How to Hang: Landscapes

by Lisa Doherty 31. July 2018 09:48

Landscape art is a style that gets very mixed reactions. There is a perception that it is old-fashioned, a little bit predictable and only shows scenes of rolling hills and lush, green fields intended to conjure up a chocolate-box vision of an imagined Britain from the past. 

Well, this isn’t always the case. Landscape art is developing in many interesting ways and there is so much more to this style than meets the eye.

Let's take a look at the latest traditional and contemporary landscapes to show you that there’s something for everyone, and that all is not what it seems.

What is a landscape?

Before photography came into existence, landscape painting was the best way of showing our appreciation of the beautiful British countryside. 

Once the camera became a mass consumer product, landscape art responded to the challenge and took to looking at nature in a completely different way. There was less of a need to capture a realistic view in a painting because a photograph did all that anyway.

To add to this, industrialisation dramatically altered the UK’s green and pleasant vistas to create more urban landscapes. Artists started painting politically charged scenes that challenged this change to the natural order. From Constable’s famous painting, The Hay Wain, to Turner’s highly charged, abstract scenes of the sea - these weren’t simply romanticised views of Merrie England but, in part, statements on rural change, mechanisation and the permanent loss of landscape. 

Essence Of A Storm Impressionist Seascape 27.5
Essence Of A Storm Impressionist Seascape 27.5" x 23.5" On Canvas by Maxine Martin

Today, landscapes tend to explore the issue of how we live, as well as the impact the human race is having on the land and the environment. They also tend to be more complex and symbolic than straightforward reproductions or nature, intendted to make you challenge and question what you are looking at.

Modern landscapes

Since the advent of impressionism, artists have felt completely free to interpret their subjects any way they like, and this has been great for landscape art, making it a hotbed of creativity. 

Light is one way that has sparked this change. If you travel to different parts of the UK or the world, artists are painting landscapes that are made up of sequences of colours, which are based on the differences in light and shade in that particular area.

Some areas will have a softer light, others starker, harsh light, which is represented through differences in shade or tone. As there is no such thing as a pure colour, artists will use a range of colours to create their interpretation of a landscape.

The artist will give you their vision in a painting, whereas, a photograph will give you the reality (the camera never lies?) As it rose to dominance alongside industrialisation, it seems only natural that photographers tend to capture more urban scenes of towns growing or in decay.

This style of photography is also filled with symbolism around what is seen and what is meant by the image. A run-down building may not be the most attractive view, but when you look at what it stands for and ‘read’ it in more detail, it suddenly becomes something very different.

Not only that, but photography also captures stunning landscapes. Instead of being purely documentary images, these views can take on different meaning and form when taken from the viewpoint of the photographer. Also, unlike paintings, a camera can capture true scale and representation of a landscape with amazing results.

Seascapes and cityscapes

Landscapes aren’t always views of hills or derelict buildings, they can also be scenes of beaches, seas, towns or cities.

Seascapes are very popular subjects for artists as the weather offers constantly changing views and perspectives, so it’s impossible to get bored.

You could have a whole gallery wall of the same beach, but every painting will be different! This is no less the case with cityscapes, as, again, these scenes are all down to interpretation. One artist may see a street or area one way, whereas another may take a completely different perspective.

Getting traditional

If you’re a bit more of a traditionalist and prefer a more pastoral view, there are many artists creating stunning landscapes. Emma Cownie paints landscapes and urban scenes, but with a classic twist that are bursting with light and shade.

Graeme Robb is another artist who also paints more traditional views. It was while he was on a charity bike ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats that he fell in love with landscape painting. Some of his scenes are dominated by clouds and are very ‘nostalgic’ views of the British countryside.

Cloudscapes are also another form of art that comes under the landscape banner. Constantly changing and very dramatic, they are ripe subjects for stunning scenes and great to hang in a room where you need to be calm and creative, such as an office or study.

So, who said landscapes were dull? There is a lot more to this style than meets the eye and it’s well worth checking out. With so many different types of landscape there is a painting for every room in the house, don’t you think it’s time to check out this very modern art?

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Art History | Buying Art

How to Hang Pop Art

by Lisa Doherty 8. July 2018 23:00

Who doesn’t love pop art?! It’s fun, it’s loud, it’s colourful and gets noticed. It’s from an art movement that’s over 50 years old, but still looks great and very contemporary, even today.

By turning the ‘trashy’ or mass-consumer into art, the Pop Art movement has been incredibly influential and has inspired many artists, such as Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and The Guerrilla Girls who continue to turn everyday objects into art.

If you’re thinking of investing in Pop Art for your home, then you’re going to have a lot of fun selecting a painting. We give you our tips on buying Pop Art and the best rooms to hang this style.

What is Pop Art?

Believe it or not, there are different types of pop art. When asked about this movement, we instinctively think of Roy Lichtenstein’s comic strips, and of course, the Pop Art master himself, Andy Warhol.

Andy Warhol by sharon coles
Andy Warhol by sharon coles

However, in the 1950’s when the movement first started, there was British and American pop art. The Brits took a more collage-based or illustrative approach - with artists like Patrick Caulfield and Richard Hamilton leading the field - and they commented on all things American culture.

Richard Hamilton defined Pop Art as: Popular (designed for a mass audience), Transient (short-term solution), Expendable (easily forgotten), Low cost, Mass produced, Young (aimed at youth), Witty, Sexy, Gimmicky, Glamorous, Big business

The Best of British by Angela O'Donnell
The Best of British by Angela O'Donnell Room 22 by Tim Gilpin
Room 22 by Tim Gilpin

At the same time in the US, there was Lichtenstein and Warhol also commenting on popular American Culture. As we know, the 1950’s was the start of mass consumerism and technological advancement in the states. McDonalds drive thru’s, popular cinema, household gadgets and convenience food. Not forgetting, space travel and an obsession with life on other planets.

Bratatat Triptych - Very Large (9 ft wide by 4 ft high) by Peter Mason
Bratatat Triptych - Very Large (9 ft wide by 4 ft high) by Peter Mason

What to look for when buying pop art

This is the fun part! As Richard Hamilton says, mainstream, glamorous, sexy and expendable is what you need to be looking for when identifying and buying Pop Art.

One Artist who really embodies the Pop Art sentiment is Juan Sly. His work represents all things pop and his series of paintings entitled: ‘Other People’s Paintings, only Much Cheaper’, highlights the disposable element of this movement.

Other People's Paintings Only Much Cheaper: No. 4 Warhol (On Paper) by Juan Sly
Other People's Paintings Only Much Cheaper: No. 4 Warhol (On Paper) by Juan Sly

In true Pop Art style, Sly also takes iconic images and subverts them to make a statement. His treatment of Donald Trump from Obama’s ‘Hope’ image is a great example, where he’s been placed in a heroic context for purely ironic purposes.

Other People's Paintings only Much Cheaper: No. 10 Fairey (Trump) (on The Daily Telegraph) by Juan Sly
Other People's Paintings only Much Cheaper: No. 10 Fairey (Trump) (on The Daily Telegraph) by Juan Sly

Other artists painting in the Pop art style, include Peter Masonand Joe Henry. Mason uses postage stamps to create his abstract and popularist images, whereas Henry takes iconic figures of the 20th Century and creates ‘pop’ collages.

The best interior styles to have pop art

Pop art is a very strong and colourful style, so this needs to be hung in a more contemporary looking interior. It would probably jar in an art deco or antique space. It’s also best to hang against white or neutral-coloured walls to make it really, well, pop.

Pop art works well with the cleanest and most cutting-edge interiors, and it can also work with a modernist, retro or vintage space. After all, it is a ‘vintage’ art movement. As it’s art that really shouts at you, it’s also worth carefully considering the room or space you want to hang it.

Where to hang pop art

Now, there are no hard and fast rules to hanging art in the home, but you’ve made an investment and you want it to stand out, so it is worth giving it some serious thought.

Going back to Richard Hamilton, pop art is trashy and noisy, so this style of painting needs to be hung on its own and probably not part of a gallery wall, otherwise it will look too busy and confusing. Ideally, it needs to stand out on its own.

KATE MOSS - WILL YOU STILL LOVE ME by JOE HENRY
KATE MOSS - WILL YOU STILL LOVE ME by JOE HENRY

This movement is also irreverent, but this is the fun part of pop art. Hang it in a central location, such as over a fireplace, or in a central location in a hallway where it makes people stop to look at it. Pop art isn’t shy, so make it stand out!

We have a great selection of pop art, as well as artists using the medium of art to make a statement on politics and consumerism. Not everybody wants to hang a traditional portrait or landscape in their home, which is why we also showcase the latest and most innovative artists who are bucking conventions and making a noise. Just like true pop artists!

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Art History | Artists | Buying Art | The Art World

Art for Interiors: Minimalism

by Anthony Annarino 13. June 2018 15:22

Minimalism. For people who feel less is more.

In a hectic world, minimalist art is a great way to escape and have a tranquil moment. It’s also an enduring interior design trend that never seems to go out of style.

We look at the best art for minimal interiors to help you create a serene oasis within the chaos of family, friends, career or general life commitments.

Minimalism in art

Minimalist art is different to minimalist interiors, but they both converge to complement each other and have the same overall effect; a calm and centred environment.

A minimalist interior is, more often than not, made up of white walls and simply furnished with Nordic-style wood, black, metallic or off-white furniture. It is a very clean style with no additional or decorative objects - or some might say ‘clutter’ - as you would with a Vintage or Art Deco interior, for example.

In contrast, Minimalist art is colourful and bright. It’s usually an abstract composition, but (and here’s where we touch on a bit of art theory) it doesn’t refer to anything but itself. The pattern on the canvas is meant to suggest nothing more than - a pattern on a canvas. There’s no reference to society or politics, which means you can enjoy and lose yourself in a painting for what it is; essentially, it’s an immersive experience.

Timeless by Paresh Nrshinga
Timeless by Paresh Nrshinga

Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman were the key artists of this movement. They believed in colour theory and its impact on emotion, as they felt that colour and art combined should be a more mindful experience. Which is why this is such a great style for interiors as it’s calming and relaxing.

Multicolour abstract by Monika Howarth
Multicolour abstract by Monika Howarth

Today we are very influenced by the impact colour has on mood, especially when it comes to home decorating, and it’s these artists who helped shape this way of thinking.

What to look for when buying Minimalist art

Less is very much more when it comes to choosing a minimalist painting. They’re usually abstract works of art and are always clean and simple pieces. The barest, well, minimum needs to be in the painting, so they are very uncluttered.

Since a minimalist interior is quite white and sparse, it’s often best to go art which includes bold colours, to break things up a bit. Barnett Newman’s paintings were usually just one tone or shade over a whole canvas but were always calming shades of reds, blues and greens.

Abstract oil painting
Abstract oil painting "Space Y". Size 39.37/27.5(100/70cm). Unique impasto texture. by Karina Antonczak Yellow abstract painting  by Monika Howarth
Yellow abstract painting by Monika Howarth

The best interior styles for minimalism

Although we’ve only focused on minimalist interiors, there are other styles where this art also works, such as mid-century modern and Industrial, which is defined mainly by exposed brick, cool-coloured walls, black piping, neutral browns and woods, especially when it comes to furniture.

Feng Shui Water Element 1 by Rodney Holt
Feng Shui Water Element 1 by Rodney Holt Malmö by Jonathan Talks
Malmö by Jonathan Talks

The Scandinavian style also uses muted colours but with more of a focus on greys and greens for furnishings and accessories. There’s also the Bohemian style, which uses more natural wicker and hessian materials, patterned and textured furnishings.

As these styles do tend to use a colour palette that is on the cooler end of the spectrum, the colours in Minimalist art will bring a space to life and add warmth and depth to a room.

Dynamic I Ltd Edition Large Canvas by Pauline Thomas
Dynamic I Ltd Edition Large Canvas by Pauline Thomas

Where to hang Minimalist art

Due to the mindful nature of this style of art, it needs to be hung in a place where you can sit down, relax, unwind and look at the painting in order to take a moment.

With this in mind, calmer spaces such as bedrooms, studies, offices and even bathrooms are ideal. Even though a minimalist painting doesn’t relate to anything it’s not something you can simply engage with quickly, so it needs to be in a place where you can take time and enjoy the process of looking.

Mark Rothko believed his paintings worked best in a Church environment, so that gives you an idea of how calming this art is supposed to be.

Calming Thoughts by Stefan Fierros
Calming Thoughts by Stefan Fierros

Art reduces stress, and, as we’re living increasingly busy, smartphone-based lives it’s even more important to take a time-out from it all. It’s almost as if the original minimalist artists predicted the future!

There is now also an overall trend towards minimalism, whereby people are focusing on reducing life ‘clutter’ in order to sharpen their minds and create time for the things that really matter in their lives, such as friends, family or hobbies.

The mindful, or meditative, nature of a minimalist painting aims to start you on that journey for a more balanced life, which is a great way to think about original art.

Tags:

Art History | Buying Art | The Art World

Art for Interiors: Mid-Century Paintings

by Lisa Doherty 20. March 2018 09:45

People are passionate about the Mid-Century look. It’s iconic, stylish and not at all out of place in a 21st Century interior. For most people, once bitten by the Mid-Century bug, there’s no going back.

As with all great interior trends, art complements décor and furnishings to help finalise and set-off a specific look that is trying to be achieved. This certainly isn’t any different with the Mid-Century style.

Unfortunately, Mid-Century does have a bit of a reputation for having quite unattractive or ‘tacky’ art, but this really isn’t the case. Before you think brown and orange abstract paintings, or the Green Lady, think again. There’s a lot to this look than meets the eye.

What is Mid-Century style?

The Mid-Century period starts around 1933 and comes to an end in 1965, and spans a significant period in world history, which includes the end of the second World War, the start of the Cold War and an obsession with space exploration and the future.

Naturally, this climate impacted and influenced artists and we start to see an increase in Abstract Art and Abstract Expressionism from painters such as Jackson Pollock, Piet Mondrian and Marc Rothko. We also see the birth of the Pop art movement during this time, so there are a lot of styles to choose from!

Hedgehog Spray by LEO BROOKS
Hedgehog Spray by LEO BROOKS Other People's Paintings Only Much Cheaper: No.3 Mondrian. by Juan Sly
Other People's Paintings Only Much Cheaper: No.3 Mondrian. by Juan Sly

This was also an iconic period for furniture designers and architects who responded to the political climate with futuristic and experimental furniture that still hold-up as examples of great design to this day. The Eames chair is probably the most famous, as well as the Tulip chair by Eero Saarinen.

From a high street perspective, this period also saw furniture combine function and design to create a more stylised home. These manufacturers included G-Plan, Parker Knoll and Beautility. Again, today, their furniture has now become highly desired and sought-after.

How to choose a Mid-Century painting

Abstract art and portraiture are key artistic styles for the Mid-Century look. The key colours and tones are muted orange, brown and blue, which may sound a little drab, but they have been brought up to date by today’s Abstract Artists to be more vibrant and vivid.

Geometric shapes were also popular in art during this time, so it’s worth considering this when looking for a painting that best matches the Mid-Century look. This was also a time of texture in art as well with the use of thick, visible brush strokes and also decorative, or three-dimensional wall art.

Mid Century Madness by Lisa Vallo
Mid Century Madness by Lisa Vallo

Through Abstract Expressionism, Jackson Pollock and Marc Rothko tried to capture noise, emotion and even music on canvas. Capturing these in a painting has been a long-held pursuit of artists, who have tried to convey this in so many different ways. Pollock and Rothko did this by dripping paint, soft tones or ombre, and the use of colour.

Sound Waves 04 - Limited Edition Lithograph by M K Anisko
Sound Waves 04 - Limited Edition Lithograph by M K Anisko

There was also a futuristic element to this period, as there was an obsession with robots, aliens and space exploration, all underpinned by the fears of the Cold War. This was also known as the Atomic style, which uses a lot of lines, dots and circles, again, in an Abstract style.

RETRO ROBOT Returns by Tony Lilley
RETRO ROBOT Returns by Tony Lilley Corona  by Robin Gray
Corona by Robin Gray

Mid-Century Portraits

This period saw the home evolve into a place of comfort and style, and not just a functional space. As a result, art became more mainstream and could be bought on the high street - remember Woolworths? - which became very popular and led to some paintings, such as The Green Lady or Mysterious Girl, become iconic statement pieces for this time.

To bring this look up to date, there are portraits you can buy with a Mid-Century twist that reference famous portraits from this period. They do this through the use of tone and colour scheme, as well as a softness with the brush.

These portraits also took on a more global perspective as they portrayed women from other countries and cultures in a more relaxed pose - as opposed to the more formal, European paintings - which was considered ground-breaking, and very popular, at the time.

HER GAZE / 60 CM X 42 CM PORTRAIT PAINTING ON PAPER by Anna Sidi-Yacoub
HER GAZE / 60 CM X 42 CM PORTRAIT PAINTING ON PAPER by Anna Sidi-Yacoub

60's Woman 1 by Victor White
60's Woman 1 by Victor White

The best rooms for Mid-Century

There are a lot of muted tones in the Mid-Century look, so choose a room that is bright and airy and can carry-off the look. Otherwise, a room that has quite poor light is at risk of looking very brown and quite drab.

Furniture-wise, this style uses a lot of wood and leather, so again, it needs a bright space to have impact. A bright conservatory, dining area, living room, study or home office is great for this style. Use sparingly in kitchens or you’re at risk of being overwhelmed by wood. A great alternative, especially for dining furniture, is to go with a round, white table and Tulip chairs, with bright cushions to break things up a bit.

A Mid-Century interior is a lot of fun to design. It’s helped that there is also a lot of art out there - especially on our site - to help you complete the style, create maximum impact and transform your space. Have fun!

Tags:

Art History | Buying Art

Art for Interiors: Art Deco Paintings

by Lisa Doherty 6. March 2018 16:56

The Art Deco look has become a timeless classic. Interior trends have arrived, gone, come back and gone again, but Art Deco has remained constant.

The main reason for this is because it is a style that remains modern in its look and feel and doesn’t seem to date. Not only that, but it’s constantly evolving to work with contemporary interiors.

If you’re in the process of recreating this style in your home, we take a look at how Art Deco  painting and photography can help you complete the look.

The Art Deco style

Originating in the 1920’s and 30’s, Art Deco is made up of strong geometric lines and shapes, such as triangles and circles, and also uses bold colours. It was heavily influenced by the latest technology of the day and drew from artistic and creative styles from the Orient and Persia.

The style grew out of a need from Designers, Architects and Artists to create a more ‘modern’ look. This new look was immediately popular and became a key style for almost anything, such as buildings, fashion, furniture, and, of course, art.

For Art Deco artists, the Cubist and Fauvist art movements were the main influences, and you can see this clearly in paintings through the use of strong, ‘block-like’ figures and shapes, and bright colours, such as yellow and red. The key artists of this movement consisted of Tamara De Lempicka and Sonia Delauney.

MANSCAPE 3 by John Varden
MANSCAPE 3 by John Varden

A coffee with Tamara de Lempicka by Jean-pierre Walter
A coffee with Tamara de Lempicka by Jean-pierre Walter

How to choose an Art Deco painting?

An Art Deco painting is very distinctive and easy to recognise. They also tend to stick mainly to three themes, which are figurative studies, abstract shapes or landscapes.

If you’re looking for a figurative image, then the Art Deco movement focused mainly on nude studies or portraits. If you’re especially influenced by the work of Tamara De Lempicka, then look for portraits with accentuated curves, or with a ‘solid’ or ‘heavy figured’ feel to it.

The Art deco period was also a time of innovation in travel and transport, as cruise liners, high speed trains and air travel became more affordable and increased in popularity.

As a result, posters became even more popular during this period and were treated as works of art in their own right, so think iconic London Underground posters or adverts for trains, Cars, or Cruise ships. Who doesn’t love this style?!

Two Figures, Aqueduct by Miles Bodimeade
Two Figures, Aqueduct by Miles Bodimeade

Cat and I. by Carron  Howe
Cat and I. by Carron Howe

In the morning by Florentina(anca)  popescu
In the morning by Florentina(anca) popescu

BSA motorcycle poster by Michael Gadd
BSA motorcycle poster by Michael Gadd

Modern art deco

If you want to create a more modern Art Deco look, then it’s worth looking at abstract art or photography to bring the look up to date.

Modern Art Deco colours are still very much based around monochrome, but they are now mixed with elements of pastel Pink, Gold or Green.

This is the beauty of this style and one of the reasons why it has stood the test of time, as it can be adapted, brought up to date so easily and work with a modern or traditional look.

The City at Night by Neil Hemsley
The City at Night by Neil Hemsley Beginnings by belinda jackson
Beginnings by belinda jackson DUVER VIEW by Suzanne Whitmarsh
DUVER VIEW by Suzanne Whitmarsh

The best rooms for Art Deco

As we all know, the 1920’s are synonymous with partying, so this look does tend to work better in the more social spaces around the home, such as lounges, dining rooms or even the home-office. This style also works in bedrooms and bathrooms, so you can wow house guests when they come to stay.

Overall, Art Deco is quite an indulgent and decadent style, so it works well in a room where you can really show-off. As a result, you can either go all out for patterned wallpaper or go for a sleek monochromatic look, which is broken-up with pops of colour from fabrics or paintings.

The Art Deco style also calls for a lot of geometry, not just through shapes, but also in the use of furniture and accessories such as lamps and chairs, which are always used in pairs to balance out a room.

This geometry is also worth considering when choosing art. A painting that works as a pair – also known as a diptych - can be placed either side by side or further apart on a wall, which could provide balance over a fireplace or desk in a home office.

So, whether you’re in a new build, or even a Victorian home, there is a lot of scope and range to work with. And, even if you’re a modern or traditional Art Deco-ist, this is a style you can have a lot of fun with.

Art is a great way to help you express your look, but don’t think it is something that is the left to the pursuit of the super-rich; there are paintings available to suit all budgets, tastes, and of course, styles…so what are you waiting for, it’s time to get creative!

The Three Hills (Diptych) by David Moore
The Three Hills (Diptych) by David Moore Waterloo by Rebecca Coleman
Waterloo by Rebecca Coleman Surrey Landscape 7 by Jan Rippingham
Surrey Landscape 7 by Jan Rippingham

Tags:

Art History | Buying Art | The Art World

Easter Eggs in Famous Art

by Aileen Mitchell 14. March 2017 11:10

This is for everyone who has been told to "stand back please" when examining a piece of art. This month we bring you 'Easter eggs' in famous works of art - the secret bits you may have missed. 

Easter eggs - unexpected or undocumented features in a piece of work - have appeared in artwork as far back as ancient societies and have been anything from a sneaky self-portrait to a UFO sighting! Here are some of the most well-known Easter eggs in art that you may have missed:

The Creation of Adam c. 1508-1512 by Michelangelo 

The Creation of Adam

This renowned work from Michelangelo has graced the Sistine Chapel since 1508, and has been copied, parodied and satirised many times. But how many noticed a tribute to the artist's passion for science and the human anatomy as well as his fine painting?

It appears that God floating in his crimson pod to the right of the piece, complete with seraphim, is the exact outline of the human brain. The leg of one of the cherubs is in the correct place and shape for where the spinal chord is attached, and another's foot is in the place of the pituitary gland. The floating green scarf is even in the precise location and shape for the vertebral artery. 

If that all sounds a little too much like coincidence, you may also want to know that God even extends his arm to Adam through what we now know as the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that gives humans the gift of reason and deliberation - something that sets us apart from animals. There is also a sad looking angel in the area of the brain that is activated when we experience sad emotions.

Although the discovery of the prefrontal cortex was not until the 20th century, Michelangelo had a profoundly advanced knowledge of the human anatomy due to years of dissections from the age of seventeen. But the mystery continues as dissection of the brain alone does not reveal which parts are activated for different emotions. Could this be coincidence?

With all this new information, a controversial interpretation of the art has arisen. For hundreds of years scholars believed God to be pointing at Adam as the title suggests, giving him life. After the discovery of the anatomically correct brain representation, some believe Adam is in fact pointing at God, which gives the painting an entirely different meaning. Was Michelangelo suggesting God to be a creation of the human mind? We'll never know the true answer, as none of these things were recorded by the artist. We are left to gaze and wonder...

Madonna with Saint Giovannino - Domenico Ghirlandaio

Madonna with Saint Giovannino (1449-1494)

This Italian Rennaissance artwork by Domenico Ghirlandaio is subject of much online debate. There is some speculation over who actually painted the piece, but this is not the issue that has fuelled so much debate. People are talking about the small, dark shape in the sky behind Madonna's right shoulder, which is believed by many to be a UFO. Up close, the dark shape certainly does look a little extra terrestrial and almost spaceship-like. Others have backed up this observation by adding that the lone figure in the distance and his dog are also looking up at it. 

These shapes, however, are quite common in this era of artwork and were intended to resemble a gap in the heavens where divine light would shine through onto the subject in the painting. It is very much a religious trend that was around a lot in Rennaissance art. Not alien appearances. 

 

The Mona Lisa 1503-1505 - Leonardo da Vinci

Mona Lisa

One of the most famous artworks of all time, mentioned in many conspiracy theories and books is Leondardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. Art historians recently discovered the existence of another woman painted below the surface which raised even more questions and theories about the work. On close inspection we can also see that the artists has initialled "LV" in her right eye and the number 72 on the bridge in the background. There is also a theory that the lady in the painting is pregnant, as her arms are covering her stomach and she is wearing a veil commonly used by Italian women before and after childbirth.

 

The Arnolfini Portrait - Jan van Eyck

Close up of The Arnolfini Portrait Mirror

The Arnolfini Portrait

Another very famous painting from 1434 that demonstrates Jan van Eyck's meticulous brush skills in the details in the woman's dress to the right of the scene. Although it's bursting with detail for us to appreciate, there is something you may not have spotted from behind the red ropes of the National Gallery. 

Look carefully at the back wall in the painting and you'll see a mirror. There are two new people painted in the reflection of the mirror, presumably the other guests in the room that we cannot see from the position the portrait was taken from! Art scholars think that one of these people may be a sneaky self-portrait of van Eyck himself, as one of the guests in the mirror has their hand held up in a gesture of greeting. 

Take a look at our online gallery and see if you can spot an Easter egg in our own artists's paintings!

Image credits:

The Creation of Adam/ en:Image:Creation of Adam.jpg/ Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons

Madonna with Saint Giovannino/ http://www.italymagazine.com/news/madonna-saint-giovannino-ufo-inspired-art/ 

The Mona Lisa/ Musée du Louvre/ Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons

Tags:

Art History | Artists

Artists Inspired By Mothers

by Aileen Mitchell 27. February 2017 10:37

Mother’s Day is just around the corner (26th March – put it in your diary!). Today we look at mothers who inspired, encouraged and modelled for some of the most famous artists of all time.

Mother and Child by David Freeman
Mother and Child by David Freeman

Lucian Freud, one of the most celebrated 20th century portrait artists, had a close relationship with his mother, which we can see in his portraiture. Throughout Freud’s childhood his mother took a very keen interest in his talent, and later his career. This all stopped, however, when Freud’s father died. The death of Ernst L. Freud had a catastrophic effect on his mother, Lucie, who suffered from deep depression until she died.

It was in her long period of depression that Freud began to paint her in a collection of very intimate works. These are very detailed snapshots into a private time with mother and son that really shows the lengths of her suffering and distance from her son and the world. Works such as, ‘The Painter’s Mother Resting I, 1975-1976’ are some of Freud’s most well-known and critically acclaimed. 

It is believed that throughout his mother’s period of depression, Freud spent over 4,000 hours painting her. Art historian, Lawrence Gowing, wrote that this was the longest time in three hundred years since a painter showed so much about their relationship with their mother in art since Rembrandt.

This picture is a faithful representation of one of Rembrandt's portraits of his mother.

Rembrandt van Rijn, iconic Dutch artist, is well known for documenting his own self-portraits to show his aging process. He also used his mother as a model for many of his portraits to display similar details of aging. It was common during Rembrandt's era for artists to hone their skills by creating portrait studies of aging subjects, however Rembrandt took his portraits one step further. Using costume and lighting, he created much more theatrical interpretations of his mother that have become highly collectable. 

 

Potrait of the Artist's Mother - Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh has to have a mention here, as he is also one of the most famous artists who was directly inspired by his mother. Anna Carbentus van Gogh was an energetic, family oriented woman who always expressed great affection for her children and husband. One of her beliefs to a happy life was spending time watching flowers grow. She divided up responsibility of the family garden between all the family, which meant her son Vincent spent a lot of his time around flowers that can be seen later in his artwork. Anna was an enthusiastic amateur artist herself and loved to sketch flowers and plants. She noticed van Gogh had a keen talent for drawing and painting their garden flowers from a young age and continued to show her support when he became a full-time artist.

 

Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1 by James Abbot McNeill Whistler

The Whistler's Mother, or to give it its correct title, Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1 is one of the most famous paintings of an artist's mother. Originally meant to be a portrait of the much younger daughter of an MP, Maggie Graham, this convas was instead used as a study of James Abbot McNeill Whistler's mother. 

In a letter to a friend, Whistler's mother explained how Graham had not shown up for a potrait appointment, and how she had decided to stand in. Anna McNeill Whistler also detailed how her son had failed to finish a painting of Mr Graham despite several sittings, producing only half finished, unsuccessful portraits. Anna Whistler was also a very supportive mother and was even James Whistler's art agent for a time when she stayed with him in London.

Blue Iris in my Garden by Simon Knott
Blue Iris in my Garden by Simon Knott

Van Gogh’s feelings of isolation from the family increased as he got older. His unusual love life, his unorthodox views of the world and his battle with mental illness were all said to be strains on the family. Despite this, he always enjoyed sending his most prized paintings back home to his mother. These included giant irises, roses and great bouquets of flowers – all of which he knew she would love. Van Gogh’s famous portrait of his mother also captures her proud and vibrant nature in the colours chosen by the artist. Whilst painting his mother’s portrait he wrote to his brother Theo, “I am doing a portrait of Mother for myself. I cannot stand the colourless photograph, and I am trying t do one in a harmony of colour, as I see her in my memory.”

The theme of motherhood is also used by many of our own artists at artgallery.co.uk. Have a look at some of our own artists inspired by mothers…

Madonna Of The North by Stephen Davison
Madonna Of The North by Stephen Davison

Stephen Davison has taken inspiration from visit to an Inuit community and their culture of loyalty and motherhood. This rich monochrome oil painting is based on a photograph taken by Henry G. Kaiser circa 1906.

Happy Memory by Mrs Wilkes
Happy Memory by Mrs Wilkes

Mrs Wilkes’ line drawing is a great modern take on the notions of motherhood. The simple addition of red lips and the mark on the mother’s tummy draws the eye to the main theme of the drawing. 

abstract mum by Sandy Jai Hughes
abstract mum by Sandy Jai Hughes

Sandy Jai Hughes has created a portrait of a mother and three children in the famous cubist style of Pablo Picasso. She has also incorporated texture into the piece by adding papier-mâché stained with coloured ink.  

Mother Protects Her Child by Hanan Saied
Mother Protects Her Child by Hanan Saied

Hanan Saied has created a dramatic acrylic on canvas depicting a Nubian woman in traditional dress protecting her baby from the natural disasters in the wold like flooding and tsunamis.

Take a look on our online gallery to find more art from our own artists inspired by their mothers.

Image credits:

Portrait of Rembrandt's mother/ Own work photo of Horst Gerson 1968 catalog/ Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons

Portrait of the Artist's Mother/ Mefusbren69 (talk | contribs) / Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons

Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1 by James Abbot McNeill Whistler/ Musée d'Orsay/ Publlic Domain/ Wikimedia Commons

 

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Art History | Artists

Why Do We Draw Hearts In The Famous Shape?

by Aileen Mitchell 1. February 2017 14:03

Kaleidoscope Butterfly Heart Picture by Sara Lawson
Kaleidoscope Butterfly Heart Picture by Sara Lawson

The heart shape is a world-recognised symbol of love, romance and conversely sacrifice.  It can be seen everywhere – it's even on our emoji keyboards in multiple colours, and being trademarked by footballers. Although the heart shape bears little resemblance to the anatomical shape of the heart, it has been used and accepted as the recognised shape since the late Middle Ages and depicted this way in art history. 

Up until the Middle Ages, the heart was typically depicted as a pear – yes, a pear – or a pine cone, and then the shape seems to have been turned 180 degrees so that the point faced down with the scalloped edge at the top. There are no records that explain why this change occurred or why it then became the way to represent the heart, but from 13th and 14th century Britain the heart symbol was recognised as the same way up that we see it today.

Saint Augustine by Philippe de Champaigne

Saint Augustine by Philippe de Champaigne (1645 - 1650)

Although this shape that hasn't changed in hundreds of years and was established fairly quickly, it was not used as a symbol of romantic love until later. The heart shape during the Middle Ages still symbolised exactly what it was meant to be: the heart. This led to its use in many religious paintings, most famously works painted for Martin Luther, an important influencer in the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. The 'Sacred Heart' of Christ was often depicted with the new shape, and was supposed to remind people of Jesus' sacrifice for the good of humanity. Not only in art, but the new shape got top billing on the deck of playing cards for the heart suit during the 15th century – a design that remains the same today.

 Sacred Heart of Jesus with Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint Louis Gonzaga by Jose de Paez

Sacred Heart of Jesus with Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint Louis Gonzaga by Jose de Paez (1729 - 1790)

There were some variations in the design of the heart shape – particularly in religious paintings. Some painters still kept the aorta on show, but this extra detail gradually died out because the heart symbol we see today was already recognised on playing cards and many other places. 

There are various theories as to how and why the new shape came about: some say it is the shape of fig leaves, ivy leaves or the water lily – all symbols associated with fidelity. Some say that the top of the shape represents the buttocks, breasts and various other parts of the human anatomy associated with desire. These hypotheses, however, appear to have come about in the 1960s and have no real historical evidence to suggest this is the case. There doesn’t even appear to be sufficient evidence connecting the old pear shaped heart with the newer version.

 

Big Pink Heart (circa 1910)

During the 19th century, a period heavily influenced by the Romantics (late 18th century to early 19th century), the heart symbol became heavily associated with romantic love, passion and sacrifice. This was also the time when the penny post created the craze for greetings cards. St Valentine's Day cards with copious, heavily decorated heart symbols were very popular and, at the time, deeply romantic. Since then the use of the heart around St Valentine's Day has become more popular than ever.

Image from 'Keith Haring: The Political Line' exhibition by Keith Haring

In contemporary art, artists took the heart symbol and included it in some of their most famous works. Keith Haring, the American artist and social activist used hearts in his earliest work and carried this theme on throughout his entire career. At a glance, the vibrant, cartoon-like simplicity of Haring's illustrations look innocent and fun. The drawings are in fact of two men in love, which was a bold and positive statement during the time it was created in the 1980s. The positive statements were praised as helping society accept people for who they were. The bold lines around the heart are seen as large gestures of positive energy – something very characteristic of Haring. He was believed to be a real romantic and noted for believing in the best in humanity with the power of love.

Queen Kate of Hearts by Marietta Osyan
Queen Kate of Hearts by Marietta Osyan

Tracey Emin had a variety of live exhibitions of her neon signs, most famous among the locations were Times Square and The Peninsula, Hong Kong. These neon signs were messages of love, often surrounded by the heart symbol. In a world where most signs are advertising, a message of genuine love really stands out – particularly when it has a heart drawn around it. In an interview with the White Cube gallery Tracey Emin explained, "It's an eternal statement about love […] Even if it sounds over romantic or corny, at the end of the day nearly everyone must have experienced that." 

Love Heart 'embrace' Lino Print by Lauren Downes
Love Heart 'embrace' Lino Print by Lauren Downes

After much research and few answers, historians have concluded that there are a number of possibilities to explain the reason why the heart symbol is the shape it is, but none of them have been documented. Much like art itself, the answer to our title is subjective – a heart shape can be the way it is for any reason you want.

Why do you think hearts are drawn the shape they are?

Golden Heart by Kris  Mercer
Golden Heart by Kris Mercer

Image credits:

Saint Augustine by Philippe de Champaigne/ Gift of The Ahmanson Foundation/ Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons

Sacred Heart of Jesus with Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint Louis Gonzaga by José de Páez/ http://arttattler.com/archivelatinamerica.html/ Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons

Early 20th century Valentine's Day card, showing woman holding heart shaped decoration and flowers, scanned from period card from ca. 1910 with no notice of copyright.

Keith Haring: The Political Line/ Aaron Muszalski - Flickr/ Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons

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Art History | Artists

Capturing The Beauty Of The Rain In Art

by Aileen Mitchell 6. January 2017 09:00

From 'Purple Rain' to impressionism, this month we take a look at how art celebrates the beauty of some classic British weather. January isn't exactly famous for its sunny skies, so what better time to throw a positive and artistic light on our winter elements?

The impressionist painters of the 19th century were also known for celebrating wet weather in their art. A large part of impressionism is about capturing the ever-changing light and atmosphere in a painting. For example, Renoir's beautiful sunny afternoon pieces and Claude Monet's dreamy botanical landscapes. But there are some famous pieces that depict less than ideal weather conditions for painting en plein air, as the impressioists did. 

Paris Street; Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte

Paris Street; Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte

Although it may not seemlike the typical style of impressionist paintings with its almost 3D-like quality, 'Paris Street; Rainy Day' shows a very real atmosphere in the way the rain is painted, shimmering on the cobbled streets. 

Hiroshige van Gogh

Bridge in the Rain by Vincent Van Gogh (right, seen here with Hiroshige's original, left)

Vincent Van Gogh was a huge fan of Japanese art, so much so that he created his own paintings in the same style. 'Bridge in the Rain' is actually Van Gogh's painted copy of the original print by the Japanese artist, Utagawa Hiroshige. Although the dimensions were kept the same, Van Gogh has added his signature textured brush strokes and vibrant colour to the piece to make it his own. 

Jockeys in the Rain

Jockeys in the Rain by Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas, one of the founding fathers of impressionim, is famous for his equine art and portraits of ballet dancers. Here we see the jockeys and their horses in the rain but in the rain. Degas painted many scenes of jockeys and horses, but not many in the rain. Degas's classic delicate strokes and depiction of the light creates the impression of soft and heavy rain. 

Morning on the Seine

Morning on the Seine In The Rain by Claude Monet

Unlike the dreamy landscapes of river on sunny afternoons, Claude Monet's 'Morning on the Seine In The Rain' depicts the busy surface of the river as rain drops hit it. The blend of the same colours from the sky and the trees into the river create the impression of a downpour and a very wet morning. 

ArtGallery artists capturing the rain

Evening City Rain by Aisha Haider

Evening City Rain by Aisher Haider

Evening City Rain celebrates the atmposheric scene of a rainy evening. The very realistic rain drops in the forground create the illusion of looking out at the painting through a window onto the rainy street. 

Silhouettes by Stephen Casey

Silhouettes by Stephen Casey

Stephen Casey creates the feeling of falling rain in the large, vertical brush strokes that make up the background of the piece. 

After Rain by Olena Topliss

After Rain by Olena Topliss

Olena Topliss has created a very dramatic skyscape achieving photorealism with her dabbed, soft clouds. Playing with light in a way that would make any impressionist proud, this piece is very atmospheric and really captures the beauty of a rainy landscape. 

Autumn Rain by Robert Jackson

Autumn Rain by Robert Jackson

Robert Jackson's abstract is a very tangible piece portraying condensation, water droplets and the suggestion of an autumn landscape in the background.

The Walk Home  by Pippa Buist

The Walk Home by Pippa Buist

A watercolour scene reminiscent of Caillebotte, Pippa Buist has created a classic city street scene in the rain. The light reflected on the wet pavements and water of the canal really gives the viewer the beautiful impression of a very wet day. 

Fin by Yary Dluhos

Fin by Yary Dluchos

Yary Dluchos's oil painting on canvas has bold strokes and palette knife strokes that catch the constantly changing atmosphere in a scene that impressionism also captures. The drips trickling down the canvas in a background layer gives the sensation of drizzly weather, combined with downward strokes emulate falling rain.  

Raindrops On Hosta Leaves by Kate Esmarch

Raindrops On Hosta Leaves by Kate Esmarch

A subject can be beautiful to observe and paint whether it is a wide open landscape or a very small detail. 'Raindrops On Hosta Leaves' is a great photorealist acrylic painting that captures the small but beautiful detail of raindrops on a leaf. 

Londoners in the Rain by Lesley Blackburn
Londoners in the Rain by Lesley Blackburn

London is always a great muse: full of drama, interesting scenes, and a never ending opportunity to people-watch. Lesley Blackburn has captured the hustle and bustle of a busy London street in the rain wit her oil on canvas painting. The wet, reflective pavement in the foreground really catches the eye and sets the rainy scene from a firest glance. 

Find more paintings, illustrations and drawings on our gallery that either depict the rain or distract you from it on our online gallery

Image credits:

Rue de Paris, temps de pluie, Gustave Caillebotte (1848–1894) / 5wEUCOlEf-EaVQ at Google Cultural Institute / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Montage personnel de deux images : un tableau original d'Hiroshige et une copie de Van Gogh / 'Own work' / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Jockeys in the Rain, Edgar Degas 1886 / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Morning on the Seine in the Rain, Claude Monet 1897 - 1898 / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

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Art History | Artists

Father Christmas in Art History

by Aileen Mitchell 19. December 2016 08:56

There are few iconic celebrities who make the select group of people painted again and again throughout history. Religious icons have secured most of the top spots, but there is one much-loved individual who has also made his mark many times. We're talking, of course, about Saint Nicholas or Father Christmas.

*Spoiler alert: This post is about to detail spoilers about Father Christmas.

Father Christmas, or Santa, is a character based on the real life fourth century archbishop, Saint Nicholas of Myra, Asia Minor (known today as Demre, Turkey). Well respected for his regular miracles of resurrecting children and saving men from drowning at sea, Saint Nicholas was made patron saint of sailors, merchants, children and much more.

Saint Nicholas was also widely known for his secret gift giving, a trait that directly inspired the creation of modern day Father Christmas.

Saint Nicholas, 1799

Usually found in Russian Eastern Orthodox paintings, Saint Nicholas sports a modest white, fluffy beard and his archbishop robes.

Medieval depictions of Saint Nicholas often portray him as having darker skin, a complexion akin to the people of his Myran origin. Here was see him with darker skin and a bald head, surrounded by famous scenes from his life like resurrecting three children from a wooden barrel.

Russia ca 1675 St Nicholas of Zaraisk with Saints and Festival Scenes

Russia ca 1675 St Nicholas of Zaraisk with Saints & Festival Scenes

Many people believe the red worn by modern day Father Christmas was designed as marketing by the fizzy drink giant, Coca Cola. Although this colour definitely works in their favour, there are many paintings of Saint Nicholas wearing red archbishop robes that pre-date Coca Cola by hundreds of years – a good bit of trivia to use at the table during Christmas dinner!

Unlike many saints whose bodies were divided and distributed to various churches after their death (for religious reasons), Saint Nicholas remains in one piece where he was laid to rest in Bari, Italy. Because of this, a team of scientists in the 1950s were able to analyse the body and reveal the man was barely five feet tall with a broken nose.

Christmas Scene, 1820 by Franz Xaver Frh, vom Paumgartten

Christmas Scene, 1820 by Franz Xaver Frh, vom Paumgartten

This painting from Austria shows how Saint Nicholas is beginning to become part of the Christmas scene and take on a role similar to the Father Christmas we know today. We see the classic depiction of the archbishop with the white beard joining in with the family's festivities and, importantly, holding a child's hand. This shows how Saint Nicholas's recognised kindness to children was used as a main theme for the character of Father Christmas.

The character peering round the door on the left is known as 'Krampus', a popular figure in the Christmas story in Austrian and Nordic countries. Sometimes seen as the 'anti-santa', Krampus would punish naughty children. This, thankfully, did not make it over to the British interpretation. He's terrifying.

1888 Saves from Death

Saint Nicholas of Myra Saves Three Innocents From Death by Ilja Repin

Saint Nicholas of Myra Saves Three Innocents From Death by Ilja Repin

One thing Saint Nicholas does not seem to have been is overweight – probably because the real Saint Nicholas didn't have to make his way through thousands of mince pies. In this painting by Ilya Repin, he is notably thin, but still supports the iconic white beard.

Whilst the real man is still being painted, the character Father Chirstmas began to model for several paintings, etchings and illustrations by this point. One of his most famous debuts was a starring role for Mason's wine essences – yes, he became a commercial man very quickly!

Father Christmas, Tuck Photo Oilette postcard 1919

Father Christmas, Tuck Photo Oilette postcard 1919

During the early 1800s, Father Christmas kept a relatively low profile so as not to be associated with the Lords of Misrule. By the 1900s he made a full comeback and was a well-established figure appearing in many famous paintings and adverts according to his newly found official description in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Old Christmas, Illustrated London News 24 December 1842

Old Christmas, Illustrated London News 24 December, 1842

He is described as "the personification of Christmas as a benevolent old man with a flowing white beard, wearing a red sleeved gown and hood trimmed with white fur, and carrying a sack of Christmas presents". Magazines began to print pictures of a cheerful old man still in red robes and surrounded by food.

And to this day, Father Christmas lives on in art! See for yourself on our online gallery.

Santa Claus by Christina Panou

Santa Claus by Christina Panou

Welcome Santa Claus by Christina Panou

Welcome to Santa Claus by Christina Panou

PLAYING FATHER CHRISTMAS by NIGEL FARNWORTH

Playing Father Christmas by Nigel Farnworth

Image credits

Saint Nicholas, 1799 Holy Monastery of Koutloumousiou, Mount Athos/

Copyright © 2002-2016 St. Nicholas Center

Russia ca 1675 St Nicholas of Zaraisk with Saints & Festival Scenes/1998,1104.1/ © The Trustees of the British Museum

Christmas Scene, 1820/ Franz Xaver Frh, vom Paumgartten Kunstverlag Wolfrum Vienna, Austria 2005/ © 1987 Museen d. Stadt Wien

Saint Nicholas of Myra Saves Three Innocents From Death by Ilja Repin/ GalleriX/ Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons

Tuck postcard, in the Photo Oilette series, number C7513/ TuckDB Postcards/ Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons

'Old Christmas' The illustration is accompanied by a verse, 'The Song of the Wassail Bowl'/ User:MichaelMaggs/Gallery / Wikimedia Commons

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