Formal Analysis: The Last Moments of John Brown
The Last Moments of John Brown is a painting by Thomas Hovenden. It is an oil on canvas painting painted in 1884. The dimensions of the painting are 46 1/8 x 38 3/8 inches. This piece was painted to depict abolitionist martyr John Brown being taken to his execution in Charlestown, Virginia, on December 2, 1859. The piece is currently located at the De Young Museum in San Francisco, California and its original location is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. On October 16th, 1859, John Brown led a group of twenty-one men in an attack on the Harpers Ferry Arsenal. His idea was to go from town to town arming black slaves hoping to spark a rebellion. The uprising was…show more content… The crowd on the left side was likely free slaves. The fact that the little white girl was there further implies that these people were free.
Thomas Hovenden uses a mix of warm and cool colors to paint this picture. The mother and the babies clothing are the only colors that have high value, which helps them stand out in the painting. The baby is wearing a bright blue jacket while the mother is wearing a red bandanna and yellowish dress. His use of bright colors to illustrate this little family along with John Brown giving his blessing to the baby communicates to us that there is a bright future ahead for them.
The contour lines of the painting are drawn strong and hard, isolating each figure. The lines in the painting are mainly vertical. The majority of the people are all standing up, the soldiers weapons are pointed upward, and the pillars are painted tall. The vertical lines communicates a sense of heighten spirituality. Also, if you look closely behind John Brown, the artist manipulates the lines of the building to put a cross-shaped figure right above his head. The combination of these two factors gives us the feeling that Thomas Hovenden was trying to portray John Brown as a Christ-like Martyr heading to his crucifixion.
The lighting of the picture is very natural and comforting. The artist painted the setting to be a bright sunny day. The execution of a person should be a sad,