George with Purple Scarf (Figure – G.J.K.)
HARRIET FITZGERALD (American, 1904–1984)
George with Purple Scarf (Figure – G.J.K.), 1971
oil on paper
Collection of the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts
The Jack Blanton Collection
Gift of Jack Blanton
Four paintings by Harriet Fitzgerald in the Jack Blanton Collection depict George Keisker, a friend of the artist for many years. This work on paper is likely a sketch or a study done as a formal exercise. Fitzgerald focuses here on the overall gesture of the figure and drapery as well as contour lines that describe a three-dimensional form in space. She uses carefully edited tonal values to suggest depth and masterfully balances her composition.
Fitzgerald expertly uses both radial and symmetrical balance. The figure exhibits radial balance. Notice how the strokes of white on the shoulder and under the thigh create an implied diagonal when combined with the line of the scarf. A counterbalance is achieved with an implied diagonal in the opposite direction running between the point where lines converge on the figure’s right shoulder and the point where lines culminate on the jacket cuff at lower right. That diagonal is further emphasized by the tilt of the head and the orientation of the burnt sienna–hued shadow on the face. Fitzgerald has made an aspect of George’s personality—his obliging, possibly self-deprecating way of holding his head—reflect and support the choices she has made as an artist in setting up her composition. The composition is anchored by the purple scarf in the center. The composition is also symmetrically balanced. The picture plane is divided in half by value and hue: the left half of the background is lighter in value than the right half (try squinting at the painting to verify this), and the hues in each half are different and complementary.