Critical Essay #3- Henry Raeburn


Henry Raeburn, a Scottish painter in the 18th century painted a portrait of James and John Lee Allen using oil paint. I viewed this artwork in The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth over Thanksgiving break and immediately was interested in the colors that he chose to use and the details that he incorporated within his piece. This painting has good examples of implied and actual line, texture, tone and unity.

Raeburn creates implied line using the angles of the two children’s heads. One child is looking directly at us while the other is looking to the side creating an implied line that our eyes follow off the painting. Another implied line is the space between one of the child’s hand holding the hat and the other child’s hand holing the stick. It almost creates an obtuse angle from the one hand to the two head close together and then to the other hand. There is an implied line that he creates with the positioning of their feet. The bench that they are on incorporates actual line into the painting and making it off centered was a good idea because it balances out the drastic dark background on the right side.

Raeburn uses implied texture in the background by using different size strokes and colors to make it look like chaos in the background, which makes me think of the woods or forest. The background makes me think these two boys could be looking forward to a war. He uses shadows and light to create wrinkles on the clothing, giving the implied texture of fabric. The different values of color makes the two kids look realistic. He makes the sky interesting by incorporating multiple colors but blending it enough so that it isn’t too overwhelming. He creates an emphasis on the jackets by using a drastic green color, which is different then the tans and pinks of their shirts and the background.

He creates unity by showing a continuation from the boy’s hand on the pole to the boy’s hand on the hat. Since the boys are also standing pretty much the same way, with the knee bent, it creates another continuation. He centers the two boys using up a lot of space so that the main boys are the center of attention. By making them each hold something in strange ways, especially the boy sticking his arm out holding the hat, he makes it interesting to look at. Instead of choosing to do a boring portrait of two boys sitting down or standing side-by-side he positioned them each in different ways.

I like this painting because of the details that he puts on the boy’s clothes and faces but he makes the background simple. He does this so that we keep our focus on the two boys and not on the background, which he still implies to be hectic because he used all different color shades, and brush strokes. We are under the impression that these two boys are young during a war. The way that the boy is painted looking off into space makes me think of bravery.