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The James River Exhibitions Essay

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Updated: Oct 7th, 2019

Both James River exhibitions: ‘The James in the Civil War’ and ‘The James in the period 1880-1920’, are quite different, however have much in common. Two pictures: ‘View of the Port of Richmond Virginia’ in the Civil War and the ‘Evacuation of Richmond’ in the period 1880-1920, have been analyzed.

The first image is in black and white tones. The values are transitional and smooth, and gently move from light to dark (Studio Codex, 2006). In some areas the broken values are used in order to emphasize the texture. Light value is used to underline the major themes on the picture: the moon light, calm river.

Even though the second image is colored, the tones are very cold. Similar to the first image, the values are changed from light, which is closer, to the dark, which is further. The emphasis is made on the dark values, as the image has negative background. Both images are rich for lines.

The second has many horizontal lines, which show the river character, as well as many vertical lines, which are used to describe the boats. The lines are not very thick; they create the light atmosphere of the image. The first image has more vertical lines. The main accent is made on fire. Another line is the bridge, which divides the image into two parts.

The lines on the other side of the bridge are horizontal, they are observed in the river and on the both shores. Both images are three dimensions, but the space solution is different (Elements and Principles of Design, 2012). Thus, the image is organized, as almost every single part is filled. Free space is used only at the beginning. Another image is divided into two parts.

One part is filled of events, the main theme of fire and disastrous is shown on it. Other part shows absolutely different atmosphere. It is not occupied by many objects: calm river, the shores, and some buildings on the background (The James River, 2003).

The first image presents symmetrical balance in comparison to the asymmetrical second one. The black and white picture represents radial symmetry: the major theme of the night is observed in the centre. The asymmetrical balance of the other picture is viewed out of the contrast of tones, values, inactive and active areas (Researching Art, 2012).

Nevertheless, both of the pictures represent the same James River region, their content differs a lot. Both images are historical and describe the events from the past: James River in the period of the Civil War, and James River in the period 1880-1920. ‘View of the Port of Richmond Virginia’ and ‘Evacuation of Richmond’ are not very rich for symbols (Coski,1996).

The primary context of the image is to show the river in the night, and the marvelous overview of the many boats. However, the secondary content of the images is to show historical facts. The first picture shows common James River for the period of Civil War: people are trying to escape (Sears, 1992). It is deep night, as we can see the moon, but there are many boats.

The atmosphere is calm. Even watching the image, we can hear the noise of the oars, but nothing more (McFarland, 2009). The major difference on the second picture is that it doesn’t have the primary content as showed events are obvious. The invasion clearly showed on the left part of image. Here “what you see” is equal to “what you understand”(Belton, 1996).

To conclude, the images exemplify their content very different. The first image has a double content. It is very hard to discover the main theme without knowing the historical background of the image. The second picture is more open, as here the author underlined the major topic by colors, techniques, and tones.


Belton, Robert. Art History a Preliminary Handbook. 1996. Web.

Brown, Robert. View of the Port of Richmond Virginia. The Countries of the World: Being a Popular Description of a Various Continents, Island, Rivers, Seas, and People of the Globe. Vol.2, London, Paris& New York: Cassell, Petter, Gaplin& Go., 1876, p.160. Print

Coski, John M. Capital Navy: The Men, Ships, and Operations of the James River Squadron. Campbell, California: Savas Woodbury Publishers, 1996. Print

Elements and Principles of Design. 2012. Web.

McFarland, Kenneth M. “Encyclopedia Virginia. Ed. Brendan Wolfe. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. November 24, 2009. Web.

Researching Art. 2012. Web.

Sears, Stephen W. To the Gates of Richmond: The Peninsula Campaign. New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1992. Print

Studio Codex. 2006. Web.

The Evacuation of Richmond, Va. Hand-colored postcard. Richmond, Virginia: Southern Bargain House, 1913. Print

. 2003. Web.

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