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This painting displays a young man blowing soap bubbles that are drawn from a cup containing liquid soap using a straw. The artist in this piece employs several colors to bring out clearly the elements of design, For instance the tone of this painting is presented by merging white color with a darker color. This implies that in real life the boy was blowing those soap bubbles in the night because there is very little light in the background.
Jean Simeon Chardin was the son to a cabinet minister and he spent most of his time in Paris. Born in 1969 and through his life, he was normally attracted to themes that revolved around children games and domestic activities in still presentations. He was popularly known as the master of still life.
His artistic character was propelled by his father, who designed billiard tables. Chardin married Saintard in 1731 and during his career he captured the interests of the Royal Academy with other paintings such as The Ray (1725 – 1726), The Buffet (1728), and Woman Sealing a Letter (1733) (National Gallery of Art). Jean died in Paris in 1779, leaving great works that are still emulated by artists.
In the 17th century, bubbles symbolized the transience of life. It is perceived that Chardin wanted to use this piece of art to demonstrate how delicate life is. In real life a normal burble only lasts for a few minutes after it has been blown. In simple language this theme means that a person’s life can end at any time as long as one is alive.
The art has elicited different themes in regards to the paintings. Some argue that the boy was lazy and he was only wasting his time. But Chardin wanted to twist the theme and designed the painting to depict the essence of soap bubbles and life. The bubbles have been painted white and light brown to create an emphasis on them by distinguishing them from the rest of the painting.
Elements of Art
The color in these soap bubbles creates a variance in the size of the bubble. The bubble has a lighter color to create an element of time. By making the bubble a little bit darker, the painter is demonstrating the event prior to the breaking of a bubble. Dark colors and light colors that is dark brown and white color have been applied to improve on the contrast of the painting to enable the audience draw a line between the bubbles and the clothing worn by the young man in this painting.
The skin complexion of the young man blends with the color of his jacket to present a smooth texture. Light in this painting is injected from the left to create an outline of the young man’s image.
The boundaries created by the bubble represent the line element, in which the bubble is shown as increasing in size. Also the lips of the boy blowing the bubble and the boys’ eyes show some movement in regards to the line element.
Chardin represent the painting in a two dimensional form with the help of light and color. Hutchings, et al. insist that lighting in art is a very vital aspect because if it were not there paintings would create confusions hence fail to deliver their intended purpose. More lighting presents a smooth tone while little or no light creates a rough tone (210).
In depicting the dimension, the shape of the painting is enhanced by the boundaries of the window and the soap bubbles. The background wall implies that the boys are standing inside a small room or a corridor, thus creating a contour of the expected boundary.
The area or space occupied by the painting is clearly represented by the shape of the painting. In this case only the boys, the glass with soap liquid, and a small portion of the window gives us the idea of the intended space by Cardin.
The other white spot on the bubble is induced by the light that is reflected across the painting. Bubbles can be overlapped to increase their intensity. Owing to the position of the soap bubble in this painting the background of the bubble is not clear. If the bubble was somewhere above the table one could recognize its background. This is created by the brightness and darkness of light.
Principles of Design used
The painting is well balanced. This evenness is achieved by balancing between darkness and brightness. The proportion of this painting is also balanced because the painting seems to occupy three quarters of the canvas. Perhaps if the light was shone from the light we wouldn’t recognize the straw.
The contrast of a painting is determined by the objects laid out in a painting and the ones the painter intends to highlight. The different elements of art such as line, form, color, texture, and shape are well represented in the art; as described in the previous section.
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The art work is efficiently unified, with each element of art arranged in a consistent manner. For instance, white color represents the boy’s shirt and the soap liquid. This also creates a repeated pattern, where the coat that the boy wears is well represented by the line and color element to create a smooth texture.
There seems to be a lot of harmony in the colors used in this painting because they all seem to be directly related. The background of this painting is perfected by combining extreme black color with brown. This merge creates a shadow that dominates the painting, thus depicting asymmetrical principle.
The glittering on the bubble also implies the full length of the bubble and therefore describes the pressure and the rythm exerted on to the bubble which will make it burst. This pressure refers to the situations in life that pushes people to a point of life and death. The young mans cheeks do not indicate any form of stretching because if it were so his cheeks would be swollen but instead he looks relaxed.
The young man’s eyes look like they have been closed but this impression is brought by his head facing down wards to concentrate on the bubble. Perhaps he is analyzing how much and how long he can blow his bubbles.
This shows some form of emphasis. The color of the jacket worn by the boy and the shirt plus his skin complexion is not in conflict because they only vary in their contrasts. This toning creates unity among the objects displayed in this painting. The jacket worn by this boy has a smooth texture that blends well with the background shadow.
The circular shape of a bubble is important because it ensures that the bubble occupies very little space in the air hence they are easily suspended into the air. This lightness makes the bubble to cut through the air because of its intensity thus it can not be overlapped by other objects that are usually present in the air. Thus, Chardin has created a formal balance with the evenness of the bubble. Stein argues that the duration that a soap bubble takes in the air is influenced by the humidity of the air (21).
The variety principle in this painting is depicted through the incorporation of artistic elements in different degrees. The smooth texture in this painting creates a cool mood. The soap bubble seems to dominate the focus of the young boy because he looks downward to show his attention to the bubble.
According to Opera bubbles are also used in early childhood education to teach children about shapes hence they should be attractive to attract the attention of children (13). In this painting there are two forms of shadows. The first one derived from the overlapping created by the image of the boy hence the source of light is barred from reaching certain areas. The other form of shadow is imaginary because we expect shadowing to be applied almost in every painting.
This latter shadow is due to insufficient lighting on some parts of the painting. For instance part of the boy’s hair is not visible because it has been merged with the background shadow to create a smooth tone. Hardin has clearly proved that a shadow does not have to be black but it must have a complimenting color.
Style of the Art
This painting is created using the still picture concept. The boy’s focus can be manipulated to create different focuses. It is possible for other painters to make changes on this painting. This can done by shading more light on the background of this painting to help the audience identify other parts in the painting that are visible but one can not tell what they are. One notable part in this painting that is not clearly visible is the right hand side of the boy.
It is important to note that the lighting in this painting visualizes only the right hand part of the boy that includes his right arm and half of his chest. One has to look very carefully in the painting to identify the left hand side of the boy’s image. This is due to the fact that only the foremost part of the boy’s left arm is visible.
His upper arm is not visible because it has been overlapped by the dark background. His elbow is creates a transparent appearance by shading very little light on it. This pale color on his elbow can confuse the audience because personally I didn’t realize it was his elbow hence I thought it was another object in the background.
This is achieved by making some objects in this painting to be more visible than others. If the boy’s complexion was darker the painter would have shed more light on the background to enable the audience to identify the boy.
The purpose of this art work is to depict how life is delicate like a soap bubble. In this painting when one looks at the painting the first thing that captures the sight is the boy. Though the container that holds the liquid is not too close to the boy it is visibility follows that of the boy.
This is because of the white color used to present the volume in the container. The format of this painting is appropriate because it accommodates all the objects comfortable. If the format was tall some objects would not have fitted into the painting hence the painters choose his format well.
The Soap Bubble is an interesting painting because it depicts the common activities that children engage in. Sometimes it is difficult to notice how important small things can be meaningful to our life. In this art work, Chardrin has created a piece that makes people to think about life in greater context; life is delicate like a soap bubble, therefore there is need to spend our lives in the best ways possible. Thus, this art work was picked because it represents the classical elements of art and the principles of design.
Hutchings, Michael, et al.”Proof of the Double Bubble Conjecture.” Differential Geometry. Ann. of Math. (2), Vol. 155 (2002), no. 2, 459-4896.
National Gallery of Art. The Collection: Jean Simeon Chardin. 2010. Web. <https://www.nga.gov/collection/artist-info.1127.html>
Opera, John. “The Mathematics of Soap Films – Explorations with Maple.” Student Mathematical Library v. 10. USA: American mathematical Society, 2000. Print
Stein, David, et al. How to make Monstrous, Huge, Unbelievably Big Bubbles. California: Klutz, Inc, 2005. Print.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Jean Siméon Chardin: Soap Bubbles (49.24).” Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. March 2008. Web. <https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/49.24/>
Soap Bubbles, ca. 1734
Jean Siméon Chardin (French, 1699–1779)
Oil on canvas
Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Jean Siméon Chardin: Soap Bubbles (49.24)” Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. March 2008.