Critical Essay 1; “Ward” by George Tooker

I had never really thought that seeing a piece of art in person made a difference in the perception of how we see it and the reactions that we get from it. Never until now. In my junior year of high school we were looking at some art work online and discussing what type of emotions we got from them, George Tooker’s “Ward” was one of them. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. I knew that it was significant and that it was supposed to evoke some sort of dark, dreary emotion from it but I never felt that.

Moving forward to the summer before my freshman year of college, a friend of mine invited me to the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville. I had never been before but I had always wanted to visit. After making it around most of the museum we came across this particular painting.


A picture gives it no justice. The moment I saw it, I had the emotional reaction that I knew I was supposed to.

The painting is just very dull. The entire piece consists of dark, grey and blue values, with the exceptions of the American flags. I believe that Tooker chose to have the flags stand out as to demonstrate that no matter what the American spirit will not go dark, it will not fade, and we will not lose hope. This is a stark contrast to the rest of the piece. All of the featureless and similar figures lying in the beds give off the sense of lack of hope and spirit, even death.

From an an element and principle view this painting has many things to offer. I get a sense of unity and harmony when I look at all the similar shapes and colors. It has many repeating patterns such as the beds, the rails, and the curtains. Another principle of art that George Tooker utilizes is movement. Even though the scene is supposed to be still and quiet, the piece itself directs the eye all around the painting, thus creating a sense of movement. It use the element of line to achieve this. The rails have a vertical direction as well as the angled one towards the lower left and the upper right hand corners. The edges of the beds also create some what perpendicular lines to the rails that move up towards the top left. These lines are essential in creating the very solemn mood.

This painting has a lot of significance to because, for one, it reminds me of my time in high school where I met the absolute best english teacher in the world. She showed me this painting and since then it has been in my mind as one the grabbing art pieces that i have seen in person. Seeing it in person made it all the more special. A photo cannot give you all the details of a piece. The actual thing has more character and personality. I could see the careful brushstrokes and the carefully crafted homemade paint colors.