Art I freshman and NDJA alum, Georgia Woodruff wrote an award-winning essay for the 2019 Jerry Tollifson Art Criticism Open, sponsored by the Ohio Art Education Association (OAEA). Her art criticism piece on The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp by Rembrandt won 3rd place in the Division 4: (Grades 9-12) category. She will have her essay on display as part of the Youth Art Month display and be honored at the Youth Art Month Awards Recognition Ceremony today in Columbus, Ohio.
Read Georgia’s essay below:
Analysis of Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp, a painting done by Rembrandt in 1632, depicts a famous surgeon, Dr. Tulp, demonstrating a surgery to a cluster of seven politicians from that time. He’s showing the muscles in the man’s arm. The man on the table is not alive; he is the corpse of a criminal, being dissected in a teaching manner for the politicians to see. The painting utilizes lighting to emphasize the criminal as well as the men’s faces and collars versus the dull background. It also uses color and line to draw the viewer’s eyes to the exposed muscles of the man’s arm. The men also have vivid faces, expressive and colorful, which sharply contrasts the cold and colorless face of the criminal’s corpse. While the majority of the painting is comprised of duller browns and darker tones of orange, the men have bright faces with pink accents to contrast from their clothes and the background. The criminal has the same base color, except the accents are a less interesting brown, which gives the feeling of cold skin. Each man’s pose reflects a different personality, engaging the viewer in an exciting and lifelike scene.
At the time this piece was created, Dutch artists were often hired to paint group pictures. Most often, these pictures consisted of stiff figures with simple poses and expressions. However, Rembrandt put a creative twist on this by filling the subjects with life and varying their poses and expressions. Rembrandt also gave the painting a dark, cold mood, while also capturing the intrigue of the politicians. Dr. Tulp appears focused on his work, while the politicians are almost childishly interested in the surgery. It’s likely that Rembrandt painted the subjects so contrastingly to give Dr. Tulp an aura of brilliance and to draw the viewer’s attention to him just as the politicians have. This gives the group picture concept a whole new dimension, that in focusing the men on Dr. Tulp, Rembrandt has discovered a new way to place emphasis on a subject in the painting. He also intended to use this emphasis to instill a feeling of superiority into Dr. Tulp, that he has managed to capture the attention of these seven politicians and therefore has control over their perception.