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-   -   Composition - examples of note (http://portraitartistforum.com/showthread.php?t=7237)

Mike McCarty 07-22-2006 12:06 PM

Composition - examples of note
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Here's a painting that has a whimsical appeal by Philip Alexius de Laszlo.

Two person compositions are tough. Two apple compositions are tough. Twos of anything are tough. I've always heard it said, and it holds true to my eye, that odd numbers are more easily arranged and composed. It seems that when your faced with TWO, the exercise becomes - what can I include to bring it to three?

If you believe that the study of composition is the study of shapes and masses; if you accept that it is a matter of how these shapes relate to one another and to the edge of the canvas; if you understand that it is not about the literal head, chair, hand, but only how these items present themselves as shapes, (if you can create a sentence with too many commas) then it gets a little easier (He said, as if to know).

In this composition it appears that Laszlo has pulled out all the compositional stops. The positioning of the two in relation to one another is the first. The variation of their gaze, the different orientation of the heads and the variation of their height. But it doesn't stop there, we have other shapes to contemplate.

The bowl in the lap, the bubble against the chest which creates a third orb triangulated with the two heads, each matters of compositional interest along with the bubble above the heads, but the shapes that I think have a profound influence on the piece are the ones in the corners. The shadows on either side and the seemingly innocuous space left unattended in the top left corner. These three shapes in my opinion go a long way to cement the overall balance of the piece.

What do you think? Do you disagree with my conclusion, maybe have a theory of your own. As usual I welcome all opinions that coincide with my own and feign the want of those opposing.

Mike McCarty 07-22-2006 12:16 PM

And a matter that I forgot above ...

I think the boy's right arm is very important. It adds a strong horizontal component and tends to draw you like an arrow into the center of the composition.

Carol Norton 07-22-2006 02:12 PM

Mike, I am on a quest to learn all that I can about composition. Thank you for your comentary. It is very helpful and - of course, CORRECT. That is, I agree with you. It will go into my notebook of information saved from all the sages on The Forum .

Claudemir Bonfim 07-22-2006 03:58 PM

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I liked your remarks Mike and I find it curious because I had never considered a composition with two main elements to be a problem.

Following your example I atached some images.

and Me.

Claudemir Bonfim 07-22-2006 04:09 PM

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Now Stephen Gjertson, Bill Watterson and Doug Wond.

Allan Rahbek 07-22-2006 04:57 PM

I think that the triangle from the bowl to the girl's head, looking at the bubble on top and back to the bowl is the compositional construction that should balance the picture.
In my opinion it fails to do so. I feel that there should be more space on the left side, about the double distance from the boy's elbow to the frame.
That would make the dark area of the boy's shirt, and the bobble in making, the center of the picture.

The two kids are much of the same size, but I feel that the boy's dark shirt is dominating the picture and therefore should be more in the center of the composition.

Maybe, if the print is a bit too light, my assumptions are fault, and should be forgotten.


Steven Sweeney 07-22-2006 05:21 PM

Sorry, but the original Laszlo image creeps me out.

An off-the-shoulder, below the breast presentation of a 10-year-old, next to her brother or friend, is extremely creepy. Nothing artistic about it. Composition doesn't offer any salvation.

Next slide, please.

Allan Rahbek 07-22-2006 05:52 PM

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Originally Posted by Steven Sweeney
Next slide, please.

Here goes,
I took some lousy photos of some of his paintings in Amsterdam, this Easter. It was late and the light was too warm........

But what to look at is the glare in his self portrait, the long sweeping stroke from top to bottom. And the lady is just charming, even with her Spanish beard, sorry, note the lively brushstrokes.


Carlos Ygoa 07-22-2006 07:31 PM

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It is easier to compose with odd-number elements since this lends itself better to a classical compositon scheme, i. e. central element as focal point and main protagonist balanced laterally by an equal number of elements.
It is very difficult to have a successful compositon with 2 elements, both of which are supposed to have equal protagonism. There are, of course, and have been exceptions wherein the compositions have worked out (Hans Holbein the Younger and his "Two Ambassadors" comes to mind).
I agree that the arm of the boy in the de Laszlo piece plays an important role; the spherical elements also fulfill their role; the shadows on the side serve to anchor the 2 figures to the base of the painting and almost give the whole thing a pyramidal compositional scheme, (perhaps because of this I personally find the painting a bit bottom heavy, but that

Molly Sherrick Phifer 07-23-2006 12:11 AM

For all those creeped out . . .
It's hard to believe, but both children in the painting are boys. Laszlo painted numerous paintings of his young sons with long curls. There is even a portrait of his son, Steven, with a bow in his hair. Apparently, it was not uncommon to keep boys' hair long or even dress them in robes and lace, particularly for portraits. I have a photo of my late father in law dressed in a tiny gown sitting (pretty as a pearl) among his older brothers. Go figure. :bewildere

Here is a link to the painting information.

If you poke around on the website that link points to, (jssgallery.org), you'll find lots of Laszlo portraits. Mainly royalty, but also some family and friends. I find them refreshingly uncomplicated.

Great thread!

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