The Fine Art of Description

Students of class 3C are busy writing their first descriptions of famous paintings. Here are a few examples:

the-tragedy-1903-jpglarge“The Tragedy”, painted in 1903, is a work by Pablo Picasso.

It is an oil on wood representing three people beside the seashore. In the picture you can see a woman, a man and a child in the foreground. In the background the sea is wavy to create an atmosphere of uncertainty. The family is standing barefooted on the sand as if to reinforce their being all one with nature. The painter uses a narrow colour palette, in particular the artist focuses on different shades of blue because he wants to convey sadness and loneliness. The accent use of white and brown, reinforces the painting by highlighting the sky and the waves. If you look at “The Tragedy”, the colours Picasso used for the figures are darker, to enhance the people in the foreground. The viewer’s attention is focused on their expressions and position. They are very worried and depressed. The picture makes the viewer feel sad and pensive. Picasso probably wanted to show grief. They seem to be wet and cold: it could be that someone has drowned. The child is asking something to his father. He is resting his hand on his father’s leg as if to stop the tragedy from taking place.

Chiara, Elisa and Ian

More about this painting here: “On the sand the man and woman are turned inwards in an inherently familial pose, but the distance between them and their downcast eyes reveal their inability to comfort each other. The child, too young to understand the meaning of his own experience, places a hand on the man and looks pleadingly in the direction of the woman. Neither have anything to offer him, and this feeling of impotence must only increase their own suffering. Here ‘tragedy’ functions as a subject in the painting not in reference to any single event, but simply as the human experience.” 


“Girl with a Pearl Earring”, painted in 1665, is a work by Johannes Vermeer. It is an oil on canvas and the original is on display at Mauritshuis, the Hauge, the Netherlands.

The original title of the portrait was “Girl with a Turbant”.  It is a portrait of a person on a black background.

It depicts a European girl wearing an exotic dress. The girl is in the middle of the picture slightly to the right. Thanks to the black background, the viewers attention is focused on the girl, who is looking at the viewer. The subject has a blue and cream headpiece and a big pearl earring that gives the name to the portrait. The pearl earring focuses the viewer’s attention too.

The subject has a brownish robe with a white collar, she is beautiful and she seems very young. Cool and neutral colors give the impression of calm and serenity. Red and brown ochres are used to define shadows on the girl’s skin to create depth and definition as the the light source comes from the left frontal area. The face of the girl is very relaxed too. This portrait is typical of Jhannes Vermeer and it is one of his most famous.

Giulia , Andrea and Vittoria

Vincent_Willem_van_Gogh_127.jpg“Sunflowers” is an oil on canvas by Vincent Van Gogh, painted in 1888. The original is on display at the National Gallery in London. In the picture you can see a vase with some sunflowers. The picture makes the viewer feel sad because of the withering aspect of some of the flowers: a sign of the passing of time. The important elements are highlighted by contrasting shades of the same hue. Van Gogh makes use of yellow and green, in particular he concentrates on the primary colour to convey harmony. The choice of tones of yellow recalls the symbolic meaning of this color and reminds the viewer of the sun. Yellow is a colour associated with warmth. In the background the yellow is pale and it is highlighted by the flowers in the vase and the mustard yellow of the surface. The green represents nature, it is an emblematic colour. The picture is divided into two parts by a thin blue undefined line, it is the only blue accent in the picture.

Zoe and Dafne


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