Expressive essay compare + contrast

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still life

expressive essay

compare + contrast
In your written exam you will have to compare and contrast the work of two artists.

Compare and contrast means describe similarities and differences in the artist’s work.

If you can remember the following sentence it will help you remember the points you have to cover.

Chocolate Cake Fills My Tummy Say St. Paul’s Pupils!!!

Read over then remember the information below about each artist’s work.

William Harnett

b.1848 – 1892


Juan Gris


Harnett’s work shows a few different layouts. In some paintings objects were hung on a wall or door, for example ‘after the hunt’, but in others Harnett placed objects on a table top and the still life was captured straight on.

The layout looks random and unplanned but Harnett deliberately placed and arranged objects to lead the viewer’s eye around the image.




Gris used a lot of table top, straight on compositions.

He also, occasionally, employed a bird’s eye point of view.

His compositions were very grid-like, with lots of straight lines and angles.

He quite often placed the largest object in the centre of the piece giving a triangular shaped layout.

He often overlapped colours and shapes through the objects which leads the viewer’s eye around the piece.

The overlapping collage technique he used tended to make the compositions look very busy.

dark, rich, sombre




Fairly bright, opaque colour which was applied flat and then worked in to.

He used colour families to pull the whole piece together.

Often places a large object near the centre of the image to draw in the viewer for example, in ‘the old violin’ the focal point is the violin as it is the biggest object and placed in the centre.




Many focal points, as mentioned in composition, he often placed the larger objects near the centre of the work to draw the viewer’s eye in and then the overlapping objects, shapes and colours draw your eye around the image.

Oil paint

Harnett built up very thin layers of oil paint to create a very smooth, flawless finish.





Oil paint, gouache paint,

Pencil, collage.

He used more than one media in each piece which is called mixed media.

Dark, obvious, strong, bold, dramatic

Harnett often used one direct, strong light source like a spotlight to create lots of shadows and highlights to give a feeling of depth in his work.




Often tone was quite dramatic as he used white and black in a lot of his pieces.

He often employed tone around each objects in a smooth, glowing manner to allow each object to stand out.

Mostly occupation or hobby related:

Hunter - After the hunt

Musician - The old violin

Banker - The bankers table





Traditional still life object such as bottles and glasses. He used musical instruments, in particular favouring, violins and guitars.

Still life – traditional

Extremely realistic,

‘trompe l’oiel’ - trick of the eye.




Cubism – semi abstract, this means the objects are recognisable but highly stylised and simplified.

Sharp angles, grid-like structure.

Bold outlines around shapes, black or white.

Harnett created pattern in his work by repeating shapes and colours throughout. He tended to repeat colours such as browns and ochres through objects and then also repeated them in the background making the work feel complete.




Gris creates pattern in his work by using a similar, stylised outline around has objects.

Repeats diagonal/straight lines throughout the piece.

He also creates pattern by repeating similar colours throughout the image.

Very precise and detailed,

the brushstrokes are not visible.




Begin building up a collage background and then works on top of that.

The objects are outlined and then some areas filled with fairly flat colour, in oil or gouache paint.

Tone is then added to make the objects stand out and give a feeling of depth.

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