Tuesday, 25 April 2017

A canter through the National Portrait and National Galleries.

I thought I'd re-blog some posts from an old blog of mine as there are some inspiring traditionally painted portraits from a couple of London galleries.

Above is Arthur Scargill done with a suitably red palette.  I was looking at technique/brush work on my visit and this is the first one that struck me. Not only the colour but the energy of the brush work fills the painting with movement and fire - very Arthur Scargill who is a British trade unionist and politician and President of the National Union of Mineworkers from 1982-2002. He used to get quite cross.

(above) A complete contrast to this one of Diana.  Calm, pretty colours, elegant. Also very precise.

(above) Chris Ofili - one of Britains leading artists. It's a self portrait done when Ofili was a student in 1991 and is oil on canvas (although his work often contains collage, resin, glitter and multiple layers of paint).

Another painting with bags of energy.
Self portrait by RB Kitaj called Hockney Pillow.

The artist is in bed. He has darkened features and reddened eyes which gives an intense emotional charge..........  could be he had man-flu?!!

All of the portraits are likenesses of course but they are conveying something else too about the sitter and their character or where they are in life.

Andrea Mantegna (1430-1506)

The Introduction of the Cult of Cybele to Rome  (Glue on Linen - no idea how that works). 

In 204 BC the Romans brought the cult of Cybele, the eastern goddess of victory, from Asia Minor to Rome. Cybele is represented by a round stone and a bust with a mural crown. The painting was designed as a frieze - hence the imitation of sculpture, used in antiquity for friezes.

And by complete contrast!

Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-73)

Oil on millboard

Landseer was friends with Callcott and they collaborated on many pictures.  The 6th Duke of Devonshire commissioned Landseer to paint the Scene in Olden Times at Bolton Abbey, and Landseer persuaded Callcott to pose for the head of the abbot.

The label said this was painted and finished in a sitting of 3 or 4 hours.  Sorry, but I just don't believe that!
The portrait below was not at any of the galleries but one I came across on the interweb and is by Nick Gentry.  Can you guess what he's made it from? Possibilities there for patchwork fans!

(above) By Tom Phillips (1985ish) of Brian Eno. Seen at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Apparently Tom Phillips is also a composer and taught Brian Eno.

I like the mark making of red lines which lift the turquoise colours.

Could you recognize Eno? Does it matter?

I had a go at a portrait inspired by Tom Phillips. Of course my rendition just about touches on the colourings, and I used some red paint graphically to show highlights, but it left me feeling uncomfortable and unsatisfied. There is quite a lot of skill in Tom Phillips painting even though it looks like random splodges, and I wasn't quite able to get that. I found it hard to let go of what I knew and what I felt I needed to put in in order to read a face. Phillips didn't put in Eno's left eye and the right is without a pupil or highlight to bring it to life, but he's managed to convey a sense of the sitters gaze and state of mind.

I loved this one.  Obviously Judi Dench! A white coat and grey hair against a large white background - which has absolutely nothing else in it. It's a massive painting, and the bare space focuses your eye on the sitter.

(above) A complete contrast.  Flattened people stuck to the wall.  They do have individual features though. They're all lavishly dressed with halos around their head (but placed so it doesn't interfere with the features I noticed)  What you look like is obviously very important, and fine clothes and your attendance at church showed your piety and status. 

(above)Isn't this stonking?  Again a neutral background but not empty.  Cups of tea float around out of perspective and with the tea remaining in the cups!

(above) I liked this one for the excessive amount of pink.  My own feeling is that apoplexy is just around the corner.

(above)This one was part of a larger picture featuring Queen Victoria. I just thought it was beautifully done, and I loved the glow of light on dark skin.

(above)Just beautifully painted - like porcelain.

(above)Very dramatic and loose paintwork.  I liked the use of red and green (opposites on the colour wheel)

Finally, part of a much larger picture.  I loved the green in the face, the intense look in the eyes, and the use of text mixed in. I wonder if the lack of that spot of white paint we often put in eyes to bring life to them, helps to make the portrait unsettling and dramatic.

 (all photos by Annabel Rainbow)

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