ART HIST 110
15 MARCH 2013
The two paintings that appeal to me the most are the genre-painting, In Grandmother’s Time by Thomas Eakins (1876) and Tattered and Torn by Alfred Kappes (1886). The main subjects for the two paintings are the woman at the center of the composition. Through the differences in color, light, and the objects in the composition, these two paintings express two different stories. These paintings depict the daily life scenes of two contrasting classes. Eakins illustrates a scene of an elderly maid of a high class family concentrating deeply in sewing, whereas Kappes illustrates a scene of a poor elderly woman holding a lit match to light up her pipe. Judging from the era that the paintings were made, both In Grandmother's Time and Tattered and Torn are a part of the Realism period in the United States. Thomas Eakins has been known as one of the most influential artist for realism in American art. He was known for his genre painting and his charisma as a teacher. Likewise, Alfred Kappes was renowned as a genre painter portraying the life of African-American in the nineteenth century. He was also assigned as one of the members of the National Academy of Design.
The elderly woman from Thomas Eakins’ In Grandmother’s Time is seated on a chair at the center of the composition, wearing an old dress and an old mobcap which indicates she may have been a maid or babysitter. Her seemingly old dress and mobcap may suggest how long she has been working. The children toys behind her can proof that she is someone that has experiences or interactions with children. Eakins also places his subject in the middle of a dark room with a wooden pinwheel. We can see that she is currently sewing by the gesture of her hands. The blurry wheel shows the speed of her treading. On the other hand, the elderly woman from Alfred Kappes’ Tattered and Torn seems to be wearing old and torn clothing. She is standing in the center of the composition. We can also see two men behind her, sitting next to the window, one of them smoking his pipe. They seem to be feeling down because both of them are sitting with their shoulders slumping down and their heads facing downward. From the scene, -- the woman's clothing, the plastered wall behind her, the old wooden floor, and the hole on the window shade -- we can assume that she is a poor elderly woman. We can see that both of the main subjects are not making eye contact with the viewers. Instead, they are gazing at their hands and focusing on their own activities. Eakins portrays the woman to be focusing on her work with the pinwheel. She seems to be really immersed in her sewing that nothing can distract her. On the contrary, Kappes portrays the elderly woman trying to light her pipe. Her focused expression and her hand gesture of holding the match make her seems like she is holding her last match, and that she must not let the fire on the match go off or she would not be able to light her pipe. Between these two paintings, we can see a distinction between both classes in the society from what they are wearing, where they are, and what activities they are engaging. The woman In Grandmother's Time is wearing a gown-like dress despite the old age of the dress. While she is sitting down, we can see her dress draping down to the floor. The room seems very classy with the carpeted floor, the antique looking pinwheel, and the children toys. These items seem like they might be luxurious during that time. She looks like she is working as a maid for a wealthy family. However, the woman from Tattered and Torn is wearing a very worn-out and ripped clothing. She is also in a room, or maybe a house, with wooden floor, chipped walls, and a ripped window shade. Judging from the year when the painting was drawn, it could be in the era of slavery. The activity that she currently engaging in, that is smoking, is also an...
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