Claude’s Column: Painting of the Week 4

(Credit: Dayton Art Institute / YouTube)

This week’s paintings are another case of representational vs abstract. Andrew Wyeth’s “That Gentleman” and Jacob Lawrence’s “Cabinet Maker” are both respectable pieces of art. 

Now upon first glance, these two works seem that they have quite a contrast. “That Gentleman” is a rather melancholy painting, to say the least. Despite most of the priority being placed on the gentleman himself, the rooms still appear to be quite bare and empty. 

From the position of the gentleman in question to the drab color scheme, I see a depressed man whose world is a mess and can only find refuge in the cold but comforting confinement of the little room he calls home.

“That Gentleman” by Andrew Wyeth. (Plum leaves / Flickr)

On the other end of the spectrum, Jacob Lawrence’s “Cabinet Maker” is quite a different story if you ask me. In this piece, we witness a man hard at work building a new cabinet.

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Unlike “That Gentleman,” which is a representational piece, Lawrence’s work is rather abstract. Yet unlike many abstract paintings, one can more easily decipher what is being displayed. In addition, the linework is much thicker in comparison to the softer linework of Wyeth’s painting, which perfectly compliments the saturated colors, making for a more striking piece of art than most. 

“Cabinet Maker” by Jacob Lawrence. (Karl Steel / Flickr)

Where the first painting invokes a sense of hopelessness and loneliness, “Cabinet Maker” shows an optimistic man with a purpose hard at work to perfect his craft.

While these two may appear different in almost every way, one common ground they share is the two artist’s chosen painting medium of Tempera. If anything, these two masterpieces are a testament of how a single medium can be used in such different and thought-provoking ways.

Samuel J. Claude
Associate Editor

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