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The Divine Comedy: Inferno 14 From treachery to cannibalism
After meeting some political traitors, Dante and Virgil come across Count Ugolino, who is gnawing the back of the head of Archbishop Ruggieri as a dog chews a bone. Their story is one of the most horrific and famous in the whole of the Divine Comedy. Ugolino raises his... Read more
The First Impressionist? Johan Jongkind’s Bicentenary – first period in France
Four great painters who are candidates for the role of First Impressionist, before Monet, Pissarro, Renoir and the rest of the core members of the movement in France, include: Camille Corot (1796-1875), the major landscape painter who was ‘father’ to the movement, Johan Barthold Jongkind (1819–1891), whose painterly landscapes... Read more
King Arthur’s women: 2 Queen Guinevere
If Morgan le Fay is a wicked witch for much of Arthurian legend, and only comes good as Arthur lies dying, Queen Guinevere turns out to be unfaithful, and is almost burned at the stake, a punishment normally reserved for witches. Morgan had a following in Italy, as Fata... Read more
King Arthur’s women: 1 Morgan le Fay
Rich and compelling though the Arthurian legends are, they are also a bit of a nightmare in terms of narrative, as are their paintings. There are so many stories, each of which comes in different variants, that it can be hard to know which version is the source for... Read more
Like an obelisk: Nabi paintings of Jan Verkade
If some of the more prolific Nabis have become quite obscure, those who had brief artistic careers like Jan Verkade (1868–1946) have all but vanished. Known in the group as le nabi obéliscal (the obeliscal Nabi), he became a Benedictine monk in 1894 and was later ordained as a... Read more
Gustave Courbet 2: The group
Before the young Gustave Courbet (1819–1877) had even completed The Stone Breakers, he had already started work on an even greater masterpiece, A Burial at Ornans, one of the canonical paintings of the century. Gustave Courbet (1819–1877), A Burial at Ornans (1849-50), oil on canvas, 315 x 668 cm,... Read more
Medium Well Done: 9 Ink and casein
Since ancient times, writing, drawing and paintings have been made using pigments and/or dyes in water, often without any binder as such. These are generically inks, which don’t conform to other media such as watercolours or the temperas. The most common among them is India ink, whose essential ingredients... Read more
The Divine Comedy: Inferno 13 Treachery
After Dante and Virgil hear the story of an alchemist who claimed to be able to transform base metals into gold, Dante mentions examples of those who have fallen victim to sudden changes of fate, in Thebes and Troy. But none compares to two of the spirits who sink... Read more
In Memoriam Helen Hyde, American Japoniste
I only occasionally feature prints here, largely because I have never made any myself and don’t have the same practical feel for them as I do for painting. But here I’d like to remember a pioneering print-maker, the American Helen Hyde (1868-1919), who died a century ago today on... Read more
Geese 2: The Goose Girl
In the first of this pair of articles looking at geese in painting, I concentrated on the birds themselves. Here I look at a motif which, for a couple of decades, became popular in paintings: the Goose Girl. Geese are sufficiently aggressive to function as both intruder alarms and... Read more