Teachers Lesson Plans

Canadian Painting in the Thirties

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How do these two artists approach the human figure?

The goal of many portrait artists is to capture a realistic look of their sitter with all the subject's character. In this work however, Lyman focuses on the dynamics of composition rather than on the naturalistic depiction of his figure. He accentuates the long, elegant lines of the neck and concentrates on the strong colours and solid forms rather than descriptive detail. The work, therefore, has an abstract feel about it. Helen Marsh is presented both as a human being and a static formal artistic pattern of pure painting.

Miller Brittain on the other hand depicts the plight of his human figures with all their power and weaknesses. In this work he shows a strong understanding of humanity. His figures are very expressive, and Brittain reveals their emotions by concentrating on gesture, pose, and attitude and on such small details as a hand holding a pipe or a cigarette. Although somewhat stylized, the three-dimensional figures are solid and move within their shallow pictorial space. Brittain works with modeling and traditional colours to bring out their rounded forms.