diagram

The placid harbor scene serves as a compositional foil for the furious action taking place in the foreground. The careful placement of interlocking dynamic elements allows us to trace:

bullet the progress of the boat toward the shark
bullet the violent thrust of the boat hook
bullet the path of the shark, extending beyond the picture's edge
bullet the movement of the rescuers toward the boy

Copley captures the scene's turbulent action, successfully orchestrating disparate elements to convey a powerful impression of impending impact. Eighteenth-century viewers were awed by the scene's immediacy as well as its violent theme. With the aid of modern technology, we can, perhaps, share their sense of novelty with a "virtual reality" experience ...

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