Examples of Emphasis in Art

It is not uncommon for a painting or drawing to tell a story. Almost every story has a hero or, at the very least, the main character. A character can even appear in the visual arts. A person does not have to be the main character. The main character in an artwork can be an object or part of the composition. An artist emphasizes a piece when they give a particular element greater significance. In other words, the artist draws the viewer’s attention to something in work to draw them in.

Objects or areas of focus are called focal points. An artwork’s focal point should be the part that first catches the viewer’s eye.  The focal point can be different for different artworks. A focal point’s level of prominence determines the order in which it is noticed by the viewer. We will discuss emphasis in detail in this article with examples of emphasis in art from some of art masterpieces.

Why Is Emphasis Important

Art emphasizes a particular part of the artwork or object in order to draw the viewer’s attention to it. It is usually the central theme or point of emphasis. When an artist paints a portrait, they usually want you to focus first on the subject’s face. To make sure that your eye is drawn to this area in the beginning, they’ll use techniques like color, contrast, and placement.

An artwork may emphasize more than one element. A dominant element usually takes center stage. If you give two or more equal weights, your eye may not be able to distinguish them. Your confusion may cause you not to appreciate a good piece of art.

In artwork, a subordinate element is called an accent or a secondary element. By de-emphasizing the other elements, the focal point can be the focal point but also stand out from the other elements. Rather than using red on the subject, an artist may choose muted browns for the rest of the painting. When the viewer notices the pop of color, their attention is immediately drawn to it.

A worthy work of art employs emphasis in some way, according to one argument. Without this principle, a piece might appear monotonous and dull to the eye. However, some artists take advantage of the lack of focus on purpose to create visually striking pieces.

The Campbell’s Soup Cans (1961) by Andy Warhol are an excellent example of the lack of emphasis. The series of canvases do not have a real subject matter when they are hung on the wall. Their repetition, however, makes a strong impression on the viewer.

How Artists Add Emphasis

Contrasts are frequently used to emphasize. Different techniques are used by artists to achieve contrast, and an artist may employ more than one technique in one work.

An area with contrasts in value, color, and texture can certainly grab your attention. Furthermore, when a large object dominates the foreground or perspective draws us in, or when a low object dominates the background, it becomes the focal point.

Several artists will also strategically position their subjects in compositions to draw attention to certain areas of the piece. Often, that appears to be directly in the middle, but it is usually off to one side or the other. Place, tone, and depth can also isolate it from other elements within a composition.

You can also emphasize a point by repeating it. In this case, disrupt the pattern in some way if you have a series of similar elements.

Examples of Emphasis in Art

Below are some examples of emphasis in art:

Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet, 1872

Impression, Sunrise art examples of emphasis in art
Claude Monet, 1872

Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise is the first painting in our series. You are attracted to the striking orange sunset that stands out against the background’s greys, blues, and greens. Here, the sunset is emphasized with color saturation.

The Rose in Vase of Sassonia by Giovanni Boldini, 1842

Rose in Vase art examples of emphasis in art
Giovanni Boldini, 1842

Giovanni Boldini used thick, saturated paint to create an impression of flowers in a vase in the above painting. You can see how there is no background other than a thin stain of color.

Iphigenia in Tauris by Valentin Serov, 1893

Iphigenia in Tauris art example
Valentin Serov, 1893

Above, the crashing waves create a tapered line that is broken up by the woman looking out over the ocean in Valentin Serov’s painting. By interrupting the line, the woman emphasizes her position and makes a powerful statement.

Sunset over the Sea by George Inness, 1887

Sunset over the Sea art by George Inness
George Inness, 1887

George Innes’s tone-on-tone painting of the sea sunset is characterized by the enhanced color saturation and the use of warm tones.

Poppies by Claude Monet, 1873

Poppies art by Claude Monet
Claude Monet, 1873

Poppies is Monet’s high-key landscape featuring red poppies contrasted with greens and blues. The red poppies highlight the foreground, which is made all the more striking by the presence of the figures.

Sunset on the Marshes by Martin Johnson Heade, 1867

Sunset on the Marshes art
Martin Johnson Heade, 1867

Sunset on the Marshes was painted with oil on canvas by Martin Johnson Heade. As you can see, the piece seems to have all the elements. However, it is the yellowish sun that stands out most. The artist uses a yellowish mixture to create the Sunset, which is given prominence in the painting.

Untitled Coin Drawing

Untitled Coin Drawing art example

A straightforward way to make sure the “main character” of a picture is visible is to isolate them. You will force your audience to notice an object of emphasis when you place it outside a grouping.

Check out the coin drawing above. Despite a large number of coins on the left being more valuable than the one on the right, the coin on the right appears to be more significant simply because it is separated from the others.

A Woman with a Baby on the Balcony by Berthe Morisot, 1872

Woman with a Baby art examples of emphasis in art
Berthe Morisot, 1872

The strong position of the two figures in Berthe Morisot’s picture above emphasizes their strong presence in the painting. Likewise, the woman’s black dress and the child’s white dress create a striking contrast.

Interior by Edgar Degas, 1868-1869

Interior  art examples of emphasis in art
Edgar Degas, 1868-1869

In this painting, the emphasis is clearly on light, most of which is in shadow, and only a few areas are illuminated by the lamp.

Mediodía (High Noon) by Baruj Salinas

Mediodía art example
Baruj Salinas

There is no comparison between the red sun and other more subtle pieces of the painting. The eye is naturally drawn to the main point at the end and at the piece’s beginning.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the two types of emphasis?

Visual emphasis can be divided into two main categories. Artistic elements such as color, shape, or texture take center stage in the first type of work. Second, a single area of focus dominates the artwork. Focusing on a specific place in a piece creates a focal point.

How do colors put emphasis on things?

Whether or not we want it, our minds are wired to look for patterns and connections. Viewers will pick up on a feature that stands out because their eyes are drawn to bright & high-contrast colors. When you use color to emphasize something, it’s as if you’re yelling that it’s the most important thing in the room.

What is an example of emphasis in principles of design?

Using a different color in a design can serve to draw the eye to a particular area. The more striking the contrast, the greater the demand on the audience’s attention the point makes. It is possible to use a dark-colored element in a bright colors page to draw attention to the dark-colored element.

What is a focal point in art?

An attention-grabbing feature of a picture is its focal point. In contrasted areas, light and dark naturally attract the viewer’s attention.

Final Words

The addition of emphasis to your art is one way to attract viewers, collectors, and curators. Having a unique style and methodology allows you to differentiate your work from other artists. Some artists like to emphasize, while others prefer to be more visible subtly. As discussed in this article, examples of emphasis in art, artists use various techniques to create emphasis in their artwork. We discussed the meaning of emphasis, why emphasis is important, and what techniques they use to do this. We hope you enjoyed reading this article.

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