Any work of art can be analyzed and interpreted in many ways; it doesn’t matter whether it is a sculpture, painting or any other form of art. Impressions differ according to how one approaches the art, but if every detail is carefully examined one can come up with a reasonable interpretation of the piece of art. It is in light of this that this paper sets out to examine the, Oxbow, a famous painting by Thomas Cole. The landscape in the early years of the nineteenth century was a popular and profitable type of painting. This is because the urban residents saw the rural life as a solution to problems brought about by industrialization. If unable to travel to the rural areas, these people resorted to looking at beautiful pictures of the rural life they left behind. This was the initial intention of Cole, to get something from the painting, that is why he come up with the beautiful painting “view from Mount Holyoke” which is also known as the Oxbow (Nadeemalim par. 1).
The artist has used implied lines to bring out the picture. He uses organic shapes in the painting and these are in form of trees, the meandering river, the clouds and Cole himself. He uses implied mass in the painting by placing the tree in the foreground which is big and the river is seen far in the background but becomes big as it approaches the tree in the fore ground. Cole himself appears as a small object in the middle carrying his umbrella; he can not be seen if one does not clearly observe the painting. Space can be seen from the two sides of the painting, the left side is an untamed wilderness. A storm appears to be passing towards the left with dark clouds and lightning. On the other side it looks calm because the storm has passed. This brings out a clear aerial perspective of the picture.
The painting is made just after a storm, when the skies are clearing and is filled with a golden light indicating time. The movement of the clouds and the storm together with the flow bring about an implied motion in the painting. The grey cooler in the background brings out a strong contrast that depicts distance and depth from the ground to the clouds. It also brings about a more spacious feeling. The dark color has been used to bring out maximum contrast, which clearly shows the tree and the vegetation in the foreground. The landscape looks dark with heavy skies with some lightning flashes. The big trunks in the primitive forest seem not related to the small useful trees scattered all over the valley below. The artist has linked these two by a small detail, his red and white umbrella that he draws leaning from the forest to the mountain making a bridge across the river. Texture has been used to the topology of the valley below the mountain and also the distribution of vegetation on the ground. This is implied texture.
In bringing out the implied principles of design, the artist has almost divided the painting into two halves. But not completely balanced in terms of the use of color. The left appears as an untamed wilderness, with the storm passing from the right to the left with dark clouds and lightning. The right side depicts calmness after the passing of the storm. This creates an asymmetrical balance in the picture. A focal point is an area that first attracts the interest of the person looking at the painting. In these painting, the center of interest is the bend formed by the river as it finds its way down the valley. It is this bend that gives this painting its name “the Oxbow” (Andrew w. par 1). The graceful bend of the river in this picture is its distinctive feature. The U-shape which resembles an oxbow is a symbol of the control of nature by man. The forest and the valley in the paint seem unrelated but the artist links these two with the use of his umbrella that he cunningly places between the forest and the mountain to appear like a bridge across the river. In the picture, the artist can be seen a few meters away from the umbrella and his painting gear. The artist uses this to show that human population does exist in the painting and that the man is trying to imply that the wilderness belongs to him, it is his territory. The artists appreciates that man has tamed and cultivated the landscape, but also recognizes that this wilderness, a symbol of moral significance to man, was being threatened by the emerging civilization. Close observation, identifies that the artist left a hidden message, there is an incision of the word Noah in Hebrew letters. This when read upside down spells anther different word, Shaddai which means almighty. One can interpret this to mean that the artist wants people to see this painting as a sacred piece of art. Also the dividing of the painting they it appears can imply that the looming danger will be driven out by the same man; the passing of the storm and the return of calmness on the right side of the painting show this. (Thomas C. par 1).