The direction of lines can have an impact on the reading of the artwork. At the end of the 19th century, informed by an increased interest in human psychology, artists realized that certain directional movements can complement the tone of the narrative within the art work.

 

TWO ILLUSTRATIONS FIT INTO THIS BOX. “EAKINS’ BIGLING BROTHERS RACING” FROM THE PREVIOUS MODULE, AND FROM THE NEW LIST THE IMAGE TITLED “LEVITAN LANDSCAPE” 

Horizontal Lines:

In Eakins’ Biglin Brothers Racing, 1873-4, lines are overwhelmingly horizontal. Obviously following the horizon, horizontal lines are read as relaxing, peaceful, and calm. Even though the brothers are racing from left to right, and their competitors’ skull is inching up (at the bottom of the painting), the image is nonetheless quite quiet. Not only are the skulls traveling across the picture, but also the riverbank, boats on the far bank, tree line, and clouds all seem to peacefully float from left to right.

In Isaac Levitan’s  Above Eternal Peace, 1894, lines are predominantly horizontal. Even though the wind may be blowing the trees and the movement of the clouds may indicate the storm to come, the image is nonetheless quiet. Not only is the horizon line overwhelmingly horizontal and the land masses very flat, but also the clouds drift across the painting. As with Eakin’s painting, when you look at the painting, your eyes travel from left to right across the surface of the image.