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The Painting “Toy Pieta” by Scott Avett


The painting Toy Pieta by Scott Avett was one of the first ones I saw after entering the website of the North Carolina Museum of Art. It grabbed my attention from the first second, and even though I spend a considerable amount of time exploring other available works, I decided to analyze this painting. Scott Avett, who mainly focuses on creating “psychologically charged and emotionally intense oils,” depicted a scene from the everyday life of a family with four children (Funderburk). Despite the fact that all the members are portrayed, they are not interacting with each other but are busy with different tasks. In the foreground, the boy is playing with his toys. Mother is sitting in the armchair with another son sleeping. In the background, the girl holds the youngest brother in her hands, and the father is sitting on the chair. Even though the painting is beautiful and includes various details, it does not encourage the appearance of positive emotions. The work made me feel depressed because, judging from the composition, it seems that the family is unhappy.

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As was already mentioned, the painting includes many elements that have to be considered during the analysis. The work is complex since it has several backgrounds, and each of them portrays different moods and evokes specific emotions. The use of backgrounds and shadows creates a feeling that the room where the action takes place is large. In addition, the way elements are arranged within the composition adds to the impression of differentiation between the family members. The primary perception that is developed after looking at the structure of the painting is that the presented people are not united but live separate lives.

Toy Pieta by Scott Avett portrays representational art that uses humans, items, and other signs that have strong visual references in real life. In this painting, the author depicted objects that are easily recognizable for the human eye and can be related to the everyday experience of every individual. For instance, the most apparent representational objects are people that are engaged in particular activities and carry different emotions. Toys and elements of furniture, such as the chair, the armchair, and the carpet, are also some items that can be found in real life and help the viewer to create meaning out of the whole composition.

It can be noted that the author uses a combination of warm and cold colors in this sophisticated work. While the walls, the carpet, the armchair, some of the toys, and clothes are depicted in green and blue-green colors, people’s skin has orange pigments which make the whole painting feel warmer. In my opinion, the author decided to incorporate various color schemes to express his conflicting view of the family. Even though family paintings should evoke feelings of unity, love, and cooperation, this work presents the family which is unhappy, and the members are emotionally separated from each other.

The material used by the author in the process of painting is oil. This medium helped Avett to achieve the maximum depth of colors and represent every object and person in different ways. Furthermore, since oil is flexible in use, it gave the painter an opportunity to blend and layer the colors, create a greater richness of shades, and incorporate a range of transitions and shadows. Hence, the oil material was a huge advantage in the production process of the painting.

It should also be mentioned that the following painting is a reference to the famous work of Michelangelo called The Pieta. The original sculpture portrays Mary who holds the dead body of Jesus after the Crucifixion (Funderburk). For many years, this creation of art by Michelangelo was famous among international painters since it carried the meaning of compassion and pity (Funderburk). Consequently, this fact gives an essential insight into the work of Scott Avett. Even though individuals cannot know the story behind the painting entirely, its relation to The Pieta creates a possibility that the child is not just sleeping but has a disability or is sick. Moreover, the parents seem to be depressed and indifferent, which means that something bothers them and prevents them from communicating with their children. These vital elements contribute to the creation of a specific meaning which, from what I observed, is the importance of family relationships in the life of people.


Even though the author was able to incorporate sophisticated techniques and achieve a beautiful creation of art, I dislike this object because of the negative feeling it evokes. As it was already mentioned in the visual analysis section, the means of objects’ arrangement, color schemes, and the reference to the work of Michelangelo contribute to the emergence of depressed feelings about the painting. Therefore, it is hard to enjoy and analyze the distinguishing features of this work when specific elements overwhelm the mind with negativity. Nevertheless, I appreciate the works of art that make people experience a wide range of emotions, even when they are not pleasurable. It is much better to feel anxious about the painting than be indifferent.

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Works Cited

Avett, Scott. Toy Pieta. 2018. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh. NCMA.

Funderburk, Amy. “Talking Caravaggio, Not Chord Progressions, with Scott Avett.” Art & Object, 2019, Web.

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