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Works of art usually convey features of a particular historical period and reflect the thoughts of people of that time and their world perception. Despite the fact that individuals lived in the same historical epochs, their creativity may differ to a large extent due to the unique cultural background and specialties of development of the region, in which they resided. For instance, portraits Jr. Daniel Strobel, Jr. (Anna Church Strobel) and Her Son, George and Midnight: Mother and Sleepy Child were created in the same decade, though they are not similar entirely. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to compare the paintings and highlight that, although they are painted in the same period and address a similar topic, they have different meanings and imply different methods.
History of Artworks
Jr. Daniel Strobel, Jr. (Anna Church Strobel) and Her Son, George, was created in 1799 by John Vanderlyn, a young American painter, who finished an Academy in Paris. The Met (Mrs. Daniel Strobel, Jr. (Anna Church Strobel) and Her Son, George ca. 1799, n. d.) informs: “Vanderlyn made a living both drawing and painting portraits of the American Community in France” (para. 1). Consequently, this activity appeared to be habitual for him, and the decision to create this artwork was driven by the necessity to earn money (John Vanderlyn, n. d.). Anna Church Strobel was a woman of high status, as her father was the first American Minister in Portugal (Mrs. Daniel Strobel, Jr. (Anna Church Strobel) and Her Son, George ca. 1799, n. d.). In addition, her husband and her brother were American diplomats, who worked in France (Mrs. Daniel Strobel, Jr. (Anna Church Strobel) and Her Son, George ca. 1799, n. d.). Analyzing the shades, lines, forms used by the author, it can be noted that the portrait is inspired by European painting creativity, which blossomed in France (Realism, n. d.). It includes elements of realism, which was born and developed in this region and was dominant in this period.
As for Midnight: Mother and Sleepy Child, it appears to be an example of the Japanese portrayal at the end of the 18th century. It was painted in 1790, by Kitagawa Utamaro, “one of the most prolific artists of the genre of the portrayal of beautiful women” (Midnight: Mother and Sleepy Child, n. d., para. 1). He was also called “a master of femininity” and an “expert on women” (Hongo, 2020, para. 2). However, there is no enough information on his life. In these times and this area, the interest in an individual and their ordinary life emerged, which is conveyed in the portrait (Paintings from the Edo Period, n. d.). Therefore, the author was driven by the idea to represent his perspective by highlighting the daily routine of ordinary mothers, who take care of their children.
As it has been mentioned above, the first painting refers to realism. Therefore, all the methods applied for its creation are intended to convey the mother and her son as naturally as it is possible. John Vanderlyn adheres to soft and gentle lines and attempts to repeat the natural shapes of the human body. Thin lines are used to draw the hair of Anna in detail. The figures of mother and son are depicted in three-dimensional display, so their bodies look true-to-life. In addition, the author uses white, gray, and black colors, which reflect the light in the room and highlight the characters of the portrait. Anna occupies the center of the painting, while George is depicted in the left part, and the emphasis is made on their eyes. They have a meaningful glance, which draws the attention of viewers. It can be noted that the woman is calm, gentle, and caring, while the child’s eyes reveal his curiosity, and his body pose speaks for his restlessness. The painting conveys a pure and delicate mood, which can be associated with the mother’s love for her baby.
Midnight: Mother and Sleepy Child is created in style, which is associated with Japanese traditional painting features. The portrait angles natural body proportions, and the poses both of the mother and her child are not true-to-life. In addition, the painting is created in the two-dimensional display, so the figures are flat and remind old cartoons to some extent. The author uses bright color, though there is no light reflection, which conveys the body shapes. Moreover, thin lines are applied to demonstrate wrinkles on clothes and plies on the child’s body. The baby is painted in the center of the work, while the mother holds him in the right part of the picture. Therefore, the infant appears to be the emphasis of the artwork. Another feature, which should be highlighted, is the tiredness of the woman. She is willing to have a sleep, though her child is crying, and she needs to take care of him. Consequently, the scene is associated with the hard work of motherhood, which required a great amount of patience and sacrifice.
Similarities and Differences
Summarizing the description and the analysis of the artworks, it is evident that there are both similarities and differences. The artworks are created in portrayals style and address the same topic: femininity and motherhood. Apart from this fact, they were painted in the end of the 18th century. However, the authors approach the topic and its realization differently. John Vanderlyn was determined to draw people as naturally as it was possible using a limited range of colors. The painter adhered to more advanced drawing techniques in order to make the picture true-to-life. He paints a woman of high status and highlights her purity, gentleness, majesty, and calmness. The author pays attention to motherhood as something high and radiant. On the contrary, Kitagawa Utamaro applies traditional painting features to create his work. In addition, he uses the techniques, which are not so progressive, comparing to the first painting. Therefore, the figures are more cartoon-like than natural, and there are several bright colors in the picture. It is also important to notice that the artwork has a different mood. It depicts the lifestyle of ordinary people, and motherhood is highlighted as something challenging and exhausting, but noble. These differences may be explained by the cultural background and specialties of country developments during this period.
These days, the significance and artistic appealing of the described artworks cannot be underestimated. They convey the perception of femininity and motherhood among different societies and people of different social statuses. In addition, they are informative for providing an in-depth insight into the development of art in a particular area. Furthermore, from my perceptive, it appears to be interesting to compare the works of the same period and topic and admire the different approaches of the authors.
Hongo, A. (2020). 11 facts about the Ukiyo-e master Kitagawa Utamaro. Who is this mysterious bijinga master?. Savvy Tokyo. Web.
John Vanderlyn. (n. d.). Web.
Midnight: Mother and Sleepy Child. (n. d.). The Met. Web.
Mrs. Daniel Strobel, Jr. (Anna Church Strobel) and Her Son, George ca. 1799. (n. d.). The Met. Web.
Paintings from the Edo Period. (n. d.). Arts & Culture. Web.
Realism. (n. d.). Lumen. Web.