William Robinson Leigh
The Vision Seeker, 1912
Oil on canvasboard
The piece above is one that was able to grasp my attention from the moment I saw it. There just seems to be such simplicity about it, yet through this simplicity a type of wonder that it inspires in its viewers. Upon first seeing this painting I was drawn towards the person, seemingly deep in thought. The colors of his or her shawl standing in stark contrast to the brightness of what is in the background. Then from here my eyes were pulled along the horizon, along the eyeline of the person into the colorful sky illuminated by a sun peaking over the distant edge of the water. I was able to view the painting first and was then curious of the title, which fittingly enough reads The Vision Seeker by William Robinson Leigh.
Considering both the title and the simple path he guides our eyes along, the aim of this artist seems clear. He depicts a person immersed in the beauty of the natural world in an effort to draw a type of inspiration or vision from it. As a student in a class analyzing the anthropocene, I believe that this is an excellent depiction of an argument that has come up multiple times throughout our semester: the intrinsic value of nature vs. the instrumental value of nature. Upon thinking about this this painting I pondered this argument, trying to shed some light on the stance that perhaps the person in the paining might have, and I couldn’t help but ask myself a thought provoking question. Could it be possible that the intrinsic value that this person wholeheartedly places on nature be a means by which they find an instrumental value in it, i.e. discovering inspiration or a vision? And while it is unlikely that this was the primary thought of the artist upon creating this piece, I think what he was trying to portray was the intrinsic beauty and value in nature that many of us regard as precious regardless of the instrumental gain we can reap from it.