Life And Eternity Through The Prism Of Artworks

Thomas Moran. Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Thomas Moran. Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

To understand the hidden meanings of artwork, a consideration of history, technics, and the author’s biography might be helpful. For my analysis, I chose two works of art, a painting and a poem. I chose The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone by Thomas Moran. A famous American painter, Thomas Moran, was creating the picture between 1893 and 1901 (Aleman et al., 2022). Thomas Moran mainly depicts rocky landscapes, and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is one of his most famous works.

It is oil on canvas, and can be identified as an American landscape (Moore & Witt, 2018). Applying the rule of thirds to the painting, it is possible to determine that the author places the brightest part, the rocks, illuminated by the sun, in the upper right corner to draw the audience’s attention. It is important to note that Thomas Moran applies a golden ratio, due to which the picture as it invites the viewer inside itself (Aleman et al., 2022). If one pays attention to the lower left corner of the picture, one can see how the light rays partially illuminate the tree trunk and break through the foliage. Other parts of paint, such as slopes, small rocks, and vegetation, are illuminated differently. One can imagine how the illumination of the objects in the picture will vary depending on the time of day and the Sun’s position. Interesting is how rich the author depicts the illuminated part of the rocks in the bottom right corner (Moore & Witt, 2018). Red, bard, orange, and yellow colors are used to highlight the beauty of nature as a subject of the painting.

The second work of my choice was “The Art of Drowning” by Billy Collins, which was published in 1995. In the poem, the author discusses the fleeting nature of life and its fragility. Collins stresses that at the end of life, one must let down the result and look back (Collins, 1995). When a person realizes the close end of his life, all its events are in one picture. At the same time, the person notices that all the other people continue to do their business, somewhere to hurry and do something. They do not care about a man whose life is about to end. In the poem, the author uses the symbol of a passing fish to portray this indifferent society. Another symbol that Collins uses in his poem is the sinking. The author associates a man’s near-death state with the fact that he begins to drown. Collins (1995) describes this situation as “having nothing to do with your life or your death.” (p. 42). The author stresses the helplessness of the person in this position.

As a theme that unites both works of art, I chose the theme of eternity and human life. In both works of art, in my opinion, human life contrasts with some more enduring things. In the case of the painting of Thomas Moran, human life and nature are opposed. Looking at the picture, one gets a sense of how long the Canyon was forming. Human life is short compared to these rocks, mountains, and water. In the case of the poem by Billy Collins, eternity acts as society as a whole. One person’s life in a few decades is against different generations, against humanity. I find this theme both inspiring and disturbing. The theme of eternity and human life makes people think about important things, such as the meaning of life.

Today I think more about humanity, nature, and eternity. Therefore, both works of art, painting, and poem are very close to me. While observing worldwide events, I conclude that human activity was before my life and will be after. Collins confirms this idea in his poem “The Art of Drowning” (Collins, 1995). The implication is that one is just a guest in the world and has to try to do some essential things. The same is true of Thomas Moran’s The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. However, it must be emphasized that nature is here as eternity. Often, when I find myself in an attractive natural place, like the ocean, National Park, or mountains, I wonder how these places came into being and how long they took. Each time I conclude, it will exist many years after me.

In my opinion, the themes of eternity and human life can influence many professions. I believe this influence will be particularly pronounced in the profession of philosophers. It is widely discussed in literature and poetry. In the field of philosophy and literature, practical knowledge of the humanities can provide material relevant to this topic. These may be the works of philosophers and thinkers of the past years.

Discussing the historical context of both works of art, it is necessary to define once again, the years in which they were created. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone was painted between 1893 and 1901 (Aleman et al., 2022). It is noteworthy that it was a time when there was no color photography. Consequently, visual art was the only way to show the general public the beauty of nature. The poem was published in 1995 (Collins, 1995). In searching for information about the time in which the painting and the poem were created, I first asked myself what was not there in those days, what is now. Since both works of art were created relatively recently, I had no difficulty finding information.

When discussing the similarities and differences of both artworks, one should notice that the topic I have chosen they describe differently. The painting evokes reflections on eternity and human life through the aesthetics of nature and sublime feelings. In comparison, the poem evokes reflections on this theme through depressive and panic thoughts. In the visual arts to which the painting belongs, the image of nature takes a special place. Nature is the natural environment; by observing it, man can experience meaningful feelings. It affects the difficulty of writing a natural landscape and the technique of performing. In the poem, the author addresses the reader and asks him questions. These questions make the reader think about what the author writes. In this way, there is communication between the author and the reader.

A thesis statement for my paper I choose: Human life is not infinite, but infinity is far from being as beautiful as human life. For an audience that would be interested in my theme and thesis statement, I choose people from 40 to 70 years old. Usually, people in this age group tend to analyze their lives and make conclusions (Haldane & Lloyd, 2017). When communicating with the audience, I will primarily demonstrate the art pieces. In my opinion, the demonstration of a copy of the picture and reading the poem can immediately interest the audience if one presents a thesis statement and specifies the topic. I believe that Collins portrays the theme of the end of human life because it bothers him (Collins, 1995). On the other hand, Thomas Moran paints the natural landscape thanks to his inspiration and desire to enjoy nature.


Aleman, C. G., Bsumek, P. K., Chirindo, K., Peeples, J., Schneider, J., Tarin, C. A., Thomas, M. O., & Schwarze, S. (2022). Communication, race, and outdoor spaces. Frontiers Media SA.

Collins, B. (1995). The Art of Drowning. University of Pittsburgh Press.

Haldane, J., & Lloyd, I. (2017). Art, morality and human nature: Writings by Richard W. Beardsmore. Andrews UK Limited.

Moore, R., & Witt, K. F. (2018). The Grand Canyon: An encyclopedia of geography, history, and culture. ABC-CLIO.