This painting was the first one I ever saw, even in a book, that truly moved me. The morbidity isn’t done in some gothic sense so typical of what I had viewed previously but instead emphasizes life; it is fleshed out for the viewer, a demonstrable human being once alive fairly melting in a pose wrought by his assassination. The lines are both fluid and stark, the body prominently displayed with light to glorify and signify it as a martyr. Drama is everywhere in this painting with the stark contrast of the dark background only aiding the viewer in an entrancement with the corpse.
If this painting were done in dull tones, to imitate what more than likely was a darkened room, the drama wouldn’t be so rich, thick. It is in the contrast of the two, what is dark versus what is light, that enables movement to occur within me when looking upon it. But it is those contrasts that strike me when I consider art in the written word. It’s easy to draw a black line on a white canvas/paper- but is it drama? I suppose some might think it is but, for me, I prefer the shades. The gentle and gradual shift in tone speaks of subtlety and a careful eye. So too with words. There are moments where violent and clear phrasing is very effective in writing but are they, alone, powerful?
What I think the painting we’re looking at demonstrates is that harsh and blunt words can be dramatic but are often enhanced when they’re unexpected. A painting can afford to do this for it is a snapshot- one glimpse, one moment to be looked upon without thought to passage of time. It works. But if a novel is written strictly in the realm of the dramatic, eschewing subtlety in all ways, it falls flat. The violent words and phrases cease to be interesting or evocative when there is no allowance for the reader’s interpretation which limits their involvement in the narrative. Contrast. For solid writing it needs to happen within the plot, the rhythm of the words and sentences as well as in the psychology of characters or their interactions with the surrounding environment.
I wonder- what are your thoughts on the painting? About subtlety in writing?