drew him westward. The San Antonio Museum of Art has a number of Bierstadt’s works, and each piece is a grand, sweeping landscape that encompasses land, sky, and the majesty of the undiscovered continent. Bierstadt became a part of the United States’ westward expansion movement in the late eighteen hundreds, moving westward away from the industrialization that so many disliked. As a result, his paintings are of the natural scenes that he loved so much—he also could not seem to resist adding some drama into the images he painted, and Passing Storm over the Sierra Nevadas is no exception to that particular rule.
Bierstadt was not an American by birth. He was, in fact, born in Germany, and was educated in art schools in the German painting tradition. Many of these German traditions can be seen in his work. The landscapes that Bierstadt paints are dark in the foreground, because he uses the breadth of the canvas and the depth of the field of view for the viewer to draw the eye up to the sky.
It is the sky in all of Bierstadt’s paintings where the eye is drawn. Bierstadt is a master of light, and the skies that he paints all pay lip service to his love for the landscape and his love for drama. In Passing Storm over the Sierra Nevadas, Bierstadt makes use of the storm clouds over the mountain range to show the light breaking through the clouds; the sky becomes bright in certain places almost as though God is reaching through the clouds and touching the landscape.
It is these grand landscapes that earned Bierstadt his fame, and his paintings hang in many important museums and American buildings. Although Passing Storm over the Sierra Nevadas is one of his lesser-known words, the viewer can still see the way he uses chiaroscuro in almost a Caravaggio-like style. The use of chiaroscuro and the dramatic differences between the light regions and dark regions of the paintings is one of the things that set Bierstadt’s work apart from the other great landscape painters of the time. In addition, Bierstadt’s focus on the sky does not take away from the detailing of the landscape itself; every part of the landscape in Passing Storm over the Sierra Nevadas is painstakingly detailed, with the hint of mountain in the background adding texture and depth to the painting as a whole.
Bierstadt’s Passing Storm over the Sierra Nevadas is, to put it bluntly, a grand painting. It is an expression of exuberance and excitement, and it attains a feeling of adventure and a true sense of the wild nature of America during that time period. It is a painting that is exciting to look at. The details of the painting are exciting to explore, and as the viewer continues to look closer at the work, there are more and more details contained in every inch of the work. The drama is the main allure of Bierstadt’s Passing Storm over the Sierra Nevadas.