Looking at a Painting: Seeing from Different Fields

I have recently experienced looking at the single painting in three different forms. It’s an oil painting on canvas titled “Picnic in Normandy” by the passionate Juan Luna y Novicio. From the name itself, the painting depicts women and men having a picnic at a certain place in Normandy which makes it as a landscape painting as well.

 

It came to me as a surprise that viewing a single printing in three different forms would yield a different and distinctive experience for each. The first one I saw was the in a book, titled Pamana: The Jorge B. Vargas Art Collection, page 28, from the Filipiniana Section. The painting occupies the upper-half portion of the page and as such it intends to present the painting to the reader at eye level. This should achieve the effect of fair appreciation but I as a reader had to squeeze my eyes to figure out the minute details of the painting rendered small. It remains however that one could easily gather that the painting by virtue of its strokes is one that can be considered as Impressionistic. I have observed that the painting’s colors were rendered dark in shade and tone by the book printing. This can be readily discernible as the effect of printing. Overall, my experience of the painting in the book was a pleasurable experience because of its nostalgic mood except that the experience was only disrupted by my awareness of the small size of the painting.

 

The second experience that I had of the painting was looking at the actual painting at the Vargas Museum. As I stood in front of the huge painting, I felt enveloped by its atmosphere. It was as if I stood among the figures and transported back in their time in Normandy. While looking the actual painting, I just got so curious to the most mysterious figure in this painting, the lady in the foreground that has a strange and curious gaze towards something that I, as viewer, couldn’t see. It made me wonder what she’s thinking. Is she waiting for someone? Does she remember something? Is she distracted by something while picking flowers? Do flowers remind her of a memory, like a past love affair? Is she daydreaming? Does the sunset or gleam of light fascinate her that much that it attracts her gaze? I can’t really tell. My answer to this remains weak and incoherent. But indeed,  it was a beautiful and different experience of seeing light colors of yellow, green, blue and red in fleeting strokes to accentuate the beauty and magnificence of the place, a hill or a grassy plain surrounded with flowers or even the craggy shoreline where a boat can be seen from afar. I had a feeling of appearing and re-appearing among the evanescent shades of colors.

 

My third and last experience of the same painting was its version on the internet. This form had a seemingly added quality of light to it. I suspect this is because viewing it on the computer’s screen gives an electronic angle ( back-lit). The effect of this gave the painting a different texture of emphasis that is absent in the book version and in the actual painting. Viewing the painting online also allowed me to save it and open it in available software and therefore could give me the control over the way I would prefer to look at the painting. For instance, I could of course go to other forms of altering the experience of viewing it depending on the menu of the software I wanted to open it with but I chose to be within the closest distance I could get to being faithful to the original form.

 

It is only my point that each of the three forms of the same painting renders an entirely unique and different of looking and seeing an artwork of a Filipino artist. 

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