A Look at the “Untitled”

Untitled

The AD&A museum has a strong collection made up of a variety of genres, artists, and styles. Some of these works may never be on view in the main spaces of the Museum due to the ratio of limited gallery space and the large number of artworks. One such art work is a print labeled “Untitled” by 19th century artist Paul Berthon. As I was updating the Ala Story Print Collection, I noticed this eerie unnamed portrait of a young woman. The piece stands at 12 ¾ by 10 inches. The artist details a female figure described in notes as a young woman in side profile. The woman wears a simple white dress with her hair configured into a loose bun. In the background, an array of plant vines and blooms hang over the her head.
In this print, three colors complete the composition. The first is brown, which outlines each shape within the print. As a result brown is the most subtle color despite typically being a darker hue. The second color Berthon uses is white, and primarily on the flowers and woman’s skin and dress. This white gives a cold and slightly rotted tone implying the color of a ghost or polished bone. The final color is a green, which flows into every part of the print. This hue resembles rusted copper that as with the white appears to hint at a dead-like state.
The young woman has the essence of a vestige or, more crudely, a lifeless corpse with her deeply shaded, baggy, uninviting eyes and stony skin. The sickly green swirling into every part of the print hints at ideas of poison, acid, or green glass shards found on the street. Green is often associated with health and vigor when we see in its brighter form, but when it is grey or molded it becomes the color of rot and disease. The combination of this tainted green and the dead features of the lady is unsettling. In the end, the mystery of the woman is well suited to her title, or rather…lack there of.

 

-Liam Elliot, AD&A Museum Collections Intern

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