Tuesday, May 20, 2008


The French word “repoussoir” refers to an object placed in the foreground of a composition that enhances the illusion of distance with other objects. The word conveys the sense of “pushing,” as if the foreground object helps to push back the far spaces.

In this painting by the Hudson River School painter Jasper Cropsey, the trees at the margins of the composition act as a framing device to send back the mountains and the setting sun.

Frederick Lord Leighton painted this processional scene, which has a strong sense of motion from the right to the left.

The figure leaning on the wall at the far right gives the feeling of an actor standing at the proscenium of a stage. He pushes back the plane of the other figures and anchors the right side of the composition.

According to Odile Chilton, visiting professor of French at Bard College, “repoussoir” also conveys the sense of “strong or vigorous color or tone to make the clear and luminous parts of a painting more visible.”

This painting of the Grand Canyon by Thomas Moran uses strong tonal contrasts in the foreground rocky ledge, which helps launch the viewer into the colorful spaces in the distance.

Thanks, Chris, ARC, and Dr. Chilton

Tomorrow: Art By Committee


Darren said...

I believe the figure in Leighton's painting is meant to be Dante.

Unknown said...

Really? I thought it was Mr. Gurney. Honest.

hj said...

J'adore ce blog et je l'ajoute IMMEDIATEMENT à mes favoris!"So instructive"!

Erik Bongers said...

Judging by the hobby-knife nose, it could well be Dante, indeed!
But that figure on the horse, THAT's James Gurney, for sure!

Michael Damboldt said...

I always loved paintings with a lot going on like Lord Leighton's. It's always a feast for the eyes to see every conversation, movement and face!

James Gurney said...

Ha, you have all got it wrong. I am behind the rear end of the horse with a broom, and have not yet come into the picture.

James said...

Anxiety disorder is quite difficult disease. I using Xanax bars for it. Have you tried it?