The mood and composition of Conrad Martens' "View of the Heads, Port Jackson"- 1853.

Essay by londonHigh School, 10th gradeA-, October 2002

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Conrad Martens' View of the Heads, Port Jackson is a captivating work in which Martens has conveyed a magical sense of adventure, and spirituality. His dynamic use of contrast displays respect for the mighty power of the sea; of nature.

The work is balanced with great compositional skill. The work is of the heads - one which is in the foreground at the bottom right of the painting, South Head. North Head is in the background, on the horizon line, about one third up the work and reaching out along about one third of the horizon. The top of North Head almost divides the work in half. These two heads give a natural frame to the picture.

North Head shows sudden cliffs all the way around with a contrasting smooth plateau area on top. The cliffs are dark and forbidding whereas the plateau is bathed in light.

South Head is seen from the viewpoint of someone standing at the head.

It stretches out about two-thirds along the bottom of the painting with rocks in the water and ledges reaching up on a diagonal so that the cliff reaches about two-thirds up the right of the work. The cliffs are jagged and covered in shadow. At the bottom of the cliff there is a ledge on which a person is standing behind a rock, watching a dog stand closer to the edge, barking at the waves as they crash upon the rocks. These two figures are so small they seem insignificant to the painting with its message of the great power in nature. They seem placed here by Martens to give a sense of scale, and perhaps even a sense of wonder at the might of the sea.

The sky is covered with dark rain clouds with a storm...