Contrast Across Cultures By Jessica Giehl

The use of contrast to help direct the viewer’s eyes to the intended subject of a work has been a long tradition in art history. This collection highlights how that technique has been used throughout many different cultures through the use of negative space, outlining shapes, and selecting colors.

“In the Classroom” is a depiction of academia in 500 BCE done in pottery. Through the use of negative space the artist is able to contrast the subject (young men learning different disciplines) against the black background.
This ornate helmet, crafted in the year 1567, depicts the tools of war along the mane and a battlefield on its side. By using different metals and finishes, the blacksmith who made it was able to contrast the subjects against the surface.
“Beatified Lorenzo Giustiniani” is a painting from 1470 created in memorial of its subject. The painting uses the pitch black background to emphasize the subject’s silhouette and draw the user’s eyes towards the center.
This magazine for the cover of “FIRE!!” from 1926 was illustrated by Aaron Douglas and depicts a sphinx like figure on the cover. The sphinx is colored a vivid red, contrasting it against the black background through the use of negative space.
“Harvesting” is a warli painting depicting the agricultural practices of a tribe. The white subject is contrasted heavily against the clay colored background and the viewer’s eye is guided back and forth across the canvas.
This graffiti created by a Street Art collective in 2013 seems to suggest a feminine form in different positions. The subjects in each panel are formed by the negative space between two colored shapes on either side.
“Baroque Game” is a photograph by Rosalie O’Connor depicting two dancers. Much like the period of art the photograph gets its name from, the use of chiaroscruro contrasts the subject dramatically against the black background.
“Country Church” is a painting by Hale A. Woodruff depicting a humble church building in the countryside. Using only black and white, the artist is able to use contrast to create dramatic lighting and give form to the individual boards on the church building.
“Waiting #2” is an oil painting by Alvin C Hollingsworth depicting a tall woman in a white dress flanked by her two children. The simple shapes used in the painting requires the use of contrast against the black background to give the subject form.
This untitled oil painting was created in 1988 by Toon Verhoef. The subject of the painting is a set of dark blue shapes set against a bright yellow background. The use of contrasting colors helps give the painting depth and emphasizes the form of the shapes.