Madison Taylor Duran from Hendersonville, North Caroline was awarded an Art History Scholarship for the Fall 2019 from The Frederic Whitaker and Eileen Monaghan Whitaker Foundation. In her student statement, accompanying her application, Madison wrote: As a junior at St. Olaf College, I am pursuing a degree in Art History with concentrations in Management and Asian Studies as well as working part-time as a collections assistant at our on-campus museum, the Flaten Art Museum. This year I served as Event Coordinator in the Korean Culture Association, and next year I will be running meetings as one of two co-chairs. I prefer working behind the scenes with artworks, documenting their conditions or researching the works or the artists themselves. What I do at the museum currently is something I would like to do in the future, full-time — working with the objects and writing biographies for the artists, making sure that each artwork is treated as the unique, special piece that it is. Giving the arts a home is my passion, and I hope others can enjoy the works as much as I do.
Her essay comparing two watercolors – “Lettuce Pickers” 1966 © Frederic Whitaker 22×30 inches and “Harvest Time, Estremadura “1957 © Eileen Monaghan Whitaker 22×30 inches is posted below:
In comparing Eileen Whitaker’s “Harvest Time, Estremadura,” with Frederic’s “Lettuce Pickers,” a notable distinction between the two is the gender binaries that arise. Interestingly, Eileen’s work depicts mostly female workers in the field, some of whose gazes meet the viewer’s head-on whereas Frederic’s work focuses on male pickers who are absorbed in their work. While both are focused on the laborers in the fields, they engage with their subjects in very different manners, and use different color palettes to evoke certain feelings within their works.
Eileen puts us in direct contact with the woman of Estremadura, five of the seven discernible figures turning to look at the viewer, as though we have stumbled upon them in their work and they are greeting us. On the other hand, Frederic’s “Lettuce Pickers” appear not to even notice the viewers, absorbed in their work; none of them turn to the viewer, and in fact only one of them has any defined facial features.
Based upon the composition, Eileen’s focus appears to be solely on this group of harvesting women, a vaguely quadrilateral patch of rich green framing them as they turn to meet the viewer’s gaze, causing them to seem almost posed. Frederic’s men, while titular in nature, do not necessarily appear to be engaged with anything but their work, almost as though the viewer is not there at all. Where Eileen’s work appears to be more of a portrait of these women workers, Frederic’s feels more like a landscape scene that just happens to have people — a genre painting, if you will.
In addition, the color palettes are similar in their base colors, but differ in their tonalities. Eileen’s work makes use of a richer yet more monotonous and precise color palette, lending an aspect of darkness to her work that makes her female subjects in their brightly colored dress stand out even more. Her work’s darker aspect seems to imply either the end of a long day or the beginning of one, with a great deal of shadow. The feeling is almost melancholic, but most definitely serene.
Frederic, while also using his fair share of green tones, opts for a more pastel palette which complements his loose brushwork and interesting blending techniques. In “Lettuce Pickers,” the splashes of color extend beyond the figures at the forefront, and often are blended with the pale lettuce green seen throughout the field, embedding the figures firmly within the landscape. His bright and broad strokes of color evoke a certain liveliness within the scene, thoroughly embedding the viewer in a moment of the laborer’s day as they complete their tasks. The eyes, as the lettuce pickers, seem to be continually in motion.
While sharing the theme of persons of color laboring in fields, the two Whitakers engage with their subjects and audiences in near polar opposition. Formally, their works differ in color composition, brushstroke style, and even in what their work formally makes stand out or evokes emotionally in the viewer.