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Analyzing Visual Texts - Essay Example

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The portrait pictures a ship which seemed to have been wrecked on a beach with a few sailors seemingly having escaped the doomed ship. This portrait also portrays the sailors in a boat on sandy cove with the entrance of a dark cave mouth just behind the sailors in the boat. The most striking thing about this picture is the sailors who seem to be struggling with violent waves near a beach with the silhouette of a wrecked ship in the distance. The centrality of the light tower in the painting is of utmost importance as it offers a different perspective to the picture. This portrait portrays the message of the lack of understanding of the forces of nature and the struggle between man and these forces. Discussion The most important element that the author intends to convey is with regard to the characters in the portrait that are a representation of the people of the 18th century. It has to be noted that this was a time when marine disasters and accidents were a common occurrence which captured the popular imagination. The characters are drawn in bright colors in order to distinguish them and make them stand out from the rest of the portrait elements. The characters are portrayed at the very edge and bottom of the portrait to put forth the message of the omnipotence of nature and how little power man had over nature. This is in contrast to the forces of nature such as the clouds and waves which are portrayed in bold and angry strokes to show their power. The characters being relegated to a role in the bottom of the portrait yet being in the foreground enables the author to focus attention on the characters but more on the powers of nature as shown by the centrality of the great white waves threatening the sailors. The portrait takes advantage of the attitudes of the times in whipping up emotions and taking advantage of the lack of understanding of nature by the audience. The audience of this portrait live in a period in which very little is understood of nature. Nature is perceived as being omnipotent and all powerful. A great surging white wave is pictured bending and breaking in the middle of the portrait in what may be perceived as portrayal of the power of nature. The picture is intended to show the great power of nature over man. The men in the picture seem to be in a losing struggle to save their lives. Through the centrality of the great white wave which threatens to wash them out to sea, the author intends to show the futility of man trying to struggle with nature. Nature seems to have won by taking some few lives as can be seen from the vague outlines of bodies floating on the water near the boat. It would seem that the breaking and bending of the wave near the shipwrecked sailors, is an assertion that nature is supreme. Nature seems to be asserting its dominance and demanding respect from the sailors. The sailor who is depicted as holding his hands over his head in a gesture of prayer offers an even more profound understanding of how religion was used in understanding nature. Religion is an important element which the author intends to put into use in explaining the audience’s attitudes towards nature. Due to little knowledge on science and how to interpret the weather and other forces of nature scientifically, religion was the main way through which these people tried to understand natural phenomenon. The author in picturing a sailor in a posture of appeal to the ...Show more
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Summary

Name Instructor Course Date A Shipwreck: Philip James de Loutherbourg Introduction The portrait for analysis in this paper is The Shipwreck by Philip James de Loutherbourg. This is one of de Loutherbourg’s most famous paintings which helped him to establish his reputation as an oil painter not only in France but on the European continent…
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