On the internet, images have no scale; they only have resolution. But in public exhibitions, size matters. Artists who want their original paintings to stand out in a gallery or museum show know that you can grab a viewer's attention if you paint really big or really small.
|Charles Bell, Gum Ball No. 2. 1973. Oil on canvas, 60 x 78 inches|
But a tiny painting can rivet the attention of gallery-goers, too.
|Meissonier, Young Man Writing, 1852, oil on panel, 23 x 16 cm (9x6 inches)|
In his 1914 biography, Frederic Cooper noted that the small size of Meissonier's pictures forces the viewer to draw closer. Their miniature size, he says, is perfectly suited to the genre subjects, which are intimate stories of single characters.
|Meissonier, A Poet, 22 x 16 cm|
Meissonier himself said, "The smaller the scale of one's picture, the more boldly the relief must be brought out. The larger the scale, the more it must be softened and diminished. This is an absolutely indispensable rule. A life-size figure treated like one of my small ones would be unendurable."
Meissonier was influenced by the craftsmanship of the Dutch masters. But rather than painting the people and costumes of his own times, in his early work, he most often portrayed gentlemen of the century before his own.
|Meissonier, detail of Soldier Playing Theorbo, 1865, Metropolitan Museum|
Have you been impressed by extremely large or small originals? Say so in the comments.
|Boldini, RETURN OF THE FISHING BOATS, ÉTRETAT, 1879, Oil on panel|
5 1/2 x 9 7/16 in. (14 x 23.9 cm)
Wikipedia on Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier
Book about Meissonier and Manet: Ross King - The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism