The Call to Dinner

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The Call to Dinner was painted from 1886 to 1887 by George Agnew Reid. The painting is an oil on canvas and is large scale, measuring 48 inches in height and 71 inches in length. Reid’s paintings were often large and it was said “one canvas could dominate a room crowded with people.” Early in his artistic career, Reid became known for his genre scenes. Genre painting depicts scenes from everyday life. In The Call to Dinner, the use of oil paint allows Reid to emphasize the principles of genre painting while permitting the enhancement of realism and naturalism within the composition.

In oil painting, ground pigment is mixed with linseed or walnut oil. The oil creates a smooth sheen over the surface of the painting. Finished in 1887, it is most likely that linseed oil was used as a base for the pigment due to the limited amount of cracking seen today. The benefits presented by oil paint include a slow drying time, which allows for increased flexibility and subtly in colour mixing and blending. Also, oil paint can be applied thicker than other mediums, such as tempera.

The focal point of the scene is the woman calling out into the distance. The subject of the painting appears to stand in arrested motion. The lips of the woman appear parted suggesting the action of speech. The woman is depicted wearing a greyish-blue dress, white apron, red scarf and a straw hat. The woman is holding the brim of her hat with her left hand, indicating the potential force of wind on the figures within the scene. Her hat is painted in fine detail. Reid uses short, thick brush strokes to imitate the weaves of the hat, creating realistic texture. The building up of consistent layers of oil paint creates the porcelain like texture of the woman’s s...

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...n the painting is a darker tone of blue, whereas closer to the paintings linear horizon, the blue changes to a lighter, almost white hue.

The formal properties of The Call to Dinner by George Agnew Reid contribute to the successfulness of the genre scene and assist in finding meaning within the painting. Through the benefits of oil paint, Reid is able to achieve a high level of realism and naturalism in The Call to Dinner. The versatility of the medium allows the artist to enhance all details and elements within a painting and present a realistic reflection of everyday life. Naturalism in movement is heightened by the medium’s ability to subtly blend. Textural elements, replicating the forms of reality, are created through the adaptability of oil on canvas. The formal properties of the medium allow the artist to shed light on a single moment in rural life.

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