At the National Gallery, I chose the painting Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus by Joseph Mallord William Turner to view and analyze. This painting was from 1829 done on canvas with oil. The idea of this painting came from Homer’s Odyssey. In that book there is the tale of Ulysses and his troupe who attempt to destruct the one eye giant Polyphemus. This painting depicts that scene.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
ulysses deriding polyphemus.
In the foreground of the painting we see a ship full of men. On board the ship, Ulysses is standing, defending himself from the giant who is now blind. In the background, you see the faint figure of a giant hidden in the clouds. Turner may have used this effect to show the defeat of the giant, as he isn’t fully visible. Or perhaps, reiterating the fact that the giant is now blind.
Because this painting is so large and has a great deal of things going on, Turner doesn’t focus on the small details of the piece. The men on the boat are see more as a mass and not as individuals, as they all look the same. His lines aren’t exact or sharp but more blunt and relaxed. This could be because the individuals are not as important as the story itself. The largeness of the painting shows the importance of the battle as well as engages the viewer into the scene.
Turner uses the vanishing effect often in this painting. Like with the giant just barely visible in the distance, he uses the same effect with horses in the sunset. In the corner of the painting we see a very bright sunset full of yellows and vibrant color. Slightly showing through the light we see horses, the horses of the sun God Apollo. The way the horses are fading out could show us their distance as well as the fact that they are heading away from us, and in the natural eye would be difficult to see. Just in front of the ship we also see slightly invisible sea nymphs. This adds to the fairytale aspect of the picture. The story of Ulysses is after all a tale and the sea nymphs help us keep that in perspective. This painting took a lot of skill especially in finding the balance to make the slightly invisible or faded parts of the painting still visible to the viewer’s eye.
The warmth of the sun set also gives the viewer a sense of direction. We also feel warmth and accomplishment. The brightness of the sunset shines while the rest of the scene is dim. It somewhat lets us know that the sailors come out of this fight successful. Overall Turner’s piece was engaging and told the story of Ulysses and Polythemus quite well.