Van Eyck – The Arnolfini Portrait



Jan van Eyck: The Arnolfini Portrait: 1434

While Uccello was experimenting with perspective in Italy, over in the Netherlands Van Eyck was surpassing him. We’re looking into a room, we can see the depth of it, with the lines of the floorboards leading us into the picture. The mirror reflects the room back at us, and Van Eyck uses light and shade to create the illusion of the figures and the objects being in three dimensions. It is a domestic scene – it appears to be a moment of real life with these two people and the objects that they own that has been captured for us.

A couple of other innovative features – it is a portrait, a new type of painting where individuals would commission a picture of themselves; and it’s the first we’ve seen today that uses oil paints rather than egg tempera. Oils dry more slowly and allow more subtle and deeper colours, and much greater detail; Van Eyck would build up thin layers of paint to distinguish the various textures and surfaces. On the woman’s green dress, you can virtually feel the weight and richness of the fabric, and on the dog you can see the individual hairs.

So who are we looking at, and what does this represent? Continue reading “Van Eyck – The Arnolfini Portrait”

The National Gallery

f1c4e14c9484fba1588477b5ff5d6ce6The entries below all come from another part of the Blue Badge guiding course that I started in September 2014.

As well as being able to guide people around sites in London, we have to be able to conduct tours of the National Gallery, talking for about 5 minutes on 20 paintings that are representative of the development of Western European art.

We have to be able to do this without notes, so it means learning quite a bit about the pictures and the artists, and being able to express this in a reasonably engaging fashion. This isn’t art history – it’s about trying to communicate information in an entertaining way with the hope that one’s listeners both learn something they didn’t know and enjoy the experience.

As I work my way through the 20 pictures I’ll post my notes up here. Once done I’ll link them so they follow the route that would be done in the Gallery (they’ll be posted here out of order).

All images are taken from the National Gallery website and link through to the larger images on their site.

The National Gallery was established in 1824 – relatively late compared to other major European cities. It came about when the artist and collector George Beaumont agreed to leave his collection to the nation, but only if the government purchased the collection of the banker John Julius Angerstein and provided suitable accommodation for the collection. In April 1824 Parliament voted to spend £57,000 for Angerstein’s collection and to take the lease on his old home at 100 Pall Mall to house it. Beaumont’s smaller collection joined this one in 1826. Continue reading “The National Gallery”