The Creation of the Last Load
The Last Load is one of the greatest pieces of art done by Mathias Alten (1935), which creates a vivid picture of the real harvesting event of his times. The Last Load is oil on canvas painting done on 32 by 40 inches canvas. Through unique impressionism, Alten clearly put an emphasis on light and color to bring out events familiar to humanity. The painter has used shadow to create an exact picture of a daytime event.
The painting captures two horses (brown and white in color) waiting to pull a cart. There is a man on the top of a cart that carries a big load of green harvest. There are gray clouds in the blue sky on the background. In addition, there is a weak fencing on the background and tree plantation far behind the fencing. On the foreground, there is water, which creates an inverted image of the horse and the cart. The main objects, which include the cart, horses, and the man have been placed at the center revealing more emphasis from the painter.
The painter used color effects to bring out objects in with great harmony. The two horses appear calm and pausing, as the person on the top heaves load on the cart. Black color has been used on the middle ground to create shadows of the main objects (horses and the cart). Black shadows of the main objects in the pictures have been used to bring out a daytime event. There are patches of green and yellow grass created by effect of different colors. Dark grey color and pale blue color has been used to bring out the horizon behind the main objects. Brighter colors have been used on the fore ground to indicate closeness while pale colors have been used to express farness. The two horses can be seen clearly unlike the tree plantation on the left end behind the cart. Blue and white colors have been used to indicate the image of the sky in the water.
The art piece is colorful representing a lively environment with human activities. The painter has used colors to create unity and variety. His dominate use of cool colors (blue and green) combined with some traces of warm colors (yellow and brown) creates a perfect unity in the artwork. However, the contrast between the cool and warm colors creates suitable variety in the artwork. The wood pieces, fence and tree plantation brings out variety because they are not the main object in the artwork.
In this painting the source of light is not seen, however, shadow below the cart and horses signifies light source is high above the objects. The man wearing a pale green cap, white shirt and a dark blue overall is holding a stick pointed toward the green harvest. The different colors used to express the man’s clothing makes him stand out in the blue sky. Blue color has been intensively used in the painting to create different things. This includes the open sky, water, and vegetation far behind the cart. Brown color has been used to reveal a bare ground on the banks of the water source. There are pieces of wood painted light brown need the water source. Same color but darker have been used to create inverted images of the horse and the cart.
The painting is composed of clear shapes brought out in two-dimensional format. The shapes are formed by shift in colors and use of lines. Actually, outlines of some objects are clearly defined through use of different colors. The horizon, horses, clouds, cart, man, and water are clearly brought out by using color difference. The painter created more emphasis on the work around the cart to direct viewer to the main activity happening in scene.
The painting by Alten is a great work of art that reflects perfect combination of colors to bring out realism. The painter has creatively used color effect to create images and shadows of animals, man, and objects. The Last Load is pure creation of impressionism that clearly portrays a real scenario during the harvesting season. Alten has used the painting to communicate the events that took place in his time. It is from this painting that we realize the use color effect, with suitable texture can bring out real objects, and communicate important message to the viewer.
Mathias J. Alten, The Last Load, 1935, oil on canvas, 81.28 × 101.6cm, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Michigan, United States.