ART CRITICISM PAPER ” The Grafin von Schonfeld with her Daughter” by Elizabeth Louise Vigee-LeBrun In the University Of Arizona Museum Of Art, the Pfeiffer Gallery is displaying many art pieces of oil on canvas paintings. These paintings are mostly portraits of people, both famous and not. They are painted by a variety of artists of European decent and American decent between the mid 1700’s and the early 1900’s. The painting by Elizabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun caught my eye and drew me in to look closely at its composition. “The Grafin von Schonfeld with her Daughter” is oil on canvas art piece painted in 1793.
It is a painting of a woman holding her daughter on her lap, the woman being “The Grafin von Schonfeld.” The woman is dressed in clothing that is from the upper class or a royalty stature in the late 1700’s. The clothing looks rich in material and sleek like silk in the colors of wine and a rich green. She has a covering on her head that looks like an extravagant scarf that drapes over her shoulder on one side, also made of the same silky material used for her dress. The woman has pale skin, reddish brown hair, bluish eyes, and rosy cheeks.
Her eyes look very real and penetrating when you examine the painting. The daughter is about the age of 5 or 6 years old. Her arms are around her mother’s neck and legs draped across her mother’s lap. The daughter is wearing a white fluid dress that looks thin in material with a red sash around her midsection. The daughter has the same reddish brown hair and rosy cheeks. The mothers and daughters eyes are equally as big in size, while the child’s eyes seem also very real and youthful.
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The mother and daughter are sitting on a bench of some sort on a ledge of a window with a portion of the window open. Outside the window there is landscape of mountains, trees, and a stormy sky. The sky is rich with a high value of grays including the whites of the clouds. The technique for creating the landscape out the window, the painter used an atmospheric perspective. The outside is slightly less focused and very fluid compared to the detail used for the mother and daughter. The colors used in the painting are very vivid yet rich in depth.
A combination of high chroma and low chroma gives the picture its depth. The visual texture is created with the mothers garments. It shows the flowing ness of the fabric and gives the feeling of a silky and soft touch. The little girl’s dress gives the texture of lightness and seems like airy fabric that would be thin and translucent. The time in this piece is very accurate of the late 1700’s and when viewing it, the time seems classic. The emphasis of this piece is mainly the mother and the daughter, however when looking at them you are drawn into looking at their realistic eyes.
The eyes seem like the focal point which draws the viewer in to the picture. The relationship in the painting between the mother and daughter give it a definite asymmetrical balance and maybe a little radial balance. A radial balance because of their eyes being the central focus, then the faces, then the holding of each other, then where they are placed on the canvas, and then the bench and the landscape. The colors used by the painter, also creates balance with in the picture. The wine colored dress of the mother, red sash of the daughter’s dress, ruby lips, and the rosy cheeks give a warm feeling to the central focus of the mother and daughter. The cool color of the sky is the same as the women’s eyes as well as the trees and green on the mother’s dress.
These balances give unity or a unifying feeling to the painting, especially between the mother and daughter. The idea of this piece is to show the connection between mother and daughter being painted. It shows the time and the classic style of the era and the stature of the mother and daughter. This painting is a portrait of the wife and daughter to the Minister of Saxony to Austria. Vigee-LeBrun, the artist, was originally from France but stayed in Vienna, Italy during 1792 to 1794. She painted this portrait at the time of her stay.
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Vigee-LeBrun usually did not include landscapes in her portraits, but the family really enjoyed the Italian culture and landscape and asked for them to be included in the portrait (The University of Arizona Museum of Art pamphlet).
Knowing a little of the background of the piece, it gives the reasons behind the window and landscape in the painting. It was for the family and how they enjoyed their culture and surroundings. The eyes of the mother and daughter in the painting are very drawing to the viewer. Vigee-LeBrun made this feature of the face very realistic and wanted to give life to a flat painting. In Egyptian times, the artists made the Egyptian portraits of people similar by accentuating the eyes.
Egyptians believed that the eyes were the gateway to the soul. Maybe Vigee-LeBrun had this idea when painting and wanted the eyes of the people she painted to show the souls and the life of the people instead focusing on features that were less valuable. “The Grafin von Schonfeld with her Daughter” is very interesting to look at. It shows history and context of the lives of the 1700’s. The textures of the dresses are beautiful and very alluring to the eye.
The porcelain skin of the mother and daughter give the painting innocence and purity, along with the loving nature between the mother and the daughter. This is a very good piece of artwork because it draws you to it with you knowing why. Once looking at the painting you find yourself looking into the eyes of the subject being painted and seeing another life with in the portrait. The eyes can almost be eerie as well as breathtaking at the same time. The painting produces richness and a feeling of royalty that people in the 21 st century do not understand but yearn just the same. I was very impressed of the classic style of the painting and my own yearning to have the same richness and “classiness” as the lives that were portrayed in Vigee-LeBrun’s painting..
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