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Storytelling in Watson and the Shark and Saint George and the Dragon

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The artworks Watson and the Shark and Saint George and the Dragon share a common theme of storytelling because they both present a story from history that is frozen in time. Both works are dramatic and show a human trying to fight off a ferocious beast. However, their main contrast is that one illustrates an event on land while the other is in the sea as well as their different historical stories.

The subject matter of Watson and the Shark is of Brook Watson desperately trying to escape being attacked by a shark in Havana Harbor, while nine men aboard the boat are trying to save him. One man is fighting off the shark with a harpoon while the other men are trying to save Watson with a rope, and by reaching out towards him. On the other hand, the subject matter of Saint George and the Dragon is of St. George saving the daughter of a pagan king from a dragon by defeating it with his lance. As the story goes the dragon was later captured, tamed and slayed it as a sacrifice.

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The form of Watson and the Shark was created by using oil on canvas while the form of Saint George and the Dragon was created by using oil on a wood panel. Copley used a restricted palette, consisting mostly of different values of green, gray and brown, creating an overall very dull, sinister looking painting. He formed depth in his painting of Watson and the Shark by using the atmospheric perspective and chiaroscuro techniques as well as overlapping some figures and objects to imply space. He also used different light intensities with duller hues around the edges and more pure hues in the center and foreground to help develop form within this work. Raphael illustrated depth within his painting of Saint George and the Dragon by overlapping some figures and used a little atmospheric perspective, to make the background look farther away and draw the viewer's eyes the the horse and the Knight in the foreground. This along with many other visual elements and design principles help to create form within this painting.

The representational realism style of Watson and the Shark clearly depicts the figures and overall scene in great detail. This makes the picture appear very realistic, as it shows the world accurately. The artist may have used this style to help the viewer relate to the people in the painting, make them feel more involved and further create the suspense for the story it captures, of whether Watson will escape the shark or die. However, the style of Saint George and the Dragon is representational naturalistic because Raphael illustrated the forms in this painting more idealistically, while still representing the natural world.

The media used to create the Watson and the Shark piece was oil paints on a large canvas. On the other hand, the media used to create Saint George and the Dragon was again oil paints but on a small wood panel. The artist of Saint George and the Dragon, Raphael, created several small paintings on wood panels to capture its historical story, where as Copley, the artist of Watson and the Shark, created one large painting on canvas to give the viewer its historical dramatic, story.

In Watson and the Shark there are many straight vertical lines in the background that create a still, calm atmosphere in the harbor, as well as the straight horizontal lines in the ocean that point toward the foreground where the action appears to take place. These lines in the background make the water seem untouched and tranquil, in contrast to the frantic, chaotic lines in the foreground. The curved lines of the shark’s body shows that the shark is intent on coming back for more, it is not finished with its victim, Watson. The straight lines of the outstretched arms and fingers increase the intensity of the scene by showing that the people on the boat are trying very hard to save the victim. The man with the harpoon creates an implied line as he is focusing intently down on the shark, showing his determination to violently attack it and save Watson. The large, straight, strong and bold line of the harpoon, demonstrates its power and force, which increases the action and drama of this scene. Similarly, in Saint George and the Dragon the long straight line of Saint George’s lance, indicates its power and strength, while also drawing the viewer’s eyes to the action. The vertical straight lines of the simplistic trees are similar to those of the boats and buildings in the background of Watson and the Shark, because they both create a calm, still atmosphere when compared to the dramatic action in the foreground. The curved shape and mass of the boulders in Saint George and the Dragon create an illusion of three dimensional bulky, heavy shapes surrounding the muscular, curvy, strong white horse in the middle of this painting. Similar to the strong, bulky dense shapes of the sharks in the water attacking Watson, Copley creates a dark and menacing focus for the viewer with these angular and flowing lines. Additionally, the more geometric shapes in the background give the viewer the sense of peace and control compared to the natural, irregular, curvy, flowing shapes in the foreground that express a more chaotic, dramatic mood.

The light in the Watson and the Shark artwork, focuses on the center of the foreground where the action is taking place. This is a very dark, dull and sober lit painting with dull hues of grays, greens and browns around the edges and pure hues in the center helping to draw the viewer's eyes and attention to the victim and drama. The soft, blue and yellow colors of the sky in the background helps to create a feeling of hope and heavenly, divine intervention. Whereas the colors and light used in Saint George and the Dragon are mainly pure hues with high light intensity. However, the dragon and cave have dark, dull hues suggesting the hatred and evil feelings towards this beast. The main three colors of yellow, blue and green create an analogous color harmony in this piece. The red color used on the daughter of the Pagan King, shows some importance of the purpose of Saint George’s quest in the story of this painting.

In Watson and the Shark, the artist uses the technique of atmospheric perspective to imply space by making the background less detailed, bluer in color and smaller. He also uses Chiaroscuro on the figures in the foreground, on their clothes, the boat, the body of Watson in the water and the sharks that give the illusion of three dimensions, as well as them being bigger than the boats in the background. The artist also overlapped figures in the boat to imply space and create depth within the painting. There’s also vanishing point behind the man with the harpoon, giving the viewer the idea that the boats and harbor go on into the far distance. In Saint George and the Dragon, space is implied from the use of chiaroscuro on the horse, the dragon and the cave. The artist also overlapped figures of the dragon, the horse and Saint George as well as the horse’s tail over the daughter, suggesting that she is further away in the middle ground of this painting.

There’s texture and pattern used in Watson and the Shark, as seen with the repeating straight, vertical lines of the buildings in the background, that display a peaceful, still mood. There’s a pattern of straight lines in the sea behind the boat that imply a smooth texture, where as there’s a pattern of wavy lines in the sea in the foreground which suggest that the ocean is moving and it gives it a rougher looking texture. There’s texture seen on the ruffles in the clothing of the men in the boat and the smooth skin of Watson in the water. Additionally, the shark’s jagged teeth display a sharp texture. In the painting Saint George and the Dragon there’s texture and pattern seen in the continuous round boulders and repeating leaves on the trees in the background as they express a still and peaceful mood. The smooth, shiny looking texture of the Knight’s suit and the flexible, soft texture of his cape make him seem more realistic.

The painting of Watson and the Shark looks as though it is frozen in time. The white foaming, rippling waves show that the sea is dramatically moving and making it difficult to retrieve the fallen, naked person. The outstretched arms and fingers of the people in the boat show the struggle and grasping of hands in their efforts to save the body. The floating, fly away, blowing hair of the person holding an oar shows there must be a wind which they are fighting against. The clothing of the people in the boat is also depicting motion, being tugged at by the wind. The person in the water shows motion by the way his legs are bent and his body and muscles are tense and his outstretched fingers in the water make it look as though he is half halfheartedly swimming with the motion of the water rocking him. The shark’s mouth looks like it is frozen wide open in time and looks like it is also moving with fierce expression and intent. The way the artist makes it look like this painting is frozen in time creates a story and helps the viewer imagine the hardships that are going on in this painting, and might make them wonder how it ended, if the person the water was saved or eaten by the shark. Comparatively, the painting of Saint George and the Dragon looks like it is also frozen in time. The way the horse is in mid-leap suggests motion in the painting as well as the way its tail and the Knight’s cape flows behind them implying that they are moving forward rapidly. The dragon’s outstretched legs and twisted neck indicate that it is squirming and moving in order to fight back at the Knight.

There’s unity in the background of Watson and the Shark with the repetition of boats that are the same relative shape, along with many similar tops of the buildings that show where the event took place, which is near a harbor and express a calm, peaceful mood. On the boat, a few on the men’s clothes have unity, such as the two men who are wearing long sleeved, white shirts and are reaching out to the victim in the water. This unity shows that these men come from a similar background and have a similar social status as well as common purpose, as they both intend on saving Watson. These aspects in this painting help to create harmony and make it pleasing to the eye. There is also a conceptual unity within this piece as all nine men are in the boat together all desperately trying to save Watson from the shark. This demonstrates a unity of togetherness and strength in numbers. There is variety in the boat as many of the men have different facial expressions showing the complexity of human emotion. The different waves and shapes in the water in the foreground imply a random noticeable sense of action. The way that Watson is nude varies from the rest of the men on the boat who are fully clothed. This could represent his vulnerable nature in this specific event. Additionally, the warm and cool colors throughout this piece create more variety which clearly distinguishes the dark, dangerous creatures and things taking place in the foreground, such as the dark cool green and grey colors of the shark, and the sea, compared to the warm yellow sky in the background representing hope. In Saint George and the Dragon there’s unity within the round boulders and continuous simplistic trees and restricted color pallet in the background, which express a calm peaceful mood to the background. This also draw the viewer’s attention to the foreground, where the figures appear to be moving and there are pure hues and bright, strong colors, showing that these figure’s hold great importance. The dragon creates variety in this piece as its shape is very sharp, with pointed edges and its color is dark, dull and menacing compared to the bright pure hues and colors of the rest of the figures in the painting. The variety seen in the bright red color of the daughter of the Pagan King, illustrates her importance to the story displayed because she is the reason the Knight is subduing the dragon. There’s also a conceptual unity within this painting as the horse and Knight are working together to stop the dragon, which gives the viewer a feeling of unity.

Although the paintings of Watson and the Shark and Saint George and the Dragon are asymmetrical they both have good balance. In both pieces the main subject is in the middle or slightly off-centered but, as seen in Watson and the Shark, the tall man with the harpoon on the right side of the painting is balanced out by the more dense background with more boats on the opposite side to him as well as the bright figure of Watson in the foreground of that side, while on the side of the harpooner there’s a darker, duller, figure of the shark. The artist, Copley, cleverly used light, color, and size to create a well balanced piece of art. In comparison, the painting Saint George and the Dragon is also well balanced as the main figure of the Knight on the horse is mostly in the center but slightly heavier on the right however the overall painting is balanced out by having the cave and dragon on the left, which the Knight is fighting.

The edges of Watson and the Shark are subordinated by having duller hues and lower light intensity in order to draw the viewer’s eyes to Watson and the men on the boat, who appear brighter and are emphasized in a higher light intensity. Also, the boats, buildings and the sea in the background of this painting are subordinated by being smaller and less detailed than the figures, objects and the sea in the middle and foreground, which are emphasized by being bigger and illustrated with greater detail to draw the viewer’s focus to them, where the action appears to take place. In the painting Saint George and the Dragon the background such as the trees, boulders and building are subordinated as they look smaller, less detailed and duller in color. This helps to emphasize the Knight in his bright blue uniform on his bright white horse, which are also larger and more detailed than the background objects.

The scale of Watson and the Shark is quite large (182.1 x 229.7 cm (71 11/16 x 90 7/16 in.)). This can be very pronoment to the viewer as the art almost surrounds and engulfs them in the painting, which might help the viewer to feel involved in the story this painting presents. With a scale this big the viewer can more easily see the astounding amount of detail that’s in the work. In contrast, the painting Saint George and the Dragon’s scale is much smaller (28.5 x 21.5 cm (11 1/4 x 8 7/16 in.)). This may attract the viewer’s attention and requires them to look more closely to see the details and story in the piece. The bright colors in this painting also helps to make this piece more noticeable, and to draw the viewer in closer so they can truly appreciate the work. The proportions in both paintings are natural and realistically show the figures and objects as they would appear in the natural world.

The rhythm in the background of Watson and the Shark looks slow, calm and still because the geometric, organized shapes of the ships and the sea. On the contrary, the rhythm in the foreground is chaotic, random, fast and dramatic because of the irregular shapes of the waves, figures, and objects. This faster, more dramatic rhythm further builds the suspense of whether Watson will survive. This contrast helps to draw the viewer’s attention to the story and action that appears to be happening in the foreground. Similarly, the rhythm in the background of Saint George and the Dragon is calm and still because of the way the trees as illustrated vertically straight and tall, showing the viewer that there’s no wind or slow to no movement in them. However, like in Watson and the Shark most of the action happens in the middle and foreground, where the horse is in mid-leap and the Knight’s cape flows behind him suggesting that they have a flowing, fast rhythm. The way the dragon’s neck is curved and its legs are stretched out behind him imply that it has a chaotic, fast moving rhythm.

The time period of both Watson and the Shark (1778) and Saint George and the Dragon (1506) is during the Italian renaissance period. This time period represents the rebirth of art where there was a great focus on detail, shadows and human anatomy. This is clear in these pieces as they both look very realistic and have amazing detail that help to bring their stories to life.

The content in Watson and the Shark can be seen through the bright, glowing figure of Watson representing how he is free, pure, youthful and vulnerable in this painting. The dark, dull, sister looking figure of the shark and clouds above imply that they are dangerous and evil. Meanwhile the clouds in the distance are yellow, warm, glowing and bright which could represent hope for Watson. Similarly, in the painting Saint George and the Dragon the gloomy, shadowy cave and dragon show that they are mysterious, dangerous and menacing, compared to the bright, white horse and Knight in bright blue armor which represents their pure, good nature. Additionally, the way the Knight is on his horse above the dragon may demonstrate that he has greater power, importance and is physically and morally above the dragon. 

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