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Critical analysis of Joseph Konopka` Television, 1970

Criticalanalysis of Joseph Konopka’ Television, 1970

CriticalAnalysis of Joseph Konopka’ Television,1970


JosephKonopka’s “Television” is an acrylic painting on canvasmeasuring 42 ¼ by 42 ¼ inches. The painting can be found in theJepson Center online exhibitions and is classified under artists inpost-war America. It was painted in 1970. In the painting, there is alady who tries to switch between television channels using her righthand while holding a newspaper in the left arm. Her left side andpart of the front and hands are visible as she sits facing away fromthe audience and this gives more significance to the television. Shealso holds a newspaper in her left hand. The background informationof the paint describes the post-war era in the US. This paper willanalyze the painting by looking at the aesthetic qualities thatincrease an understanding of the work to make a judgment at the end.

Analysisand Interpretation

Artistsin many cases paint pictures depicting social, political and economicactivities during the period of the painting. In this painting,however, Konopka draws the attention of his audience to thetelevision, a digital phenomenon. The face of the television isilluminated as it produces some of the light. The screen is sky bluepainted against a background of gray and black. The strikingcontrasts of the dark colors and shades of light colors give morefocus to the television set. The lady sits on the left side of thepaint and is seen holding a newspaper. The color and quality of herdress add to the jubilant atmosphere. Her right hand is the only partof her body that is visible save for the hair. Emphasizing on theface would have attracted the interest of the audience and the authorintended to make the television more visible. Perhaps the face wouldhave brought more color to the picture and therefore complicating thetextual balance and harmony.

Thepainter intended to emphasize the importance of the media andtechnological gadget and de-emphasizes anything else in the painting. Even against the background of white and shades of black on thelady’s dress, the newspaper is strikingly clear. This isembellished by the dark brown background afforded by the televisionstand. The shades of black paint against the white background of thenewspaper bring out picture and words. Her back and part of the frontare not visible as the left side is more projected in the photo. Theright arm stretches out reaching the switch of the television. Theright gray color of the arm, her dressing and the long blonde hairpaints a picture of a white lady.

Thepaint is asymmetrical with great effort towards the unity. Space iswell utilized as the painter achieves visual unity by having positivespaced items differ in visual weights to balance out each side of thepicture. The heavier elements are at the back but still capture theeye of the audience while the lighter ones at the front recede. While the light comes from the right side of the frame, the darkerpaints on the television, the sky blue screen and the dark paintingin the screen attracts immediate attention of the audience. To reducethe contrast, the paint has limited the use of shadows to magnify thetelevision.

Thetexture is fussy and this is seen in the black and white dress of thelady while the canvas in the background of the paint is embroideredin blue, white and pink that draws away the eye of the viewer. Also,the paint uses zero point perspective as it does not use parallellines. However, it can be seen that items that are in the fore of thepaint appear larger and proportionate to the ones at the back as theyappear closer.


Thepainting gives an impression of jubilation. The lady is painted inlight colors against the background of the dark painted televisionstand, and brightly colored floral paint background. This could be aresult of careful selection of colors and application of varioustones of paint to highlight the mood. The author effectively removedthe interference of the lady’s face but did not project thetelevision set to achieve greater impact. Therefore this is acontextual artwork. Despite the fact that the artistic work is great,one gets the impression that the chosen colors were dull. Thisartwork is not meant to serve aesthetic value it can be deduced thatit presents the role of the media and new technologies in the postwar America.

Regardingcontextual value, the literal interpretation presents advances intechnologies. Perhaps this was the time when color television setsstarted emerging. This real-life experience resonates with today’slifestyle. Therefore imitationalism is more evident in the pain. Thefocal point of the paint is the television. However, the role of thelady cannot be underestimated considering the fact that she holds anewspaper and is keen to switch between channels. Possibly this aretense moment as embodied in the dark shades that dominate thepicture. The human face if literary removed from the picture andperhaps this could shade light on the role of new technologies andmedia in human relationships.


Thisartwork is successful in capturing the technological advancement ofthe time. For aesthetic value I would say that the paint is quiteboring particularly the fact that the object of interest takes theleast of space. Therefore, it is possible to attach political orhistorical value to the painting, the author will be remembered forat least a century despite the fact that greater strides have beenmade in technology sector. For this reason, the work can be aninstrument for instruction. Also, the dull colors and the fussytextures do not appeal to the audience. However, it depicts day today activities in our households. From imitationalism, it is clearthat the paint is about real life situation that it is easy for theaudience to identify with(Preziosi, 2009).The audience will find it easy to interpret the meaning since thepaint since it is about what they do and see everything.

Thispaint can be contrasted with Henri Rousseau’s theSleeping Gypsy. Thispaint is unique in so many ways that are different from Television.To begin, the images are very sharp and vivid that you cannot missthe details. The color accurately creates real objects against theslightly dark sky blue clouds. Because the painting pays keenattention to the textual effect, color, balance and general harmonyin the setup, it veers towards formalism. These attributes cannot befound in Konopka’ Television.Clearlythe intended message for theSleeping Gypsyis different from that of Konopka’s paint. Despite the stickingdifferences in appearance, textual detail and orientation, bothpaints successfully illustrate what the authors want to convey.



Preziosi,&nbspD.(2009).&nbspTheart of art history: A critical anthology.Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Henri Rousseau’s theSleeping Gypsy.1897