In William Henry Lippincott’s Love's Ambush we see a man entering a handsome, softly-lit interior as a woman prepares to surprise him from out behind the door. Judging by his attire, he’s obviously arriving in from off the street, while his companion is wearing something a bit more comfortable. This is a charming scene, although whatever drama is about to unfold between our two subjects, it would seem of secondary importance to the backdrop our artist has provided for them; I find myself more enthralled with the room itself than our two lovers. Lippincott’s use of light and composition create an arousing atmosphere which makes his Love's Ambush an stirring view.
While Lippincott has rendered this scenery in very definite detail, I’m intrigued as to why he didn't pay equal attention to his two subjects—particularly their faces, which seem unusually soft, making out only their most basic features. Perhaps they were cast as anonymous stand-ins so the viewer would not find them too identifiable, as that might distract away from the moody ambiance of the room. In other words, I would argue that these two people play a similar role to that of human figures in architectural drawing--present simply to provide a sense of scale and functionality of the space.
I know. I'm so romantic.
That said, I love how certain items found throughout the room indirectly supply tension to the woman's so-called "ambush." Over the fireplace is a painting depicting an embarking sea ship—a ship which appears oriented in the direction of the woman, almost if it were accompanying her behind the door as she preys upon her lover, further contributing to our work's theme of pursuit. You'll also find a grandfather clock to the left of our gentleman. Given that the woman's surprise would be dependent on timing, I feel this clock operates as a neat emblem within the scene. And then we have what appears to be a basket of cherries sitting beside the lamp as well as an animal hide lying in front of the fireplace, neither of which indicates any hidden subtext--I just think they provide some attractive garnish for the room.
As much as I enjoy this piece, after the first couple viewing I was overwhelmed by the abundance of rectangles. Their presence through the walls and décor of the room—including the painting and the design of the fireplace--dominates the scene. Even our canvas’s horizontal orientation has a curiously rectangular feel to it. A majority of these rectangles are rendered using soft mid-tones, and with that in mind, the dark, sloping lines of the chairs immediately stand out to the eye. It’s an interesting effect, especially since we have two chairs—one for each of our subjects—indicating that they are both welcome in this room. Had there been only one chair present, my immediate reaction might’ve been somewhat different.
And lastly, I must mention Lippincott’s use of light and shadow, which is nothing short of amazing and greatly contributes to the natural feel of this otherwise whimsical scene. Our primary light source is the lamp, while the fireplace emits only a faint glow which registers as ambient. Further demonstrating the artist’s understanding of shadow, we can see that the shallower indents and crevasses located closer the lamp are supplied darker values than deeper areas which would allow more room for the light to reflect, thus filling in their shadow. It’s a nuance which nonetheless lends this picturesque interior a certain authenticity. Other details I enjoy: The shadow of the painting which can be seen cast upon on the ceiling, the head of the rocking chair overlapping the lamp, the silhouette of the trinket found resting on the right end of the fireplace mantle, and the faint shadow cast upon the grandfather clock by the opened door.