The final assignment in the unit allows students to choose to either create a genre work themselves, or compare two paintings that have not yet been analyzed in class. Below are two available comparisons, though there are certainly many others that a teacher might draw from. In most cases, however, it will be necessary to limit the field of comparison choices for students as a function of the fact that too many choices could be mind-boggling, or lead to false comparisons, which would be counterproductive.
The first comparison focuses on 2 veterans of war and their lives after the war.
Veteran in a New Field
With the end of the Civil War Homer, an illustrator for
and painter of war imagery moved on to the topic of veterans after the war. He painted and drew several works, that dealt with this subject, including
Veteran in a New Field
The painting depicts a lone reaper in a sea of wheat. The reaper’s back is turned to the viewer and he is busily at work cutting wheat. The wheat is so dominant in the field that the figure is almost overtaken, as he stands inundated up to his knees in the wheat he has already cut.
Though the painting initially appears quite simple, there is a great deal of depth if one looks further, and thus it offers an ideal candidate for one of the comparisons in the final unit. The strong horizontal lines, color, and composition used in the painting will allow the students to demonstrate all that they have learned throughout the unit.
Willie Gillis in College
Like Homer, Norman Rockwell worked as a magazine illustrator and painter. Norman Rockwell’s was as the cover artist for
The Saturday Evening Post
, and many of his most famous paintings served as cover art for that publication. Also like Homer, Rockwell was deeply affected by war, in this case World War II, and his work often dealt with soldiers, and eventually the veterans of that war.
Willie Gillis in College
is one such work. It depicts a veteran of World War II studying in a window seat. The figure barely fits in the window seat and is surrounded by the trappings of college. We are most likely meant to understand the character to be in college as a result of the G.I. Bill. The G.I. Bill guaranteed any veteran of the war the opportunity to go to college, and many did. The figure (Willie Gillis) was a character that Rockwell had painted throughout the war as a kind of “everyman.”
The painting itself offers a great deal of room for interpretation, and comparison with the previous work, especially in the area of mood (Rockwell’s work is comparatively more optimistic) and style. More astute comparisons might even note the difference in work for veterans on their return from war, and the universality of the character.
The second comparison deals with ideas of work and freedom.
The Fog Warning8.
depicts a lone fisherman rowing through high seas with his catch of the day. The horizon is a mix between ominous shades of fog and a lighter area above the fog. The sea is dark and dominates the scene.
The fish in the boat mirrors the sky in color and in shape, so as to create a clear echo for the students to draw from. The fisherman’s boat also echoes a wisp of cloud that extends up from the fog into the pink sky of the sunset. All of the colors in the painting lend to the ominous feeling of the painting and lend themselves to interpretation. The composition also offers a great deal for the students to draw from even though it is not necessarily as cluttered as the Rockwell.
The subject of the painting leaves room for a good deal of speculation on the artist’s views of work, and freedom. When coupled with the Rockwell, there is a great deal of leeway available to the students to draw their own conclusions about how the works relate to one another. Some of the more obvious comparisons or contrasts might deal with the relative freedom of the character in
, or the nature of work during the periods in which the works were painted.
depicts a lone ticket agent behind the barred ticket window of a railroad station. Bills advertising various vacation destinations offering escape from day to day life surround the window. The bills only highlight the fact that he is trapped behind the bars of his job.
The painting offers a great deal of room for artistic analysis through its use of color, its lines, and its composition. The ticket agent’s face rests in his hands and the line of his arm draws the eye to the forlorn look on his face. The white color of his shirt further highlights this expression as it stands out against the dark background and the dark vest he is wearing. The whole scene makes some fairly clear statements about work and perceptions of work in 1937.
This is accurate from a historic perspective in that the country was still gripped by the Great Depression in 1937. America was hardly a land of opportunity at this point, and though many felt lucky if they had a job that does not mean that they enjoyed the work they were doing.