Category Archives: National Gallery

Monochrome at the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London

Monochrome was one of those exhibitions at the National Gallery that  I booked for more out of a sense of duty. How wrong I was!! it was fantastic. It was amazing that drawings and paintings looked so much more 3D in black and white than in colour.

‘La Grande Odalisque’ in black and white. The pillars are in the glaring yellow colour of the last room of the exhibition

Ingres’s  (1780-1867) La Grande Odalisque was so much more sensual and fleshy in monochrome than in colour. You have to go to the exhibition and see Ingres’s own black and white version to see just what I mean.

Ingres’s La Grande Odalisque in colour

The  paintings and drawings of stone sculptures were so life-like you could imagine that seen by candlelight without bright daylight or electricity viewers would believe they were real. Some incredible trompe l’oeil. A must see.

Image of a young girl painted to look like a photograph


Once photography became commonplace, some artists regarded it as an enemy. Others like the author of this delightful portrait of a young girl meant his work  to be like a photograph. Artists were told to Imitate,  Rival or Challenge.

My only caveat. The last room deigned by Olaf Eliasson  was lit entirely in very bright yellow – ostensibly to make it easier to see details. But I ended up with flickering lights behind my left eye for ages. I think there should have been a warning and the possibility of missing that room – though I couldn’t have known it would affect me so adversely.

Thumbs Up – the 4th Plinth, Trafalgar Square, London

David Shrigley’s Everything is good

Just now the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square has this enormous thumb by David Shrigley – the sign for Everything Is Good. Unveiled on September 29th 2016 the ten-meter high hand gives a thumbs up to London, Londoners and our Visitors.

T shirt and other Shrigley merchandise


I hadn’t noticed the hand until I saw this T shirt, mug, tote bag and badge in the Royal Academy shop. There hasn’t been an exhibition at the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery for a while and I don’t normally walk or look that way.



Beyond Caravaggio – National Gallery, London

Beyond Caravaggio exhibition

I have been feeling guilty that after my heart attack I haven’t felt motivated or well enough to visit some of the great exhibitions presently on in London but I’m slowly catching up.

Last Sunday we went to see Beyond Caravaggio at the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, London – an exhibition showing his far reaching influence on artists of his time. It’s interesting that without having his own school, Caravaggio’s style was taken up by so many painters, though he hated being copied and would threaten to beat up anyone who did so.

Boy with basket of Fruit

After 20 or so years his combination of live models, dramatic lighting (chiaroscuro) and storytelling fell out of favour until the 20th century, since when he has been increasingly popular.

Caravaggio  (1571-1610) said that painting still life requires as much artistry as painting figure and his still lifes were certainly beautiful. The boy with fruit and flowers in the exhibition was his rather naughty Boy bitten by a lizard 1594-5 which shows a lizard biting the boy’s middle finger with beautifully painted fruit and white roses in a glass vase and behind the boy’s ear.

Painters’ Paintings at the National Gallery, London

Poster for Painters' paintings showing Lucien Freud and his Corot portrait
Poster for Painters’ paintings showing Lucien Freud and his Corot portrait

Yet another fascinating exhibition at the National Gallery.  This time it’s of paintings collected by other painters.

It’s a large exhibition and by its nature it feels a bit discontinuous but a wonderful opportunity to see paintings from such a wide variety of collections.

Books about the painters represented in the exhibition
Books about the painters represented in the exhibition

And it you want to read further, the National Gallery shop has a mouth-watering collection of books about the painters whose collections and works are on display.

Again it’s a ‘don’t miss’ if you can make it to London!!



First lecture in Module 3
First lecture in Module 3

I had been to lectures in the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery on upcoming exhibitions but it wasn’t until I looked through their Spring What’s On that I discovered these brilliant lectures on the History of Art. I’d unfortunately missed the first two modules but the first on of this term’s module 3 was fantastic. The tutor, Lucrezia Walker, first pointed out the main differences between the rather static, formal Renaissance art and that of the Baroque period using Bernini’s sculptures as illustrations.

Caravaggio Self-portrait

She then went on to discuss Caravaggio’s work in depth – his time in Rome, his flight to Naples and then on to Malta only to die while attempting to return to Italy.

I’m not sure what I expected from his self portrait – perhaps more of a bully0boy in keeping with his reputation as a brawler and out-spoken difficult man. I hadn’t realised that at the time some of his works were considered too sacrilegious and that he had to repaint them.

One of his paintings of an appealing young boy with ever so slightly damaged fruit
One of his paintings of an appealing young boy with ever so slightly damaged fruit


He certainly admired young boys, whether only as models for him, and painted them as luscious objects. His meticulous baskets of fruit are tongue-in-cheek with evidence of decay and dissolution for the close observer.




My visit February 21st
My visit February 21st
Some of the artists who were influenced by Delacroix
Some of the artists who were influenced by Delacroix

We found that attending curators’ lectures at the British Museum before going to the exhibitions made them much more interesting  so. before visiting the show at the National Gallery on Delacroix (1798-1863),  I went to the fascinating talk  by the co-curator of the show, Patrick Noon of the Minneapolis Institute of Art.


Some of the artists who were influenced by Delacroix included Degas, Cezanne, Renoir, Redon, Van Gogh and Gaugin (who took many reproductions of Delacroix’s work with him to the South Seas.)

Delacroix's self-portrait and my favourite painting by him of Baron Scwiter-
Delacroix’s self-portrait and my favourite painting by him of Baron Scwiter-

My favourite works by Delacroix himself  are his self-portrait and the ‘swagger portrait’ of Baron Schwiter which would have influenced Sargent. However, I much preferred the paintings in the exhibition by the artists he influenced.

Homage to Delacroix 1964
Homage to Delacroix 1864

His disciples mourned the fact that as Delacroix died in August 1953, when Paris had emptied for the summer, few attended his funeral. Henri Fantin-Latour painted a group portrait of them surrounding a copy of Delacroix’s self-portrait. They were: Delacroiz 5









Rubens and his first wife and ?his daughter
Rubens and his first wife, Helena Foument and ?his daughter, Clara

Ben van Beneden, Director of the Rubens House Museum in Antwerp, gave a brilliant talk, subtitled The Master Portrays His Family, on Rubens’ portraits  of his family and close friends. Rubens thought that portraits were a low form of art – just copying – rather than grand, like his vast History paintings.

Delightful paintings and a drawing of his sons
Delightful paintings and a drawing of his sons

But he did leave behind a collection of gorgeous paintings of his first and second wives – including a rather indiscrete painting of his 16-year old second wife, Helena Foument in the nude – and his children as well as self-portraits. He incorporated some of the images of his wives into his historical paintings such as ‘The Garden of Love’ and of himself, gold chain and all, into one of his several versions of ‘The Adoration of the Magi‘.

Goya Portraits at the national gallery, London

Fantastic Goya Exhibition
Fantastic Goya Exhibition – yet another must-see


A selection of books about Goya in the gallery Shop
A selection of books about Goya in the Gallery Shop

Wonderful exhibition of Goya portraits at the National Gallery until January 10th 2016.
When I thought of Goya’s paintings and drawings it was of his Black Works like The forcibly Bewitched and The Disasters of War, but these portraits show a quite different Goya – a successful Goya favoured by royalty and commissioned by the rich and famous.
I found his early portraits stiff and not very convincing until about 1895 when they changed to a more relaxed , human style. Some were almost impressionistic and I marvelled at his depiction of lace and gold encrusted fabric.My favourites were of two women – both delightful in their own way – that of the demure but lively Thérèse Louise de Sureda. painted 1804-6 and that of the actress Antonia Zárate, painted about 1805 looking straight at us out of her portrait. I loved his portrait of King Ferdinand VII painted 1814-15, long nose and all but was disappointed that the Duke of Wellington looked so uninteresting in his painted portrait though so much more human in Goya’s chalk and graphite drawing. I found his portraits of his friends and children were the most engaging.
Except for his earliest self-portraits, he portrays himself as a rather ugly, unhappy man though there must have been good times when he wasn’t being hounded out of his homeland because a more reactionary faction had taken over.