The visual aesthetic- House of Cards

Poster for the series, with the main protagonist mimicking the  Lincoln memorial  in Washington. (Originally sculpted by  Daniel Chester French )

Poster for the series, with the main protagonist mimicking the Lincoln memorial in Washington. (Originally sculpted by Daniel Chester French)

House of Cards is one of these rare gems, with strikingly clean, harmonious and balanced visual aesthetic, of a quality rarely seen on TV. It has become a weighty political series, gaining momentum with charismatic actors, twisted plots and engaging dialogue.  As a painter, I cannot help but appreciate the invested effort in each frame of each scene, not to mention the great artworks that appear on walls around the oval office, and in the private quarters of the white house.

Two of my favourites are John Singer Sargent's (1856-1925) painting of the "Simplon Pass", and Abbott Thayer's (1849-1921) painting of "Mount Monadnock", seen here in the background of two different scenes. In real life, they are hanging at Washington's Corcoran Gallery.

Frame on left: In background we see hanging Sargent"s painting of the Simplon Pass.

Frame on left: In background we see hanging Sargent"s painting of the Simplon Pass.

Frame on right: In background we see hanging ngingThayer's painting of "Mount Monadnock".

Frame on right: In background we see hanging ngingThayer's painting of "Mount Monadnock".

Other notable artist appearances throughout the series include Thomas Eakins, Childe Hassam, Mary Cassat.

The visual style of the series is apparently attributed to the producer David Fincher - Social Network, Millennium, Girl with a Dragon Tatoo (american version). He is also responsible for influencing the style of the the opening credits, with an accelerated time-lapse filming with slow camera travelling. 

Intrigued about this visual signature I researched a little more, and it seems to me that the producer is not the only influence here. Who is overlooked is the Danish cinematographer, Eigel Bryld, who I can't help associating with another great Danish artist: Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864-1916). And when we compare many of the frames of the series, it's difficult to deny the source of the inspiration. This Danish cinematographer is clearly influenced by one of his country's predecessors, and in doing so plays a significant role is shaping the visual aesthetic here.

From left: scene from 'House of Cards', painting by Vilhelm Hammershoi (Interior With Piano and Woman in Black).

From left: scene from 'House of Cards', painting by Vilhelm Hammershoi (Interior With Piano and Woman in Black).

From left: Scene from 'House of Cards', painting by Vilhelm Hammershoi (interior).

From left: Scene from 'House of Cards', painting by Vilhelm Hammershoi (interior).

And when it comes to inspiration for composing interiors, we can't forget two other painters: Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), and Edward Hopper (1882-1967).

From left: Edward Hopper - House of Cards - Johannes Vermeer

From left: Edward Hopper - House of Cards - Johannes Vermeer

It is clear that producers have a strong influence over the visual aesthetic, but a cinematographer's eye seems to have as much influence, and perhaps at times, even more. In any case, it is nice to see how the classics are still influencing contemporary film mediums. And when they do it right, series like 'House of Cards' leave their mark, and don't go un-noticed.

When it comes to finding inspiration, always borrow from the greatest.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington.  Daniel Chester French  (1850-1931)

Lincoln Memorial, Washington. Daniel Chester French (1850-1931)

toby wright