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The Conversion of St Paul

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is one of the greatest masters of European realism. His painting The Conversion of St Paul demonstrates monumental expressiveness of the image. Caravaggio’s work does not have heroic mood; the artist presents St Paul as a brave old man. He is nailed to the cross upside down and painfully tries to get up while three executioners hardly turn the cross with their victim. Huge figures fill the entire canvas. St. Paul’s feet rest against the edge of the canvas; though hangmen have to “go beyond the frame”, they are not seen completely. This Caravaggio’s technique perfectly represents the dramatic tension of the scene. Even more unusual is the composition of The Conversion of St Paul. All the space is occupied with the image of a horse under the hooves of which a lying figure of St Paul is situated illuminated by the bright light. The color of the painting conveys the depth of being and adds more tragedy to the moment. Caravaggio’s painting is different from paintings of the Renaissance era in its sharpness and hostility to the aristocratic culture. The Conversion of St Paul is full of revolutionary courage with which he treated religious imagery.

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Death of Marat and The Third of May

Jacques-Louis David’s painting Death of Marat is an example of neoclassical art, which represents the moment after the murder of Marat. The composition is not impeded; the contrast of light and shadow is well emphasized. Strict color and dark background against which helplessly gutless Marat’s body is seen reminds the gravestone. Everything is pointed in the painting: a yellow bench, a green blanket, a white sheet and paper, and cadaverous skin tone. Everything on the painting is relentless but for the deep black background, which acts on the viewer terrifyingly. Jacques-Louis David really has documental accuracy, so his picture represented the accident the way it was. There is something tender and exciting in Death of Marat at the same time. The sinister breath of the soul is felt in the cold air of the room, cold walls and darkness.

Francisco Goya’s The third of May as Jacques-Louis David’s Death of Marat is painted in the original manner. The painting shows the horror of war and the atmosphere of terrible violence on human nature. The central figure depicted kneeling that increases the overall dramatic effect. The main role in the painting plays rebels’ hands. Goya, of course, knew that before shooting their hands had to be bound though this detail strengthens general picturesque effect. The soldiers are much closer to the victims than it should be in reality. And it is also a conscious technique that aims to highlight the cruelty of the scene. Goya painted not only with a brush, but as well with fingers, a sponge, a spoon, a knife, and a rag. The smears are saturated, and they stand out brightly. Among gray-green and gray-brown tones are found bright red and yellow spots; white spot in the foreground (focusing on the main elements) particularly strongly capture the attention. Thus color scheme is based on the contrast of bright and dull, light and dark. Unlike Baroque and Renaissance art, these two masterpieces do not represent idealized image of the man-hero who is perfect spiritually and physically. These two artworks are representatives of realistic tragedy, which shows common person and his struggle with injustice.

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A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

Georges Seurat is a founder of neo-impressionism, and specifically “pointillism”. His artwork A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte is an example of the principle of mixing colors directly on the canvas by short pointed smears. This painting inspires calm thoughts, and this effect is reached by using of thousands of small dots. Seurat’s painting prevents accidental smears where deception is impossible, and ostentatious gross is not permitted. A Sunday Afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte makes people think about transience of life and stops the time for a while to focus on the main objects and to enjoy every day.

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Matisse Style

Matisse’s artworks have some artificial character, which is explained by the artist’s detached view. Since Picasso is a critically minded and compromised artist, he pays attention to the real side of life. Therefore, both artists are characterized by their self-portraits, which express unity of the opinions. Later Matisse began to use the elements of cubism typical of Picasso manner. In my opinion, Matisse’s artworks are more visually pleasing because of their saturation and the usage of bright colors (for example, his artwork Still Life with Oysters).

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