Launchpad: Line in Visual Arts (Student)

Follow the Leader: Line in the Visual Arts

Lining Up In the Line of Sight  |  What kind of Lines?

 

1. Lining Up

Part 1

Begin by taking a look at the following painting by the American painter Grant Woods:

Haying

Examine the painting, taking note of compositional lines in Woods’ painting. Print out the line drawing of the painting and mark the compositional lines on the print out, and then answer the following question:

  • What kinds of lines—actual or implied—are present in the Woods painting that move the viewer’s eye around the picture?

You can use the following diagram, along with your own work, to help you answer this question.


Part 2

Next, examine the following painting by Saul Berman:

River Front

Search Berman’s image for horizontal, vertical, and diagonal compositional lines that move the viewer’s attention around the image. Print out the line drawing of this painting and mark these compositional lines on the print out. Once you have finished noting these lines on the print out answer the following questions:

  • Where, if anywhere, do these lines meet or cross?
  • How do these lines move the eye from one corner of the image to another?


Once you have finished, view the diagram of Berman’s painting, and compare it to your own.

Now, compare the Woods painting and the Berman painting, focusing on the two paintings’ use of compositional lines. Then answer the following questions:

  • How is the use of line in the two paintings similar?
  • How is the use of line in the two paintings different?



2. In the Line of Sight

Part 1

In this activity you will be thinking about the impact of sight lines on the composition of works of art. Begin by taking a look at the following painting by William Clarke Rice:

October

Identify compositional lines in Rice’s painting. Print out the line drawing of this painting and mark those compositional lines on the print out. Remember that you are looking not only for real or visible compositional lines, but also for implied compositional lines.

Next, view the following diagram of Rice’s painting. This diagram shows both the visible compositional lines formed by the figures’ arms and bodies, but also the implied compositional lines formed by their lines of sight.


Part 2

Next, view the following painting by the artist Frederick J. Waugh:

The Knight of the Holy Grail

Print out the line drawing of Waugh’s painting. Working together with your group, mark the compositional lines in this painting on the print out. Be sure that you mark both the visible and the implied lines of Waugh’s painting.


3. What Kind of Lines?

Part 1

First, take a look at the following portrait by the French artist Jacques-Louis David:

The Emperor Napoleon in his Study at the Tuileries

As you view this painting, write notes on your overall impression of the image. Answer the following questions, as well as marking compositional lines on the line drawing of this painting.

  • What is your overall impression of David’ portrait of Napoleon- is this painting horizontal? Vertical? Explain your answer: what about the painting gives you the impression that it is one or the other?


View the following diagram of the painting, and then answer the following questions:

  • Why do you think that David created this kind of composition?
  • What kind of an impression do you think this makes on the viewer?
  • Why might David have chosen this format over the other?



Part 2

Next, take a look a the following painting by the artist Hans Baldung Grien:

Man of Sorrows

As you view this painting, write notes on your overall impression of the image. Answer the following questions, as well as marking compositional lines on the line drawing of this painting.

  • What is your overall impression of David’ portrait of Napoleon- is this painting horizontal? Vertical? Explain your answer: what about the painting gives you the impression that it is one or the other?


View the following diagram of the painting, and then answer the following questions:

  • Why do you think that Grien created this kind of composition?
  • What kind of an impression do you think this makes on the viewer?
  • Why might Grien have chosen this format over the other?


Part 3

Finally, view the following image painted by the Swiss painter Henry Fuseli:

Oedipus Cursing his Son, Polynices

As you view this painting, write notes on your overall impression of the image. Answer the following questions, as well as marking compositional lines on the line drawing of this painting.

  • What is your overall impression of David’ portrait of Napoleon- is this painting horizontal? Vertical? Something else? Explain your answer: what about the painting gives you the impression that it is one or the other?

View the following diagram of the painting, and then read this background information about the story depicted in the painting, and see if you can identify who each of the figures is. Next, answer the following questions:

  • Why do you think that Fuseli created this kind of composition?
  • What kind of an impression do you think this makes on the viewer?
  • Why might Fuseli have chosen this format over other formats?
  • What kind of an impression do the compositional lines in this painting leave upon you?