Winslow Homer, An Open Window, oil, 1872,
Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine
Here are two paintings by two of my favorite American artists, Winslow Homer (1836-1910) and Charles Burchfield (1893-1967). Differences abound between the hushed interior at the Portland Museum of Art and the glistening sunlight that dazzles our eye in the Memorial Art Gallery's landscape. Each has its own color sense and distinctive mood.
Charles Burchfield, Springtime in the Pool, watercolor,
1922, Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, New York
But both artists energize their paintings by doing something surprisingly similar- deliberately contrasting the regular horizontal or vertical lines in their compositions against prominently stated curves.
Winslow Homer's woman stands erect framed by the vertical edges of the window. Homer contrasts the straightness of the right side of her dress against the curving arc of his models left hip.
Charles Burchfield created a landscape of fields that move mostly horizontally. Against that he made the line of the shore an abruptly curving shape, much like the outline of Homer's curved edge of the model's dress. Imagine how much more predictable and how much more static both of these compositions would be if these strategic curves had been painted as simple straight lines.