27 September 2012
Museum Art Critique: Surprise Attack Near Harper’s Ferry
When first viewing the painting, Surprise Attack Near Harper’s Ferry, created by John A. Mooney in 1868, the only thing I found myself able to focus on was the group of almost completely undressed men that appear to be bathing in a river. At first glance, I was not truly able to grasp the concept behind the painting or the exact situation that was intended to be portrayed by John Mooney, in this specific piece of historical artwork. After looking at the image more closely and thoughtfully, the first words that entered my mind immediately were fear and chaos. The background of the Surprise Attack Near Harper’s Ferry, with the exception of the smoke in the far distance, contrasts significantly to the utter chaos, fear, and confusion displayed in the portion of the painting where the group of men appear to be fearfully scattering about in the water. The background of this painting, the beautiful colored sky and other scenery including the shimmering water, differs greatly in comparison with the more focused on, somewhat disturbing image, of what appears to represent franticness and fear that is sweeping over this group of men. After observing the painting as closely and carefully as possible, the image to be portrayed caused a feeling of sadness, as well as confusion, to sweep over me. After understanding more about the painting’s meaning, I began to also feel a sense of compassion and sympathy toward these men that I couldn’t even completely comprehend at first. In the painting, Surprise Attack Near Harper’s Ferry, the artist, John A. Mooney, places a great emphasis on the “subject matter”; the subject matter being the men that were attempting to bathe in the river. Even though the subject matter, the “central focus” of the painting, seems to just be about this group of Confederate Soldiers,...
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