visual analysis Essay

Many artists apply rhetorical devices to their paintings in order to portray an important message. In this painting by Frances Stephenson Orr, she depicts her life through surrealistic symbolism and imagery to make the viewer understand her struggle and pain as well as her faith. Frances portrays the arthritis in her life through various symbols and imagery. Frances is a painter who was afflicted with the crippling disease arthritis, which pained her throughout her life with all the limitations it imposed on her career as an artist and on her life in general.

One of the main examples of her arthritis in her ainting is portrayed through the set of limbs protruding from the background. The limbs are stringy and look old and useless, which Frances uses to create a sense of her helplessness so that the audience can understand what she thought of her body as arthritis began to take over her. The limbs in the condition shown make me feel disgusted, as they look as if they been stripped bare, making them useless. As a viewer, the way she has portrayed visually arthritis’ effect on her body effectively exhibits the feeling of helplessness and uselessness Frances is trying to portray through her imagery.

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Also, the colors used set the overall tone of the painting and appeal to the emotions of the viewer, as the dark coloring used is ominous and coming in from the edges; giving the sense that Frances was trapped as the end of her life approached. The black and red are both colors that I associate with death, so the colors used effectively inform the viewer of Frances’ thoughts on her current situation and her impending doom. The cracking edges and holes in the painting, which are symbols of decay where what Frances describes her own body as, giving the idea to the viewer that her body is slowly falling apart.

Frances also expresses her troubles about her future to further expose the viewer to her pain. The woman’s body that is set above the legs is not fully exposed like the set of limbs to represent what France’s body could have developed into, had the arthritis not altered her growth. The visual representation of the suppression of her bodys growth adds to the emotional appeal Frances is trying to get from the audience. Being an active woman both with her work as an artist as well as her nightlife, Frances expresses her losses due to arthritis from both aspects of her life through symbols that held personal significance.

A pair of heels symbolizes a part of the nightlife Frances enjoyed that arthritis had taken from her; partying and being active was no longer an option. Shoes such as heels were no longer a possibility, as arthritis had contorted her feet to the point that they could no longer even fit into a pair. The inclusion of symbolism opening the viewer to her personal losses effectively spreads the message of hopelessness and sadness the painting was made to portray.

Another One of the personal struggles that Frances faced when dealing with arthritis was her inability to use a typewriter normally. To be able to write down her thoughts or to write letters to her friends and family she had to push the keys of the typewriter with one of the easiest and most effective ways for her to communicate, and the inclusion of her hardships to do so through the pencil make the message of this illustration more powerful, as the reader understands the importance of Frances’ paintings as a means of communication.

I believe that the inclusion of personal items in painting is an effective to symbolically display a message, and Frances’ placement of a pencil clearly communicated her distress when it comes to her ability to communicate. Frances is also a very religious person, and she includes plenty of symbols that represent her beliefs. The three camels represent the Holy Trinity, a pilgrimage to the Middle East. The number three is also a holy number, symbolic of the three great divisions of time the past, the present and the future.

Each camel represents the stages of her arthritis one standing, one lying down and one dead. I see this as an obvious translation to France’s own life as well as her connection to god. One of the camels is sitting on a bible, which shows how when arthritis began to take control, Frances turned to the bible for answers and hope. I understand her use of biblical imagery, as when many people suffer greatly from illness or loss, they often turn to religion for answers.

This also shows how Frances formed some of her ideas, as she shows more examples of Christianity in her artwork. The apple represents the sin in her life, being the forbidden fruit and situated near the hands in the painting. She pleads for forgiveness, as the apple represents her acknowledgement of her sins and she wishes to be cleansed. The ladders represent her Journey towards spiritual enlightenment; her search for answers from a higher place to answer the tough oral questions arthritis has brought upon her.

They are positioned across the cracks in the painting to represent her questions are about the decay she is faced with. I see this as an effective way for Frances to get her frustrations acknowledged by the viewer, as she does not understand why her body is decaying and is asking for answers from the one that supposedly inflicted this upon her. “Meaning of Numbers in the Bible. ” Meaning of Numbers in the Bible: The Number 3. N. p. , n. d. web. 04 NOV. 2013. “Frances Stephenson Orr. ” F. S. Orr. N. p. , n. d. Web. 04 Nov. 2013.


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