Elements Portraying an Element's Motion - Timothy Stillmun

A common subject throughout the years has been water in motion - rivers, waves, waterfalls. What has changed, though, is how it has been illustrated and with what techniques. This gallery will display paintings of moving water from around the world in the past 500 years to explore how an element as dynamic as water in its various states of motion can be captured with the Formal Elements of art.

Rocky Landscape with a Waterfall, Girolamo Muziano, about 1570 - 1575, From the collection of: The J. Paul Getty Museum
Rocky Landscape with a Waterfall is a late-16th century Italian drawing by Girolamo Muziano that depicts a cliff’s peak surrounded by trees with a waterfall falling into a river below it. The main Element used in this drawing is Line, as the drawing is made entirely out of lines. Muziano uses straight lines to portray fast movement and swirling curved lines to convey the slower movement of the river below.
Shokoku Taki Meguri - The Kirifuri waterfall, Artist: Katsushika Hokusai, -1/1, From the collection of: Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
The Kirifuri Waterfall is a Japanese print by Katsushika Hokusai from around 1830 - despite what the Google info shows. It depicts a waterfall in the mountains with onlookers admiring it, and its main element to show the water’s motion is shape. The water is split in to many falling, branching organic shapes that twist around the rocks and cliff-sides surrounding it. Shape is also used to show the mist at the bottom of the waterfall, with circles rising from the base creating a cloud of blue and white.
Blue waterfall, Alexander Eckerdt, 1985, From the collection of: Tatranská galéria
Blue Waterfall is a modern art painting by Alexander Eckerdt from 1985. It is an oil-on-canvas depiction of a waterfall off a cliff under a moonlit night. The main Element used in this painting is Color Value: the value of blue, from dark to light, alternates and flows downward just as the water does.
Folding Screen with Design of Mt. Yoshino and Tatsuta River, Kano School, From the collection of: Tokyo Fuji Art Museum
This Folding Screen Design of Mt. Yoshino and Tatsuta River is a painting on a folding screen from the early Edo Period of Japan depicting a mountain on the island of Nara. The main Element of this painting is Line, as the black lines in the water imply the structure of the water, while the white lines imply the water’s flowing movement. This continues on the left half of the work – not currently shown – as well.
Falls, Montreal River, J.E.H. MacDonald, 1920, From the collection of: Art Gallery of Ontario
Falls, Montreal River is a landscape painting from the top of a waterfall on the Montreal River by J.E.H. MacDonald, one of the Canadian landscape painters, the Group of Seven, from the 1920-33. This oil painting uses the texture of the thickly applied paint itself to imply the Texture of the rushing water in the painting. The painting also uses Color along with Texture to enhance the movement’s effect.
Mill by the River, Fall, John Fulton Folinsbee, 1923 - 1925, From the collection of: James A. Michener Art Museum
John Fulton Folinsbee, an American landscape painter, painted “Mill by the River, Fall” between 1925-25. It is an American Impressionist oil painting of a river landscape. This piece, similar to the J.E.H. Macdonald piece, uses the texture of thickly applied paint to enhance the texture of the river’s waves as it flows by the hills. Folinsbee also uses Color to imply the water’s movement.
Venus Rising from the Waves, François Boucher and studio, circa 1766, From the collection of: North Carolina Museum of Art
Venus Rising from the Waves by François Boucher and studio is an oil-on-canvas, late French Renaissance painting circa 1766 depicting the Goddess Venus and three Cupids holding symbols of her reign, Love. The water in this painting is very soft and uses Color Value to convey the waves and foam Venus is emerging from.
The Ninth Wave, Hovhannes Aivazovsky, 1850, From the collection of: The State Russian Museum
The Ninth Wave is a painting from 1850 by the Russian Hovhannes Aivazovsky. It depicts the legend of The Ninth Wave, the most destructive wave of the ocean, and the survivors clinging to the ship’s wreckage. Aivazovsky uses detail to convey the Texture of the waves to convey its violent movement. He also uses Line to show water flowing off of the wreckage’s various pieces.
The Wave, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1882, From the collection of: Dixon Gallery and Gardens
The Wave is a French Impressionist painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, one of the leaders of the Impressionist movement in 1882. It depicts a wave, as the title states, and it uses Color to convey the wave’s movement. The bold splashes of exaggerated color enhance the intensity of the water’s movement through contrast.
Morning on the Seine, Claude Monet, 1898, From the collection of: The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo
Morning on the Seine, 1898, is one work from a series by the most notable member of the French Impressionist Movement, Claude Monet. It uses Texture and Color together to obscure the painting and to give the impression of a mysterious misty morning. The Texture and Color flow together to portray the water’s waves, as well as the trees’ and plants’, flowing from the wind.
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