The intention of this essay is to analyse Joachim Beuckelaer’s The Four Elements: Water. To achieve
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The intention of this essay is to analyse Joachim Beuckelaer’s The Four Elements: Water. To achieve this analysis, its contextual setting will first be explored by researching paintings of this genre and other Renaissance artists of this time. Secondly, a compositional analysis will be undertaken as this is an essential starting point to understanding the painting. Finally, a semiotics approach will be taken in order to consider the narrative within the painting and to begin uncovering the meanings hidden within the piece.
Beuckelaer was born in Antwerp, Belgium in 1533. He trained in the workshop of his uncle and Dutch historical painter, Pieter Aertsen. By his late twenties Beuckelaer was a master painter in his own right. Although many…show more content… It was thought of as a ‘low genre’ as it depicted neither history nor allegory, landscape or still life and a form of painting that critics judged to be only good enough for entertaining the bourgeoisie. (Laneyrie-Dagen, 2002). Scenes of markets and food preparation also became popular at this time, Pieter Aertsen providing many paintings of this style. The Four elements painting are genre paintings however they contain a mix of many different subject matters, from the religious to the secular and also still life.
15th Century Antwerp served as the site for thriving annual trade fairs and the local population had grown from 40,000 in the 16th century to 100,000 in 1560 making Antwerp one of the largest cities in Europe.(Honig 1998) The art of the time reflected the success and paintings conveying wealth and prosperity emerged.
The main subject of this painting is a fish market. It features twelve different varieties of fish presented in wicker baskets placed on wooden tables. Produce is not merely piled, it is carefully arranged and displayed, its purpose to be purchased (Honig 1998). The circular shapes within the painting suggest movement and create a busy, bustling market scene. Three of the vendors are looking intently at the viewer, inviting them into the painting. We, as viewers are made to feel like the customers, pressured by their gaze to make a purchase. The characters in all four of the