Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Lessons from the Klimt Puzzle.

Every Christmas we pull out a card table and build a puzzle or two as a family. This year one of the puzzles was Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by Scott Gustafson.

It was a beautiful thousand piece puzzle that took a few days but we were all bummed when there was a piece missing. I guess it really was a 999 piecer. To ease my disappointment, I cracked open the 250 piece puzzle of Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss" that I got in my stocking. I began later in the evening with no intention of completing the puzzle in one sitting, but everyone was heading to bed and it was quiet. I decided to push through. As I sorted the pieces and began to assemble it, I noticed a few things about the composition and hierarchy Klimt used which made "The Kiss" such a successful painting.

I began by gathering the dark pieces that made up the man's head of hair, the darkest area in the painting. It was also easy to sort out most of the pieces that made up the heads and arms and those were assembled next. After that I continued on to the profusion of pink and red flowers at the bottom of the painting. The distinct patterns of the fabrics were next with the brown tones of the background were left for the end. I searched for the edges that defined the silhouette of the figures and assembled them and picked out the geometric shapes and swirls.

What I realized was that I had assembled the puzzle in the order of visual hierarchy that I think Klimt intended. Klimt wanted the viewer to look at the heads first so he placed the most value contrast there. Also, the relative smoothness and lack of texture in the flesh tones contrast starkly with the busyness of the surrounding patterns. They act as areas of rest in the composition and therefore draw attention. It was a simple revelation but if I had not assembled the puzzle in one shot, I doubt I would have thought through why Klimt's painting is so appealing. So there you go. I guess art lessons are everywhere is you are looking for them.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Never realized building a puzzle could show so much about the design of a painting! Very interesting.