ANN HEWITT of Fairfield, Massachusetts is majoring in Museum Studies, Anthropology, and Ancient Studies at Mt Holyoke College in Massachusetts. She is pursuing a Museum Nexus as well as as a double major in Ancient Studies (an interdepartmental major between Art History, Classics and History departments) and Anthropology. She wrote: “This semester thanks to the Laurel fellowship from Mount Holyoke College, the Norman Woodberry Scholarship for Study Abroad from the World Affairs Forum, and the Ismene Phylactopoulou Memorial Scholarship, I am studying abroad at College Year Athens in Greece. To live in Europe for three months and to have class in museums and walk amongst monuments I have only seen in photographs has been life changing. It has also given me new perspectives and has strengthened my resolve to continue in the museum field after graduation and to begin a PhD program in Art History.”
Applicants wrote essays in response to the following statement: During their extensive travels in Mexico, Frederic and Eileen Whitaker often painted similar subject matter. Compare their approaches using the two paintings – “The Fruit Market” by Frederic Whitaker and “Se Venden Naranjas” by Eileen Monaghan Whitaker.
By comparing the approaches of Frederic Whitaker’s “The Fruit Market “ (1969) with Eileen Monaghan Whitaker’s “Se Venden Naranjas”(1975) we are given tremendous insight into their individual visions of the world. While Frederic Whitaker’s watercolor gives us sense of place, Eileen Monaghan painting gives us humanity.
Frederic Whitaker painted a vibrant view of a “tianguis”, the traditional weekly open air market, where the heart of Mexican culture beats. These itinerant markets held in designated public places are setup and taken down in the course of a day. In rural communities the market is an event not to be missed because apart from providing the local population with food, it is an opportunity to socialize with others.
The painting is divided into two parts; the top third direct us visually to the markets white and grey awnings which highlight the scene. Between this space we notice on the left a dark green and brownish canopy of trees which contrasts with the turquoise sky emerging from cloud cover on the right. Below is a long dark stuccoed roof of a building upon which part of the awning is fastened. The composition on the lower part of the painting is a figurative scene which begins at the left corner with a woman in traditional dress, holding a basket over her right arm, entering the market place and following the direction of two other woman in front of her. Frederic Whitaker paints from the vantage point of someone observing the market and watching people enter and follow this path to the background of the composition where the majority of men and women are assembled.
We can almost smell the piles of pineapples and oranges in front of the vendors and hear the sounds of the people walking by. Frederic Whitaker captures the markets ambient mood through grey and rose color shadows cast by people, fruit, and the awnings and through his use of perspective he conveys the intimate atmosphere. This is especially noticeable in the way he reduced the area of the figurative scene by painting all of the action – the buyers and sellers of fruit and 30 loose sketches of shoppers- underneath the large white awning. This canopy is supported by of rope scaffolding, corners stretched and affixed to something unshown. Frederic Whitaker painted 4 ties that hang on sides of the awning – their function to tie up after its use for storage. The figures primarily seen from the back, ¾ , and side view move the viewers eyes along the scene. Frederic Whitaker’s use of color, both warm and cooler tones, balances the picture. The browns in the pineapple skins match the dress of the woman who is an orange vendor and the stucco roof, just as the turquoise color of the sash of the woman entering the market is repeated on blouse on a woman in front of her and on the skirt of a woman approaching from the other direction, dark shirt of a man in the market and lead up to turquoise sky.
Eileen Monaghan Whitaker’s painting shares many of the warm colors that are seen in her husbands painting. But unlike his work, where there is little expression, her painting exhibits empathy, revealing the souls of the characters she portrays. She gives us an understanding of the life of indigenous woman in a rural Mexico who sell the oranges in the market. The days are long and tiresome, only one basket has been sold and another is half empty.Two woman positioned one in front of the other, sit with their legs outstretched. The woman in front, depicted from the side is older and is perhaps the mother. Her greyish long hair is braided and wrapped around her head. Her skin is weathered and her expression appears to be resigned to her fate as she gazes off into the distance. Behind her a daughter who has a look of acceptance on her face, while a younger girl on her left seems to questioning why? The difficulty of their lives contrasts with the beautiful way the composition is depicted the rich colors beiges, reds, oranges and blues belie the harshness of their lives.