Monday, March 7, 2011

Analysis 2: Word Picture: Divide, Categorize, and Conquer

This painting is called “The Raft of the Medusa” by the artist Theodore Gericault. It does not portray a lighthearted moment in history as my brief narrative depicts. This painting is of the image of a shipwreck of a “navel frigate” called “Meduse”. It “ran aground” and the people on board quickly constructed a raft from parts of the broken hull of the ship. More than one hundred people died. Some died slower than others. These were the ones that drifted about the sea for weeks, with no food or water to sustain them. Madness set in as well as cannibalism of the dead.
To analyze this painting through the view of structuralism a common thread can be used to stitch a clear story. Almost anyone in the world can recognize from this painting that something has gone horribly wrong. By viewing this painting through the eyes of structuralism one can recognize and categorize the “underlying basic plot” of what is occurring in the painting. A structuralism view can also characterize each individual on the raft by studying their expressions and body language. It can also observe the portrayal of nature depicted in the painting and recognize the ruff sea that steals away all control from the helpless adrift on the fragmented vessel.
By using structuralism one can also begin to understand the artists thought process. Gericault must have been inspired to create such a masterpiece. He did not simply walk out of “a cave” somewhere, pick up a brush and paint this image from fathomless thought. There is a list of steps that can be created through structuralism to explain what brought about such an insightful deep clear vision that is now captured in the brushstrokes of genius.
A shortlist would perhaps look like this:

Knowing Gericault’s history:
Brief account of his life story may explain his career and interests
Why he chose this subject to paint:
Perhaps he thought this was a big story that could help his career (wiki)
The lengths he took to understand the story to depict it in a factual manner:
Interviews survivors (wiki)

The models he used for the painting:
His friends and fellow artists modeled for the painting (wiki)

Creating such lists by narrowing down basic plots, creating categories, and recognizing patterns helps one to understand. Structuralism is a powerful source to utilize when engaging the complex.

Divide, Categorize, and Conquer

Works Cited

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