Once Upon A Picture - Courtney E. Burton

This gallery is dedicated to the dreamy representations of the world’s most beloved fairytale characters. The pieces in this gallery range from watercolor mediums to bronze sculptures, but all depict high contrast or high movement. The illustrations on display range in years, a testament to the everlasting bewitchment of fairytales.  

This painting depicts a mother or nurse explaining a story to their child or ward. By the inquisitive and open expression on the child’s face, it is clear that the information he is receiving is crucial to the story being told to him. The Fairy Tale is an example of high contrast, as the characters are depicted as being light and gentle, predominantly white, while their background is murky and dark. The use of high contrast in this image pulls the viewer’s focus to the couple, making them as raptured in their story as the characters are in the fairytale being read.
This illustration by Gustave Dore shows the awesome power and cunning of Puss in Boots. The dashing feline holds a stance of power, sliding down the face of a rock and stretching his paws into the air like he is reciting a magnificent tale. Dore’s image exhibits both high contrast and high movement. The background of the illustration is predominantly dark in color, while Puss is studded in front of a white cloak, showing off his pale underbelly. While the audience knows Puss’s image is 2D, the bent branches in the background and the thick ripples in the cat’s cloak that suggests wind and the power in the character’s elevated stance gives the image a tangible sense of activity, like the scene was paused mid action.
This illustration depicts Little Red Riding Hood discovering the wolf in her grandmother’s bed. This illustration is visually interesting because of its contrast from high movement on the left side of the image to a docile stasis on the right. While the wolf is lazily waiting under the covers displaying virtually no movement, Little Red Riding Hood’s animated facial expression of fear gives the right side of image an intense feeling of energy and animation.
This illustration is of the poor maiden Cinderella trying on her glass slipper in front of the court, which will identify her as the runaway woman the prince had fallen in love with. This image is a beautiful example of high contrast used to exaggerate and point out symbolic elements. Cinderella, free of deceit or jealousy, is the brightest and most white element in the scene, symbolic of purity. Each element of royalty or wealth is also white, like the ruffs around the courts necks, high collars, and feather plumes. The clothes Cinderella wears, especially her apron, are muted in thick greys, symbolizing dirt, filth, and menial labor.
This illustration depicts a princess who runs away from her incestuous father and king with the help of a donkey pelt. While the tale is less than an ideal bedtime story, Gustave Dore’s image is hauntingly beautiful. While in most illustrations that depict princesses they are the brightest image in the scene, the princess in this illustration, though pure of heart, is colored in and grey. This use of high contrast is symbolic of her need for secrecy as she fleeing her home; though the rich moonlight pools on her donkey skin cloak, her face is completely dark. The moon, half hidden behind shadow, could symbolize the brightness of the princess being diminished by her situation and disguise. Though she seems still and calm, the bottom of her dress appears to be racing, depicting her quick stealth and need to escape. The subtle use of high movement in the image that depicts the dead of night gives the illustration a breathless quality.
This illustration depicts the characters of the French fairytale, La Belle et La Bête, a woman pure of heart and beauty and a prince who’s selfish heart cursed him to become a hideous monster. Like the illustration of Cinderella, the use of high contrast in this image is symbolic. Belle, the character that embodies goodness, is the lightest element in the scene with pale flesh, golden hair, and a ruby gown. La Bête, the man bewitched because of his wickedness, is almost too dark to make out in the lush darkness afforded by the forest, symbolic of the unknown and evil. Belle appears to be illuminated by the splash of sunshine she sits in while La Bête is shrouded in shadow. The strongest influence of high contrast in the piece are Belle’s almost white hands cupping La Bête’s black head.
This illustration depicts the princess being lead between the trolls to their home in the deep, echoing forest. Bauer’s 1913 illustration of The Princess and the Trolls are similar to Maurice Sendak’s color palette, character expressions, and use of high movement in his 1963 illustrations for his children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are. While the princess steps lightly on the grass and the trolls move quickly and effortlessly over their landscape, it is the background that expresses high movement with the forest’s torrent of bounding hills. The high movement in the background gives peace to the group walking deeper into the night and wood, emphasizing the calm, ethereal nature of the princess and the comfort of the native trolls.
The illustration of The Little Mermaid shows our heroine discovering her prince’s ship before it is lost to the sea. The image displays both high movement and high contrast in a confined space, both n terms of medium and field of view. The high movement palpable in this image comes from the small portion of setting we the audience gets to see. The chaotic seagulls varying in scale close to the mermaid’s face, the swell of the ocean waves, and the proximity of the mermaid to the hull of the ship that could easily overtake her makes the scene feel claustrophobic, energized, and dangerous. Like other fairytale illustrations depicting princesses, the use of high contrast is used to make the mermaid one of the brightest images in the scene while the other shares her same skin color; the sky. The use of high contrast in this image could symbolize the mermaid’s desire to be out of the sea, while the ocean appears slimy and green. The cold depiction of the water could be an allusion to the mermaid’s death, which comes when she jumps into the ocean and becomes sea foam in order to save her true love.
This statue, by Edvard Eriksen, depicts Hans Christian Anderson’s most beloved character, The Little Mermaid. The mermaid looks out and over the water while she sits on her bent legs that still show signs of her finned tail. While the piece alone is tranquil and bittersweet, it is the backdrop of its natural canvas that gives it its sense of high movement. While our poor heroine is forever cast to look over the home she left forever and the world she can never again walk on, the pulse of the waves drives away her aching sobs and I believe helps her and viewers of the statue realize that all life moves on and the decisions we make choose the world we live in.
Chihiro Iwasaki’s illustration depicts The Little Mermaid daydreaming about the mortal man she has fallen irrevocably and disastrously in love with. This illustration also dreamily exhibits the use of high movement and high contrast. While the school of multicolored fish drift quickly past the mermaid, displayed by the thick dark colors of ocean current and the scale of the fish from in front and behind the mermaid’s head, the girl is unfazed and remains in her state of dreaming. The more colorful fish are on the right side of the painting, while those fish closest to the mermaid are darker and smaller in color, symbolizing the mermaid’s lack of interest in the life she has been accustomed to. The mermaid herself is drawn in charcoal colors; the only bright spots are her rosy cheeks and blue eyes, the windows to her lovesick soul.
Credits: All media
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