Ella Rose Ledyard
Love in the Time of Letters
Prompt: Select one pair of paintings to compare and contrast. Using the formal analysis technique.
As evident in Jean Honoré Fragonard’s The Love Letter, early 1770s (acc. No. 49.7.49) and Camille Corot’s The Letter, c. 1865 (acc. No. 29.160.33), romance has been a prominent topic of all forms of art throughout the centuries. Love is a universal concept that is easily accepted and understood by anyone, both the good and bad. Through examination of the color, light, space and movement in the two oil paintings, it becomes obvious that the woman in The Love Letter is smitten by the letter, whereas the woman in The Letter has just gotten her heart broken.
The color scheme of each oil painting contrast quite heavily as they contribute to the overall moods of each setting. Jean Honoré Fragonard’s The Love Letter, has a light palette. The all around warm golden glow of the drapery, walls, window and desk, contrasting with the pale blue of her shiny dress emit a glowing effect. These contrasting colors are unified by the blush-pink roses clutched in her hand, also seen in the bow of her bonnet. The dusty green of the roses stem and leafs drag the eye diagonally down to the right to meet the green upholstery of the chair the woman sits upon. The brighter white areas break up the whole color scheme as seen in the paper of the letter, the face and hands of the woman, her bonnet, lace accents on her dress and the little dog. Not only does the tone of each color used, radiate positivity, but the placement of color in relation to one another keeps the eye traveling; evoking a playfulness and lightheadedness of the painting. In Camille Corot’s The Letter, the use of a darker palette is an unmistakable nod to heartbreak and despair. Variations of an olive drab color dominate the scene. Seen in a deeper and browner hugh, it populates the background of the composition.