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'Landscape with a Hermit’ by Salvator Rosa

Here, I present the painting by Salvator Rosa named 'Landscape with a Hermit'. This painting is exhibited permanently within the Walker Art Gallery and is a striking commentary upon Rosa's battle with grief and loss and his fear of death.

It wouldn't be accurate to analyse paintings or artwork without looking to the context behind the artwork. We must explore the life of the artist at the period in which this work was created. With this in mind, after some research it is easy to become aware that during the making of this piece, Rosa was grieving the loss of his daughter which only emphasises the real pain and grief-striken emotions we, as an audience can feel throughout this painting. A real wonderful piece by Rosa as a way to explore and combat his very real and very truthful emotions.

Straight away, we can conclude that the background is a projection of fear and power. It tries to intimidate not only the “hermit” but also the viewer, through its dramatic and impending peaks. The juxtaposition of size of the natural landscape and the “hermit” is a secondary way that Rosa has tried to explore pain and fear as well as the powerlessness that humans suffer when put into a battle with nature.

The solitary and isolated figure represents trepidation and loneliness. This is seen through his clear inability to care for himself, resulting in a disheveled and unkempt appearance. Moreover, the rocks are seen to be angled towards the figure which suggests that he is not only feeling trapped but more literally, is trapped and unable to escape the dark end he finds himself in.

As art historians, we should always look to the different levels of a painting. The top-usually sky and weather in a landscape painting- the middle and the bottom. The weather, here, shows a lack of hope due to the grey clouds forming above, and the threat of an inward storm raging. The dark colour pallet suggests loss/death and mourning. Similarly, the lack of greenery suggests a lack of peace within the environment.

Looking towards the bottom of the painting, we see that the figure is painted towards the right of the canvas, at the bottom of the artwork. This suggests that he has no way of leaving this landscape, as previously discussed. If you look closer to the painting you can see the presence of a skull and a cross at the feet of the hermit. This could foreshadow a possible fate for the “hermit”. It could suggest a religious development, intending to show that the man feels as though he is in his own personal hell. Which correlates to the reason that Rosa has painted the “hermit” at the bottom of the canvas- hell is always described as being at the bottom of the world, underneath the ground- a position the “hermit” finds himself in.

To conclude, as an audience it is powerful to see grief displayed and depicted in such a subjective way. The presence of an isolated and lonely figure, disheveled and hunched with very pessimistic characterises reflects the position of the griever and their lack of hope and feelings of endless torment from the surrounding world. It is truly a wonderfully emotive piece.

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