Closed vs. Open

This analysis deals with issues of framing. Is everything included in the image, or did the frame cut something off? Are we content that the information provided in this narrative is all-inclusive, or do we need more information that may have been spatially left out? If we were to continue the image another three feet to the right or left, at top or bottom, would there be more of interest? Closed means that we are satisfied with the amount of information presented. Open means that we perceive that there may be more beyond the frame; the information or narrative is incomplete.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper  is an example of a closed composition.  The thirteen men are present. The table is completely in view. The walls are shown at left and right evidencing no more people in the room. Nothing appears to be cut off or cropped. That is all there is. The composition is complete.

Rembrandt’s Night Watch, again, is an example of open. As the viewers’ eyes pick out the various men through the patches of high value upon their faces, they observe that many are cut off or overlapping in odd ways that provide us with only partial information as to their faces and bodies. If our gaze moves along the edge of the painting, we again observe that almost everyone is cut off in one way or another. If the composition were extended another three feet to the right and left, would there be more? Definitely, perhaps even another dozen figures on both sides. We do have a sense that this painting is a narrowed view of a larger mass, and therefore more is implied. It is incomplete and open.