I work at The Breakers hotel in West Palm, and have had the pleasure of seeing various works of art on the daily basis. I chose to analyze a self-portrait of a man named Henry Flagler. This painting is located on the south side of the hotel, and has a great amount of historical significance. Henry Flagler founded The Breakers and is very well known in West Palm, not only for his advancements in the oil industry and railroad lines, but for his famous hotel by the ocean-side. The painting incorporates many of the elements of art and design. For example, there is some contrast between the black suit Mr. Flagler is wearing and the plain light brown background behind him. Though I believe a greater contrast would’ve worked to the artist’s benefit.
The focal point of this painting is clearly Mr. Flagler. I know this because there are no visually distracting objects behind him. The artist also used scale and proximity to make Henry Flagler the focal point. Henry is the biggest form on the canvas. By making him bigger, the artist causes the observer to focus on his very presence, and for the most part, that alone. There is a look of intensity and seriousness that is being projected off of Mr. Flagler. If he were not the main focus of this work of art, this intense look in his face would not be as effective to the observer.
The artist used asymmetrical balance, which worked well in unifying the painting as a whole. Because this was a painting of a person, asymmetrical balance helped bring a real life human-like quality to the self-portrait.
In addition to this, it is clear that Henry Flagler was painted using organic shapes versus geometric shapes. This worked in the artist’s favor. For example, Henry’s suit looks natural and free flowing. There are no hard edges or sharp corners as one would see in a painting incorporating geometrics shapes.
The artist did a phenomenal job in his use of lines to show detail. For the most part, the painting was made using implied line, which helped add to the real life feeling of Mr. Flagler. But, on the contrary, I can also see the specific uses of actual lines, not only implied ones throughout the painting.
For example, Henry’s eyebrows are made with shading and black and gray lines to add texture. There is form shown in his face due to the faded lines located on the right side of the bridge of his nose. In addition, bold, black, vertical lines were used to create the chair Henry is sitting on.
Shading was also a vital part of this painting. Mr. Flagler’s face changes hue from light to dark on the sides of his face to bring emphasis to the front of his face and give the observer the illusion of depth, space, structure, and form.
I believe that the artist could’ve done a few things differently to help make the paining more visually appealing. For example, the value of the painting tends to stay dark. The colors are also rather dull and lack intensity. The artist also did not use any complimentary colors, but instead, decided to use neutral, earth tones. In my opinion, this took away from what could’ve been a more visually appealing painting.
Sequentially, if the background of this painting changed color from light on the bottom to dark on top, it would’ve helped bring more emphasis and even show more depth. Because Mr. Flagler’s suit is black, the black background going down takes away from what he is wearing.
One major thing I noticed that I did not like is the fact that the chair he is sitting on is brown and the background behind him is the exact same shade of brown. I had to keep looking at the painting to truly understand exactly what was going on. I understand that he used a bold, black, vertical line to show the observer that Flagler is sitting on a chair, but in my opinion, the painting as a whole could’ve been more visually appealing if the chair was another color. One could argue that it was brown in order to keep the focus on Flagler and not the chair, but either way, I would’ve preferred it to be a bit less subtle.
All in all this painting did exactly what the artist intended it to do: portray Mr. Flagler in a sophisticated, personal kind of way. It shows him as both an approachable friend and a professional businessman in which he was. The artist did a great job in incorporating visual elements of art and the principles of design.