8-Value Study + White
Acrylic on paper
5 5/16 x 4 7/16

In this painting, the compositon of value shapes radiate outward from the center, like a pinwheel, with the figure's hand being located to the immediate left of center. The pieces of paper he is holding form the lightest shape, which angles out towards the upper lefthand corner, and holds our attention through strong contrast with the darkest shape, that of his suit. This dark note stretches outward from his hand to the upper right corner, and down towards the lower left.
The dark pillow, along with the triangular shape forming the top of the piano, and the rectangular shape forming the side of the piano, all radiate outward from the center to just above and below the horizontal axis.
The dark rectangle just below the figure's elbow, which is the same size and shape of the papers he's holding, creates a strong vertical through contrast of value with the arm of the chair, and leads our eye straight down to the foot of the chair.
Lastly, the triangular shadow in the lower right corner, which falls directly on the diagonal axis, directs our eye outward in the opposite direction.
This painting is very much like Whistler's Arrangement in Gray and Black in that the real subject of the painting isn't so much the artist's father, as it is reflection. The figure's pose, which is clearly that of a man in thought, is also communicated through Munch's compositional choices. He arranged his shapes to fan outward from the center and to the left, or backwards. Which, in a culture that reads from left to right, suggests going back in time.
The difference between this painting and Whistler's is its dynamism. All of the radiating diagonal lines suggest energetic or inspired thought, whereas Whistler's, comprised of strong horizontal shapes, suggests a more restful, resigned feeling.
Christian Munch on the Couch