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Rubens, Church, and Repin: Interpretations of their Work

Many have said that art is not merely a representation of life, but also a representation of reality. Forms of art can range from paintings, sculptures, literature, music, dance and nature. Today art includes buildings, bridges and other forms of infrastructures. They don’t just appeal the eyes, it also sooths the spirit. That is why art is shared and shown to the world. It is not just an expression, but a statement. The beauty and structure of these masterpieces cannot be fully expounded in this paper, no matter how appealing these are.

Focusing on paintings by Rubens, Church and Repin, this paper aims to discover elements of these masterpieces which evoked more than emotions. The first painting to be focused on is “The Battle of the Amazons” by Peter Paul Rubens. The image below portrays, as its title implies, an intense battle. Horses, weapons and battle cries can almost be heard by simply looking at it. Bravery, fierce strength and a dreams are elicited by the figures in the painting. Other paintings depicting war usually represent a bright and dark side.

As it is evident in the painting, it seems that they are simply fighting for their nations, not that either is good or bad. This is represented by the bridge, which implies the border between these nations. Figure 1. “The Battle of the Amazons” by Peter Paul Rubens The second painting is by Ilya Repin entitled “The Volga Boatmen”. This painting depicts a strong social issue, which is slavery. If one would truly scrutinize the painting below, the prominent figures in the painting would be the group of dark clad men leaning forward, seemingly pulling the boat behind them.

The dark shade of men with sad faces and hopeless stances symbolize how slaves truly are. Many have said that slaves were savages, barbaric creatures who can never be tamed. However, in the painting, another point of view had been put to light. Their colors contrast to their environment, and they look so helpless. It has a very depressing mood, almost as if you want to cut those ropes and offer them a soft bed to rest on. It also shows that in slavery, men to do hard labor; and one can only imagine what they impose on the women, since they are absent from the picture. Figure 2. “The Volga Boatmen” by Ilya Repin

The last painting to be focused on is by Frederic Edwin Church entitled “The Heart of the Andes”. This painting is the image that stands out among the three because of the very image it carries. It is of a landscape, void of human existences. It is calm and serene. It simply exists. There is no violence, no coercion, no sadness. The colors used were gentle and natural, earth tones. It seems to depict that nature does not need to be altered of cared for by man, given that man does not exist in the same area. Nature, as the saying goes, will take its rightful course without any support from man and his advanced technology.

Technology will most probably destroy it. It could also be that the painter was able to predict that nature will one day be ruined. Since this was created during the century where nature is still far from danger. Since this paper initially mentioned that art is a means of representing nature, this painting could be saying that it was this beautiful, as if it was prepared to be compared to the state of the environment today. Figure 3. “The Heart of the Andes” by Frederic Edwin Church These three paintings portray different issues, but all imply the nature of man: aggressive, judgmental, destructive.

According to the interpretations shared in the earlier paragraphs, one can relate that the personality and practices of man can destroy nature and fellow men. The first painting presents violence, the second inhumane practices, and the last, if one would follow the flow of the other paintings, is serenity when there is the absence of man. The differences of these paintings pertain to the style of the artist and their approaches to describe man. Since it was initially established in this paper that art is a representation or interpretation of reality, what more can render man’s totality than the stroke of an artist’s brush?


Church, Frederic Edwin. (n. d. ) “The Heart of the Andes”. Retrieved 27 December 2007 from http://upload. wikimedia. org/wikipedia/commons/7/78/Church_Heart_of_the_Andes. jpg. Repin, I. (n. d. ). “The Volga Boatmen”. Retrieved 27 December 2007 from http://www. dartmouth. edu/~russ15/russia_PI/images/repin_bargemen1. jpg. Rubens, Peter Paul. (n. d. ). “The Battle of the Amazons”. Retrived 27 December 2007 from http://www. abcgallery. com/R/rubens/rubens18. html.

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