Katherine Prior is a sophomore Art History & Museum Professions major at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I was fortunate to grow up surrounded by the arts. I was homeschooled, so I was able to travel through Europe and over the United States because of my father’s job. In every place my family went, we always went to as many art museums as possible. I had taken art and music classes throughout middle and high school, so when it was time to apply for college, I knew I wanted to continue in the arts.
After I complete my bachelor’s, my dream is to go to graduate school at Harvard University. Last year I ran for and was elected to the position of Secretary of Academic Affairs for FIT’s Student Government Association, where I chair several committees regarding academic issues on campus. I am currently serving as the student representative on FIT’s Faculty Awards Committee as well as on one of FIT’s Middle States working groups.
Last Fall, I served alongside FIT faculty on a Strategic Planning Think Tank focused on the topic of Innovation. Outside of school, I play trumpet at the New School’s Mannes Community Orchestra, I visit as many art museums and exhibits as I can, and I run an arts-related non-profit organization that I founded when I was 13 years old. I also take painting classes at the Art Students League of New York, where I am a voting member. I take salsa dance lessons several times a week at a Latin dance school, and I performed last fall at the New York International Salsa Congress.
While Frederic Whitaker and Eileen Monaghan Whitaker’s paintings are undeniably similar in many ways—both feature Washingtonian Palms and are executed in watercolor—their individual treatments of the subject reveal some key differences in their styles and approaches.
The first major difference between the two paintings is the handling of color and light. Frederic Whitaker’s “Washingtonian Palms” was painted during daylight hours, with warm lights and cool, long cast shadows. While he clearly delineates the space in the picture with shifts in temperature and value, his colors are primarily warm. In contrast, Eileen Monaghan Whitaker utilizes majority cool tones to depict the same subject, due to the lack of strong sunlight in the piece—likely a result of painting on a cloudy day. While Eileen Monaghan Whitaker, too, utilizes atmospheric perspective, she does so with stronger separation than does Frederic Whitaker. The majority of Eileen Monaghan Whitaker’s painting is taken up by the foreground elements, while Frederic Whitaker’s painting consists primarily of middle ground and depicts no foreground elements.
Eileen Monaghan Whitaker’s painting represents a more “pure” landscape while Frederic Whitaker’s painting notably includes three figures in the lower right corner. This is notable not only for the stylistic differences but for the portrayal of the subject matter itself. While Eileen Monaghan Whitaker in no way makes the Washingtonian Palms look small, Frederic Whitaker’s inclusion of figures tells the viewer exactly how tall the Washingtonian Palms are. His representation of the scale of the Washingtonian Palms is additionally assisted by the background elements he includes, namely the rocky mountain rising up in the background that match the visual scale and dominance of the palms. Eileen Monaghan Whitaker makes the choice to crop the Washingtonian Palms in addition to choosing a less competitive array of background elements. What Eileen Monaghan Whitaker’s painting loses in its sense of scale with this decision, it makes up for in focus: the viewer’s eyes are drawn directly to the palms, rather than traveling leisurely around a landscape that happens to include Washingtonian Palms, as is the case with Frederic Whitaker’s depiction.
The two paintings differ stylistically in the application of watercolor, as well. Frederic Whitaker primarily makes use of clear patterns of light and shadow with strong temperature differences. His shadow placement is deliberate yet maintains a sense of spontaneity, especially in the thin brush strokes used on the rocks and in the bushes. Eileen Monaghan Whitaker utilizes many more transparent layers than does Frederic Whitaker, as her painting reveals the texture of the palms in a much more detailed fashion, her differing brushstrokes visible even through the top layer.
Eileen Monaghan Whitaker’s painting is, in essence, a much softer depiction of the Washingtonian Palms, focusing more on the texture of the palms and their beauty close up. Frederic Whitaker sought to represent the grandiose nature of the palms. His inclusion of figures especially highlights the exotic nature of the palms, as they are positioned fully in the frame and depicted in the composition as one might a large statue. Frederic Whitaker desires the viewer to be awed by the majesty of the palms, while Eileen Monaghan Whitaker desires, perhaps, the viewer to look closer and meditate upon what they see and feel.