Joseph Hirsch’s painting Daniel was painted in 1976-1977. In 1978 during the153rd Annual Exhibition of the National Academy of Design, it won the First Benjamin Altman (Figure) prize. It measures 38 inches by 45 inches (96.52 cm x 114.3 cm) with a five inch gold wood frame surrounding it. The medium is oil on canvas. Everything within the painting is centered to draw your eyes to the action of the turned head and the pointed finger. According to the placard next to the painting this is a modern day version of the biblical story of Belshazzar’s Feast following the sacking of Jesualism from the Book of Daniel. From this point on, each figure within the painting will be addressed as Hirsch intended. The painting depicts a seated king, a dozing courtesan and Daniel. The three figures are the focal point of the composition. Hirsch uses a strong color palette to give the painting a luxurious and wealthy feel. Although the detail is not miniscule, the composition as a whole is easily understood. The use of oil paint allowed Hirsch to play with the composition as it was created.
The paint does not have any visible signs of cracking like other oil paintings. It appears to be as vibrant today as it was when it was originally painted. A good example of this is the color of the chairs. The fuchsia is the first color are drawn to. From there the composition pops out at you. The king’s ruffled shirt shows Hirsch’s used of impasto. Impasto is a technique used in painting, where paint is laid on the canvas thickly enough that the brush or painting-knife strokes are visible.
The brush strokes are similar to Leonardo’s sfumato technique, but reminiscent of Rapheal’s color usage. The strokes are soft along the edges giving them a hazy appearan...
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...ing only smoke billowing up. On the left side of the courtesan is a man’s arm holding a lit cigar. On the table is a bowl of fruit and an ice bucket with wine.
The view of the painting brings to mind the all the senses. Smell is the first to come to mind as the smoke from the candle billows up, the burning smell reaches the noise as well as the burning cigar. The fruity smell overshadows that of the smell of chicken and peas. The noise of a dropped tray and the breaking of glass as it hits the floor makes everyone turn to the right. People talking over each other to be heard. All of the senses are realized as the painting is viewed.
As Hirsch intended, the painting is meant to teach a lesson in judgement and retribution. Hirsch’s painting showed the how we as human are susceptible to greed and it is something we need to overcome or we will be judged and punished.