Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Pink Cloud of Antibes

Antibes, The Pink Cloud (1916)
Artist: Paul Signac

This was one of the many paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts that really caught my attention. Considered to be stylistically post-impressionism, this French artist draws the viewer in through an interesting use of brushstrokes to create an almost perfect balance between resemblance and abstraction. I first noticed the hundreds of small rectangular brushstrokes used to "thatch" together an image that is certainly distinguishable. A sail boat sits on a lake rendered unimportant by the very large pink cloud looming over what could be mountains in the background.

It's extremely important to note the use of color in the painting. At first glance, one might say that this is a fairly simple painting, and it is until you really study the complex relationship of colors. Each individual brushstroke plays an import role in shaping how the viewer perceives the image. The cloud is indeed pink (notice how it is carefully reflected by the lake and the distortion of the sail boat's own reflection in the water), but it is also many different shades of red, yellow, and orange. This could mean that the scene is set during a sunrise, making it a very peaceful and relaxed painting. However, the same use of color creates an interesting juxtaposition as the cloud appears to be emerging from the surface and not hanging from the sky. One could argue that the cloud is the result of some sort of explosion. Signac painted this in the year of 1916, two years after the start of World War I; on January 29th of that same year, Paris was bombed by German zeppelins. Perhaps this was the inspiration behind the painting and Signac was attempting to convey the delicate balance between life and death... beauty and disaster.

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