Companion Looking

It is common to think of visiting an art museum as a solitary activity. And it can be conducive to quiet contemplation. However, as I found out a couple of days ago, viewing art with a group can focus your attention on things you might overlook on your own. For this months American Art 101 we looked at Etaples, France, 1911, by William E. Scott. Brian pointed out the peculiar vantage point of the painting. The boat, which dominates the scene, is seen from the back end looking in toward the village of Etaples. The boat appears to be beached at low tide. That would put the artist either in the water or on very wet sand at low tide. I really had not thought about that, the foreground is so sensuous with its flowing paint strokes that I must confess I had not noticed the boat was beached. I have seen many paintings of cities from across a body of water and numerous paintings of boats from the side, but this view point is unusual. Another thing I had not paid that much attention to was the difference between the foreground, (which had always caught my eye) made with broad bravura brush strokes and the background with its relatively finely blended clouds (which until now had evaded my attention.) So next time you visit bring someone along and try looking together.

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