May 16, 2011
The purpose of this essay is to analyze the painting of Masaccio, Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden. Masaccio of the early fourteenth century attempted to observe carefully and to record the variety of his visual experience in a logical and clear manner. Masaccio faced the problem of arranging figures in a mathematically defined space without making the picture appear to be artificially constructed, and thus isolating them from the composition or even sacrificing them to the ideal proportions of the room. Masaccio solved the problem by placing the traditional portraits of his patrons, the figures of God the Father remains unclear, thus softening to some extent the rigors of the mathematical perspective.
Masaccio's painting is highly dramatic, volumetric, and expansive. The shapes of Masaccio's Adam and Eve are constructed not with line but with strongly differentiated areas of light and dark that give them a pronounced three-dimensional sense of relief. The expressive movements and gestures that Masaccio gives to Adam and Eve powerfully convey their anguish at being expelled from the Garden of Eden and adds psychological dimension to the impressive physical realism of these figures. Masaccio's harrowing scene of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden shows the expressive force and directness of his style. An angel drives the sinners into the harsh, barren world, where the light mercilessly exposes their guilt and despair.
Masaccio's composition is beautifully balanced within the narrow format. The forward movement, dictated by the gesture of the angel, is firmly anchored by the strong vertical running from the heads of Adam and Eve to their heels. The muscular tension of Adam's body, and the fluidity of Eve's, were inspired by a contemporary relief, Masaccio is one of the first artists to use light realistically, rather than using it to highlight his...