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- The artist: Augusts Leopold Egg (1816-1863)
- Nationality: English
- Title: Past and Present, No 1
- Date: 1858
- Genre: Realistic – Group figure
- Medium: Oil paint on canvas
- Dimensions: Support: 635 x 762 mm
- Frame: 801 x 925 x 85 mm
What I See
The painting portrays a family made up of a husband, his wife, and their two children. The woman is lying on the floor at the feet of her husband who sits at the table looking troubled. The children in the picture appear untroubled because they are playing from behind their parents. The man has a letter in his left hand and appears troubled probably because of its contents. The family stays in a medium-sized room, which depicts that it is of a middle-class status.
A keen analysis of the painting reveals that the room has a lot of symbolic figures. First, the children have made a house of cards, which is collapsing (Fowle 1). There are portraits of the two parents on the walls and a mirror that reflects the image of an open door.
The portrait of the wife is under the picture of Adam and Eve while the husband’s rests under that of a shipwreck. There is also an apple cut into halves, one of them fallen beside the woman and the other is on the table where the man sits. The artists used a mixture of colors to blend the tone of the painting. For instance, the carpet in the room is green against a brown wall. The two colors are combined with a mixture of others, which make the painting attractive and informative (Fowle 1).
How the Artist Did It
The painting has an average symmetrical balance because the table is in the middle separating the children from their parents. The children for this case, are on the left side of the painting while the adults are on right side. There is a perfect blend of colors, which match and give the variations in the clothes worn by the people. For instance, each of the children has a different color for her dress while each of the parents also have different colors.
The color of the carpet is also different from that of the walls and the portraits on the walls (Fowle 1). There is both harmony and tension in the painting. Peace is present because of the realistic color combination and the fact that the children look untroubled. The tension in the picture could result from the fact that the woman is lying on the ground looking sorrowful, and the man appears frustrated.
What I Think About the Painting
I suppose that the painting has a fundamental theme of infidelity. The fact that the husband in the picture has a letter in his left hand and looks frustrated indicates that he could probably have read of the infidelity of his wife. The woman looks sorrowful because she knows that her marriage will no longer last. Such a fact is symbolized by the falling house made of cards and the open door. There is also another symbolism in the portraits found on the walls. In this case, the woman’s lies under the picture of Adam and Eve. It could mean that the latter painting represents the fall of the woman and her subsequent eviction from her husband’s house (Fowle 1).
The idea of expulsion is also expressed in the halves of an apple. It indicates that the two parents are no longer at peace and that the woman will have to go away because her piece of the apple is on the floor beside her. The fact that the children appear undisturbed indicates that they are victims of circumstances.
Fowle, Frances. Augustus Leopold Egg: Past and Present-No. 1′ 1858. 2000. Web.