A Formal Analysis of the John Donnes Last Look - Essay Example

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Vanderbilt University
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Painted by Marsden Hartley, the imaginary portrait exemplifies a solemn atmosphere and gloomy mood. The shrouded body of the famous English metaphysical poet and dean of the Saint Paul's Cathedral in London is a representation of a curved tomb effigy. The art, which was first unveiled in 1940, displays cool colors of evocative death with striate patterns that approximate the hard-curved stones on Donne's tomb. The medium of the painting remains an academy board daubed with oil colors. Therefore, given the significance of the work done by Hartley, the art remains the centerpiece of this essay; consequentially, divulging deeper into the meaning and essence of the various aspects of the canvas.

Also known as La ultima Miranda de John Donne in Spanish and Lultimo sguardo di John Donne in Italian, the portrait features a head in a casket. More specifically, the person in the coffin appears dead. Nonetheless, the expression portrayed by the dead man's face has a sense of peace and satisfaction. However, despite the peace and amity, the blue and dark colors at the edge of the canvas express a somber mood, usually connected to death. However, the picture carries much emotion and coded message than meets the eye.

Hartley's painting of John Donne had to meet the high expectations of art. Deducible by his previous works, Hartley was known to paint eminent figures in the society. However, John Donne's case was a special one given that he was an equally important figure in the work of art as well as a religious head of one of the largest churches in the world. This stature not only required the incorporation of both secular and religious aspects to the masterpiece but also a unification of peace and tranquility balancing with death.

The applications of color in the painting remain epic. For instance, the brighter colors evoke a feeling of purity and holiness, whereas the darker colors show the stretch of sin, secularism, and death. The touches of blue can be aligned to the blue earthly skies. Additionally, it remains imperative to note that the blue and black colors are positioned around and somewhat behind the impression of John Donne. The analogy presented by the impression can be traced back to the book of 1st John Chapter 2 verse 17, where the Bible states that man shall pass, just like the world someday, but the righteous shall see and inherit the kingdom of God.

The masterpiece incorporates the various aspects of a Hartley painting. Nonetheless, it remains keen to note that unlike the other paintings, the Last Look of John Donne captures the singularity nature of life through the fusion of a minimal number of colors. The American painter, although being classified as a modernist, has this new painting rather devoid of the many emotions displayed in his other works such as the Summer en Route, Moiraine-Dogtown of 1931, Vase of Flowers of 1930, and Insignia with Gloves of 1936. The reason behind the uniqueness of this piece was to elaborate the difference between life and death, secularism and religion, as well as heaven and earth. Consequentially, it remains imperative to state that the picture inspires different feelings and thoughts. However, it is worth noting that the meaning of the painting can be greater than the approach illustrated by this essay.

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