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Rolling Thunder: lightning in the landscape
For many people in the past, the most awe-inspiring and impressive events in their lives were thunderstorms. Even today, lightning strikes make hot favourite movies and still images in social media. Although paintings of thunderstorms and lightning strikes may be pale imitations of their vivid and earth-shaking reality, they... Read more
Landscape oil sketches from Valenciennes to Pissarro
Yesterday, I commemorated here the anniversary of the death of the landscape painter who made plein air oil sketching a part of standard practice, so paving the way for the transformations which occurred in the nineteenth century and after – Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes (1750–1819). This article looks at his... Read more
Detail, the painterly, and the abstract: 1 A matter of scale
For millenia, painting was representational to some degree. Although modern theorists like to talk in degrees of abstraction, the artist’s intent was to represent in paint some form of visual reality, whether tangible or imagined. The twentieth century brought paintings which didn’t set out to represent anything in particular,... Read more
Truth in (landscape) painting 1
There are many types of ‘truth’ in painting, but the truth that I am concerned with here is fidelity to motif: how faithfully does a painter attempt to depict the objects that they are painting? It is easy to define the extremes. Hyperrealists attempt to paint absolutely everything that... Read more
Truth in (landscape) painting 2
Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894) was a pioneer scientist and polymath who had great influence over nineteenth century research and ideas in medicine, physiology, physics, psychology, philosophy, and aesthetics. Of relevance to painting is his work on visual perception, colour vision in particular, and optical aspects of painting. The latter... Read more
Truth in (landscape) painting 5 – conclusions
This series of articles set out to consider how faithfully landscape painters have tried to depict the views and objects that they paint, as the ‘truth’ of their painting. In the first, I rushed through the early history of landscape painting, to produce the view of Reynolds (1771) that... Read more
Great landscape painters like Constable took great pains to paint skies right. The British called it ‘skying’ – rattling off sketches of cloudscapes as they evolve. Constable’s are so marvellous that they are featured in two books, JE Thornes’ John Constable’s Skies: a Fusion of Art and Science, and... Read more
Book Review: Samuel Palmer, William Vaughan
“Samuel Palmer. Shadows on the Wall” William Vaughan Yale UP, 5 June 2015 (US: 4 Aug 2015) Hardback, 26 x 29.7 cm (10.2 x 11.7 in), 12+412 pp., £50.00/$85.00 ISBN 978 0 300 20985 3 Not available for Kindle nor in the iTunes Store. Samuel Palmer (1805-81) was one... Read more
Landscape Visions: 4 Breath-taking panoramas
No matter how old and jaded you get, you can always appreciate the breath-taking view from the top of a hill, as the earth sweeps out in myriad details, as far as the distant horizon. As I wrote in the last article, I think that this is quite a... Read more
Differing Views: the Palace of Westminster, London, England
The Palace of Westminster, the Houses of Parliament The present Houses of Parliament in London, so famous for their pinnacled roof and adjacent Big Ben, are less than 200 years old. A popular motif for painters from overseas, it is well situated on the ‘north’ bank (here, actually the... Read more