This essay is on the painting “Girl Arranging Her Hair”, painted by Mary Cassat in 1886. The media is oil on canvas. This painting now hangs at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Line is an important formal element of artwork because line is essential in a painting to depicting objects and symbols and to define shapes. The line in this piece of art draws your eyes to the top right side of the painting and gradually brings your eyes down the painting focusing attention on the girl. Forcing attention on the girl caught in the act of arranging her hair allows the person looking at the painting to become that girl and to imagine what she is thinking at that personal moment. In “Girl Arranging Her Hair” the line and contours of the line really seem to make the girl and her hair important.
Color is another important element in this painting. The color white is repeated several times in the painting. The girl’s nightgown is white. This white color is also used in the top of the dresser behind the girl and also in the pitcher and bowl that is standing on the dresser. Also, although the girl’s skin is not the same saturation of white as the other objects are, her skin is very pale, which makes it seem like a repeating color. The repeating color seems to make the white tones flow together in a smooth rhythm.
Another repeated color in this painting is brown, different saturations which are used a lot in the background of the painting. These smaller bits of brown are the same tones as her hair, so it seems the viewer’s eye are naturally drawn to the biggest amount of this brown color, which is her hair. It really makes her hair stand out, especially next to all of the white color. The repetition of whites and browns has focused attention on a very personal moment of grooming, setting the stage for an adventure in imagination.
Imagine, the girl is sitting in her nightgown getting ready for the day. She is playing with her hair, she...