Metropolitan Museum of Art

Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Art has been an important aspect of human culture for many years. Throughout history, numerous artists have created works that express their feelings, their environments, and imaginations. This paper aims to create formal analyses of three pieces of art that are highly regarded all over the world, from different times in history; these are The Flower Girl, Moonlight on Mt. Lafayette, New Hampshire, and A Basket of Clams. All the three pieces of art are derived from the 16th and 19th centuries by different artists, and are displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, United States. The museum is the largest in the country, and among the most visited in the world. It was founded in 1870 with the aim of establishing and maintaining a collection of art that would encourage and inspire the study of fine arts, as well as the application of arts in practical life and manufacturing (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, para 3). Over the years, the museumhas accumulated a wide collection of art, from paintings to sculptures to statues.

The Flower Girl, accession number 02.7.1, is an oil on canvas painting by Charles Cromwell Ingham. The painting was made in 1846 in New York City where Ingham lived for the most part of his adult life. The painting measures 36 x 28 3/8 in. (91.4 x 72.1 cm), and has previously been owned by Jonathan Sturges (1847), the Sturges family, and William Church Osborn (until 1902) (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, para 2). The picture depicts the image of a young girl carrying a basket filled with different colored flowers in one hand, and a vase with a smaller solitary plant on the other. In the background, there is a wall immediately behind her, and an extensive field with trees in the distance and hills in the horizon. The bright color of the sky, clouds and horizon suggest an evening scenario, although the sun is not in sight. The painting depicts no overt motion, although it suggests significant mental or psychological motion, from the facial expression of the young girl.

The painting displays various objects that portray certain messages to the viewer. For instance, the large bouquet of flowers shows that the girl was most likely a flower vendor, although at the time, most of the subjects in paintings were enterprising boys rather than girls. In her right hand, the girl carries a fuschia in a pot, a gesture that has been known to represent the goddess Flora. The relationship is consistent with the overall theme of the painting, which consists of numerous and nature. The fuschia plant itself is a symbol of frustrated love, which may possibly imply the artist’s intention for the painting.

The objects in the painting appear to be on the same level. The artist’s draws attention to the central figure in the painting, that is the girl and the flowers she holds in her hands. The figures are both natural and real, something that the artist seems to have emphasized. The message from the painting is likely to be portrayed in the flowers and the girl as the artist emphasizes both objects significantly. With regards to the use of color, the painting utilizes a rich mixture of different colors, typical of a flower bouquet, and the female character. The use of color also highlights the work’s perfection as it is difficult to identify brush strokes within the painting.

The Flower Girl highlights the beauty of color in the human life. The painting has a very lively mood owing to the rich blend of different colors and a smiling young girl that seem to bring out some hope amid the dullness of life (the shady background and potted fuschia). Personally, I think the painting is a message of hope to the viewer.

The second piece of art is titled Moonlight on Mount Lafayette, New Hampshire. The drawing, accession number 80.1.2, was done in 1873 by the artist William Trost Richards, an American from Pennsylvania. It is one among numerous drawings meant for his friend Reverend E. L. Magoon who was a collector and writer on American scenery. The drawing measures
8 1/2 x 14 3/16 in. (21.6 x 36 cm), and was made using watercolor, gouache and graphite on grey-green wove paper. The drawing was owned by the Reverend until 1880 when he donated many of them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to create a gallery of Richards’ works (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, para 2). The drawing depicts the evening scenery of Mount Lafayette, just before the dark sets in. It clearly brings out the evening ambience, consisting of a flat grassland and a stream in the foreground, a collection of trees in the middle ground and the mountains in the horizon. The moon is high in the sky, shedding its light on all the objects in the picture, from the mountains in the far end to the grass in the foreground.

At first glance, the drawing may seem plain but taking a closer look reveals to the viewer the more intricate details such the flowers among the grass, the cottage on a hill, and the flowing stream, among others. The message from the picture can be derived by simply admiring how the artist captures nature through watercolor, creating an environment of peace and tranquility. The artist does not seem to be intent in making impressions and symbolism through objects, and instead uses the color to represent realism. The color choice also complements the realism theme throughout the picture, showing that creating the real image was his main aim. Furthermore, the images were meant to be used with other collections and texts on American scenery, hence they had to be as real as possible.

The artists also use lines extensively in the drawing to bring various effects on the finished piece of art. For instance, he uses lines to highlight the outline of objects such as trees, clouds, flowers and shrubs and other objects in the image. The objects in the drawing are also very proportional, just like they would appear in real life. No objects seem to be placed haphazardly, and the artist is careful to show every object in its natural state, without drawing attention to any central object. Personally, the image creates a sensation of peace and tranquility, depicting nature just like it is in real life. Richards used watercolor intelligently to represent nature on a paper.

The third work of art is a drawing titled A Basket of Clams, made in 1873 by Winslow Homer, an American from Boston, Massachusetts. The drawing, accession number 1995.378,is made using watercolor on wove paper, and measures 11 1/2 x 9 3/4 in. (29.2 x 24.8 cm). The artist intended the drawing to be a gift to Arthur G. Altschul, who owned it until 1995 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, para 2). The drawing depicts two children carrying a big basket of clams on the beach, with a boat and houses in the background. The picture represents the typical childhood duties of most children in Massachusetts at the time, and may point to the artist’s childhood life as he grew up in the same location. Details in the picture such as the beach strewn with shells, the design of the boat and the houses all point to the maritime lifestyle of the people living in Massachusetts at the time.

The picture creates the notion of peace, innocence and general tranquility through the everyday life of children. The artist uses sharp lines to bring out shape outlines that bring realism into the image. His attention to detail, use of sharp outlines and flat washes, and a sense of pattern portray Homer’s talent as an illustrator. Several of his works that bring out the general theme of childhood innocence have been used in the United States in a time when there was a desire for national healing. Children were used as a symbol of a simpler and more innocent time, and hope for the future. The artist uses contrasting colors to highlight the texture of the drawing, as well as bring out sharp outlines of the objects in the drawing.

Personally, the drawing brings out in me the spirit of childhood, associated with laughter, adventure, and a little responsibility. Homer’s artistic talent creates a feel-good atmosphere that is likely to bring peace and harmony in a group, no wonder it was used to facilitate national healing in his home country.



Works cited

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “A Basket of Clams” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016. Web. 22 April, 2016. (

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “The Flower Girl” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016. Web. 22 April, 2016. (

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Moonlight on Mount Lafayette, New Hampshire” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016. Web. 22 April, 2016. (


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Metropolitan Museum of Art