We think of ourselves as being outside of mother nature, but this painting is a humbling reminder of what life really is all about. Mother nature is brutal and indifferent and August Friedrich Albrecht Schenck portrays this perfectly in the cold and windy landscape that seems to stretch forever in every direction in the only clear shots between the birds we get. She will either have to abandon the body or die with it from starvation.
We can see the passage of time in the footprints of the crows around the body, and if you look closely you can see the blood trickling from the babies mouth and snow kicked up around its leg that gives us the clue that the calf just recently died.
Composition and Value
Here we can see how he groups his dark and light shapes together and uses the light value shapes on the top and bottom to hold the central part of the composition. He also makes it balanced by adding bits of dark values in the whitest parts of the piece. This is to create balance and you can see that the picture is asymmetrical in the top half, we see two black shapes in a white shape to the top left and on the bottom we see one bigger, more detailed black shape on the bottom right. this makes the top part feel elevated and the bottom feel heavier.
He frames the mother in a large black shape that comprises most of the sky and the crows. The composition almost feels like a sideways turned hour glass and even though its probably not intentional I had to make notice of the skull shape in the right that you can see in threshold here. Creepy!
He uses the crows flying into the scene to add atmospheric perspective and bring our eye to our focal point and he does the same with the sun rays on the right hitting the edges of the cloud to do the same thing. Even the beaks of the crows and footsteps all take us to our main focal point which also has the most texture and detail in the whole scene.
The darker colors of the crows contrasts with the duller yellow/grey of the sky. He uses dull yellow brownish color for both the sky and the mother, however the mother has more brown in her coat.
He makes sure to add visual interest to the darker underbelly of the mother by adding some light values in this area with bits of snow on the fur.
The crows are mostly very dark reds or purples and he goes back and forth throughout the render with both colors and as we move to the back of the crows on the right we get the last bit of rendering in a dull grey yellow within the same range as the yellow on the rest of the piece.