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Geese 1: Farmyards and wetlands
Described in a masterful understatement as being “among the most aggressive of all poultry”, geese can be fearsome birds. They were first domesticated in Europe several millenia ago, and since then have provided meat, eggs, fat and their downy feathers to keep people fed, greased and warm. This weekend... Read more
A Terrifying Beauty: Medusa 1
Even those whose knowledge of classical myths is sketchy know the terrifying power of Medusa. Formerly a beautiful young woman, she was transformed into a monster with live snakes instead of hair, and but a glance at her face and you became a stone statue. Ovid’s rather late account... Read more
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
Leonardo da Vinci: The Master’s Master 5
From 1503 to 1506, Leonardo da Vinci lived and worked in Florence, where his major project and one of the most substantial of his artistic career was a mural of the Battle of Anghiari for the Palazzo Vecchio there. This was to be accompanied by a painting of the... Read more
Medium Well Done: 5 Watercolour and gouache
Watercolour is the most inappropriately-named of the popular painting media. Oil paint uses drying oils as its binder, egg tempera uses the yolk of eggs, and glue tempera various types of glue. Water is, of course, not the binder in watercolour, but the diluent, used to turn blocks of... Read more
More Than Portraits: the paintings of Diego Velazquez 6 Spinners
Having set the scene with Velázquez’s unusual painting of a young woman who could be a sibyl, or an allegory of painting, I come to look in detail at his Las Hilanderas, which he painted for an unknown patron before he travelled to Italy for his second visit. Before... Read more
More Than Portraits: the paintings of Diego Velazquez 4 From Mars to Venus
Following the return of Velázquez from his first visit to Italy, by early 1631, it was time to get on with his court duties. Over the next fifteen years, he and his workshop produced a great many portraits, of Philip IV, his relatives and aides, of court jesters and... Read more
More Than Portraits: the paintings of Diego Velazquez 3 The challenge of narrative
When Diego Velázquez was appointed a Painter Royal to King Philip IV in October 1623, he became the most junior of a group of artists of varied status and influence. Among the most senior was Vicente Carducho, who had been painting religious and narrative works for the court for... Read more
Painting in Spain at the time of Velázquez 1
In the history of painting, it’s all too easy to get blinded by the brilliance of artists working in Italy and France, and forget those of Spain. When we think of Golden Ages, we think of the Dutch one, not that of Spain. Yet for about a century from... Read more
Landscape Visions: 4 Breath-taking panoramas
No matter how old and jaded you get, you can always appreciate the breath-taking view from the top of a hill, as the earth sweeps out in myriad details, as far as the distant horizon. As I wrote in the last article, I think that this is quite a... Read more