I visited the Landmark Gallery in search of works to review. I picked a three paintings by Richard Springer that dealt with war. All three works are oil on canvass. One piece, "Forgotten Victory" was alone. The other two, "Road to Shiloh" and "The Long Road Back," went together.
"Forgotten Victory" showed paratroopers jumping from three airplanes into a jungle. The planes and several parachuters take up the right half of the painting. A close up view of three soldiers in the overgrown greenery of the jungle takes up the left portion. The open chutes are white against a blue sky. The soldiers are wearing camouflage to remain discreet in the green of the plant life. All the men have guns, and an explosion is happening at the time of the painting, in the trees in front of the three main soldiers.
This piece starts off calmly enough, as I looked up to where the transport planes flew through a perfectly blue sky. A sense of action comes in as the troops fall towards the ground, but we still know that they fall gently, though anxiously perhaps. The few men in the background who have just landed showed confusion as they looked about for where to go. We can then see a sense of fear in the three soldiers in the foreground, mainly because of how closely together they are walking. We can only see the backs of these men, but the lead soldier is looking back, and terror can be seen in his face, which seemed to me to be the focal point. The three form an implied line into the trees where we can see an explosion, possibly the cause of the fear. I felt a good sense of balance, with the detail and closeness of the three soldiers compensating for all the action with the planes and parachutists. The artist used contrast with the white parachutes against the blue sky to draw interest. He used the implied line of these falling men to direct the interest to the landed soldiers. These men appear a bit too far away to make any good opinions about what they feel, so we follow the line of foliage that gets larger proportionately to where we see the splash caused by one of the three guys, contrasting the green around it, and leading us up to the men. The plants provide a nice pattern that is not at all bothered by the appearance of all these men. The lines on the plants are certainly organic, and though in all directions, are not really meant to show movement, but more of a unity. Space is used very well in this piece, since we really feel the presence of the soldiers who are near to us and almost feel as if we are with them.
The other two pieces by Mr. Springer that I looked at were "Road to Shiloh" and "The Long Road Back." Both use the same road as part of the background. In "Road to Shiloh" we see three young boys and one old man proceeding from right to left across the scene. The three boys are in front. Two boys are carrying drums, and the old man has his gun. All four figures are in step and seem to be moving at a decent pace. The old man is in uniform (grey) and the boys are wearing jeans and nice shirts. The background consists of a partly cloudy sky and rolling hills of grass. "The Long Road Back" shows the same road with a similar trio, two with drums, of boys. This time, however, the procession is going from left to right across the painting. A soldier walks in font of the boys, but he runs out of the picture plane. The clothing is now dirty on the boys. The background has a similar sky, and a line of trees replaces the rolling hills.
The artist is obviously showing us the before and after of a Civil War battle. The first painting gives us a sense of the pride felt going into the battle. The legs of the marchers are diagonal to imply quick movement, but in unison. The implied lines are mostly that of where the characters are looking, which is mainly straight forward in what we might interpret as feelings of pride. The focal point seems to be the face of a boy who is not looking straight ahead, but off to the side either at something out of the painting, or likely in contemplation. The texture of the clothing is smooth, as is the outline of the hills, and even the road appears rather smooth. The boys seem to be in the lead, with the entire army following them into battle. I assume this because of the amount of empty space out in front of the group. "The Long Road Home" was quite similar in composition, but I feel as if the content is different. The boys now appear to be behind the entire army, but we cannot be totally sure, since we cannot see very far behind them. The figures are more slumped and do not appear to be walking together. They are dirty, and their arms hang at their sides in fatigue. The element of the second painting that jumped out at me was the implied lines of sight. Not only do their faces appear hardened and sad, but all but one of the three are looking down, as if in shame. The soldier, whose face we do not see, appears to also be looking down at the ground. The fourth character, the middle boy, is staring straight ahead, sort of like the way the boys were in the first piece. He, however, does not stare at what lies ahead, but at what lay behind. The boy's horrified face really is the focal point. The figures are larger in this painting, possibly to show that their feelings are now even more intense than before the fight. I feel as if the artist used different subjects in order for us wonder about the other boys and how they felt now, but not show us.
All three of these paintings show a separate part of war. We see the pride as the boys march toward a battle, we see the fear during a battle, and we finally are revealed the contemplation after a battle. I feel as if "Forgotten Victory" , with all its chaos was quite a bit more exciting than the other two works, but all three were set up well to make me feel as if I were standing there watching. "Road to Shiloh" and especially "The Long Road Back" let me see into the thoughts of the subjects more intimately than in "Forgotten Victory." Although I have learned a lot about various kinds of art, I find these works to be my favorite. I can handle mountains of feeling, but I also like to be able to know what I am looking at. I feel as if Richard Springer does an excellent job of showing both how the people felt and how they looked. Unfortunately, I could not afford to bring these wonderful works home, but they were well worth the drive.