Monday, July 05, 2021

Mapping Impressionist Art

I am a huge fan of Jason Farago's art criticism for the New York Times. His close readings of famous works of art are illustrated with interactive scrollytelling paintings. Farago's critiques owe a lot to the navigation and presentation techniques developed for online interactive maps. As you progress through one of his presentations of a painting the interactive zooms and pans to illustrate Farago's observations of the artist's work.

The Impressionist Art of Seeing and Being Seen is his latest presentation, a wonderfully detailed close-reading of Berthe Morisot's painting "In England (Eugène Manet on the Isle of Wight)". The painting depicts a man staring through a window at the sea and in particular at a woman, who is herself staring at small girl.

What starts as an exploration of Morisot painting 'In England' develops into a fuller discussion of how female artists were historically excluded from art schools and institutions. It reveals how Morisot navigated these barriers to become a successful artist. It looks at her development as an artist and at the themes she developed within her work. It then returns to the painting 'In England' to explore how the ideas of the male gaze, and the acts of seeing and being seen play out in the details of Morisot's painting. 

Farago's previous critiques of individual paintings include:


If you are familiar with the Leaflet.js mapping library then you can create your own interactive painting critiques - using image tiles from paintings instead of map tiles. Museums and art galleries around the world use the iiif format to present artworks as zoomable images. This means that for many works of art, if they have a iiif manifest, you don't even have to create the image tiles for yourself.

The fantastic leaflet-iiif plugin allows you to seamlessly use iiif manifests with the Leaflet mapping platform.This means that you can quickly turn any painting with a iiif manifest into an interactive Leaflet map. You can view a demo of this in action on my own The Drawing Lesson critique. In this scrollytelling examination of Jan Steen's painting (depicting an artist teaching two young pupils how to draw) I have used the Leaflet mapping library to take a close look at Steen's 17th century Dutch masterpiece. 

You can see how my critique of the Drawing Lesson works by exploring the JavaScript code on its Glitch page. You can even clone the page if you want and use the page as a template for creating your own interactive scrollytelling painting essay.

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