Wednesday, April 2, 2008
OPTIC of Bruegel, Pieter Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
In the painting, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by Pieter Bruegel, the painter makes Icarus almost unnoticeable. When looking at the painting for the first time, the first thing that was brought to my attention was the ploughman. He is painted larger than the other men in the painting, and wears vibrant colors. Also, he is very concentrated and busy with his work and seems unaware or maybe careless of the man drowning behind him, who is obviously Icarus. The shepherd is also unaware of Icarus and is, in fact, resting his weight upon his crook, as Ovid explains in “The Story of Deadalus and Icarus.” It seems that he is more interested in looking up at the sky and is oblivious to Icarus‘ fall. The next thing that I saw after that was the large ship to the right of the painting. Only when noticing the ship was that I realized there was something that looked like a leg or someone drowning. That’s when I identified the leg as being Icarus drowning, when he fell into the water. After finding Icarus, I also found the fisherman towards the bottom of the painting who, like the ploughman and the shepherd, is also careless of the incident. Guessing from the water being painted with such dark colors, only at the spot where Icarus falls, Bruegel is indicating that there is something bad in that corner, or that something went wrong. Also, since Bruegel took most of the space on the canvas to focus on the ploughman, the shepherd with his sheep, and the islands, I am also guessing that maybe he viewed the fall as something unimportant. He paints the sky brightly, illuminated by the sun, giving the painting a peaceful tone rather than a sad or tragic tone. This shows that the painting is not meant to explain a tragedy that had happened. In fact, nowhere in the painting does he shows someone looking disturbingly at the man drowning. It is as if Icarus had fallen like a simple small drop of water in a huge ocean. No one can see or hear that drop of water falling from the sky into the big ocean. And that is how unimportant Icarus was in the painting. Both the ploughman and the shepherd seem to go about with their lives calmly, in a sense that nothing had happened. Even the horse was not surprised by the falling of Icarus. This demonstrates that how people react, on many occasions, with others. The ploughman has much more to do than to stop his important work, that gives him a living, to look at someone else’s downfall. The ship also, which is very close to Icarus drowning, does not stop to help or care. It continues his voyage, indicating that life goes on. I think that Brueghel meant to paint the ploughman, the shepherd, the fisherman and everything else in a sense of continuing with their lives and ignore Icarus drowning. He indicates that Icarus deserved to fall. Still, I find it strange how the ploughman is very centralized in the painting. Brueghel made it so that the ploughman is larger than everything else he painted on the canvas, so that the attention or out eyes go directly to the ploughman. He focuses on making the detailed islands and the ships. Also he paints many little sheep on the island and makes sure to paint the carefully the work that the ploughman is doing. However, the thing that I would think it to be most important is Icarus, and Brueghel does not show any concentration once so ever on Icarus. I could barely see the little leg hanging out. Still, this is probably why Brueghel did not name the painting The Fall of Icarus, but instead he named it Landscape With The Fall of Icarus. The key word connecting both occasions is “with” concluding that this is why Brueghel focuses so much on the landscape, making Icarus a minor point. The title means that Icarus’ fall is in the landscape, so it is as if the landscape were more important. When looking closer within the painting, I noticed two small black birds flying around. They seem to be flying away from the place where Icarus is drowning, so my guess is that they are ignoring Icarus as well. Also, looking even closer towards where the fisherman is, right at the bottom of Icarus drowning, I see a bird-like creature. He, like every other thing on the painting, seems to be paying no attention to the fall of Icarus. Not even the sheep are aware of the happening. Brueghel painted everything so tranquil and peaceful with nice warm colors, that it does not seem like much drama is happening. From the title or from reading the poem, we would think that Icarus’ falling would be the main part on the painting. Yet it isn’t. I think that maybe the message Brueghel is trying to send is that things sometimes have to happen and you have to let them go. After reading the poem, I realized that it is teaching us a lesson. The only reason Icarus fell was because he did not follow his father’s advice. This is why Brueghel paints Icarus with no importance in the painting. It indicates that it was necessary for him to fall and that there was meant be no help available to Icarus. The area in the sea where he is drowning is painted with dark colors, and no one is looking at him dying. Brueghel, like Ovid in the poem, is also teaching a lesson. When we don’t make the right choices, we have to end up dealing with the consequences, and sometimes other people can’t help us and end up having to move on with their lives. In Icarus’ case in the painting, neither the ploughman, the shepherd, the fisherman or the ship could help him because it was part of his consequence of no obeying his father.