In Mysteries

Studying the tonal contrasts of light and shadow                          on the female form.

This relief of an angel in bondage is carved using minimal detail. It allows for the shadows to finish the work, casting themselves over the features adding a soft roundness to the angel’s body, enhancing a sense of innocence to the figure. The shadows also add sharpness to the folds of her robes and to the tree’s branches.
Buyck chooses to use the contrast of white and black rather than light and shadow in this portrait. In a somewhat meta way, the subject reclines against a table with a figurine and landscape painting in the background. Her long sleeve black dress shines in the light while revealing her shoulders. The paleness of her skin has a soft glow. The shiny pearls and pendant pull the two contrasting shades together.
This marble depiction of a seated nude is both simple and understated. Similar to Roman statues, this subject eschews elaborate detail, aiming instead for subtle features. Much like Peace in Bondage, the piece relies on shadow to add in detail, enhancing the curves and round features of its subject. Most effectively, the shadows reveal the intricacies of the subject’s wavy hair as well as the subtle nuances of her downward cast face.
This photograph uses light and shadow to frame the subject’s face. Her dark robe is draped around her, highlighting her face while the white trim contrasts with the framing. Her white dress adds a touch of detail, particularly as it frames her hand. The light reflects on her face bringing in a soft glow and revealing a wry smile. Shadows underline the folds of her robe, revealing a sassy pose underneath its formlessness.
Bisilliat’s photo depicts a Brazillian woman washed in shadow. The single light source cast upon the woman creates starkness in her features. Every muscle, sinew and line stands out like a road map. The deep shadow frames her and folds itself around the curves of her face, enhancing her cheekbones, eyes and lips.
This photograph relies strongly on the contrast of light and shadow. A young Mexican mother holds her newborn in a photo that is both beautiful and oddly somber. The mother’s dark skin and hair are shown in stark relief by her flawlessly white shirt and baby’s shawl. A small headband sparkles in the light like a halo for this Madonna.
In this photograph, the ballerina is but a mere silhouette with light shaping her form. The darkness frames the photo, with the light and its subject the centerpiece. Here the light creates slivers of line along her legs, arms and face, just tracing in detail to her form. It captures the mood of a contemplative moment for the dancer.
Fantin-Latour deftly uses light and shadow in this portrait. The subject’s black dress implies a certain austerity of character while diverting focus to her face and hands. She is engulfed in her reading. The light shines from one direction in the painting, highlighting the serious yet delicate features of her face as her eyes gaze down into her book. Her pale hands gingerly hold her book as the white of the pages give an almost holy glow.
In perfect contrast to Fantin-Latour, Reynolds’ portrait exemplifies the wealth and status of his subject. Reynolds also boldly utilizes a light source, but his focus is on her dress as well as her face. Her black hat forms a sort of halo around her head, showcasing her delicate curls. Her deep gaze, rosy cheeks and knowing smile are the focus of this work. Her expensive lacey, grey dress practically glows in the light.
Finally, we have another moment of quiet, yet more serene, contemplation in this painting by Monet. The figure is ovoid creams and pinks in a tidal wave of dark greens. She reads to herself comforted in the shadow of a tree while light dances upon her dress and the grass.
Credits: All media
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