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More Than Portraits: the paintings of Diego Velazquez 5 Sibyl and Spinners
Late in Velázquez’s career, when his position at court was very close to King Philip IV, he painted two of his finest, most important, and most enigmatic works: Las Hilanderas (The Spinners), and Las Meninas (The Maids of Honour). Before considering these, I will look at an earlier enigma... Read more
Painting Reality: 8 Outcome
Naturalist painting was only one aspect of Naturalist art in the late nineteenth century. Indeed, mention the movement today and most people think first of literary Naturalism, particularly the novels of Émile Zola. Common to all these was a growing concern over the changes happening in society: rural deprivation... Read more
Landscape Visions: 3 Landscapes of awe
One of the most persistent traits in mankind is a curious fascination in, and enjoyment of, the horrifying and scary. When most paintings were religious in theme, these were satisfied perhaps by depictions of the glorious torments endured by saints and martyrs, such as the gory disembowelling of Saint... Read more
The Story in Paintings: New narratives
Much of the twentieth century was a difficult period for narrative painting – well, for painting as a whole. Although there were still many fine artists who painted superb works, they were viewed as tired and jaded compared to the avant garde of abstract expressionism, colour fields, and the... Read more
The Story in Paintings: Enlightened by science
Most of the narratives used by the paintings which I have shown so far are fairly conventional. Drawn from classical myth, epic poetry, fairy and folk tales, religion, plays, and most recently movies, they are obvious choices for depiction in paintings. This article looks at paintings by one artist,... Read more
Into the Light: John Ferguson Weir, Yale’s founding father
You will already have come across the wonderful paintings of the American Impressionist Julian Alden Weir (1852-1919), which I sampled in my article about him. He came from a very artistic family: his father, Robert Walter Weir, was a professor of drawing at West Point, and his half-brother John... Read more
Love’s Restless Fear: Penelope’s story
Epics tell the adventures of their heroes as they triumph over the forces of evil. Heroes are almost exclusively male, and their epic is narrated from a strongly male point of view. Of the three greatest epics to emerge from classical Greece and Rome – Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey,... Read more
Coast: The spectacle of Vesuvius, 1
Coastal landscapes are often spectacular, with dizzying cliffs or mighty seas, but there are a few locations which are in a different league. Every so often, that section of coast looks like the world is about to end – usually because of an active volcano. Although there are many... Read more
By the Sweat of their Brow – people at work 1
It was a long time before painters paid much attention to the working man and woman. When the Industrial Revolution swept through Europe during the latter half of the eighteenth century, a few artists were sufficiently moved by its visual effects as to commit them to canvas. Joseph Wright... Read more
Surprise, surprise: Paintings with a twist 3
In the second article of this series, I looked at the depiction of surprise in narrative painting during the nineteenth century, when it seems to have flourished. Even relatively minor narrative artists painted some fine examples. Félix-Henri Giacomotti (1828-1909), Forbidden Literature (1886), oil on canvas, 53 x 75 cm,... Read more