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Reading a painting at the Barnes Foundation

Clairity's picture

            Walking amongst the collections of Barnes Foundation gave me such a sacred feeling about art work and the amount of attention and care we should always keep towards these treasures. Security guards in black suits everywhere kept reminding me that we should treat these works of art in awe. Those strict rules and restrictions, such as no crossing of the dark line and no drawing or sketching, built an invisible wall between the art collection and the visitors. However, the settings of each room and the arrangements were classic and even a little bit "homey".

            I sit down in front of a painting above the doorframe in Room 11. The relatively small painting in the inconspicuous corner of the room immediately grabbed my attention when I laid my eyes on it. It's called The Departure of the Six-Meter Boats (La Sortie des six mètres), by French artist Raoul Dufy in 1936.

            The first thing that fascinated me most was its color. The painting consists of four parts of colors - purple, dark blue, lighter blue and yellow, from left to right. The two middle ones are comparatively larger than the other two on the sides. In addition, each section has its own gradual change of color from top to bottom. This piece is not as thick as the other usual oil paintings are. Therefore, it conveyed a much brighter set of tones, which gave itself a chance to stand out.

            There are six boats of different shapes and styles in the picture, spreading gradually farther between boats toward the right. The four boats in the left were painted in thicker lines and were made mostly of color blocks, which made it hard to recognize the boundaries between the boats and their sails. These boats also comprise of contrasts of colors, white to yellow, dark grey to orange, or green to black. The four of them stick really close, in contrast of the other two boats in the right that were painted in a much neater way, in terms of both their colors and their outlines. Behind them is a nice building or hotel in black lines, spreading across the light blue and yellow sections.

            After I looked through all these types of colors and components in the picture, I started to ask questions. Why did Dufy choose these four colors? Do they stand for the changes in one day - from dawn, to morning, to evening, and to the night. Do they represent seasons? Or are they for different parts on the sea. For example, peace, storm, wind and sun of the ocean. What does "Six-Meter Boats " mean? Does it mean the boats are six-meter wide? Or was the artist trying to depict and condense a landscape of six meter long? "Departure" in the title points out to us that the boats are leaving from the shore, heading towards the deep sea on the left, and traveling further.

            Stepping back, the bronze frame only emphasized more on the rich use of colors and their brightness. Rufy's creative style of dissociation of colors provided us a new angle of seeing things in a frozen time period. Everything slows down, and we let the only focus that draws our attention brings us along in its careful movement. We pay more attention to the details and have a tendency to think and question. The artist imprinted the object on canvas and tried to keep the image, even if it was only a moment in reality.

            There they are. The boats departing the shore are marching towards the deeper sea faster and faster. The sky becomes darker and gloomier as they go further and further from the shore. It seems like there are hard times, where the dark blue section would dominate for a while in your life. However, as you go on, you'd find the warm purple part following those obstacles. You eventually get through the hardships and arrive at this purple section that gives you warmth and breaks from the bustling life. Thereupon, here comes the hope. Here comes the sun.




The link to the picture of the painting: