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Two Paintings In Mfa Essay

1072 words - 5 pages

During the 18th-19th century, although European colonists settled the lands and manipulated the economies of the cities in America, they could not prevent the emergence and restrict the development of the art history. Nicholas Boylston and Nathaniel Sparhawk were two portraits made by John Singleton Copley, an American painter who is famous for his portrait paintings of important figures in colonial New England. Both created in the same time period and by the same painter, these two portraits share some similarities and differences.

John Singleton Copley painted Nicholas Boylston and Nathaniel Sparhawk in the 60s in 18th century, the former one in 1769, and the later one in 1764. They are ...view middle of the document...

According to the perspective people had at that time, an excess of weight represented health and prosperity. Unlike Nathaniel Sparhawk, the background of Nicholas Boylston is real. He is sitting in a room with silky curtains and a painter behind. He is right in the middle of the picture and his body accounts for 80% of the total area of the picture. However, the full-length portrait of Sparhawk only accounts for 50% of the total picture area.

Copley used Linear and volumetric perspective in both portraits. There are three spaces in Nathaniel Sparhawk: Sparhawk himself, the outstretched railing and the villa gate in the behind. The European style railing was highlightened in grey and it is the medium that divides the other two spaces apart. Comparably, there are only two spaces in Nicholas Copley: Copley with the table, chair and the books in one space, and the view out of window in another space. Because of the dominance of the image itself, the sea view from the window is not easily noticed at the first glance. However, Copley did not just randomly chose the sea view as background. He painted it because Boylston accumulated his fortune by running business on sea. Possibly Boylston wanted his offspring and all the people who have seen this portrait to remember his social status and the financial significance in the colonial period of America, so he used the sea as background along with his own portrait to make it a heritage in the American art history.

What is similar in these two paintings is their lightening skill -- Copley applied naturalistic light in both Nathaniel Sparhawk’s and Nicholas Boylston’s portraits, and the lights are both coming from the right side. The lightening source in Sparhawk is more like sunlight, because he is standing outdoors and his left face, which is facing the pillar, is in shadows. The edge of the buttons on his coat is glazing, and the highlightened drape of the outer layer implies the power Sparhawk has got. Unlike Sparhawk standing outdoors, Boylston is sitting back against the window. Obviously the light is not coming from the window, so there must be another light source on the right side in front of Boylston. It might be a door or another window...

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