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Pushing it back: depth and repoussoir 2
In the first article of this pair yesterday, I explained and showed how trees to one side of the foreground of a painting strengthen the cues for depth, a compositional technique known as repoussoir, pushing back. This had become quite widely used by the end of the eighteenth century,... Read more
Medium Well Done: 13 Paper and cardboard
The first paper-like sheets were made by the ancient Egyptians from papyrus, but it was the Chinese who discovered how to break plant fibres down to form sheets of what is recognisably paper. This knowledge came to Europe in the Middle Ages, by the eleventh century, and by the... Read more
The Divine Comedy: Inferno 16 An overview of Hell
Before Dante takes us on from Hell to Purgatory, I’d like to take a brief overview of the last fifteen articles in which he has taken us to Hell and back, looking at some of its finest paintings. Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510), Map of Hell (1480-90), silverpoint, ink and distemper,... Read more
Gustave Courbet 5: Waves and caves
Best-known if not infamous for his erotic nudes during the 1860s, Gustave Courbet (1819–1877) in fact painted far more interesting works over the decade, although reading and explaining them may be more difficult. While our attention may be focussed on those popular displays of desirable flesh, Courbet’s certainly wasn’t.... Read more
The First Impressionist? Johan Jongkind’s Bicentenary – Impressionism
The Dutch landscape painter Johan Barthold Jongkind (1819-1891) was still struggling for a breakthrough when he was working in France in 1855, so he returned to the Netherlands, where he set up his studio in Rotterdam. In 1857, he visited Paris briefly, where he dined with Gustave Courbet, Camille... Read more
Gustave Courbet 1: The Desperate Man
Among the immediate precursors to the great art movements of the late nineteenth century, Naturalism and Impressionism, were Eugène Delacroix, Camille Corot, and Gustave Courbet (1819–1877). In a month’s time, we’ll be celebrating the bicentenary of Courbet’s birth, and I hope that you’ll join me in this short series... Read more
The Divine Comedy: Inferno 1 Into Hell
It is just before dawn on Good Friday in 1300, and Dante is in mid-life. He is wandering, lost in a dark wood. Gustave Doré (1832–1883), Dante Lost in the Forest (1861), gouache, dimensions not known, location not known. Image by Gastair, via Wikimedia Commons. When he reaches the... Read more
Introduction to Dante’s Divine Comedy
I’m reaching the end of my coverage of paintings of Goethe’s Faust, so it’s time to open another book which has been a major inspiration to and influence on visual art. This time it’s Dante Alighieri’s narrative poem, The Divine Comedy, which is divided into three parts: Inferno (Hell),... 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
In Memoriam Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes 2 Oil sketches
Two hundred years ago today, Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes, one of the major landscape painters of the Western tradition, died in Paris. Yesterday I showed some of his finished works, which led the evolution from the idealised landscapes of Micolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain to modern views of nature. Valenciennes’... Read more