In my previous post, I was explaining the concept of rhythm in landscapes to draw viewers inside the frame and set them onto a journey along whatever path the artist wants them to go. If, apart from the rhythm, the landscape has a conflict (contrapunto) inside, the journey becomes intellectually challenging. You may say, I don’t always want an intellectually challenging journey! This is true, but a perfectly rhythmic and beautiful landscape would become boring in a week after you’ve bought it. That would be wallpaper, not Art.
Last time, we stopped at this landscape:
The task was to explain the need for the big tree on the right side.
I was amazed at the wise answers I’d received from the Teeny Bikini (whose posts are bad for your jaws: they’ll be hurting from laughter), the Rothko-may-take-a-well-deserved-rest windhound, the digital genius walterwsmith3rd, the sketch wizard outsideauthority, and Akmerf, whom I happen to know personally, and you would envy me because of that, were you to know Akmerf too.
If you are new to this blog, you can jump back to read their thoughts, brilliantly insightful and, basically, telling you the same things I’d be showing now.
Imagine this landscape without the big tree.
I will show three examples of how the eyes go along this painting:
The route begins from the left (I didn’t experiment with people who read right to left though), the eye does a jump up and down in the middle of the painting and then goes to the lowest point of the big tree and then gradually goes up to the top. As the eye travels up, it may roam along a branch or two but it goes up nonetheless. And only then the vertical rhythm of dark and white stripes starts working. You can’t jump the fences. But the big tree allows you to travel over them, to explore these fields without tearing up your trousers. Having travelled this painting once, the eye goes back to the left, the centre, then back to the big tree.
Without the tree, there would be no journey, just a bleak view. With the tree, you soar over this landscape (actually, your eyes do), you are almost forced to explore it.
You may ask, why then the artist planted two other trees? Those trees are not exciting or beautiful. Wouldn’t the painting be more concise without them? After all, brevity is the sister of talent. Well, without the other two trees the trick with the rhythm would become too obvious and your eyes won’t be roaming the picture because you’d know there’s nothing to explore there.
Another “tool” used here is not showing the big tree fully. Its roots are below the frame, and its top is above the frame. Were it shown fully, the eye would stop at its upper and lower points, and the landscape would get the feel of a picture which shows interesting things inside it but does not imply that there anything remotely interesting outside the frame.
And the last thing I wanted to say about this painting is about its contrapunto (if you are in doubt as to what it means, click here, on the post about Van Gogh). It’s very simple and straightforward. It is the conflict between man-made fences and organic forms, particularly that of the big tree. It is an interesting juxtaposition, but not something to really dwell on for longer than 5 minutes. Men and Nature. Simple.
That’s why I’d recommend to buy the landscape from the previous post, and to skip this one.
Read all the way down to this line? Here is the bonus. Two pictures from the brilliant artist Sounds*Pictures*Words. One showing that a tree can send you flying through the skies.
And the other about sending you along the rhythm of the sheep:
Next time you are out and about with your camera, try to get a rhythmic landscape and find a tune that would fit its rhythm. Or think of a melody, and try to find the landscape that would fit it. And then have your friends guess the melody. They’d love it.
P.S. Some may not.