From my range of experiences at the Indianapolis Museum of Art there has been one painting that has always brought me back to cast my shadow on the museum floor in front of it. Norman Rockwell’s The Love Song has captured my attention time and time again with its expressive and intriguing narrative.
Sylvan Barnet tells us that in the critique of a work we must ask ourselves, “What is my first response to the work?” Barnet goes on to say that we may eventually change our understanding of the work or revoke our initial response completely. Regardless of our conclusions, our first impressions weigh heavily on our perception of a piece. My first response to The Love Song was one of curiosity. The look of disparity on the young woman’s face compounds the narrative of the painting. I can’t help but wonder what she is thinking.
Barnet next tells us to examine other factors of the work: When was it made, for whom, and for what purpose. Examining these details does indeed bring us to a more solid understanding of the work and seems to put the work in context. The Love Song is an American painting created in 1916. Perhaps a better understanding of the social climate of the era could deepen my own understanding. The purpose of the work is solidified at this point; to tell a story. The title of the work definitely helps the viewer gain insight in to the narrative. The song that the gentlemen are playing now reaches out to viewers, and we suddenly become empathetic of the young woman. Perhaps she is yearning for love. Perhaps her young lover went to work on the railroad.
Subject matter is one of the most important things Barnet tells us to address when responding to a drawing or painting. With a painting such as The Love Song, the subject matter of he painting is not easily overlooked. The untroubled expression of the older gentleman starkly contrasts the longing look in the young lady’s eyes. A map in the background thickens the plot while a clock on the wall confirms...
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