George Overbury’s watercolor Fireworks Display is such a fantastic expression of energy and awe that I’ve honestly never seen anything quite like it. Upon my first viewing it registered as simply an abstract arrangement of color, line and shade—in itself very pleasing to the eye—before the subject matter within the scene became apparent to me. Yes, I’m the type of guy who has the habit of viewing works before reading the title.
I’m not as familiar with watercolor as I am with oil paint, but the shades and softness here really give the scene a sensitively which might not have been achieved if the artist had selected a different medium. On that note, Overbury’s unique, vigorous style of brushwork not only conveys the intensity of the fireworks and smoke but also to renders the sturdy composure of our onlookers in the foreground, creating a wonderful harmony that makes this piece such a unifying experience.
Fireworks Display makes for an exceptional graphic, but only after absorbing its contrasting palette and sparse use of red and blue did I stop to examine the onlookers, seen from behind and curiously rendered as lightly-shaded silhouettes against the black background. These figures are deliberately vague, provided with only enough detail as to convey their essence. At the center I immediately notice the tender sight of an old man standing beside a young child, but my eye also identifies the lone individuals situated in and around the tree, as well as the couple snuggly sitting together down at the far left. Even if these characters aren’t all acquainted, their close proximity to one another suggests that they could be a family. Nonetheless they seem separated off from the group of less intriguing onlookers to the far right and the even more vaguely-rendered spectators seen in the distance.