Artwork Critique – Sintax by Robert Arneson and The Child’s Bath by Mary Cassatt

Artwork criticism is described as responding to, making critical judgements and interpreting meaning about specific works of art. The critique of a piece of art whether a painting or a drawing enables the audience to judge, interpret and perceive artworks. Studies have shown that critique of artwork focus on both traditional (contemporary) and modern artwork drawn from diverse cultures across the world (Hamblen). However, critique by art historians tend to focus on artwork made in diverse cultures from the past time and space. For many years, people have associated the word criticism to a negative connotation especially when it was first introduced in the field of art. But this has not been the true intention of the art criticism since it understand artwork from artists’ perspective. This paper critiqued two arts: Sintax by Robert Arneson and The Child’s Bath by Mary Cassatt using critical theory.

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Robert Arneson’s drawing ‘Sintax’

Robert Arneson was born in 1930 in Benicia, California and his parents encouraged him to pursue the career in Art since he was passionate about drawings. In his early stages of life Robert exhibited extraordinary talent and as such he was hired by the local Benicia Herald to draw cartoons (Cohen & Scott). Due to his drawings and exceptional talent Robert won a scholarship to study art at California College of Arts and Craft. After the completion of his studies, Robert took a job as a teacher for ceramics at Menlo-Atherton High school. Robert Arneson transformed himself into self-portraiture the direction American culture was moving after Vietnam War. Robert met Allan Stone in 1974 and took him as a New York art dealer. This is the time Robert, Arneson drew Sintax.

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Artist: Robert Arneson
Date: 1974
On View: Not on view
Dimensions: 30 x 22.3/8 in. (76.3 x 56.8 cm)
Copyright Credit Line: Smithsonian American Art Museum
Mediums: Watercolor, mixed media, chalk ink

Looking at this drawing, there are various aspects that the artist intended to convey to the audience. Based on the visual elements and principles of designed indicated that the Robert Arneson utilized some of the aspect such as lines, shapes, light and color as well as balance, harmony, rhythm and movement (Hamblen). Arneson used lines to create the shape of the image. He combines lines and dots to depict the style of dressing the portrait had. In addition, Arneson used cross-hatch lines to bring out different shapes in the portrait. In terms of colors, Arneson used black color as dominance to depict the background of the portrait. This was balanced by white colors, orange, yellow, blue and grey colors. However, the dominance of black color makes the portrait dull. Nonetheless, dark background makes the image of the trait appear concisely. White color was used to delineate objects in the drawing. For example, an object that look the human hand at the left side above the head of the portrait was painted white and crisscrossing lines. These lines and tone of the color enhances visual movements on the portrait.

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The second part of the critique followed one method of critical theory which is the description of the subject matter. The drawing depicted five figures in one portrait: the face of adult with thick beards, a man riding a horse, a dear, a forested hill with sculptures and burning bushes. The subject matter is a naturalistic and realistic as it depicted a man relaxing as he dreams about his daily activities (Hamblen). For instance, the man is sleeping on the meshed hanging bed while dreaming about riding a horse in the wild crisscrossing the hills. The dark spaces which are dominant in the drawing are balanced by the bright colors of the man, thus revealing inner emotions of the man. Therefore, it is obvious that Robert Arneson was attempting to portray the ordinary thoughts of man relaxing in his dreams

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The Child’s Bath

The second critique was Mary Cassatt’s painting ‘The Child’s Bath’. The first part of the critique involved the analysis visual elements and principle design of the painting. Looking at this painting, there are a women and a child probably in the bedroom (Cohen & Scott). This was depicted by the use of colors and shapes to depict the carpet on the floor and sheets on the walls. For example, the pitcher, washbasin and chest-of-drawers was depicted by gold-trimmed and shiny edges. Generally, Mary used colors to depict the emotion and the feelings of the small child and the women.

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The other part of critique followed analysis as one method of critical theory. Based on the analysis method, it was evident Mary focused on the face of the women and the child. For instance, the artist used the lighter color to contrast the dark aspect of the room. The second object that Mary focused on is the basin which has simple, round and large shape. Both a small child and women have their faces looking at the basin (Hamblen). This showed that the artist wanted to direct the attention of the audience towards the basin. Lastly, Mary created the variety and balance of the painting by using different shapes with variety of flowers and flower patterns. Including the striped garment and geometric block patterns of the carpet on the floor.

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