Honors Senior Theses/Projects

Date of Award


Exit Requirement

Undergraduate Honors Thesis/Project

Faculty Advisor

Michael Freeman

Honors Program Director

Jodie Garrison


As viewers, we are often unaware of the lengths that an artist goes to in selecting how they will portray their subject matter. While there is certainly value in appreciating paintings at a very involuntary level (letting yourself respond to a piece without inhibition from a cultivated knowledge base), there is also an argument to be made for understanding why our emotions are affected by a composition and, in the specific case of this thesis, by the sort of light (manifested in terms of color and value) that is used in a composition. This thesis project is an exploration into the nature and influence of lighting in the composition, and subsequently the mood, of paintings. The primary focus of this exploration will be a series of nine paintings (each of which will seek to present its viewer with a strong sense of its mood). In order to support and expand this, I will also be pursuing a short analysis of the series and a discussion of some of the theory and movements of art that have been particularly concerned with light throughout the relatively recent history of painting. The joining of these components is, in essence, a sampling of the use of light in art. The goal of this guide is to introduce its reader to a greater degree of understanding of the relationship between the use of light in painting and the emotions that they take away from it, which can be understood regardless of their previous level of acquaintance to art.