Analysis of a drawing for art his class



Analysis of \'Chance Meeting\' by Martin Lewis



\'Chance Meeting\' is a dry point etching print by Martin Lewis and was created in the early 1930\'s. The subjects are two figures, male and female, who have happened upon each other in the setting of a public sidewalk at the entrance of a storefront. It may be a dichotomy in terms to call the piece, "Idealized Urban Realism," though Lewis\' work does harmonize well with the Urban Realist movement surfacing in this period with artists such as Edward Hopper. It also has a very idealized and stylistic quality not unlike the work of artists like Roy Liechtenstein in a much later time period. At a glance, \'Chance Meeting\' is a simple work intended to tell a story with minimal detail and it is difficult to distinguish any definite pattern in the composition. With careful inspection however, the viewer can discover an order in the placement of objects, the existence of symmetry, and perhaps a much deeper meaning to the piece through the interpretation of symbolism.

The palate used in the piece is simply black and white, with the exception of the illusion of shades of gray created with the shading technique, cross-hatching. This intensifies the use of light and shadow in what definitely could be called chiaroscuro. The presence of a single, intensely bright directional light creates areas of extreme contrast that could be called tenebrism. An extreme variety of lighting techniques can be found, as some objects are lit from the side, and others are almost completely backlit, creating more of a silhouette than a distinguishable three-dimensional shape. Shadows in the recesses of the male figure\'s face starkly oppose highlights upon his brow and jaw line. Lewis seems to be experimenting with what might be realistic lighting conditions at night on a typical city street, and exaggerating the results in the interest of style. An area of focus is created in the foreground by the intensity of light falling off abruptly as distance increases. Balance in lighting is achieved with the occasional splash of light in a reflective surface, and the existence of smaller, less accentuated lights in the background of the print.

The piece derives a lot of its realism from the textures on the surfaces of objects. The pavement has a pattern in it that it possibly the result of its cement tiles being cast in wooden molds, leaving behind the impression of the grain. Some of the tiles are cracked and stained, giving the effect of a partially worn and aged public sidewalk. The glass in one of the structures is evidently glossy as the reflections of street lamps and automobile headlights can be seen in its surface. Cloth in the canopies on the buildings and the clothing of the subjects is very naturally wrinkled in relaxed areas and creased where it is pulled taught. These more organic shapes and textures help to balance the strict geometry and texture of the almost completely architectural background.

A variety of very accurately portrayed objects fill the space with interesting, yet not distracting detail. The signage in and around the shops is not only visible, but also legible. It is actually possible to read some of the signs. The book cart in front of the shop bears a hand drawn sign that appears to be a square of cardboard torn out of a box and is precariously seated at an off angle to it\'s makeshift base. All of this meticulous attention to detail aids in creating a sense of realism in the print. In the print\'s era, these objects also probably served to create a sense of familiarity for the viewer, who was probably used to seeing similar signage and objects in the physical world. In retrospect, the antiquity of these artifacts adds a degree of interest to the scene and perhaps a bit of nostalgia for some.

A sense of depth and space is created by the use of one point linear perspective. The orthogonals lead off of the picture plane to the left with the vanishing point out of sight by a considerable distance. Multiple lines that define the architecture widen to the right creating a fanlike pattern that