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Art Analysis: A Dentist By Candlelight Research Paper

Dutch artist, Gerrit Dou, started painting “A Dentist by Candlelight” in 1660 and completed it in 1665. The medium of this art is oil on an oak panel. While the painting is small in size, the imagery is much larger. The painting itself measures just a little over fourteen inches by ten inches. The brush strokes are soft and airy, as if it was painted on silk. Most of the colors used are dark, except for the gold and yellow tones that are used to make the center of the image seem to glow.

In fact, one might actually question if there was something behind the painting to illuminate the center scene. With the deep contrast of colors Dou has made excellent use of chiaroscuro and tenebrism within the candlelight scene. This style of painting is referred to as Baroque, and with this genre of art, an artist is trying to play on the pathos of his audience. This painting has followed the true form of the style the artist is trying to achieve. With the symmetrical style the eye is immediately drawn to the center of the artwork.

The flame lights the faces of the subjects and the audience feels drawn into the scene, as if one is actually standing on the dimly lit street and watching the fate of the ained man. Most of the shapes in this piece are round or semi- round. The archway, silver bowl, lantern, and barely visible flask are in shapes of circles or cylinders. Even the arches of the subject’s heads form a half circle centered underneath the hanging crocodile. While the painting itself is beautiful in its life like images, there are several items in the portrait that one should question as to its purpose and meaning.

Looking closely to the left of the painting a flask rests on the table. It is half filled with a liquid of unknown source, but one can assume it might be lcohol for the patient to drink, either to relax them, or help kill the pain and infection. There is a bowl sitting next to the flask, probably to be used as a place to spit the unknown liquid, or perhaps blood, after having teeth pulled. There is also a basket sitting next to the lantern. Perhaps the dental instruments are laying in there, or maybe the wife brought food to the dentist to trade for services for her husband.

Of all the objects in the portrait, the crocodile brings more curiosity than any to the viewer. In researching the reason for the crocodile there was nothing that was a clear answer. The best reasoning is that the crocodile simply had more teeth than most other mammals, and the mouth was always opened wide waiting for prey. And as most of know, the dentist usually says “open wide” while you are in his chair. Again, Dou has done an excellent job of leading the audience to engage in the scene and follow in the Baroque style of bringing his audience deep within the elements of the portrait.

Baroque art started in the 1600’s on the heels of Mannerism painting. Baroque paintings were more realistic and simple than other styles. They usually showed more emotion and the complexity of the scene was minimal. In this particular piece Dou has done an excellent job in portraying the fear of the patient as the dentist approaches him. The woman, assumed to be the patient’s wife, looks on with concern for her husband. She is lovingly holding his hand, as a mother would do for her child.

The Catholic Church, who were supporters of the Baroque era, saw paintings like these as a return to a more spiritual and traditional time of life. ““Baroque art falls into the period of Counter-Reformation led by the Catholic Church against the Protestants. Much of the Baroque art, especially in Italy, reflects eaction to Mannerism, but also the social turmoil of the time. According to the Council of Trent and the Catholic Church artworks should be a clear, intelligible subject realistically interpreted in order to stimulate piety.

This was part of the reason that the artwork turned towards naturalism, becoming emotionally engaging and intense (History of Art Study Guide: 14th Century to Present). ” With the use of emotion Dou shows he has mastered the essence of this style of painting. His subjects flow together and almost seem to be in unity with their movements and feelings. The depiction of the moment actually raws the observer in and one can almost feel the fear in the elderly man. As I walked through the museum, carefully taking in the many colors and styles of art, I caught a glimpse of light from my side view.

I immediately walked over the small painting and realized there was no actual light behind the painting, but such an intense use of color to depict an actual flame illuminating the scene. The colors seemed to effortlessly blend together, the contrast of the dark and light caused me to look deeper into the action, and the candle flame seemed to actually be burning right in front of me. Dou has done a superb job in this painting of showing his mastery skills of the Baroque era. The use of open form is present as the scene seems to be very life like, and I felt as if I was actually watching the event happen.

Since I am not a fan of the dentist, I honestly felt emotions for this man and the fear he felt as the dentist approached him. I could imagine his pain, his worry, and also the relief that he would soon get after having his dental issues resolved. As a mom, I could relate to the woman watching over her husband. I have spent many moments standing over my children at the doctor or dental ffice, trying to ease their fears, and make them understand how much better they would feel afterwards.

The artist has completely succeeded in drawing in his audience into the portrait and making one understand how his subject might be feeling. The Dutch painter, Gerrit Dou (1613-1675), was, during his lifetime, a prestigious and highly paid artist. Critics and collectors of that era marveled at his extraordinary technical skill, his masterful illusionism and his keen portrayal of everyday life. He was the first artist to perfect the technique of “fine painting”–the production of small, detailed pictures wherein ubjects are painted in a photographically realistic style.

Because of his exceptional skill in this technique, the brushwork in his painting was almost invisible. Additionally, he masterfully used light and shade to achieve the effect of a third dimension. In many of his portraits, subjects stare ahead from inside a window (or niche), whose sill is overflowing with small, familiar objects (AG Christen). There is no doubt about it, Dou has done a thorough job of maintaining the Baroque style in this piece of artwork, and more importantly, he laid a pathway for the future of painting.

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