Structure and Paintings: Tower of Babel

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Structure and Paintings
Analyzing Architecture and Perspective within Paintings
Curated by Max Cantu-Lima

Peter Bruegel, Tower of Babel, 1553

"A dynamic composition encourages the eye to explore."
#40, 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School, Matthew Frederick

Peter Bruegel has been the most influential artist on how I view art. This painting relates directly to Paul Auster's City of Glass, which we read in our AP Literature class and concerns itself with the issues of identity and purpose. The Tower of Babel plays a role in the narrative of this novel with the fall of language, stating that our language has lost its meaning. While this may be the case, Bruegel speaks with a universal language of color, inserting light blues, yellows, and reds within the painting to give it that burst of presence from the stretching horizon of green. The beauty of this painting is the chaos that takes place as these workers attempt to construct this monstrosity. The viewer could lose themselves within the minute details of Bruegel's work.

I have chosen to write over The Tower of Babel as our fourth painting as we analyze architecture because of its creativity. Bruegel produced this from his imagination. Sure he probably was inspired by the Roman Colosseum, but still, to produce this intricate world of workers that live on this building like bacteria inspires my creativity. The viewer can see the process of how the construction is taking place as most of the top is left exposed. Also the levels of the tower as they progress differ in the style of arches. What the painting attempts to instruct, in my mind, is the concept of being able working with others effectively as well as narrowing in on an idea. That no matter how great the idea is, if it's to big of an idea, your infrastructure is at risk of collapsing.

Bruegel is truly a master. Just look at how he produces the stones in the foreground and the sprawling landscape. The time he invests into getting all the details right. The coast and the ships proportionally correct. This imaginary world invites the viewer as it utilizes the majority of the canvas with interesting subjects to analyze. While it's only a two-dimensional picture, even with the paint you still feel that sensation of  "Wow." Gazing at this structure the mind still wanders off. Its nearly impossible not to think of something from this painting. The depth Bruegel is able to produce with his use of shadows brings the painting to a semi-real state of being, we begin to believe the narrative Bruegel is telling us. That's what makes him and this painting great. The fact that we can lose ourselves within it, and while all art does that to some degree, Bruegel makes it effortless.

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