In the works of arts or artistic explorations, one major area of comparison is the visual effects, how the specific visual elements reflect and portray the themes suggested by the artist. The main aspects of art including shape, line, color, space, value, and texture all combine to form the principles of organization, which help in defining or bringing out the specific themes and what the artist had in mind (Castillo, 2008). In this comparative and contrast essay, the emphasis will be on the visual appearances of Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter, May 29, 1943, 52” X 40, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas on oil on canvas (Crystal Bridge Museum, 2017) and Michelangelo Buonarroti’s The Prophet Isaiah in the Sistine Chapel, 1508-1512, 12.5 x 12.5, Museum Sistine Chapel, Vatican, Rome, Italy, on Fresco (Michelangelo.org, 2017). In examining the major themes or the connections between the two works, this piece will focus on how the artists used colors, modeled, dressed and as such, the overall appearance of the pieces. One of the major observations made in this analysis is that the pieces are the same in some way but different in various perspectives (from an artistic perspective). Overall, the striking visual appearance denoting the differences is that Rosie the Riveter physically appears stronger in comparison to The Prophet Isaiah but the latter has or presents the strongest message. Accordingly, the visual differences and seeming resemblances in the two works are all bounded by the verse in Isaiah, which could be a prophecy about Hitler, explains why Norman Rockwell picked the Prophet of Isaiah image and a verse that blasts Hitler’s ideology and plans as evil, since the old statement was significant Jewish teachings, same to Isaiah as a Jew.
One of the evident visual differences in Rosie the Riveter and The Prophet Isaiah is the feminine and masculine appearances. Her image and form appear to be a strong woman, and as such, the artist uses imagery appearance to portray a woman with masculine features. Best to say, the portrayal of the female gender seems to resonate or align with the 20th-century artist when the period signified a change or transformation in gender identity as there was an emergence of cross-gender figures (Clarke, 1990). Rosie the River remains as an iconic image portraying the women’s support during the WWII. It is an image of the historical reminder of the role that women played during the war, for instance, thousands entering the workforce as men fought in the field. In so doing, the image acknowledges or portrays a period when there was a growing effort of legitimizing gender boundaries and representing a statement about feminine assertiveness, equally showing the ever-increasing acceptance of gender equality (Clarke, 1990). Rockwell modeled the image to assume a female feature, but matched the face with The Prophet Isiah from the top of the Sistine Chapel, giving the entire figure a masculine characteristic. Rosie is a male body but a feminine look transformed into a voluptuous female body. The stronger or more prone masculine features are further developed by the additional elements like the riveter machine that she used in assembling airplanes, which looks so heavy; this validates her strength as one gets to implore about her power, physical power and the determination to be successful. However, a significant difference is the portrayal of The Isaiah the Prophet as not so strong as a Rose, but given the biblical significance and his prophetic role, his message is the symbol of strength (as he prophesy the birth of Jesus) and Fall of man but Rosie represents the strength through physical might or features.
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Conversely, the visual element which could be contrasted or compared in both cases is the actions in the artifacts. For Rosie the Riveter, the grip on the lunchbox is a portrayal of her strength, in a claw-like manner, which again represents power; she contradicts the usual perception of lunchtimes which should be relaxed, Rosie appears to be on a mission and wavering. There are the common white stars along with blue strips in the background, all pointing towards her mission for the work, further justified by the feet wearing American loafers and a pair of socks. She is seen standing and crushing a copy of the Main Kompf, which was the anti-Semitic ideology and the dreams he ever had for Germany (Knight, 2013). The combination of riveter, machine and the hose coming out of it are reading like a serpent, which from Isaiah 27, symbolizes evil. Rosie’s image resonates with her personality, a patriotic, righteous and a person whose desire drove her into serving the country and stomping out the Nazi ideology (Knight, 2013). The use of riveter drill is a symbol of overcoming the serpent and putting it under control. The Isaiah the prophet, on the other hand, is seen to be holding a book in the right hand, head turned away from the Deluge as if echoing (prophesying) what God told him about the birth of King Jesus.
A significant difference with the works is the physical texture which an artist can create through brushstrokes, expressively, and as such, portraying or showcasing the emotional energy not only of the artist but the subject (Castillo, 2008). The rough texture in Rosie the Riveter painting, as seen underneath the painting, aligns with her stern and robust stance to fight for her country. The coarseness leads to a blue jean denim texture, portraying bolder or forcefulness and authority, patriotism, urgency, industrious as a form of dominance. Hence, the painting uniquely mixes color and texture to show the inherent theme of dominance, fierceness and the will to fight for America in place of Nazi dominance. On the other hand, Michelangelo in The Prophet Isaiah uses a smooth texture, to align with the soft and rosy lips of to show calmness and harmony with which the prophet spoke and how God meant no harm for humanity, just to save the fall of man by bringing in Jesus as the new King (Michelangelo.org, 2017). However, the fall of man can be seen from the unruly locks of Isaiah’s lavender but bright hair.
Conversely, there are differences in colors used in both artifacts. Some of the unique elements in Isaiah artifact are the colors, brilliant but very delicate; there are oranges, golds purples, blues, and greens. The color effect provides a relaxed and luminous effect, which represent goodness and divinity. In essence, The Prophet Isaiah appears extremely elegant and masculine but seemingly startled from a deep meditation by the attendant putto calling for the attention on the Fall of Man (Michelangelo.org, 2017). The piece resonates with the role of Isaiah, called by God to prophesy the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. He carries the book of Isaiah verse 27 with him, which is what Rosie the Riveter was painted from, equally representing that WWII was another Fall of Man. The theme portrayed is the same with the Michelangelo’s painting, as God had told the life of Christ would not be an easy one, which also reflects the murdering of six million Jews in 1945. The painting shows conspicuous bold colors of blue, red and white. The strong colors combine to form or create boldness which to a greater extent denotes forcefulness, urgency, patriotism and industrious nature of the women who helped during the World War II. The colors link to The Prophet Isaiah artifact, especially how Rosie the Riveter has been perched in a seeming throne similar to Prophet Isaiah’s, stomping and crushing Hitler’s anti-Semitic ideology together with the Nazi German plans.
In summary, the artifacts have been compared regarding features (masculinity and femininity), texture and color, and actions. Although differences have been noticed, there are many instances where they resonate or connect to each other. However, the WW II painting copied the Jewish prophet, Isaiah who prophesied the fall of man and the birth of Jesus Christ to save the world. The fall of man, or evil, is reflected in Hitler’s evil deeds on the Jews, and how the United States was committed to fight and liberate the Jews as a means of not condoning evil since the USA has ever been perceived or regarded as a country with God’s hand. The connection between the two pieces portrays how Rockwell may have had a good knowledge of the Bible and Michelangelo.
- Castillo, J. (2008). 7 Elements of art. Morgan James Publishing.
- Clarke, S. (1990). 20th-Century Art. Art Documentation, 117.
- Crystal Bridge Museum, (2017). In Memory of Pearl Harbor: Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter.
- Knight, M. K. (2013, July). Saturday evening post. Retrieved from Rosie The Riveter.
- Michelangelo.org, (2017). Isaiah, by Michelangelo.