North and South (1865)


            Constant Mayer’s oil painting “Recognition: North and
South” portrays a wounded Union soldier in the foreground and a confederate
soldier with a bandage on his head kneeling beside him with a concerned
expression on his face. The Union soldier is lying against a rock with a tree
stump, and in the background are trees and mountains. Beside the soldiers is an
old-fashioned rifle, indicating that the scene is taking place in the 19th
century. Aerial perspective, shading, and overlapping create depth. There is
texture in the clothing, the rocks, the foliage, the hair, and the skin. The
colors primarily used are blue, grey, and green; and overall, they are bleak and
unsaturated colors. There is implied line in the line of sight of the soldiers
and the boundaries of objects.

            The piece achieves unity through the use of three main
colors. There is a variety of different textures used, such as cloth, foliage,
rock, and skin. The focal point of the painting is the Union soldier, as it is
located at the center of the picture frame and the confederate soldier’s gaze
is directed at him, meaning it has emphasis. Movement is created in the poses
of the soldiers and the way that the Confederate soldier’s hair is being blown
by the wind. There is repetition of the colors green, blue, and grey and the
textures of rocks and foliage. There is asymmetrical balance in the piece
because the soldiers are positioned in the center.

            The scene depicts two soldiers from opposing sides, yet
the Confederate soldier is clearly saddened by the death of the Union soldier.
The Civil War was one of the bloodiest wars in American history, and at that
time many of the soldiers had to face their own brothers in battle. The
Confederate soldier is coming to terms with the fact that he lost someone who
he cared about because of the war, and even though he is supposed to be
fighting against the Union soldiers, he casts this aside in a moment of grief. There
is a feeling of sadness to the painting – an event tragic enough to make a
Confederate soldier mourn over a Union soldier. The message of the piece is
that blood is thicker than water. The Confederate soldier and the Union soldier
allowed themselves to split apart because of their political beliefs. Now, the
Confederate soldier is beginning to realize that although his side may have won
the battle, he lost something irreplaceable in the process.



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