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May 05, 2021

Mid-Morning Art Thread [Kris]

Becker Jungfrau1.jpg

The Jungfrau
August Becker

August Becker was a German Romantic landscapist who became the art instructor for some of Queen Victoria’s children for a time. Becker was part of the Düsseldorf School, a subcategory in German Romanticism which had a heavy influence on the American Hudson River School. Jungfrau Mountain is located in southern Switzerland and is one of the major peaks of the region. In this painting, Becker creates a work of majestic nature that is quiet, sublime, and imposing in scale.

The work uses cool and neutral colors to create a relaxing mood. The deep, lush hues of the valley loses intensity as the picture retreats in space. Using atmospheric perspective (the observation that the earth’s atmosphere causes colors and forms to lose definition and intensity as they recede in space), the greens fade naturally until they give way completely to the greys and blues of the mountain and ice. These new colors merge almost seamlessly with the deep blue sky and its puffy, white clouds. The colors in this work are harmonic.

Countering the calm palette are the dramatic lines and sudden changes of form. The landscape is a series of lazy, soft rises and hollows. In the middle ground, the land begins to ascend to the base of the mountain. Notice, visually, how the highest part of the rise on the left doesn’t go much above the highest part of the copse of trees on the far right. The line created by these two points is also the horizontal middle of the painting. Below this line is bucolic. Above it, the forms are sharp, sudden, and solid, and they shoot out of the green landscape in an almost perpendicular angle. The mountain stretches from left to right, across the upper half of the painting, almost like a wall. Unlike the mass of individual images—trees, rocks, meadows, cows—that make up the bottom half, the mountain is one solid form and shade. This massive whole dominates the painting despite the dullness of its colors. Then, with its poofy clouds just floating by, the sky calms the painting down again.

After my eye is drawn up the mountain through its strong verticals, I am brought back down by the meandering glacier on the center left. The line continues along the base of the mountain across the painting, hidden by the center group of trees. It reemerges to the right of the trees and turns again to follow the front edge of the painting, through the group of cows and off the left edge. This wandering line is not completely static like the lazy hills, nor is it dynamic like the upward thrust of the mountain. It is somewhere in the middle—a leisurely stroll through the landscape.

The herd of cows and shepherd Becker inserted in the picture establishes the scale and proportion of the imagery. Usually large animals, the cattle are tiny in this painting. Their brownish-red coats are almost lost in the other earth-tones of the work. They mix in with the brownish brush at the very front edge of the painting. The human is even more hidden. I didn’t even see him until I started writing the last paragraph. These tiny figures are lost in this huge scene. Their scale enhances the height of the trees next to them, which are themselves puny next to the mountain. The atmospheric haze, that causes the colors of the landscape to fade rapidly, implies vast distances between the foreground and background, too. The mountain is huge, and the viewer is dwarfed by it.

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posted by Open Blogger at 09:30 AM

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