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Thursday, 3 December 2015

Nicky Philipps picks her favourite portrait painters

Nicky Philipps's impressive commissions include a full length portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II, which hangs in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace, a double portrait of TRH's Princes William and Harry and Falklands hero Simon Weston OBE. Nicky has also recently starred in 'Goya - Visions of Flesh and Blood', a film that travels to significant places in Spain such as the Prado Museum in Madrid in order to enrich our understanding of Francisco de Goya's life and art. 

'Nicky Philipps paints portraits and still lifes which can be compared with those of John Singer Sargent in their freshness of application and clarity of drawing.' - Desmond Shawe - Taylor, Surveyor of The Queen's Pictures. 

Here, we bring together a selection of  treasured portraits by some of Nicky's favourite artists:

Anthony Van Dyck, 1559 - 1641

'Self-portrait by Sir Anthony van Dyck', 1640-1, © National Portrait Gallery, London

Diego Velazqzez, 1599 - 1660

'Portrait of Innocent X', Diego Velazquez, 1650

Rembrandt van Rijn, 1606 - 1669

'Self-portrait with two circles', Rembrandt Van Rijn, c. 1665 - 9 © English Heritage

Joshua Reynolds, 1723 - 1792

'The art of seeing in reality the great object, the point to which all our studies are devoted.' - Sir Joshua Reynolds. 

'Sir Joshua Reynolds', Joshua Reynolds, c. 1747-9 © National Portrait Gallery, London  

Henry Raeburn, 1756 - 1823

Adam Ferguson (1723–1816)
'Adam Ferguson', Henry Raeburn c. 1790 © The University of Edinburgh Art Collection

Thomas Lawrence, 1769 - 183

'John Julius Angerstein', Sir Thomas Lawrence, c. 1790 © National Portrait Gallery, London   

Edouard Manet, 1832 - 1883

'A Bar at the Folies - Bergere', Edouard Manet, 1882 © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

John Singer Sargent, 1856 - 1925

'Lady Agnew of Lochnaw', John Singer Sargent 1892 ©  National Galleries of Scotland

Philip de Laszlo, 1869 - 1937

Mrs Philip de László (nee Lucy Guinness) by Philip de László, 1918 Roy Fox Fine Art Photography - © de Laszlo Foundation
'Mrs Philip de Laszlo (nee Lucy Guinness)', Philipp de Laszlo, 1918, Rou Fox Fine Art Photography ©  de Laszlo Foundation

William Orpen, 1878 - 1931

'David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd - George of Dwyor, Prime Minister', William Orpen, 1927 © Tate Government Art Collection  

    Graham Sutherland, 1903 - 1980

    Graham Sutherland OM ‘Somerset Maugham’, 1949
© Tate
    'Somerset Maugham', Graham Sutherland, 1949 © Tate

    Saturday, 17 October 2015

    Must-see landscape paintings in London

    To coincide with Nicky Philipps's current landscape exhibition, 'Travels with my Paintbox' at Fine Art Commissions, we take a look at some of the gems of the genre housed in London's art galleries:

    John Constable, 'Study of Cirrus Clouds,' Victoria and Albert Museum
    John Constable, 'Study of Cirrus Clouds', c. 1822 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
    Constable owned Thomas Forster's Researches about Atmospheric Phaenomena, which was accompanied by a series of engravings that illustrated the changes and developments of clouds. Inscribed with 'cirrus' on the reverse of the painting, this study shows the artist's scientific knowledge of cloud formations and accurate observation of the sky. 

    J.M.W.Turner, 'The Fighting Temeraire', The National Gallery
    J.M.W. Turner, 'The Fighting Temeraire', 1839, © The National Gallery, London
    Turner depicts a 98-gun ship that after playing an acclaimed role in Nelson's victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, became known as the 'Fighting Temeraire.' In 1838, the ship was towed from Sheerness to Rotherhithe to be broken up. Depicted travelling away from the sunset in an easterly direction, it is believed this painting illustrates the abatement of Britain's naval power, evoking a sense of loss that is suggested in parallels between the breathtaking sunset and old warship. 

    Painted when Turner was in his sixties, the work demonstrates his impressive mastery of the sea and sky. His heavy application of paint for the sun's rays contrasts to the scrupulous depiction of the ship's rigging. 

    James Whistler, 'Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge', The Tate Collection
    James Abbott McNeill Whistler, 'Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge', c. 1872-5 © Tate, London
    'By using the word 'nocturne' I wished to indicate an artistic interest alone, divesting the picture of any outside anecdotal interest which might have been otherwise attached to it. A nocturne is an arrangement of line, form and colour' - Whistler. 

    'I did not intend to paint a portrait of the bridge, but only a painting of a moonlight scene...My whole scheme was only to bring about a certain harmony of colour.' - Whistler, quoted during the Ruskin Trial. 

    Similarly to Monet's painting, Whistler also chooses a bridge as his central motif. In this case, the artist depicts Battersea Bridge, with Chelsea Church and the new Albert Bridge illuminating the backdrop. Deemed one of Whistler's most controversial works and used as evidence in the renowned Whistler-Ruskin trial in 1878, the painting was the fifth in the series of Nocturnes produced by Whistler during the 1870's. Named as Nocturnes by Frederick Leyland, whose apt label intended to combine the moonlit subject with its musical associations, Whistler's series captures the serene beauty of the Thames. 

    Inspired by Japanese woodcuts, such as Hiroshige's 'Moonlight at Ryogoko', Whistler deliberately crops part of the bridge out of the composition and exaggerates its height. Whistler completed sketches and then finished his paintings in his studio from memory, building up the canvas with transparent layers of paint that he thinned beforehand using a combination of copal, turpentine and linseed oil. 

    Paul Cezanne, 'Mount Sainte-Victoire with Large Pine', The Courtauld Gallery
    Paul Cezanne, 'Mt Sainte-Victoire with Large Pine', c. 1887 © The Courtauld Gallery, London
    Cezanne painted many representations of the landscape around his home in southern France, which he used to delve into an experimentation with form and colour. Roger Fry wrote in the catalogue for the 1910 exhibition 'Manet and the Post-Impressionists' in London that Cezanne 'showed how it was possible to pass from the complexity of the appearance of things to the geometrical simplicity which design demands.' 

    Cezanne's technique differed from other Impressionists; he painted using blocks of colour and strong outlines rater than thick, short daubs of paint, dazzling complementary colours and no definitive outlines. 

    Cezanne's simplified interpretation of the landscape, bold use colour and flattened planes of parallel brushstrokes foreshadowed abstraction and was admired by a younger generation of modernist artists. 

    Claude Monet, 'The Water-Lily Pond,' The National Gallery
    Claude Monet, 'The Water-Lily Pond', 1899 © The National Gallery, London
    Following Monet's move to Giverny in 1883, where he lived until he died, he created a water garden and built an arched Japanese style bridge 'for the purpose of cultivating aquatic plants.' Once the garden had fully evolved, Monet painted the motif of the bridge at different times of the day and under differing light conditions. In this instance, the bridge is viewed from the pond itself and is enveloped by lush reeds and willow leaves.

    Friday, 25 September 2015

    Our pick of exhibitions to see this winter

    Drawing in Silver and Gold: Leonardo to Jasper Johns

    British Museum, until 6 December 2015
    'Head of the Virgin', Rogier Van der Weyden, Metalpoint on prepared paper, mid 15th century
    This exhibition is the first to recount the technical and artistic development of metalpoint through work by renowned masters ranging from the Renaissance to the present day, including Rogier van der Weyden, Petrus Christus, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Albrecht Durer, Rembrandt, William Holman Hunt and Jasper Johns. 

    Metalpoint is a challenging technique that uses metal stylus often made of silver, which traces the metal left and allows for exquisitely detailed drawings. The exhibition documents metalpoint's impressive variety as well as its revival during the 19th century when there was a renewed interested in the Renaissance.

    Simon Schama's Face of Britain

    National Portrait Gallery, until 4 January 2016
    Simon Weston, by Nicola Jane ('Nicky') Philipps, 2014 - NPG 6984 - © National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG 6984) Commissioned jointly by the National Portrait Gallery and the BBC, 2013
    'Simon Weston', Nicky Philipps, Oil on Canvas, 2014 © National Portrait Gallery, London 
    NPG P490(16)
    'Winston Churchill'. Yousuf Karsh, 1941, © Karsh/ Camera Press
    'Nicky Philipps' portrait of the Falklands veteran Simon that rare thing: a good contemporary portrait in oil.' - Bendor Grosvenor

    In partnership with the BBC, historian Simon Schama's exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery brings together British art and history in order to explore the development, nature and significance of portraiture over the centuries. Working closely with curators, this exhibition gives us for the first time the opportunity to view the genre of portraiture through the themes of Power, Love, Fame, People and Self.

    Goya: The Portraits

    National Gallery, 7 October 2015 - 10 January 2016
    'Self-portrait before an Easel', Francisco de Goya, Oil on Canvas, 1792-95 © Museo de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid 
    This landmark exhibition showcases the development of Goya's skilfully arresting portraits from his first commission, aged 37, to paint the Spanish Prime Minister, Count Floridablanca to his later, more private works painted during the 1820's when he was in France during a 'self-imposed exile.'

    During his extensive career, Goya secured commissions from across Spanish society, including the royal family, politicians, military figures and aristocrats. Following a bout of serious illness in his mid-40's, Goya became deaf. Nevertheless, his portraiture excelled and his ground-breaking abilities makes him one of Spain's most admired painters and highly respected by artists such as Delacroix, Degas and Picasso. 

    Bridget Riley, Learning from Seurat

    Courtauld Gallery, until 17 January 2016
    Bridge at Courbevoie
    'Bridge at Courbevoie', Georges Seurat, 1886-87, The Samuel Courtauld Trust  © The Courtauld Gallery, London
    When Bridget Riley painted a copy of Seurat's Bridge at Courbevoie in 1959, it represented a momentous development in her artistic exploration and marked a new awareness of colour and perception. This intimate exhibition brings together Seurat's painting with a variety of Riley's early works and showcases how she became inspired to produce the abstract paintings characterised by repeated geometric patterns for which she is most well known today. 

    Jean - Etienne Liotard

    Royal Academy, 24 October 2015 - 31 January 2016
    'Julie de Thellusson-Ployard', Jean-Etienne Liotard, Pastel on vellum, 1760, Museum Oskar Reinhart. Rodolphe Dunki, Geneva; acquired 1935 Photo SIK-ISEA. Photography; Philipp Hitz
    Jean-Etienne Liotard was an outlandish and unique portraitist who vividly captured the splendour of the Enlightenment. Liotard was a master of self-promotion as well as an extensive traveller; known as 'the Turk' following a voyage to the Ottoman Empire during which he wore Oriental costume, he painted expatriates as well as what he saw around him. At the height of his power, Liotard painted members of the royal family from Britain, France and Austria and created alluring portraits in his trademark of pastels on parchment. 

    Frank Auerbach

    Tate Britain, 9 October 2015 - 13 March 2016
    Frank Auerbach Head of J.Y.M ll 1984-85
    'Head of J.Y.M II', Frank Auerbach, Oil on Canvas, 1984-85, Private Collection © Frank Auerbach

    'This part of London is my world. I've been wandering around these streets for so long that i've become attached to them and as fond as people are to their pets.' - Auerbach
    Auerbach has lived in Camden Town, London, for 50 years and it remains a focal point of his work. Painting daily, Auerbach abandons his work, scraping back to the canvas surface and starting again, repeatedly, until the painting comes together in a few hours. This show brings together paintings and drawings from the 1950s to the present day to emphasise the artist's acute perception of depth, texture and space and to highlight how his remarkable paintings can be viewed in isolation, documenting a process whereby the artist paints the same sitters or locations in a continual cycle. 

    Masters of the Everyday: Dutch Artists in the Age of Vermeer

    The Queen's Gallery, 13 November 2015 - 14 February 2016 
    'A Lady at the Virginal with a Gentleman', 'The Music Lesson, ' Johannes Vermeer, Oil on Canvas, 1662-5, Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015
    Displaying 20 masterpieces from the Royal Collection by artists including Pieter de Hooch and Johannes Vermeer, the exhibition celebrates how Dutch artists painted everyday life - eating, drinking, domestic tasks, music recitals, family games - with extraordinary and meticulous skill, producing dazzling paintings that often insinuated a deeper meaning or contained moral messages recognised by the contemporary viewer. 

    Friday, 18 September 2015

    Female selfies in the National Portrait Gallery, London

    Angelica Kauffmann, by Angelica Kauffmann, circa 1770-1775 - NPG 430 - © National Portrait Gallery, London
    Angelica Kauffman, Oil on Canvas c. 1770-75 © National Portrait Gallery, London
    Kauffman's self-portrait was one of many that celebrated her identity as a female painter. Depicted with the tools of her trade, Kauffman's modest but nonetheless self-assured pose asserts that her professional status is in keeping with the righteousness deemed appropriate for a woman. Kauffman's international reputation was such that in 1768 she became one of the Royal Academy's founding members. 

    Laura Knight was the first artist to be made a dame and the first woman to become a full member of the Royal Academy. Knight had not been allowed to attend life drawing classes at art school, which she found deeply frustrating. Nevertheless, this seminal  self-portrait emphasises her skill at depicting the nude figure. The vibrant red tones and sophisticated composition visualise the freedom and courage she found after joining the Newlyn school in 1907, an artistic community in Cornwall. 

    Self-portrait, Dame Laura Knight, Oil on Canvas, 1913 © National Portrait Gallery, London

    Thursday, 3 September 2015

    Nicky Philipps tells us about the greats that inspire her landscape painting

    To coincide with Nicky Philipps's first solo exhibition of landscape paintings, 'Travels with my Paintbox', which opens at Fine Art Commissions on 7th October, we asked who inspires her work:

    J.M.W. Turner

    'I love Turner's wild brushstrokes and the amount of paint he used. He painted with huge freedom and energy and discovered the romantic in every view.'

    'Rain, Steam and Speed,' 1844 © The National Gallery, London
    'Margate (?) from the sea', 1835-40 © The National Gallery, London
    Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

    'Corot is one of the few painters who made sense out of green. It is an impossible colour to work with but instead of the heavy sap greens of summer, his are very gentle, greyish hues that still appear true to life.'

    'Dardagny, Morning', 1853 © The National Gallery, London
    'The Leaning Tree Trunk', 1860-65 © The National Gallery, London
    Edward Seago

    'Edward Seago spent much of his early life on his back for medical reasons observing the clouds and is a master of skies. Sometimes I will wake up and think  'that is a Seago sky', so instantly recognisable are his colours. I think it is a testament to his ability to capture an exact moment in the day: the pink sirrus clouds of a balmy July evening, or the yellow sky that appears just before a November thunderstorm.’ 

    'Evening Haze, Thurne Dyke, Norfolk', © Seago Estate, courtesy of Portland Gallery, London. Photo Credit: Norfolk Museums Service.
    'The River at Earlham, Norfolk', © Seago Estate, courtesy of Portland Gallery, London. Photo Credit: Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia. 

    Thursday, 20 August 2015

    HIGHLIGHTS: Artemisia Gentileschi in the Royal Collection, London

    Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015
    This cultivated work, entitled 'Self-portrait as the Allegory of Painting' (c.1638-9), is one of only a few surviving self-portraits by Artemisia Gentileschi. In this instance, she playfully depicts herself as the female personification of painting. Gentileschi cleverly combines self-portraiture and allegory in a single image, which has its precedent in works such as a portrait medal by Felice Antonio Casoni that honours Cremonese painter Lavinia Fontana. It is believed that Gentileschi completed the portrait in England, after she was invited to visit in 1638 by King Charles I. 

    This allegorical work embodies the Iconologia of Cesare Ripa, which was a widely used handbook that described painting as a 'beautiful woman, with full black hair, dishellleved, and twisted in various ways, with arched eyebrows that show imaginative thought, the mouth covered with a cloth tied behind her ears, with a chain of gold at her throat from which hangs a mask, and has written in front ''imitation.''

    Gentileschi is leaning over a stone slab used to grind pigments, wearing a brown apron over her green dress and holding the tools of her trade - a brush and palette. It is possible that the brown area behind Gentileschi is a blank canvas. Areas of the ground remain exposed, suggesting shadow, which is skilfully rendered in the white edge of her rolled up sleeve as it meets the dark shadow of the exposed ground. Gentileschi has tactfully depicted herself in the act of painting and her pose suggests that she may have positioned herself in between facing mirrors. 

    Gentileschi's remarkable and unusual status as a female artist strengthened her appeal for collectors, including antiquarian Cassiano dal Pozzo and this compelling portrait enriched the concept of the elevated status of the artist. 

    Monday, 17 August 2015

    HIGHLIGHTS: Frans Hals at The Wallace Collection, London

    The Laughing Cavalier, Frans Hals, 1624  ©The Wallace Collection, London
    In this lively half-length portrait, an unknown sitter is depicted close to the picture plane against a plain, grey background. By the time the painting was completed, Hals had painted several portraits as well as a group portrait of a civic militia company. This work is considered Hals's most famous piece, exhibiting the skillful way he animates his subjects. The sitter has his hand on hip, which euxdes a self-confidence that characterises several of Hals's portraits as well as giving the painting more depth. Painted with both fine and broader brushwork, the painting is unique in the artist's oeuvre for its vibrant colour; the sitter wears an exuberant doublet covered with fanciful motifs and a striking gilded pommel is discernable at his elbow. 

    The purpose of the portrait has never been fully established, although it is believed that the man's costume may provide us with useful clues. The motifs on his doublet, which are embroidered in gold, red and white thread, include arrows, lovers' knots and a flaming cornucopiae - all symbolic of the pleasures and sorrow of love. As connotations of courtship, it is possible that the work functions as a betrothal portrait, yet no companion piece has been found. The  motif of the Caduceus, an attribute of the Roman God Mercury, has also led art historians to believe that this alludes to commerce and thus that the work depicts the wealthy textile merchant Tieleman Roosterman, 

    In 1865, the painting was at the centre of a bidding war at a Paris auction between 4th Marquess of Hertford and Baron James de Rothschild, acquired by the former for the wealthy sum of 51,000 francs. In 1888, it was given the title 'The Laughing Cavalier' when exhibited at the Royal Academy, which emphasises the conviviliaty of the portrait. This is reinforced by the low, commanding viewpoint and the sitter's pompous pose, upturned moustache and shining eyes. 

    Friday, 7 August 2015

    HIGHLIGHTS: Goya and Gainsborough at the Courtauld Gallery, London

    The 18th century permanent collection at the Courtauld Gallery houses magnificent examples of English portraiture, including the only full-length portrait by Francisco Goya in Britain and Thomas Gainsborough's enthralling and affectionate painting of his wife Margaret:

    Portrait of Don Francisco de Saavedra
    Francisco de Goya, Portrait of Don Francisco de Saavedra, 1798 The Courtauld Gallery, London
    Goya's painting of Spanish politician Francisco de Saavedra was part of a double commission; the artist also painted Saavedra's close friend and ally Gaspar de Jovellanos. Both men were appointed to the two highest political offices in Spain: Minister of Finance and Minister of State. 

    Saavedra sits facing the right, on a round-backed chair. Well-known for his sincerity, Saavedra seems poised as if to leave his paper-strewn desk. It is possible that the portrait's simple background shows Goya's knowledge of 18th century English portraiture, while also acknowledging Saavedra's wellordered and 'English' household. 
    Portrait of Margaret Gainsborough, c.1779, The Courtauld Gallery, London
    Margaret Burr married Gainsborough at the young age of 18 and it is believed that this portrait celebrates her 50th birthday. The intimacy of this painting is shown in Margaret's frontal pose, direct gaze and subtle smile. Margaret wears a mantle lined with black lace, which is draped over her head and shoulders. It is formed from an energetic swirl of brush-strokes that begin around her head and continue in the positioning of her hands. 

    Gainsborough's rhythmic brushwork became increasingly evident towards the latter part of his career. He also experimented with the effects of transparency and light. This is visible in the strong silhouette of Margaret's mantle, which is illuminated by the light source behind her left side. This reflects Gainsborough's experiments with the contemporary fashion of painting transparent images on glass, which when lit from behind by candlelight could produce a luminous and dynamic light. 

    Friday, 31 July 2015

    Round-up of our favourite paintings in London and Paris

    From masterpieces by the Italian Renaissance painter Giovanni Battista Moroni to French Impressionist Gustave Caillebotte, our Gallery Manager Rosie picks a selection of her favourite paintings:

    Jan Van Eyck, 'The Arnolfini Portrait', 1434 © The National Gallery, London
    This iconic double portrait depicts Giovannni di Nicolao Arnolfini, a member of a merchant family from Lucca and his wife in a luxurious interior. It has been suggested that Giovanni's wife is pregnant, although her full-skirted dress conforms to contemporary fashion. Van Eyck has playfully inscribed the painting with an ornate Latin signature that reads 'Jan Van Eyck was here 1434.' 

    Giovanni  Battista Moroni,  'The Tailor', 1565-70 © The National Gallery, London

    Giovanni Battista Moroni was one of the greatest portraitists of 16th century Italy, widely respected for his skilful depiction of exact likeness and psychological depth. 
    Peter Paul Rubens, 'A Lion Hunt'. 1614-15 © The National Gallery, London
    This violent grisaille sketch takes visual inspiration from Leonardo Da Vinci's fresco of 'The Battle of Anghiari', which was destroyed in 1557. Eastern hunters on horseback attempt to fight off a lion who attemots to drag one of them to the ground. Another figure is shown killing a lion and there is a corpse beneath the horses. 
    Rembrandt van Rijn, 'Recumbent Lion facing Right', 1660-65 © Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

    Rembrandt  favoured drawing what he saw around him, unlike other artists who relied on paintings by predecessors. At the age of 46, Rembrandt saw a real lion in Amsterdam, which he sketched directly, capturing its powerful anatomy with impressive accuracy. 
    John Constable, 'The Hay Wain', 1821 © The National Gallery, London
    This famous painting was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1821, but failed to attract a buyer. However, when it was shown in France, Constable was awarded a Gold medal by Charles X. The painting depicts a horse-drawn cart in the foreground, a cottage rented by farmer Willy Lott on the left and in the distance, a meadow with a group of haymakers at work. This was one of the many en plein air sketches that Constable created of the traditional Suffolk countryside, which he then used to make full-size preparatory oil sketches back in his studio in London. 

    Gustav Caillebotte, 'The Floor Scrapers', 1875 © Musee D'Orsay, Paris
    This realist painting was revolutionary in subject as it was one of the first representations of the urban proletariat. City workers had been rarely painted in comparison to peasants or countryfolk depicted by artists such as Millet or Courbet. Caillebotte was academically trained under Bonnat, which is evident in the high viewpoint, alignment of the floorboards and nude torsos. In 1875, the painting was rejected by the Jury at the Salon, who were shocked by its 'vulgar subject matter.' Caillebotte used his academic training in order to explore the contemporary world in a groundbreaking way. 

    Wednesday, 22 July 2015

    PICTURE THIS no. 7

    Henri Matisse, 'Woman with a Hat', 1905 © Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
    'With colour one obtains an energy that seems to stem from witchcraft.' - Henri Matisse. 

    'The nastiest smear of paint I have ever seen.'- Leo Stein. 

    This vibrant portrait depicts Matisse's wife, Amelie in an elaborate outfit favoured by the French bourgeoisie; she is wearing a long glove and sophisticated hat. First exhibited at the 1905 Salon d'Automne in Paris, the painting was heavily criticised by contemporaries who were shocked by the non-naturalistic use of colour inspired by Paul Signac's use of complementary colour as well as the loose, 'unfinished' brushwork. Interestingly, the work encapsulates Matisse's rejection of the idea that art had to imitate the appearance of nature. The work identifies a shift in his individual style and the artist's use of colour is purely expressive; when asked about his wife's dress, Matisse allegedly replied that it was 'Black, of course.' 

    This painting became a seminal example of Fauvism, a controversial movement that became closely associated with the artists who displayed their work in the central gallery of the Grand Palais in Paris. The movement had its roots in the symbolic use of colour practiced by Paul Gauguin and was characterised by strong hues and a flattening of spatial depth, which marked a break from the more representational use of colour that defined Impressionism. 

    Tuesday, 21 July 2015

    PICTURE THIS no. 6

    Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' is an icon of modern art and one of the world's most recognisable paintings.

    Edvard Munch, 'The Scream', 1893, National Museum of Art and Design, Oslo. Photo credit: Nasjonalmuseet/Borre Hostland

    'I was walking along the road with two friends - then the sun went down - the sky suddenly turned to blood and I felt a great scream in nature'- Edvard Munch.

    'We want to create, or at least lay the foundations of, an art that gives something to humanity. An art that arrests and engages. An art created of one’s innermost heart.'- Edvard Munch.

    Munch created four versions of the same scene in different media, depicting an isolated figure with an agonised expression set against a tumultous blood orange sky. Munch's expressive use of colour, dramatic diagonals and flowing lines visually illustrates his modern existential angst. Our eye is drawn to the ambiguous and distrubing central figure; its hands are held to its head and its mouth is wide open in a silent scream that is reinforced in the undulating movement of the landscape. 

    Munch's landscape is radically simplified yet remains recognisable, depicting the Kristiania Fjord seen from Ekeberg. He also includes strolling figures who are widely believed to be two of Munch's friends. First exhibited in 1893, the painting formed part of 'The Frieze of Life', which was an ambitious series that explored Munch's preoccupation with sexuality and mortality. 

    Monday, 20 July 2015

    Nicky Philipps on BBC art series 'Fake or Fortune'

    Pierre Auguste Renoir, 'Boats on the Seine at Argenteuil'
    The latest epidsode of 'Fake or Fortune' presented by Fiona Bruce and international art dealer Philip Mould investigated 'Boats on the Seine at Argenteuil', a work that royal portrait painter Nicky Philipps and her family believe to be painted by much-loved French Impressionist Pierre Auguste Renoir. The painting hangs in Picton Castle, Nicky's ancestral home in Pembrokeshire and is potentially worth £300,000. The programme sheds light on an iconic friendship between two masters of French Impressionism, Renoir and Monet as well as the political rivalry of the art world today. 

    The painting remains at the centre of a battle between Bernheim-Jeune and the Wildenstein Institute in Paris. Bernheim-Jeune lists that the work is by Renoir in their official catalogue, yet its rival the Wildenstein Institute rejects this, based on its poor quality, that it is unsigned (despite the fact that Renoir often did not sign his en plein air studies) and that there is no written evidence that Monet received the work from Renoir. Monet met close friend and fellow Impressionist Renoir when he was an art student in the early 1860s and they often painted alongside eachother in the 1870s. 

    For example, their depictions of La Grenouillere, which was a popular spot on the Seine for daytrippers to enjoy swimming and a spot of dancing, were painted on the same day. The two versions of the same scene reveal their different approaches in terms of composition and palette. Renoir often paid more attention to figures, whereas Monet's figures are more incidental, which emphasises his preoccupation with the landscape.

    Research suggests that Monet made a sketch of the same scene as the painting that hangs in Picton Castle , named 'Voilier au Petit-Gennevilliers.' Interestingly, Renoir's work can thus be seen as a companion piece to Monet's and gives us a fascinating insight into their close artistic relationship. 

    Monet La Grenouillére
    Claude Monet, La Grenouillere, 1869
    Renoir La Grenouillere
    Auguste Renoir, La Grenouillere, 1869
    Nicky recounts her family story that the scene was painted by Renoir and subsequently given to Monet. In 1937, Nicky's great grandparents Lord and Lady Milford travelled with their daughter and Nicky's great aunt Gwen to Giverny, where Monet painted his seminal water lillies series and lived until his death in 1926. Gwen and her parents met Monet's stepdaughter Blanche, who was in charge of the estate following Monet's death. Nicky says that 'my family has been told how (the Milfords) discussed with Blanche Monet buying a scene of the River Seine, which Renoir had done about 70 years earlier and which he then gave to his friend Monet.' Blanche told Lord Milford that the painting was by Renoir and agreed to sell the work for £1,250 through Bernheim-Jeune and the London-based dealer Arthur Tooth.

    This evidence is furthered by scientific analysis that shows that the pigments used match those Renoir painted with during the 1870s. In addition, a scan revealed a hidden art supplier's stamp on the painting that was only used between 1871-1879.

    'Travels with my paintbox' opens at Fine Art Commissions in October and will showcase a series of landscapes by Nicky that illustrate her travels from Patagonia to Jaipur. 

    Wednesday, 8 July 2015

    PICTURE THIS no. 5

    Next in our 'picture this series,' we focus on two iconic depictions of Pope Innocent X by Spanish master Diego Velazquez and British artist Francis Bacon:

    Diego Velazquez, Portrait of Innocent X, 1650
    Francis Bacon, Study after Velazquez's portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1953 
    © ARS, Photo credit: Rich Sanders, Des Moines
    Velazquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X is considered a masterpiece of 17th century portraiture. Giovanni Battista Pamphili was Pope from 1644 to 1655 and at the time that this portrait was painted the papacy had shifted its alliances away from France and towards the Spanish Habsburg. His papal reign was marred by tumult and accusations of impropriety; the pope attacked the Barberini for ‘misappropriation of public moneys’, offended France to the point of invasion, supported Venice against the Turks and refused to acknowledge the succession of Portugal in 1640. Contemporary accounts also allude to depraved behaviour with the wife of his late brother, Olimpia Maidalchini, who was said to manipulate the Pope's political decisions.

    By painting the Pope, Velazquez entered an esteemed lineage of papal painters including the Italian Renaissance masters Raphael and Titian, who served as an important sources of inspiration in terms of both realism, light and psychological depth. The portrait is characterised by free, loose brushwork that would later inspire the Impressionists.

    Francis Bacon’s depiction of Pope Innocent X is unsettling and undermines the authoritative power and poise envisaged by Velazquez. Our eye is drawn to the screaming mouth, a disturbing feature that alludes to existential agony. It also refers to the ‘Odessa Steps’ sequence of the silent film Battleship Potemkin, in which a nurse cries out as she is shot through her eyeglasses. 

    The pope sits within a strange, enclosed space made up of horizontal and vertical yellow lines, isolated from any narrative context. This suggests the importance of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, particularly the notions of human vulnerability and the loss of faith discussed in his influential book The Birth of Tragedy. The vertical and diagonal brushstrokes that cover the canvas give a sense of movement and the blurred effect emphasises the impression that the Pope is falling through space. His powerful status in Velazquez’s portrait may have held contemporary resonance for Bacon in relation to Fascist propaganda photography. In later reworkings of the papal theme, Bacon included visual references to the controversial Pope Pius XII, who was believed by some to have appeased the Nazis. 

    Monday, 6 July 2015


    Gustav Klimt painted several Viennese bourgeoisie women, including art lover, patron and close friend Adele Bloch-Bauer:

    Adele Bloch-Bauer 1, Oil, Silver and Gold on Canvas, 1907 © Neue Galerie, New York
    Commissioned by wealthy industrialist Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, this is one of two enigmatic portraits of his wife Adele painted by Klimt. The painting took three years to complete and Klimt did several preliminary drawings that date from 1903. Klimt was the first president of the Vienna Secession, which broke away from the traditional methods of painting espoused by the art establishment and advocated the idea of Gesamtkunstwerk, or a 'a total work of art', which removed the boundaries between differing art forms.

    This painting epitomises Klimt's ‘Golden Style’, evident in the rich ornamental detail and sumptuous patchwork of ornaments where Mycenean gold blends with Byzantium. The portrait shows an interesting mix of naturalism, seen in Adele's interlaced hands and face as well as the influence of Egyptian art, visible in the decorative style of her dress, the chair and gold background. The dense use of ovoids, eyes, spirals, triangles and squares act as both ornamental motifs and erotic symbols. Adele’s status is ambiguous; she resembles both a decadent, threatening femme fatale and a religious idol, enshrined and captured for eternity in a casing of precious metals.