Analysis of Thomas Birch’s painting An American Ship in Distress Essay

Analysis of Thomas Birch’s painting An American Ship in Distress Essay

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Analysis of Thomas Birch’s painting An American Ship in Distress

Examining the formal qualities of Thomas Birch’s painting An American Ship in Distress was very interesting. This paper will analyze and illustrate what I saw in this particular piece of artwork. The paper will also discuss the art elements such as line, shape, color, texture, scale, and composition of the artwork.

I chose the art piece entitled An American Ship in Distress because it looks pretty amazing. Another reason I chose to analyze this piece as opposed to the others is because it was the piece I liked the most, therefore making me analyze it more closely and discover other aspects of the work would make me appreciate it more. I also chose this because I enjoy being on boats and this really caught my attention. In this art work it shows a ship being tossed around by the stormy ocean waves. The artist who painted this piece is named Thomas Birch. The medium is an oil painting on canvas. This painting was made in 1841 and it’s from the Putnam Foundation. This work does fit into a genre and it’s a waterscape.

The subject of this artwork is a shipwreck. I see it looks like a storm in the ocean and there’s a ship but the ships mass and sails appear to be damaged. The crew is lowering lifeboats, suggesting that they have to abandon ship. A rescue boat is coming in on the right side of the painting and another boat and ship are coming in on the left side of the painting to help the crew from the distressed ship. There also appears to be a lighthouse at a distance. The action being conveyed is the waves crashing into the ship. The darkness in the waves and the colors he used made them seem like there real ocean waves. The art piece does seem to be telling ...


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...hese repeated vertical lines contrast firmly with a horizontal line that divides the canvas almost exactly in half. The background, upper portion of the canvas, seems unchanging and flat, whereas the foreground and middle ground of the painting have a lot of depth to them.

The colors used in this painting are blue, white, yellow, brown, black, green, light blue. The colors Birch used seem dark in order to relate to the storm. By making it seem dark it really captures the mood of the composition. In general the quality of light in this painting is low.

Overall the artist does make a unified scene in this composition. Birch used these principals of design to make his composition more effective like balance, movement, repetition and unity. The composition seems balanced because most of the subjects in the painting are all equally distributed and proportioned.

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