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Friday, 23 September 2016

Beyond Caravaggio, The National Gallery, London

On Wednesday 12th October, 'Beyond Caravaggio' will open at The National Gallery. This is the first exhibition of its kind, celebrating the influence and legacy of this Italian master. 

Caravaggio's first public commission was unveiled in 1600, which triggered a mass exodus of artists to Rome where they could see his work. Contemporaries were astonished by the visual and anecdotal power of his paintings and inspired by their dynamic naturalism and striking use of light. 

This exhibition unites a selection of Caravaggio's most outstanding works as well as paintings by the Spanish, Dutch, Flemish, French and Italian artists who were inspired by him, paying homage to the sensation known as Caravaggism. The exhibition runs until 15th January 2017. 

Supper at Emmaus, Caravaggio 1602-3 © National Gallery, London

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

James McNeill Whistler's legacy lives on in the work of artist Rosalie Watkins

We take a look at how James McNeill Whistler's iconic portrait of his mother inspired Fine Art Commissions' artist Rosalie Watkins: 

James McNeill Whistler was an American-born artist who divided his time between London and Paris. He is best known as a mouthpiece for 'art for art's sake' and his part in the controversial Ruskin trial of 1877.

In 1856, Whistler enlisted in Charles Gleyre's studio at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and a couple of years later entered into business with Alphonse Legros and Fantin-Latour in order to try and make his works as widely seen as possible. Fantin-Latour's painting, 'Homage to Delacroix' placed Whistler at the centre alongisde Manet and Baudelaire, which declared his status as a member of the avante-garde in the Parisian art world.

'Homage to Delacroix', Henri Fantin-Latour, Oil on Canvas, 1864 © RMN Grand Palais (Musee D'Orsay)/Herve Lewandowski

The psychological sensitivity of the portrait is effectively conveyed through the pared down, linear composition and further enhanced by the neutral palette. This highlights Whistler's interest in Japanese prints, including 'View of the Thames', which hangs on the wall above his mother in the painting.

'Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1' is also referred to as 'Portrait of the Artist's Mother.' This double title serves as an expression or Whistler's gradual progression from a realistic to more stylised aesthetic. 

'Whistler's painting of his mother was initially completed as part of a series of monochromatic studies, and its title (Arrangement in Grey and Black No. I) confirms his sense of detachment to it and reinforces its value as purely an exericse in aestheticism.' - Rosalie Watkins

'Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1', also called 'Portrait of the Artist's Mother', James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Oil on Canvas, 1871 © RMN Grand Palais (Musee d'Orsay)/Jean Gilles Berizzi

'I was interested in the concept of painting flesh tones in a monochromatic setting and Kandis was wearing black and greys that made a dramatic visual impact against the studio wall. Whistler's muted palette adds to the sense of repose and stillness, but Kandis felt more dynamic, particularly with the less conventional leg crossed and trainers. The stronger visual contrast felt fitting when playing with the idea of interpreting Whistler's painting. Whistler also allowed the unpainted canvas to breathe through, which i have referenced with areas of the canvas left with just the initial wash showing through.' -Rosalie Watkins
'After Whistler,' Rosalie Watkins, Oil on Canvas, 2015 © Rosalie Watkins
Later in his career, Whistler dropped all narrative from his paintings and gave only musical subtitles to his work, reinforcing his belief in the importance of harmony over subject matter.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

BP Portrait Award 2016

We are delighted that Fine Art Commissions has the following artists exhibiting as part of the BP Portrait Award 2016 at the National Portrait Gallery, London. 

The exhibition runs until 4th September and admission is free. 

Dad Sculpting Me by Jamie Coreth, winner of the BP Young Artist Award


Haydn as Henry

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Fine Art Commissions offers an incredibly unique service that is greatly valued by our artists

‘All creative people need a Fine Art Commissions. Not just for marketing and sourcing work, but for valuable second opinions when needed.’ - Nicky Philipps

I like the fact that Fine Art Commissions is a one stop shop. I also like the competition with other artists and to be able to secure the opinion of Sara Stewart who has seen so many works of art.’ - Nick Bashall

‘If it was not for Fine Art Commissions, I’d probably be in the gutter painting portraits for my attic.’ -  Jamie Coreth  

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Self-portraits through the ages

We take a look at some self-portraits by much-loved artists working in Britain through the ages, including William Hogarth and Vanessa Bell:

Self-portraiture is a richly diverse, enigmatic genre that has particular poignancy in the history of art, documenting the rare moment when the artist enjoys a unique sense of freedom as both subject and creator.

Artists have recreated their own image since the Middle Ages; a time when self scrutiny and personal salvation were of great importance. During the Renaissance, the humanist emphasis on the individual coincided with the elevated status of the artist. The discovery of oil painting allowed artists to develop techniques that revolutionised painting. As an intimate form of self-expression, personal legacy and public self-advertisement, the self-portrait raises complex issues of identity, politics, social status and artistic skill. 

'Self-portrait', Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1685 © The National Gallery, London
Born in Germany and trained as an artist in Amerstam and Italy, Sir Godfrey Kneller later established himself as a leading portrait artist in England. After settling here in 1676, he was introducted to Court circles by the Duke of Monmouth and later appointed as principle painter to the Crown by Charles II. This powerful self-portrait gives us an idea of why his portraits were considered amongst the best produced in Europe at the time. 

'Self-portrait', Allan Ramsay, c.1737-39 © The National Gallery, London
 'He (Allan Ramsay) and Mr Reynolds...our favourite painters, and two of the very best we ever had' - Horace Walpole.

Born in Edinburgh, Allan Ramsay later studied in London, Rome and Naples and was appointed as painter to George III. It is believed that this early self-portrait was produced in Italy where Ramsay completed his artistic training and shows the influence of the Italian baroque. 

Ramsay depicts himself wearing a white neck-band and shirt ruffle made from rich velvet drapery. It is believed that a copy of the portrait was framed as a pendant, painted at the time of Ramsay's marriage to his first wife in 1739. 

'Self-portrait', William Hogarth c. 1757 © The National Gallery, London
In this self-portrait, William Hogarth depicts himself painting Thalia, the Muse of Comedy. Ramsay sits in a large mahogany armchair, wearing an open white shirt, green velvet coat, stockings and brown breeches. He holds a palette knife and brushes and contemplates the white outline of Thalia, who holds a book under her right arm and mask in her left hand. 

'Self-portrait', Vanessa Bell c. 1958. The Charleston Trust © BBC Your Paintings
Vanessa Bell was a central figure in the Bloomsbury Group, alongside her husband Clive Bell and sister Virginia Woolf. Bell's early work conformed to the conventional traditions of the New English Art Club, but was later influenced by the first Post-Impressionism exhibition that took place in 1910 and the progressive ideas of Roger Fry, which surfaced in a stripped back, simplified style of painting defined by bold outlines and non-descriptive colour. 

The first Post-Impressionist exhibition included works by Cezanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Matisee and Picasso, which gave Bell a 'sudden liberation and encouragement to feel for oneself, which were absolutely overwhelming.'

After the First World War, Bell, similarly to other artists of her generation, returned to a more naturalistic style. Bell maintained a lifelong passion for simplified decorative patterns and colour that originated in the creative collaboration of the Omega Workships. This was later reflected in the interiors of Charleston, the Sussex farmhouse that she shared with her husband, as well as her distinctive book-jacket designs for the Hogarth Press. 

This self-portrait was painted when Bell was nearly 80 and hangs in the garden room at Charleston. Bell's portraits have often been subject to biographical readings that connect them to the death of her sister Virginia and eldest son Julian Bell. However, if we re-contextualise works such as this self-portrait, we see a lively and forceful artist who paints as a challenging act of self-expression.  

Friday, 4 March 2016

Delacroix's portraits

To coincide with 'Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art' that has recently opened at the National Gallery, we take a look at a selection of Delacroix's portraits. As both an exponent of the Grand Style and celebrated as one of the first modern masters, the exhibition pays homage to Delacroix's widespread artistic legacy. Delacroix is acknowledged as the champion of Romanticisim and was much admired by avant-garde painters in Paris including Courbet, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Matisse. 

'The first merit of a painting is to be a feast for the eye' - Eugène Delacroix

A painter of 'the invisible, the impalpable, reverie, the nerves, the soul; and this he did without any means other than contour and colour' - Charles Baudelaire

'We all paint in Delacroix's language' - Paul Cezanne

Eugène Delacroix, 'Self-portrait', about 1837 © RMN Grand-Palais (musée du Louvre)/Jean-Gillies Berizzi
Delacroix's strong jaw, intense stare, glossy black hair and sophisticated appearance, accompanied by a sense of antipathy, marks this self-portrait as archetypally Romantic and visually exemplifies why Delacroix was named 'the tiger' by Charles Baudelaire. 

Eugène Delacroix, 'Young orphan Girl in the Cemetery', 1824 © Musée du Louvre)/A. Dequier - M. Bard
This early work by Delacroix was for a long time believed to be a preparatory piece for the 'Massacre at Chios.' The young girl is clearly defined against the more hazy background of the sky and forlorn cemetery. She gazes beyond the frame and her dark-ringed eyes suggest a sense of sadness and solitude that is enhanced by the dark colours and sombre landscape. 

Eugène Delacroix, 'Head of a Woman', 1822 ©The Athenaeum
This painting is also referred to as 'A Mad Woman' and reflects a prevailing curiosity in abnormal states of mind that greatly interested artists such as Delacroix and Gericault, who pitched themselves against Enlightenment rationality. There was a common belief at the time that physical appearance gave an insight into character, especially in the case of madness and death. 

Eugène Delacroix, 'Louis-Auguste Schwiter', 1826-30 © The National Gallery, London
This portrait of Louis-Auguste Schwiter, who was himself a landscape and portrait painter, was begun when Delacroix returned to France in 1826 after a period in England. Rejected by the Salon in 1827, Delacroix made alterations to the work and it was later completed in 1830. It is possible that the portrait was influenced by the painter Sir Thomas Lawrence, who was the subject of an essay written by Delacroix in 1829. 

Eugène Delacroix, 'Portrait Frederic Villot' c. 1832 © The National Gallery, Prague
This intimate portrait of Marie-Joseph Frederic Villot reflects his good friendship with Delacroix. He was also an engraver and art historian who acted as paintings curator of the Louvre from 1848 -1861. 

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Portraits of HM Queen Elizabeth II through the decades

We take a look back at some of the most memorable and distinguished depictions of HM Queen Elizabeth II painted during her reign, which includes our artist Nicky Philipps's full-length portrait that was gifted by The Royal Mail to the her Majesty and now hangs in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace. The Queen is one of the most illustrated people of all time and these paintings chart both the fascinating development of portraiture and shifting approaches to monarchy.

Coronation Portrait of Her Majesty The Queen, Sir Cecil Beaton, Gelatin Silver print, 1953 © Royal Collection Trust
Cecil Beaton was chosen to photograph the Queen's coronation in Westminster Abbey on 2nd June 1953, which took place more than a year after the death of King George VI and the Queen's subsequent accession to the throne. Beaton's portrait depicts The Queen holding the Sceptre and Orb and wearing the Imperial State Crown, set against Westminster Abbey. 

Queen Elizabeth II, Sir Herbert James Gunn, Oil on Canvas, 1954 © the artist's estate, photo credit: Parliamentary Art Collection

Standing in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace, the Queen is wearing her coronation dress, Diamond Diadem, Queen Victoria's collet diamond necklace, drop earrings and purple Robe of Estate. This state portrait was commissioned to celebrate the Queen's coronation in 1953 and she is shown standing beside the Imperial State Crown and Sceptre. 

The intricate embroidery on her Majesty's dress, which includes pearls and crystals, allegorical symbols of the Commonwealth as well as wheat sheafs and olive branches, emblems of unanimity and affluence, was carried out by the Royal School of Needlework and took approximately 3,500 hours to complete.
  Queen Elizabeth II, Pietro Annigoni, Oil tempera on board, c. 1950's © the artist's estate, photo credit: Jaguar Heritage
This is the Italian artist Pietro Annigoni's first and iconic depiction of the Queen, which was painted for the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers and hangs in Fishmongers Hall. The artist's use of tempera conveys his interest in the Italian Renaissance. In this portrait, the recently crowned Queen is depicted wearing her striking dark blue Order of the Garter within a pastoral setting.

Queen Elizabeth II, Pietro Annigoni, Tempera grassa on paper on panel, 1969 © The National Portrait Gallery, London

'I did not want to paint her as a film star, I saw her as a monarch, alone in the problems of her responsibility.' - Pietro Annigoni

Fifteen years later, Annigoni was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to paint a second portrait of the Queen, which was thoroughly different in approach to the artist's first, more romantic depiction of the monarch. In this instance, she also wears ceremonial robes but is set against an enigmatic and forlorn landscape. 
HM Queen Elizabeth II, Lucian Freud, Oil on Canvas, 2000- 2001 © Royal Collection Trust 2012 © The Lucian Freud Archive

Unlike other depictions of the Queen, Freud's depiction is a smaller, head and shoulders painting, only 20 centimeters high. The process of painting this expressive and controversial image of the monarch was compared by the artist to a polar expedition. Freud chose to focus particularly on the 'inner likeness' of such a well-known and much-publicised face, although after starting the portrait he added the Queen's Diamond Diadem as a way to make her more immediately recognisable. 
HM Queen Elizabeth II with Willow, Vulcan, Candy and Holly, Nicky Philipps, Oil on Canvas, 2013 © Nicky Philipps   
'There is a dignity to the full-length portrait that Philipps has produced, and it shows her enjoyment in her portrayal of the robes, ''and her desire to make things sparkle''.' - Karen Wright, Art Critic, The Independent

Commissioned by the Royal Mail Group, Nicky Philipps's full-length portrait of HM The Queen was originally intended to be a head and shoulders for the first-class stamp series celebrating the 60th anniversary of her Majesty's coronation. 

Nicky later chose to depict the Queen in her robes, wearing a white dress and crimson sash with the Order of the Garter. Nicky's original portrait was completed in 2013 from original sketches worked on in Buckingham Palace, however in this later version Nicky incorporated the Queen's four corgis into the composition.