Monday 9/10/12 – Mona Lisa & Nighthawks

During Monday’s class, we discussed Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. While analyzing the Mona Lisa, we paid a good amount of attention to the background of the painting. Now, I’d seen the painting hundreds of times before, but I don’t think I’d ever really taken the time to really notice what was going on in the background. All I’d ever paid attention to was Mona Lisa herself, as she is the subject of the painting.  Admittedly, I’m no artist, and I’ve always known that it takes talent to be able to draw or paint something well, but at first glance, the Mona Lisa just seems so simple. However, after really looking at the background of the painting, I started to truly appreciate the masterful work Da Vinci did. It’s so intricate; it actually made me think. What’s back there? A few things were pointed out in class: there is a bridge on the right side and there is a forest along the river behind her. It seems like there may be an island behind her. But for all the intricacies and complexities of the background, Da Vinci seems to have left the foreground, Mona Lisa herself, rather simple. And in many ways, she is. Her clothing is dark, not a swirl of colors like the top half of the painting seems to be. Her hair seems neat and orderly. But the real intrigue of this painting, I think, is the expression she’s wearing. I can’t really tell what that expression is. Her mouth is slightly curved upwards, giving the impression of a smile. So is she amused? One might think so, but then after looking at her eyes, it becomes a mystery. She looks rather serious, if you cut off the bottom half of her face.

We moved on to Nighthawks after analyzing the Mona Lisa, and once again, we were greeted with a simple picture. But after thinking about it, there is even more mystery. Why is the street so empty? Who are these people and where are they coming from? Why is there one man sitting alone and are the man and woman who are together in a relationship or not? So many questions are raised right at the first glance. One thought I had about this painting had to do with the title – Nighthawks. If you look closely, you see that the man who is alone is seemingly staring at the “couple” who are sitting at the bar. Is he a nighthawk? Maybe the message Hopper was trying to get across was that at night, we are constantly being watched by “nighthawks.”

What I really took away from the class was that art can really make you think. Something may seem simple at first glance, but if you really take the time to truly analyze art, you may find complex things – things that provoke thought.