Thinking and Writing about Art History

This essay will discuss the painting by Samuel Richards which is called Blissful Hours. It is necessary for us to focus on the artistic elements of this picture and its theme. The author completed it in Munich in 1885. Eight year later it was first exhibited in Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. This is an oil picture, and its canvas is 39 1/2 x 57 1/4 inches.

According to Samuel Richards’s letter, this work depicts a village girl who works on her bridal dress (Tottis, 216). The artist has never explicitly stated the purpose of this work. Yet, one can deduce that he strives to portray the life of rural people in the nineteenth-century Europe. The main message of this picture can open to various interpretations, for instance, it can demonstrate how women of that period were dependant on marital status and how important wedlock was for them.

This picture has some elements of Romantic and Baroque painting. In particular, one can speak about the blurring of shapes and colors. The painter used this element of design in order to focus the viewer’s attention on the maiden rather than on some elements of decor like furniture.

Samuel Richards uses grey, white, and beige colors. In many cases, they merge into one another. Perhaps, in this way, he tried to emphasize the gentleness of this village girl. Again, this response can be explained by the fact that she is placed in the most illuminated part of the room and the viewers can see her tender face and hands. It is possible to say that she is the focal point of this painting.

This work fits into the career of this artist. One can draw parallels between this painting and some other works by Samuel Richards, for example, German Girl, or Head of a Peasant. Overall, rural life is an important theme in his works (Tottis, 216). Moreover, one should take into account that this artist grew up and often lived in such environment. Thus, this painting fits his career and life. While working on this painting the author relied primarily on visual rather than literary sources.

This work of art can tell us much about the social relations of that period. In particular, it can show that marriage was of the crucial importance for women of that period. It was one of the ways in which they could raise their social status.

Overall, this work was praised for its realistic portrayal of village life and household (Tottis, 217). In terms of themes, this work can be compared to other works done at the same time, for instance, the painting by Jean-Francois Millet which is called The Gleaners. This painting also depicts the life and labor of rural women.

As far as the process of this artistic piece is concerned, we can say that very little is known about it. Samuel Richard completed this painting in Munich and he was working in a village near this city. Yet, there are no preliminary sketches of this artistic work.

This artistic piece represents American painting of the nineteenth century. It can give us a glimpse in to the life of rural society of that period. Moreover, this artistic piece is significant from purely artistic standpoint. Samuel Richards’ use of color, his sense of unity and proportion can still be admired. One should take into account that the artist portrays not only one girl, but probable a whole generation of rural and peasant women. This is why one can say that this work is symbolic.

Works Cited

Tottis, James. American paintings in the Detroit Institute of Arts: Forging a modern identity : masters of American painting born after 1847. Detroit: Giles in association with the Detroit Institute of Arts, 2005. Print.


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