Frederic Leighton’s “Greek Girls Playing at Ball” is a pretty awesome painting. While I love the back drop which is both peaceful and epic, the way that Leighton manages to capture “motion” in a still image is pretty striking.
Though many of his paintings are satisfying, this one stood out. While trying to zero in on what it was that made this painting jump out ahead of the others, I realized that it wasn’t just the depiction of “Greek Girls Playing at Ball” — but how the act of motion itself was depicted. Upon looking more closely at the painting and trying to analyze what made the motion feel real for me, I realized that there seem to be a few things going on that relate specifically to the motion. They’re subtle, but upon identifying them, I found the painting to be “that much” more enjoyable.
One of these things regarding motion was unity of color. The black/dark hues of the character on the right coincide with the black/dark clothes draped on the white wall just to the left of the more “lightly” painted character. The effect is that as your eye tries to take in the unity of the dark colors, your eyes is forced to jump over the light character.
Aside from the obvious “beginning” and “ending” poses which would be expected in the act of throwing and catching, the most central cloud runs on a diagonal line which is almost parallel to the diagonal of the shadow cast by the “catching character.” It’s also worth noting that these two diagonals almost seem to present themselves as a “field of trajectory” in which the thrown ball would travel.
Of course, it’s possible that I’m attributing genius after the fact to something that the artist may have just considered “good composition.” Yet, as a brilliant artist knows where to look when placing detail, so too can they make the viewer look where the artist desires.
A final point of composition regarding the kinetic energy of Frederic Leighton’s “Greek Girls Playing at Ball” is that the eyelines of both the thrower and the receiver intersect with one another at the point where they meet with the ball. If lines were drawn, an acute angle would be formed.
|| FREDERIC LEIGHTON’S “GREEK GIRLS PLAYING AT BALL”