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Medium Well Done: 6 Oils
Since the decline of egg tempera as the preferred medium for easel paintings in the Renaissance, oil paints have dominated those used by professional painters. This is due to their longevity and versatility. When appropriate techniques are used, oil paintings readily survive over five hundred years, and are the... Read more
Detail, the painterly, and the abstract: 2 Examples from the Masters
In the first article in this pair, I proposed the hypothesis that all representational paintings appear chaotic, even abstract if you must, if you zoom into them closely enough. But as you zoom out you reach a point where their marks organise into an image which our brains see... Read more
Painting Goethe’s Faust: 1 Faust meets the black dog
Part One of Goethe’s Faust opens with a short dedication, which starts to build the air of history and mystery for the play. This is followed by a curious prologue which is a prolonged aside between the play’s director, the dramatic poet, and a comic clown. The first real... Read more
Favourite Paintings 4: Rembrandt, Bathsheba with King David’s Letter, 1654
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, Bathsheba with King David’s Letter (1654), oil on canvas, 142 x 142 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Wikimedia Commons. Instead of depicting her as an erotic nude in a scene of lust and voyeurism, Rembrandt reveals Bathsheba’s inner conflict, and transforms the technique of painting.... Read more
Beyond words and pictures 3: metonymy and synecdoche
If metaphor is the greatest of the verbal figurative expressions (tropes), but in painting appears comparatively rare, I move on now to consider the other great tropes of metonymy and synecdoche. Metonymy and synecdoche in verbal rhetoric An informal definition of ‘metonymy’ is that it is a figurative expression... Read more
Favourite Paintings 1-11: Overview
1: Jan van Eyck (c 1385 – c 9 July 1441) The Madonna of Chancellor Rolin (‘The Rolin Madonna’) 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... Read more
Movie Review: Rembrandt (2015), Exhibition on Screen, Kat Mansour and Phil Grabsky
The movie to accompany the Late Rembrandt exhibition. A worthy substitute for those who missed it, and an essential companion for those who went. “Rembrandt. Exhibition on Screen” directed by Kat Mansour narrator Robert Lindsay produced by Phil Grabsky Arts Alliance Media; Seventh Art; The National Gallery; Rijksmuseum. Running... Read more
Mark-making is not abstraction
How many times have you heard it said, or seen it written, that mark-making is a sign of abstraction in painting? Critics and art historians – very seldom painters themselves – seem still spell-bound by the long phase in realist painting which started during the Renaissance, and was only... Read more
Strength in Numbers 5: Conclusions
In the first article of this series, I showed what I mean by series paintings, defined some sub-types, and considered how and when they came about. The second article then examined Pissarro’s series paintings, the third those of Sisley, and the fourth those of Monet. This article summarises what... Read more
Beyond the French Impressionists: 27 What makes an Impressionist painting?
There are many and various opinions as to what makes an Impressionist painting, compared say with one from the Barbizon School, and how to distinguish between regular realism and Impressionism, for example. It is, of course, a central issue behind this series: what if most of those paintings that... Read more