The Mermaid

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate February 2002

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"The Mermaid" "The Mermaid", created by Howard Pyle can be found at The Deleware Art Museum. Pyle, considered by many to be the Father of American Illustration, painted this piece in 1910 using oil colors on canvas. In it, a mermaid with long hair and pale skin is rising out of the rough, dark blue waters of the ocean and embracing a man who is sitting on a small piece of light purple jagged land in the middle of the ocean. The characters are nude with the exception a small blue and purple loin cloth that drapes around the man. Both the mermaid and the man have blue and purple tones to their skin. There is a look of sadness on the faces of both the mermaid and the man. A grayish-blue cloudy sky with a setting sun is placed above the scene.

The cool colors of the piece, the cloudy sky, the jagged land and the rough waters work together to project a feeling a sorrow and distress.

A possibility that something is coming to an end is created with the setting of the sun. The dark blue tints of the water contrast the light purple hues of the land, suggesting a distinguished separation between the two. The different elements of the piece give different ideas, but together, they combine to form one message. Pyle painted this piece to represent one's desire to have something that he or she can't have. The characters desire to be together is made very clear by the tightness of their embrace. The mermaid and the man cannot be together because they are a part of two very different worlds. This is shown by the contrasting colors of his world, the land, and her world, the ocean. Their time together must end, and is represented by the setting of the sun. The disappointment of knowing that they can't be together is shown by the look of anguish on their faces. The sorrow of the two lovers is shown by the roughness of the water, the jaggedness of the land and, the cloudiness of the sky.

While the mermaid is a fictional character it is used in this piece to present a very real idea. Through out one's life, he will encounter many things that he wants, and no matter how much he wants it, sometimes, he cannot have it. Pyle wants all of us to learn this life lesson and to understand that "you can't always get what you want".