Subject Placement in “American Gothic,” “The Third of May,” “The Acrobat’s Family,” and “The Waterseller”Besides bright or dim colors, and fine or rough brush strokes, artists use centralized composition to convey their interpretations in “The Acrobat’s Family with a Monkey,” “Amercian Gothic,” “The Water-Seller,” and “The Third of May,1808.”
Grant Wood strategically places objects and characters to emphasize the central object, the pitchfork, expressing an atmosphere of unwelcomness, in his painting “American Gothic.” The pitchfork attracts the viewer’s attention as the mostprominent feature of the painting. Its sharpness and rigidity cause the viewer to feel uncomfortable and uninvited. The elderly couple behind the pitchfork further exemplifies Wood’s placement technique. Wood gives the pitchfork more significance by placing it in the center in front of the couple. The pattern in the man’s overalls resembles the pitchfork, which is a reference back to the pitchfork, further supporting the theme of the painting. The couple becomes analogous to a “No Trespassing” sign.They do not want anyone to be around. At the top of the painting, the windows of the house resemble a church’s windows. The sharpness and straightness in the windows refer to the pitchfork again. Although the house resembles the actual church it isalso used to continue the theme of unwelcomeness. A hard to notice aspect of the painting is the cactus near the front door of the home. The cactus replaces the traditional welcome mat. No one would go near the front door due to the possible harm.The sharpness from the thorns of the cactus reminds the viewer again of the pitchfork in the center of the painting. Wood’s …
… lesser experience than the water-seller causes him to defer to the water-seller’s maturity; therefore, he stands in the background, watching the process and increasing his knowledge. Thewater-seller himself stands to the far right of Velazquez’s painting, occupied with pouring water into a glass for the boy. He has lived longer than the other males in the painting and therefore has the most knowledge and the most experience of them all. Thewater-seller also appears to be the most distinguished of the three: dressed in red robes, which are similar to those that might be worn by a Cardinal, thereby reflective of his position in life.
Many of these artists’ works contain subtle hints to the author’s opinion on the subject. By analyzing their central compositional effects, the viewer can obtain a greater appreciation and understanding for the art.