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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
The Balcony: Inside Out
In yesterday’s opening article of this pair, I looked at paintings of balconies; today we get to join the rich and famous on their balconies, and look out and down on the world below. Before cheap and easy travel became available in the late nineteenth century, standing on a... Read more
Landscape Visions: 5 Vision beyond
The final type of landscape painting which is often lumped with the Burkean sublime is that in which the artist’s internal (or ‘higher’) vision starts to become dominant: most obviously in the ‘Romantic’. These Romantic visions might include the truly Burkean sublime, as they did for John Martin and... Read more
Pigments + technique → style: 3 up to 1850
In the previous article, I explored the history of pigments used in painting up to 1700, and considered changes in techniques. This article covers the next 150 years, focussing again on oil painting in Europe. Pigments Prior to 1700, the great majority of pigments in use were those taken,... Read more
Trees in the landscape: 1. Introduction to the new series
Many of the finest landscape paintings consist of just three major elements: the sky, terrain, and trees. Some are little more than portraits of trees. In this new series of articles, I am going to concentrate on the depiction of trees by individual Western painters, where those trees form... Read more
The Story in Paintings: Caspar David Friedrich’s Stages of Life
Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840) was a Romantic painter noted for his enigmatic landscapes which have provoked much speculation in interpretation. He was born in Greifswald, near the Baltic coast of north-east Germany, when it was still part of Swedish Pomerania, and considered himself to be part-Swedish. However he opted... Read more
Owls and the reading of Bosch’s paintings 2
In the previous article, I looked at how owls have been used in paintings, with ‘meanings’ of the dark hours, night, wisdom, and learning. The latter two most probably originated from their more ancient association with the Roman goddess Minerva, and by descent from the Greek goddess Athena (or... Read more
Highlights of the painting articles of 2016
I have no idea how many painters and paintings I have featured in articles here this year, but I have greatly enjoyed learning about them, and I hope that you have enjoyed them too. Here is a whirlwind tour of the last twelve months, and some of its highlights... Read more
Figures in a Landscape: introduction to a new series
Many landscape paintings come with not just fixtures and fittings, the elements which are necessarily in the view, such as fields, trees, mountains, buildings, and the sky, but with mobile extras: animals and people. Although a great many landscapes have been painted without so much as a cow or... Read more
Coast: Introduction to a new series on landscape painting
The coast is where land, sea, and sky meet, bringing together three of the four ancient ‘elements’. When the weather’s fine, it is one of the most sought-after places to be. With the advent of modern forms of transport like steamboats and railways, huge numbers of people visited the... Read more