Tuesday, April 1, 2008



Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, by Pieter Brueghel depicts the moment when the wax on Icarus’ wings melt, causing Icarus to plunge to his death as he falls into the ocean. Brueghel portrays the scene with minimal amounts of bright, warm colors completely enclosed by darker colors, creating a gloomy atmosphere. All the colors flow creating the idea that everything in the painting is part of the scenery.

The most eye-catching part of this painting is the sun. At first glance of the entire painting the brightness of the sun draws the viewer to stare directly into the sun. In reality, the sun is cosmic and its light extends far across the lands. In this picture, the sun is small, which shows that it is a great distance away from where the artist is standing. The sun’s light is limited and does not extend very far because it entirely surrounded by the darker colors of the ocean, mountains, and skies. Just below the sun, the island of Crete can be seen. Like the sun, the island of Crete is bounded by the ocean. The ocean excludes the sun and island from reaching civilization, where life seems to be apparent. The ocean is vast and endless. It covers about one third of the painting, however, it stretches far beyond and out of the painting, and creating a mystery of its exact magnitude. It also allows the viewer to imagine its size to any extent they wish. The ocean is also powerful. It is main source of isolation in this painting. It separates the sun and island of Crete from the rest of civilization. The only objects which seem to be able stay afloat on the ocean appear to be another island which is towards the left area of the ocean and many small boats. Although small these fragile boats appear to be the only means of transcending over the isolating obstacle of the ocean. The most interesting concept of the ocean in this painting is its color. The ocean is a cool blue color in the area where it hides the sun. This promotes the idea that the atmosphere may be a bit on the cold side. It has a warmer yellow tone in the center of the painting where it does not touch any other object. The viewer might see a relaxing calmness in this particular area, thus he will spend more time concentrating on this particular portion of the painting. The warmness of that segment of the ocean plays a sinister role in diverting the viewer’s attention from the hideous truth within this painting. As the ocean draws closer to the viewer’s perspective the color becomes dim and shadowy. The faint colors aid in creating a dull and listless mood within the painting. It also plays an important role in masking struggle within the picture. Once the viewer thoroughly explores the painting, he will notice that there is a pair of legs sticking out the ocean. The viewer would assume that these legs belong to Icarus because the entire picture depicts the moment Icarus falls into the ocean. Since there is no other form of human life in the ocean, it is most logical to assume that the pair of legs can only belong to Icarus. The color tones of his legs blend evenly with the murky colors of the ocean, causing Icarus’ existence to be hidden by the ocean. Right below the struggling Icarus is a fisherman. He sits on the minute land available to him. It is interesting to note that he is completely unaware of Icarus’ existence because he portrays no element surprise by the traumatic experience right above his head. To the left of Icarus is a herder tending to his many livestock. Interestingly enough is that the herders and his animals also do not notice Icarus’ as he struggles in the ocean. The herder’s blue shirt blends in with the ocean blue background he touches. His pants are dark brown. They match the light brown color of the earth he stands upon, but they do not blend because the color of the pants is distinct. To the left of the herder is the farmer. He is the most exemplified life form within this painting. He is physically larger than the sun. Also, his colors stand out more than the sun. The farmer is wearing a weak fainted colored tunic which matches the color of the grass he is currently plowing. The most distinct aspect of his clothes is his burning red shirt which he wears under his dull colored tunic. The farmer is plowing the land available by directing the horse which carries the plow across the untilled land. The horse is a dark brown color which matches the color of the tilled soil in its background, but is distinct so the viewer can differentiate between the horse and soil. Above and below the horse, plants and trees can be seen. Further above the horse, civilization can be seen. It is distant and seems hazy from the viewer’s standpoint. Lastly, above civilization is a dark and gloomy sky which watches over the melancholy world below it.

The title, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, is directly related to the entire painting. The painting depicts the exact moment when Icarus falls to his demise. The landscape is vast, and Icarus is small. It shows that Icarus’ death is miniscule and completely insignificant to the painting entirely. If he was not present, the painting would not have been affected by any significance.
The title and the blending aspect of colors suggest that every aspect of this painting connects to nature because all forms of civilization blend in with nature. The painting consists solely of a landscape. It seems that the living organisms present in this painting become one with nature. The farmer’s tunic blends in with the color of the untilled soil below him. The farmer’s horse matches the color of tilled soil. The herder’s clothes flow with the background of the ocean and shore. The town merges with the grey sky above it. Every aspect of human life matches with its background of nature.

Brueghel creates a masterpiece through his brilliant use colors and blending techniques. He is able to use color to blend the living forms of life with the enervated colors of nature. Brueghel does an outstanding job at masking the most important aspect of his painting: Icarus. He is remarkable because he makes Icarus, a vital piece of this work of art, seem insignificant. Overall Brueghel accomplishes to depict the dismal scene of Icarus’ demise in a unique manner. He does not concentrate on the doom of Icarus by using exuberant colors to attract the viewer’s attention, but by masterfully integrating Icarus into the depressing atmosphere of the entire landscape.