Georg Friedrich Kersting's Man Reading A Descriptive Analysis

Essay by paulo83 December 2007

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The centre of the composition shows a man reading at a desk. The subject appears well clothed and groomed, likely of middle to upper class. His pose, one of intense concentration. Hand on brow, as he reads a thick document.

The atmosphere of concentration is reinforced by the lack of clutter and very plain drab décor of the room. The reader seems almost entombed by the light green colour, which surrounds him on the walls, window, desk, box and lamp. Even a small open picture frame, the only item offering any distraction in the room is the same colour. This colour possibly being a symbol of knowledge, insight and meditation, ( quite fitting in this instance. This gives the illusion of the reader being enclosed in his own world of study.

The only light source in the composition is a lamp slightly left of centre on the desk, made up of 3 candles and a dark opaque shade.

It casts sharp shadows across the austere room, putting the right side of the composition in darkness and effectively out of focus due to very narrow tonal range. This coupled with the covered window shutting out all worldly distractions serves to draw us again to the thought of the reader being in a moment of complete concentration and isolation from his surroundings.

Our spectator’s viewpoint puts us in the left of the room on the picture plane, in front of the subject. The lines of the furniture, carpet, shadows etc draw our angle of vision left of centre and slightly down to the light emitting from the lamp, the focal centre of the composition. The emphasis feels to be on the atmosphere rather than detail of the scene. We are seeing how the subject studies rather than what he is studying.