The Love Letter
An Interpretation of Work
Introduction to Fine Arts
The Love Letter
I recently had the opportunity to visit the San Antonio Museum of Art. It was two weeks short of twenty years since last I visited this beautiful museum. On that night the occasion was the Grand Opening of the museum celebrated with a special viewing of a show entitled, REAL, REALLY REAL, SUPER REAL: Directions in Contemporary American Realism. I enjoyed viewing many wonderful paintings during this visit, including several remaining from the original exhibit. The one that most attracted my eye was The Love Letter painted by Louis Moritz in 1810.
I loved this painting! I do not believe it was happenstance that I should be attracted to this work of art two weeks prior to Valentine’s Day. The painting is a representation of a time when writing letters was the only form of communication between two lovers who could not be together.
In the painting, Louis Moritz creates a scene with two women and a boy in a small room. The two women are conversing. One woman is seated in a chair, halfway turned around facing the other woman standing behind her, hunched over and resting her arm over the backside of the chair.
The boy is dressed as either a servant or a messenger. It is likely that the boy has just delivered a love letter or small parcel. The woman sitting in the chair is holding the opened parcel in her hand. She seems to be discussing the contents of the parcel with the other woman. The boy is waiting. He looks down at a dog seated before him and staring back at him.
In the room, Moritz includes a sewing table that seems out of place in contrast to the other furniture--a large table and chairs. The table is covered with an elegant, frilly-looking tablecloth haphazardly pushed back on one of the corners. A vase filled with beautiful flowers, a book, a pair of gloves, and a straw hat have been placed on top of the table. The flowers lend the scene a sense of elegance, and the book is a symbol of the resident’s literacy--a sign of wealth during the early 1800s.
Since the sewing table is apparently portable and located behind the standing woman, one may think this woman is a seamstress who has come to visit. Perhaps she is here to make a gown for the lady of the house. The straw hat and gloves on the table surely belong to the visitor.
Moritz uses oil on a wood panel to create this beautiful painting. Upon closer examination, I was able to recognize the hatching and cross-hatching strokes which the artist used to paint the piece. He masterfully goes from light to dark to create a sense of space--chiaroscuro.
The artist incorporates primary colors; red, blue and yellow to paint the women’s dresses, flowers, and drapes. He creates a sense of balance by placing the boy on one side of the painting and the women on the other. Moritz also uses secondary colors to paint the boy’s clothing; green, orange, and a mixed violet. These colors were not bright enough to distract my eyes from the focal point--the women’s expressions. The faces are suffused in such clear light that I felt as if I were present in the room.
An artful sense of depth was created by Moritz in leaving the door to the room ajar and painting a staircase ascending towards the door. He demonstrates this perspective through the use of a diagonal line, indicating that the room is in the upstairs portion of the house. The room’s carpet has a design of alternating diamonds and circles placed next to each other in a diagonal line running towards the women. In addition to these diagonal lines, the organic lines used in painting the women’s dresses and the dog’s curved tail gave me a great sense of motion. The vertical lines of the door, the legs of the table and chairs, and a fireplace mantel further enhance the feeling that the room is alive with activity and emotion.
Louis Moritz creates the illusion of texture through his use of fabric in the women’s dresses as well as through all the character’s long, curly hair, including the dog. Moritz did a superb job of making both the material of the dresses and the dog’s fur seem thick and fluffy.
In contrast to Amarillo Y Rojo, a painting by Francisco Castro Leñero, The Love Letter exemplifies true art, in my opinion. Leñero’s painting is a geometric, checkerboard design of alternating red and yellow squares. Amarillo Y Rojo is a non-representational, non-depth, non- textured piece of pop art. Unlike The Love Letter, Amarillo Y Rojo does not make a viewer stop. It has too much unity. In fact, the piece makes you want to leave the museum.
Louis Moritz’s The Love Letter has provided me with a great representation of what I think art should be. I do realize, however, that when one attends an art exhibit, he never knows what he’s going to get.
Although I have an opinion, I still do not know whether the mistress of the house in The Love Letter actually received a love letter or a box of chocolates. Who knows? Maybe she was disappointed because she had been expecting a love letter. Like I said, “you never know what you’re gonna get.” (Forrest Gump)