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William Powell Frith 2: Moral series
With the success of his two earlier human panoramas showing Ramsgate Sands (1854) and The Derby Day (1856-58), William Powell Frith (1819–1909) set to work on his greatest painting, a similar human panorama showing the interior of one of London’s major railway stations. Sadly, as the original is now... Read more
Jean Geoffroy: the world of the child
Children are most commonly the speciality of women painters, perhaps because they usually work better with child models than do men. One notable exception to this is one of very few artists who specialised in painting children, particularly those in school: Henri Jules Jean Geoffroy (1853–1924). He was born... Read more
Painting Reality: 5 Growth of the city
The original focus of Naturalism was the plight of the rural poor, but as it evolved and gathered momentum in the 1880s, Naturalist painters also looked at the growing problems of cities and those who tried to survive in them. In terms of sheer numbers of paintings, depictions of... Read more
Painting Reality: 4 Art and the State
Many Naturalist paintings depicted the plight of the rural poor during the early years of the French Third Republic, which was hailed for the reforms which its politicians promised. One of the major accounts of Naturalism in France at that time, by Richard Thomson, considers at length the relationship... 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 3
Paul Cézanne has been repeatedly described as the ‘father’ of several of the major movements in painting which dominated its development in the twentieth century. Whether you particularly like his landscape works or not, he was a great influence and repays careful study. Over his 40 years or so... Read more
Truth in (landscape) painting 4
Cézanne’s final style, featuring his characteristic ‘constructive stroke’ with patches of colour built from groups of parallel brushstrokes, came to dominate his oil paintings by the mid-1890s. It is this style which has been claimed as laying the foundations for Cubism and abstraction. As I have pointed out, such... 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
Favourite paintings 1: Jan van Eyck, The Rolin Madonna, 1435
Jan van Eyck, The Madonna of Chancellor Rolin (c 1435) oil on panel, 66 x 62 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris (WikiArt). As the Masters in the South got to grips with linear perspective, those of the Northern Renaissance explored the new medium of oil paints and their power... Read more