A nude, seascape, and flying birds. This pairing of seascape, nude figure, and wildlife owes something to classic influences. It is also a reaction to traditional imagery. This composition is inspired by a history of the nude depicted in the landscape, principally in front of the ocean.
The arrangement is unorthodox to a degree. Chiefly, the off-center subject has ample space in front of the figure, and is cropped close to her feet. The negative space in front of her is only balanced by the line of birds, which begins there. The horizon bisects the frame, lending some degree of a static feeling. This is contradicted by the movement of the birds, apparent in their repeated shapes, all facing to the right. The nude woman’s pose is also a mix of static and dynamic. Her lifted feet, weight on her arms, and raised hands all impart a sense of tension. All of this adds up to a quiet drama, and a bit of offbeat mystery.
The monochrome treatment adds to the distinctive narrative visual style of this piece. The image is reminiscent of a still frame from an art film. The central character seems to exist in a constructed reality. The elements surrounding her are quirky in their arrangement, and not happenstance. The birds, sky, ocean, and sand, all appear as choreographed collaborators.
There is an emotional isolation apparent in her expression. She looks out with a calm assurance, seemingly at peace, yet distant. A meditative gesture, innocently mixing humor and melancholy. This quirky tableaux is deceptively simple. There are five basic elements, three of which are static and two dynamic. But each texture: sky, sea, sand, is diverse with variation. The living elements, the flock of birds and the nude, are methodically composed, despite their spontaneous appearance.
Overall, this image is a tribute to beauty, luxury, and leisure. It has this in common with Alexandre Cabanel’s oil on canvas of a reclining nude, The Birth of Venus, the rendition of the same theme by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, and any of various romantic paintings of nymphs frollicing near the surf. This genre invites the viewer to escape the commonplace. The woman depicted is here for our visual celebration and little is evident of the struggles of ordinary life.
The Brown Pelican is a coastal bird found on the coasts of the Americas, including Jupiter Florida, where this image originated.