Herbert Draper’s Mourning for Icarus was painted in 1898. It is an oil painting on a canvas that is 180 cm by 150 cm. Draper uses formal elements of art to create a visually convincing painting. This painting is a narrative about a man who flew too close to the sun and came plunging back down to the earth and into the ocean. After he dies from the fall Icarus’ body is pulled onto a large rock by three water nymphs.
One line that catches the eye almost immediately and is the entry point to the painting is the bright diagonal of the nymph closest to the viewer. Her body makes a line that points directly to Icarus guiding the eye to him. This movement of the eyes is picked up by Icarus’ vertical forearm then to his horizontal upper arm. There are many diagonal lines made by the feathers in his wings leading to Icarus, putting emphasis on his dead body. The lower halves of his legs are nearly hidden due to the shadow Draper made, downplaying the vertical line they create. The rest of his body is oriented horizontally, with the two nymphs behind him continuing the line past his head. The implied lines on the four subjects make this painting look more organic and naturalistic.
In the background the ocean’s texture is made by straight, horizontal lines of varying shades of brown and blue. This texturing suggests movement. The face of the cliff in the background has a very realistic texture. The lack of texture in the four subjects’ skins makes them look idealized. Icarus’ wings have a visual texture that is very naturalistic. Each feather, even those in the shadows, has been painted very finely so that each line that comes out of the shaft of the feather is visible.
The colors in Draper’s Mourning for Icarus are a unifying aspect. He uses sepia, creamy whites, and dark oranges. The role of color and light in this painting is used to emphasize and subordinate certain aspects. In the immediate area around Icarus the feathers of his wings create a halo like effect...