Saint-Sauveur Cathedral Portal II
Watercolour on 300 lb Paper,
Where Cathedral Portal I was concerned with the development of mass, especially visible along the ascending column of figures on the right of the composition, this very similar composition is about chiaroscuro and graphic outline. The palettes are slightly different: Portal I is warmer, with a greater range of tone needed to express volume, whereas Portal II is cooler, with more exposed paper for highlights and dramatically black shadows. The difference between the two is less one of light or time of day, as would be typical of impressionism, than one of treatment: the scene is painted once for volume, once for graphic impact. This difference is not optical, but subjective: a viewer passing under the arch might see it differently on two successive days. Conceptually, this reflects not only the autonomy of the artist, but also of the viewer, who is always creating subjective visual compositions in the act of seeing.