Monday, June 17, 2013

Denver Art Museum Visit Final Paper - Benjamin West's painting Mrs. Benjamin West and Her Son Raphael

July 17, 2011  
            An American painter Benjamin West's painting Mrs. Benjamin West and Her Son Raphael presents - the love of a mother to her child which is so pure that her own identity has become her child. The child is open to all the challenges as well as the great moments; life has to offer with the support from Mrs. Benjamin. This representational Art form depicts a strong relationship between a mother and a child.

            This painting grabbed my attention right from the very start when I looked into it. I saw an innocent child looking at me and a mother - very calm, satisfied and respectful to grab her child. I see the beauty in this painting as a human form of a child who is yet to discover life and a mother who surrender her life to her child. The color is used very diligently to give the effects of emotion - love, temperature, religion etc. The detailed display of human form is at its best by the use of color that gives the sense of depth and organic shape. As a primary means of visual communication, line is used to depict the shape of nose, lips, cheek bones, ears, eyebrows, eyes, hair, hands, fingers, tongue, designs on the scarf, robe, swaddling cloth of the baby etc which helps to give the adorable characteristics of the painting.

            Overall, Mrs. West seems to be at the front in respect to her son Raphael. The overlapping of her hands and half of  her body with respect to her son gives us the complex overlapping of her son being in the middle of her overall body because we can see parts of her leg on the left side of the painting. This gives us the feeling of closeness and love between them with the feeling of space in two dimensional planes. When I closely observed the circular form of the overall panting, it made me perceive the human life in a cycle - a new born, maturity and death. I can feel the excitement towards life of Raphael with the implied motion - wide spreading his arms and communicating with me by looking straight to my eyes - giving myself a feeling that he wants me to hold him for a while.
           Key principles of design are used boldly and intelligently in this painting. I can see the unity of light-warm skin color that gives the sense of pleasure to our eyes which is so soothing to the two characters in the painting. The background apart from the two subjects has variety in the forms of sky and the opaque color used to give more emphasis on the subject matter. Asymmetrical balance between the two subjects is achieved intelligently. Raphael is shown smaller than his/her mother but with the use of light skin color and the implied motion, it balances the larger form of Mrs. West who is wearing dark-green robe and dark brown scarf and not looking at the observer unlike Raphael. This gives emphasis to both the subjects in this painting. The directional forces on this painting made me follow the path from Mrs. West to Raphael and eventually to me in the sense of Raphael willing to play with me. It uses the repetition of visual elements as skin color, eye color or more generally, an overall detail attention to human form that gives us the sense of unity, continuity, flow and emphasis (Frank, 69). The painting is on canvas whose scale is approximately 3'' times 3.5'' in comparison to our height. We can closely look at the details as eyes, nose, lips, hands etc which is so neatly painted. It is one of the best paintings I've ever seen to depict the human beauty with every attention to details. The composition of a child in his mother's lap is much easier than showing an adult person in this position (Frank, 73). The proportion of Mrs. West and her son seems to have perfected with beauty.

            The form in Mrs. West and Raphael of this painting which covers approximately 90 percent of the picture plane gives the content to the viewers - the emphasis of human being as the most incredible Art to be appreciated. I feel the combination of human mind for intelligence (Raphael) as well as emotions for love, sacrifice and respect (Mrs. West). The philosophy of objectivism reflects that faith, belief and emotions shouldn’t be the source of reason in man’s philosophy because it would hamper man’s productive achievements (Enright, Marsha Familaro). But, this piece of Art that grabbed my attention is completely opposite, meaning - it depicts emotional attachment in between a mother and a son, a traditional belief that a mother should devote her life to her child and a faith in the views of the art piece being religious. I tend to follow Rand’s philosophy but not on this aspect which I realized after I encountered with this painting. Even though I try my best to keep myself far from these three sources that hamper man’s productive achievements and keep myself to reason and logic, I tend to fall for faith, belief and emotion.

            The subject matter of this piece of Art is so lost in today's modern world. Relationship between a mother and her child is the greatest of all the relationships. A child's future life is so dependent on mother because a child is closest to his/her mother. A mother becomes a sacrificial being for her child.

            Time is also the subject matter of this painting. I saw a new generation evolving and an older generation in the form of mother guiding new generation with the culture, objectives and love to enjoy the life, so beautiful.

Time from other perspective is the relationship between a mother and a child that was so pure and on top of everything, which has now degraded with modernization. I appreciate the work of West that he depicted this pure relationship in the form of painting that is very valuable and should be preserved for the next generations to feel the subject matter and try to emulate it. I think her intensions for creating this piece of Art would be fulfilled if every child loves his/her mother indefinitely and every mother can do anything for her child. This piece of Art has great a value which needs to be practiced regardless of any culture. These days when I hear the sad news about the degrading relationships between a child and a mother, I feel very saddened, and this may be the reason why I chose this painting out of so many other piece of Art I could have appreciated. I have a reason to appreciate this Art piece and I hope I would be successful in portraying the subject matter to people at large to enhance this relationship. 
            If we observe this piece of art critically then we can also see this piece of Art from the philosophy of individualism. The child has his/her arms wide open giving us the feeling of his/her willingness to freedom and individualism - to explore what he wants and find out his own goals in life and work for it rather than being grabbed by his/her mother or any other that would stop him from being himself and be able to do what he/she likes to do. The child is open to this world. But, the mother has seen quite a life and she wants her child to be always with her which is very unpractical. Her life in some sense is complete, meaning her life has no more objectives to fulfill rather than to love her child. It portraits very complicated subject matters even though it seems very simple. It depends on the viewers of the painting how they take it. But, overall, this piece of Art needs to be seen and be appreciated by as many people as possible.

            BenjaminWest was an Anglo-American painter born in Springfield, Pennsylvania, in 1738 and he was encouraged by his parents to draw as well as lighted his talent to paint in a very early age of his life (Benjamin West). He was an autodidact until he got the formal education in Classical Art, Literature, and History as a non regular student with the invitation of Dr. William Smith of University of Pennsylvania who saw the talent and creativity in West's first historical work, The Death of Socrate (Benjamin West). He was very creative and dedicated to his interests in Arts and he spent a year painting portraits in New York to save money so that he could go to Italy for his studies. He is the first American painter to study in Italy in 1760, and, took the Neo-classical and Romantic style (Benjamin West). In 1763, he moved to England, got married and decided to settle down for the rest of his life (Benjamin West). He made a great deal of contribution with his painting depicting religious, classical, historical subjects as well as continued to paint portraits of many Royal family members until he died in 1820 (Johnson, Bruce). He was second president of the Royal Academy from 1792 to 1805 and, he was re-elected in 1806 (Johnson, Bruce). Overall, his life as a lucky child from his great parents and his travel to Italy and his settlement in England is what helped him to be a great Artist. I believe his painting Mrs. Benjamin West and Her Son Raphael in 1967 has all of his experience put into it to make it a great work of Art that we need to appreciate in the ages to come.

            Basically, West's painting Mrs. Benjamin West and Her Son Raphael changed my perspective of faith, belief and emotion as necessary elements to be human. It would not hamper man's productive achievements but rather if we take it positively then it may act as an catalyst to be even more productive. I feel that the love between a mother and a child is very necessary and important in today's modern world for our next generation to have a better life. I think West felt this change in this relationship, and wanted to preserve the purity and beauty of it. To myself, this painting is inexhaustible. The more I look into it, the more I feel the pain of those people who are not as lucky as me to get a good culture, education and most important - a love that drives me still today, to achieve my goals and objectives in life. This painting motivates me to work hard and achieve as well as enjoy one life that I got to make a difference in this beautiful world with so many beautiful peoples.

Works Cited:
"Benjamin West." The Pennsylvania Center for the Book. Web. 16 July 2011.             <>.

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Frank, Patrick. Prebles' Artforms. Tenth ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2011. Web. 4       June 2011
Johnson, Bruce, and Bobbie Johnson. "Benjamin West." Bruce and Bobbie's Home Page. Web.    16 July 2011. <>.

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