Sloan And Hopper Essay, Research Paper
SUMMERTIME AND SPRING RAIN
Upon first sight, it appears that John Sloan’s Spring Rain and Edward Hopper’s Summertime only common characteristic is that they are both oil paintings on canvas. Spring Rain, from the school of Impressionistic art, was painted in 1912. Summertime, which possesses a simplified, schematic style, was created over thirty years later, in 1943. Therefore, there are extreme differences in the two artists’ technique and style. However, despite these differences, the two painters’ works embody the same theme: They are both scenes of urban realism characterized by isolation and loneliness.
John Sloan’s painting depicts a dismal view of municipal life. The painting’s gloominess is achieved most effectively through Sloan’s use of color. He uses deep shades of purple with the contrasting color green in the background. This color scheme provides an eerie fog throughout the painting.
The woman’s clothing also accentuates the dark tone of Spring Rain. She is dressed entirely in black. This signifies that her personality is somber and perhaps conservative. However, it is interesting that the woman is wearing red stockings. The fact that Sloan chose such a bold color suggests that he wished to show a slightly daring side of the woman’s personality.
Hopper, on the other hand, uses a much lighter color scheme. However, the lightness does not diminish the painting’s melancholy mood. Light gray, seen in the building’s face and the sidewalk, prominently dominates the scene. Other than gray, there is little color in Summertime; however, a distinct color pattern continues through the painting. Pale yellow can be detected in the window shades, in the floor on the staircase and in the woman’s hat. In order to contrast the yellow, Hopper uses a very light, whitish blue in the curtains and in the woman’s dress. The fact that the woman’s dress is white, with a hint of blue, suggests that the woman is almost, but not quite pure.
Another compositional style that creates despondency in the paintings is Sloan and Hopper’s line usage. Hopper uses strong verticals, horizontals, and diagonals. These lines form simple, large geometric forms. This preciseness gives the architecture a sense of depth and perspective. There is also a stark play of light and shadow in the architecture of the building. All of these elements make the building’s architecture extremely realistic.
In contrast, John Sloan heavily uses curvy, S-shaped lines in Spring Rain, for example, in the trees and in the shape of the woman’s body. The path of the top lines on the park benches gives the painting perspective, drawing the viewer’s eye to the background. The background of the painting uses the technique of pointillism, the specific arrangement of paint splotches. This technique also helps to give the painting texture in the tree branches and leaves.
Even though both painters use different line styles, both styles trigger similar emotional effects in the viewer. For example, Sloan’s contoured lines give the painting a sense of dim murkiness. Similarly, the seemingly unending straight lines of Summertime create a peculiar mood of coldness.
In addition to each artist’s unique technique, Summertime and Spring Rain contain individual, stylistic elements that contribute to the somber mood of each painting. For instance, the weather differs greatly in each piece of artwork, but neither condition is pleasant. The umbrellas in Spring Rain, (along with the work’s title), indicate that it is a soggy, miserable day to be out in the park.
In Summertime, there are many clues to imply that the weather is extremely humid. For instance, the curtain in the window is blowing in the air; however, the woman’s dress remains perfectly still. This suggests that the breeze is coming from a fan inside the building. Also, the woman is wearing a very thin dress. In fact, the material is so transparent that the woman’s skin is visible through her gown. These elements reveal that it is a hot, sweltering day in the city.
Finally, each painting contains a number of bizarre, yet interesting characteristics that add to the continuing theme of darkness. For instance, the women’s faces in each painting are significant. In Spring Rain, the woman has her back to the viewer, hiding her face. In Summertime, the woman possesses an almost lifeless, blank stare upon her face. This lack of detail to the womens’ faces forces the viewer’s attention instead to the background.
For example, the large tree, overshadowing the woman in black, in Spring Rain is quite unusual. The tree is the only tree in the park with out leaves. It is completely bare. Why did Sloan choose to paint the tree in this manner? Perhaps, he is attempting to signify death, due to the fact that the dead tree is looming over a woman dressed completely in black. Sloan also painted a few small lurking shadows in the background of Spring Rain.
An important quality that Summertime possesses is its simplicity. There is almost nothing besides the building and the women in the painting. There is nothing else around. This is most likely because of the unforgiving heat. Also, it is important to consider the year Summertime was painted. In 1943, many of the American men were away at war. The painting’s lack of figures shows that the mood is the real subject of Hopper’s painting. It conveys an atmosphere of all-embracing loneliness and an almost eerie solitude.
Summertime and Spring Rain are slices of urban, American life. They portray different time periods and seasons, but posses the same mood of sadness. Edward Hopper and John Sloan achieved this through their different, yet equally effective artistic techniques and styles.