Once again a book borrowed from my local library (100 Great Paintings, Govier L., National Gallery Company Limited, London, 2010).This is a publication exploring Western painting. 100 paintings were selected by the curatorial staff at the National Gallery. Each painting is shown full page together with a description and commentary on the facing page.
I thought it would be useful to read the book to see if there was anything of relevance for my photography course. I learned a great deal from the book, for example;
- How light and shadow can create the illusion of solid forms in a two dimensional painting. (The Virgin and Child by Masaccio, 1401-1428/9?).
- The use of perspective and how objects and bodies can be positioned to contribute to an illusion of foreground space (The Battle of San Romano, Paolo Uccello, about 1397-1475).
- The inclusion of objects within a painting to add meaning, e.g. expensive oranges strewn around to signify wealth and a dog as a symbol of fidelity. (The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck, painted in 1434).
- Balance and harmony through composition centred on a solid triangular shape formed by the main subject and where faces, arms and hands lead the eye round in a subtle circular movement that suggests completeness and eternity. (The Virgin of the Rocks. Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519). The design draws its serenity from its foundations on geometric shapes, but appears natural.
- Contrasting effects of light and shadow to dramatic illumination. (Samson and Delilah, Peter Paul Rubens, 1577-1640).
- The creation of a sense of energy through dynamic poses and extreme foreshortening. Chiarascuro to add Drama. (The Supper at Emmaus, Caravaggio, 1571-1610).
- Still life creating a study in geometric forms, volumes and textures. (Still Life with Oranges and Walnuts, Luis Melendez, 1716-1780).
- The entirely new art form, the “modern moral subject” developed by Hogarth – a series of paintings that addressed particular issues in contemporary life, developing stories that both entertained and educated the viewer. (Marriage A-La-Mode 1, The Marriage Settlement, William Hogarth, 1697-1764).
- Pose, setting and composition used to portray a couple and celebrate their union and wealth of property they owned. (Mr and Mrs Andrews, Thomas Gainsborough, 1727-1788).
- Use of sunset to represent the end of an era. (The Fighting Temeraire, JMW Turner, 1775-1851).