Tag Archives: history

Gubbio – Sister Painting

The next project is the Umbrian town of Gubbio. This is to be a sister painting to the last one of Assisi.


Gubbio’s Roman Amphitheater

Sister paintings

Sister paintings came from the reality that if I painted something for my wife my sister-in-law would want one too and visa versa. Therefore many of my watercolours have a twin, painted around the same time and are similar in style, colour or content. These tend to be two pictures that can comfortably sit side by side.

Gubbio’s history


Cable car ride

Gubbio is a fascinating place and sits in the foothills of the Apennine mountains. It is claimed to be one of the original twelve cities created by Noah after the great flood and is the place where Saint Francis had a word with a wolf that had been stalking the townsfolk.


Clustered around the base of Mount Ingino are Gubbio’s narrow, medieval streets, leading to its piazzas and some of its iconic buildings, such as the Palazzo dei Consoli. As you approach the town you also pass the large

Gubbio Tree

The World’s Tallest Christmas Tree

park, which houses the ancient ruins of the amphitheater that is still in use today.

Drawing the town

Crowning the mountain is the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo, that can be reached by a cable car, gliding over the wooded slopes and gives you a great view down on Gubbio’s streets and buildings.


GubbioSketches (2)

Gubbio sketches

An element I’d love to include in the painting is the world’s largest Christmas tree. Each year the hillside is lit up in the shape of a fir tree. I think I might be able to hide brightly coloured dots amongst the trees that mark out the famous landmark. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

The one event I’ll pass on this time is depicting the crazy Ceri race that takes place each year. This is when three 25 foot totem poles are carried through the town and up to the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo. A mad dash skywards that in 700 years has always finished in the same order.

Okay, lets get Gubbio painted.



Drawing Gothic

The early styles of the International or High Gothic period are dominated by a lack of perspective. Artists at this time were rediscovering the ways of showing three dimensions and their attempts are an interesting exercise in drawing.

3bec70db40e6dfde02ae3a4769e550faGothic art

They were aware that things changed over distance but were not sure how to depict distances or foreshortening. Although devices are commonly found in Greek and Roman art, down the years the techniques had been discouraged and lost. Now artists found themselves experimenting to reinvent the illusion of depth.

With a relaxing of regulations by the church controlling art and a growing merchant class with money to spend, more naturalistic lifelike studies  began to emerge. People, landscapes, buildings and vegetation all appeared in paintings.

Drawing perspective

DUCCIO FIRST DENIAL OF PETERThe first uses of perspective were simple oblique projections, whereby angled ,parallel lines were used to indicate that a building was going into the distance. Ariel perspective, the bluing of the horizon, was another early device for showing objects further away.

Gradually the idea of vanishing points took hold and artists had all lines converging at a single point. Quite often this was the centre of the room and painting panelled ceilings and tiled floors were popular to show their mastery of the technique.

There was however a tendency to give each object their own vanishing point in the picture, which gives the scenes a chaotic but interesting look. There are chairs at strange angles, beds that Annunciation of Death of the Virgin_Siena,Museo dell opera del Duomoseem to float and objects that sit in a completely different plain to the things they rest on.

Painting nature

By the end of the High Gothic artists could comfortably draw ellipses, understood how objects sat next to each other and where shadows naturally fell. All important developments in illustrating three dimensions.  As each mystery unfolded their worlds took on a more realistic appearance.

KitchenDrawingOver the next two hundred years the skill of using one, two, three and four point perspectives would be unlocked and by the start of the Renaissance  artists were comfortably creating realistic rooms, elegant street scenes and marvelous landscapes.

It was through these early experiments during the Gothic period that led to the later, accomplished designs. They do provide an interesting instruction on how to draw perspective and show how the different ways effect the look of a painting.


The International Gothic – A Break from Tradition

The International Gothic or Late Gothic art period covers the 13th – 14th centuries and came during a time of religious upheaval and political change. The Christian church was witnessing the growth of Protestantism with its new fangled ideas and the establishment of City States. These too had their own, personal, political agendas and particular allegiances. Very much like the world of today.

lorenzetti_street2The growth of the merchant class provided a challenge to the financial muscle of the church and Europe’s royalty.

These nouveau riche still wanted art on a more personal level but art that reflected their view of the world. It wasn’t  burdened by outdated dictate and accurately reflected the people of the times. The church’s ideals on how and what art should depict was being intellectually challenged. People wanted frescoes and paintings that illustrated real life. Therefore there was an increase in naturalistic imagery and the showing of everyday life.

Gothic art

Annunciation of Death of the Virgin_Siena,Museo dell opera del DuomoThe artists during this period spent their time rediscovering the ancient ways of showing nature. Perspective, foliage and realistic depiction were once again on the menu. Here current artists played their part in trying to understand how the Greeks and Romans set about doing this.

Suddenly it was possible to paint trees, water, buildings and furniture. Painters could populate their worlds with people and animals, fields and hills. But how?  It is interesting to see the artists development of perspective. Each creating strange views with multiple vanishing points, rooms with weird angles and impossible furniture scattered throughout the pictures.

Social painting

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽdaThese strange, other worlds, with their experiments at three dimensions provide a unique viewpoint into life during the Late Medieval period. They show the lives of the ordinary people in the fields alongside royalty.

You can see palaces, castles and cathedrals but also simple houses, barns and sheds. As much as you can see wars and battles there are farmers sowing crops and peasants tending sheep.

Artistic licence 

Giotto di Bondone, Simone Martini, the Lorenzetti brothers in Italy and  Conrad von Soest in Germany and the Limbourg brothers from France all played their part in developing the distinctive style of the International Gothic.

This break with the traditions of the Byzantine paved the way for what would become the greatest advances in art with the arrival of the Renaissance. The steps started by the International Gothic would flourish during the next period and set new standards in artistic representation.  However, I still find the exploration of the 13th and 14th centuries some of the most compelling works on view.


A Hundred Years of Dada

“Art needs an operation” – Tristan Tzara

Dada Movement

Cabaret Voltaire

Exactly 100 years ago, at the height of the First World War, in 1916 the Dadaist art movement began.  To escape the conflict, refugees, artists, intellectuals, anarchists, political dissidents and pacifists fleeing war torn Europe and gathered  in neutral Switzerland. It was in Zurich, at the Cabaret Voltaire nightclub, that a chaotic gathering gave birth to one of the 20th centuries most influential art styles.

Always destroy

Dada Cabaret Voltaire

Dada Performance

Romanian artist, Marcel Janco captured the evening in a painting that clearly shows the anarchic, chaos and mayhem that stylised the Dadaist approach to art. The scene depicted is a noisy, uncontrolled riot, which reflects perfectly the anti-art standpoint the Dadaists wanted to promote.

Then, as now, six nights a week the Cabaret Voltaire resounded to nonsensical music, wordless poems, tribal masks and primitive art.  It embraced African influences, European folk traditions and constantly explored new ways of creating and celebrating art and culture. The live events brought together visual arts, costume, poetry, music and dance in a way that defied the bourgeois conventions of the day.

Dada Manifesto

Dada Performance

Hugo Ball

The group included such famous names as Hugo Ball, Emmy Hemmings, Tristan Tzara, Jean Arp Kurt Schwitters and Hans Richter who were at the forefront of the revolutionary art movement. They were joined by the likes of Andre Breton, Phillippe Soupault, Hannah Hoch, Sophie Taeber, Otto Dix and Max Ernst.

Their unbound energy and artistic creativity continued into the mid-nineteen twenties when the group went on to pastures new. Taking on solo projects or became involved in other art groups.

Thought is made in the mouth

Marcel Duchamp


However, Dada’s legacy was far reaching and is still felt in the works of art movements, musicians and performers of today. In 2004, Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 sculpture “Fountain” was voted the most influential art piece of the 20th century. This was ahead of Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica”, Matisse’s “Red Studio” and Andy Warhol’s “Marilyn Diptych”.

Surrealism, Photo collage, Pop Art, Assemblage, Happenings, Punk and Rap music all have their origins in the anti-establishment sentiments of the Dadaist movement. Their strongly held desire to break with tradition and create a new form of expression were picked up by later artists and performers. The rebellious displays and offending images of today all have, at their core, a little of the Dadaists intentions.

Not bad for a drunken, Wednesday evening down the club in 1916.



Dressing the Part


Martini’s Altarpiece with predella designs below

Sometimes art requires that you do strange things.

On a recent project with Dr Gaie Burnet, about a lost predella of Simone Martini,


Peasant with mop staff

I was given the opportunity to try on women’s skirts in the name of art. This was not out of some sexually repressed need to dress as a woman, after all, I’m British and this comes as second nature to us. However it was necessary for me to capture the likeness of medieval peasants for the panel.

And why?

It did come as a surprise to my wife, when I walked into the sitting room to ask her a question, wearing one of her skirts, I did explain it was for artistic integrity. Bags, walking sticks, a dressing gown for a flying monk’s habit, hats and belts all helped in creating the right look for the drawings.

My dogs were somewhat concerned by my behaviour as I darted around, changing clothes and then setting the camera to timed, running across the kitchen to strike a pose. Only to repeat the chaotic process two seconds later. For them balancing, prone on a stool, to imitate the flying saint was the final act of a madman.

Martini in Siena


Flying monk




In this way and with the absence of my own willing peasant I managed to create a series of pictures that were used in drawing the missing panels from Beato Augustino’s altarpiece, which is now on display in the Palazzo Siena (check). The exercise was an illustration for Dr Burnet’s own work on the painting and how it may have been used for religious instruction and as a way of establishing the Augustinian Order during a time of great change.


Peasant with cloak

Both Dr Burnet and myself found the process of working together an interesting one and exploring Martini’s works at Assisi and Siena was a wonderful experience. It was fun to see how these great works were not just pretty frescoes illustrating the lives of the saints, bishops and Christ but were being used for political propaganda, very much like today’s elaborate electioneering boards proclaiming one belief over another.

Dissecting the message

While I was able to bring my knowledge of painting, colour and design to the project, for me, it was fascinating to hear the political and religious history around the time the artist was working and discover the messages his patrons were most likely trying to convey. What, on the surface of things, appear to be simple depictions of people are quite often more complex, with much of the true meaning being forgotten over time.

I would thoroughly recommend artists and academics working together on projects like this, as both stand to gain a lot more than they realise about the process of making art. Both from a practical perspective of painting and design but also in terms of understanding what clients were trying to get across when commissioning these great works.


Beato Augustino flying in



Saint saves baby

JMW Turner in Umbria


Turner Self-portrait

By 1819, Europe had returned to relative peace, Napoleon had been defeated at Waterloo and tourists were once again travelling the continent. This was the year the painter, Joseph Mallord William Turner first journeyed into Italy. At the age of 44 he created a collection of images detailing his travels as he meandered his way to Naples.


Turner’s sketchbooks

Upon his death in 1851, Turner gave his sketchbooks to the British people and some of these are now available to look through online, while you can thumb through others, under supervision, at the Tate Britain Gallery. Upon discovering this I sought out the books relating to his tours of Italy and have had fun tracking his route though Umbria, where I now live.

Turner’s skill in conveying, in very simple lines, the complexities of the Italian countryside cannot be understated. Using these small sketches and with the aid of my own knowledge of the area and Google maps, I have been able to follow his tour along Umbria’s eastern borders.

Crossing the Alps

PiazzaRepubliccoFolignoJMW, like many before, crossed the Alps at Mont Cenis through the Simplon pass and travelled down through Milan to Florence. Then making his way over to the Adriatic coast, visiting Ancona and negotiating the Apennines, into Umbria. Passing through Macerata, Coliferito and Pale, his first major destination in the green, landlocked province was Foligno.


Piazza della Repubblica, Foligno

Wandering around Umbria in the 1800s was much like driving around the countryside today in a well-worn Fiat Panda with a dodgy suspension over rough terrain. The ride was very rickety, which is evident from some of the drawings that he did along the way. Sadly, in Umbria, the intervening 200 years have not seen much in the way of highway progress and the state of many of its roads still leave much to be desired. Potholes, landslides and large muddy puddles were as much a part of travel then, as they are now.


Visiting Foligno

RoadBtwFolignoTreviThe coach didn’t stop in Foligno but by following the order and pictures, it seems the travellers simply skirted the town walls and headed on out along the via Flaminio in the direction of Terni. Here the trip takes Turner along the foothills of the Apennines through the village of Sant Eracole, the Torre di Matigge and passed the towering vistas of Trevi.

It looks likely that one of the stops was at the


Torre di Matigge

Roman temple of Clitumnus, where he made a number of sketches of the scenery and a detailed study of the building. After this break the bumpy ride continued on to Spoleto and here again it looks like Turner just rode around the town walls, making notes of the town as he went.

Spoleto sights

He did manage to catch some views of the ViaRomaViewSpoletoRocca that dominates the skyline and an interesting drawing below the Torre d’Olio, a view that has changed quite a bit over time. Leaving Spoleto, he recorded the Ponte della Torri and the castle, a picturesque spot that is still a popular photo opportunity with today’s visitors.

Carrying on along the via Roma and over


View leaving Spoleto

the Somma pass he sketched the village of Palazzaccio di Strettura with what was then a ruined castle nestled in the valley. Today this ancient fortification is a modern, refurbished hotel and makes a great resting point on the way to Rome.

Terni and the waterfalls

Reaching Terni, Turner jotted down a few of the town’s Baroque buildings and made sketches of the town’s inhabitants Papigno_001as he relaxed. The Terni of today is a different place from the one he visited. After his time there the industrial revolution changed much of the landscape as it became a thriving steel centre. This was further altered when 80% of the town was bombed during the Second World War. Sadly many of the drawings from this time show places long lost to development and war.



While in the area, Turner, like many artists and poets before him, took a detour into the hills above the town to visit the magnificent, 2,000 year old, man-made waterfalls at Marmore, the village of Papigno and tranquil waters of Lake Piediluco. He spent a good many hours around the area, chronicling the landscape and making notes of the hills and villages, before heading off to Narni.

The magical land of Narni

NarniWestNarni, dominated by its formidable castle, is one of those hill towns that is visible for miles around. Turner recorded his progress towards the town gates with a series of drawings. Judging by the quantity of sketches he made, it’s fair to suggest he spent at least the night here.

Narni is famous for its Augustinian Roman bridge, much ruined, as you’d expect after



2,000 years but still with sufficient structure to be of interest. Here he drew various views around this landmark, as well as the interesting looking medieval bridge with its own tower at one end. Unfortunately in an attempt to slow the Nazi’s retreat during WWII the Allies saw fit to bomb this old monument. While an arch and three pillars of the roman bridge can still be found, you can now only imagine the other pretty bridge.

On to Rome

RomanArchNarni_001Continuing south down the slopes of the Narni hills he finally left Umbria and entered the province of Lazio. At this point the coach wound its way along the River Tiber in the wide open plains of the Tiber Valley. Passing through the villages of Borghetto, Otricoli and Castello Formiche, drawing as he travelled until finally reaching the town of Civita Castellana. Where it looks like he spent another day exploring.


Roman Arch, Narni

From here Turner bounced on to Rome where he made a series of sketches of the ancient monuments along with a number of paintings. After the eternal city he went on to the culturally diverse Naples and like many tourists both then and now he took in the spectacle of Pompeii. Again producing a number of watercolours from the resulting drawings he made on his trip.

Returning to Umbria

?Borghetto; and Another Sketch 1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

Turner made his return journey in the winter, which is perhaps why he appears to have drawn less. He retraced his path through Rome and back up to Umbria, passed Borghetto, Narni, Terni and Trevi once more, making a few sketches as he drove by. At Foligno this time the coach went on to Assisi and probably below Perugia before skirting Lake Trasimeno, leaving Umbria then heading towards Cortona. As this part of his journey is


Borghetto Castle remains

not documented, it can only be assumed that this is the route he took. This is a flatter road with bigger towns to stop.

Despite spending roughly two weeks travelling around Umbria, all that remains are his sketches. The draw of Venice, Rome, Naples and Pompeii seemed to have been greater subjects for his paintings. The diaries of his journey do make interesting viewing and while some areas have suffered destruction and heavy industrialisation there are many parts that have hardly altered at all over the last 200 years.

Turner’s Tour Map

The Miscellany of Art

The quirky facts about art

The Miscellany of Art started out as I was wondering as to what was the most expensive painting in the world. Well things got a little out of hand and so here is what I’ve discovered about all things arty.

World's Oldest Painting

World’s Oldest Painting “Pig”

Over the last 35,000 years people have been making marks. The following book of trivia is a collection of interesting facts and figures from the “World of Art” and lists various record breakers, creative feats and interesting, artistic titbits from around the globe. It does not pretend to answer the great questions of our time but contains much information you never knew you didn’t need.   – Neal

Record Breakers

  • Oldest painting– the world’s oldest cave painting, “Pig”,  is 35,400 years old and is in Maros in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Although the 15th century painter, Giovanni Bellini, is often quoted as the first and painted about 5% of his work on canvas, the oldest canvas painting is the “Madonna of Humility” by Lippo di Dalmasio. This was completed in 1390 and hangs in the National Gallery, London. There are also examples of Roman and Egyptian papyrus and cotton paintings have been found dating back to 2500 BC.
  • Oldest paint set– While the oldest cave painting only dates back 35,400 years, the oldest painting kit, which includes seashell paint pots, bone brushes and hammers date back to around 100,000 years ago. These were found in the Blombos Cave near Stillbaai, South Africa in 2011.
  • Largest painting– The largest painting by a single person is Sun Lei’s 232,442 Sq ft (21,594 sqm) piece called “The Beautiful Soul of China”.
  • Largest fresco– The largest fresco “Apollo and the Continents” in the Wurzburg Residence, Wurzburg was painted in 1752/53 by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and covers an area of 18 x 30 metres.
  • Most expensive painting– the most costly painting to date (2015) is Cezanne’s “The Card Players” sold at auction for $250 million.
  • Most Prolific artist– is naturally is Pablo Picasso, 1881 – 1973. In his lifetime it is estimated that Picasso produced 13,000 paintings, 100,000 prints, 34,000 book illustrations and 300 sculptures.
  • Smallest artwork– 18th century miniaturists specialised in small family pictures, while a couple of Micropainters have created watercolour and oil paintings as small as 5mm x 3mm in size. An exhibition in Texas was held for stretched canvasses over a 1″ x 2″ frame.  However, the smallest painting award has to go to the nano-scientists that created a copy of the “Mona Lisa” that was a third the width of a human hair.
  • Hardest stone to sculpt– Basalt is the hardest rock but is rarely sculpted, the hardest commonly used rock is granite, with a hardness factor of 8 on the Mohs scale.
  • Hardest wood to carve– the Quebracho, with a Janka hardness test score of 4,570 lbf, is considered the hardest wood in the world and therefore the most difficult to carve. Its name comes from the Spanish for “Axe Breaker”.
  • Most visited art gallery– The Louvre, Paris with 9.3 million visitors annually is the most popular gallery in the world. (2014 figures)
  • Most viewed painting– The most popular painting on wood is the “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci, while the most viewed canvas painting is Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night”.
  • Largest collection of paintings – The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York with over 2 million pieces houses the largest world collection of art.
  • Largest gallery– The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia is by size the largest gallery in the world. Those who visit all of its 322 sala, walk over 15 miles.
Zeitgeist Clock

Zeitgeist Clock

  • Smallest art gallery– The Zeitgeist Clock, it contains around 100 unique, miniature images that are displayed two at at time and change combinations every minute.
  • Most remote gallery– James Turrell Museum, The Bodega Colome, Argentina. It takes a 4 hour flight and two hour drive over rough roads to reach the foothills of the Andes Mountain Range and this gallery.
  • Oldest Public Gallery– The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford opened in 1683 is the world’s oldest public museum.
  • Tallest statue– currently the Spring Temple Buddha, Lushan, China. Built in 2002 and stands 420 ft (128 m), although India is building a statue that is due for completion and will be a 597 feet statue of Sardar Vallabhai Patel, India’s first Deputy Prime Minister. (Strange that it’s the deputy and not the prime Minister or for that matter of fact, Ghandi.)
  • Tallest stone statue– Leshan Buddha, China. It sits 233 ft (71 m) tall and was carved between 713 and 803 AD.
  • Tallest metal statue– Statue of Liberty, New York  at 46 metres tall. However, “The Angel of the North”, Newcastle, UK has the largest dimensions as it has a  54 metre wide wingspan.
  • Largest wooden sculpture– created by Zheng Chunhui in 2013 from a single tree. It is 40 foot (12.2 m) long and replicates an old Chinese painting “Along the River during the Qingming Festival”.
  • Largest glass sculpture– “Fiori di Como” by Dale Chihuly in the lobby of the Bellaggio Hotel, Las Vegas is the world’s largest glass constructed sculpture.
  • Oldest statue– Lion Man of the Hohlenstein Stradel. An ivory sculpture believed to be over 40,000 years old. The statue is 11.7 inches (29.6 cm) high and carved out of mammoth ivory.
  • The longest exposed photograph. Michael Wesley used eight cameras with their shutters left open for 34 months between 2001 – 2004 in order to capture the redevelopment of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York.
  • First digital artwork– An image by Efraim Arazi from 1962 featured on the cover of the “Computers and Automation” magazine in January 1963. This is where the term Computer Art was first used.
World's first selfie

World’s first selfie

  • First Sculpted Self-portrait– Bak, ancient Eqyptian stone mason, 1365 BC
  • First Painted Self-portrait– Caterina van Hemessen 1528 – 87
  • First Photographic “Selfie”– Robert Cornellius 1839
  • First on-line gallery– The Museum of Computer Art (MOCA) 1993
  • First art in space– Ellery Kurtz had four paintings flown aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in January 1986. The first sculpture to leave earth was “Cosmic Dancer” by Arthur Woods taken on board the MIR Space Station in 1993.
  • The World’s first digital drawing software– the earliest computer manipulation of graphical images was using the “Sketchpad” system, created in 1963 by Ivan Sutherland. The first commercially available software was the MacPaint program, introduced in 1984.
  • Oldest art magazine– One of the earliest art specific magazines was the American “Aldine” periodical that ran between 1869 and 1879. The longest running art magazine still in print is ARTnews, which has been following the art scene since 1902.
  • Most controversial piece of artwork –over the centuries there have been many controversial pieces of artwork that have offended viewers sensibilities. Nudity, themes, medium and political comment have all received the blunt end of critics gaze. Goya’s “The nude Maja” and Manet’s “Olympia” both were vilified for brazen nakedness, Bosch’s vulgar figures and Duchamp’s toilet/fountain sculpture raised eyebrows. From Turner’s perception of the landscape to Hirst’s shark in a tank, art has always had the ability to shock. While “Equivalent VIII”  by Carl Andre, featuring a pile of 120 bricks in the Tate caused up roar. However,  perhaps, for its wanton destruction, the most controversial art piece has to be Robert Rauschenberg’s “Erased de Kooning”. Here, Rauschenberg over the period of a year, systematically rubbed out a drawing by Willem de Kooning.

Did you know!

  • Pablo Picasso’s real name is 23 words long. Pablo Diego Jose Francisco de Paula Nepomuceno Maria de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santissima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruiz y Picasso. Try signing that on the bottom of your paintings.
  • The high heel was invented by Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Pop Art originated in London.
  • The rural folk in Grant Wood’s painting “American Gothic” were his sister and his dentist.
  • The Tuscan town of Sansepolcro was saved during WWII by its Piero della Francesca painting “The Resurection”. Knowing of its existence, British troops held off shelling for 24 hours and letting the Germans retreat.

Left-handed Artists

Throughout history lefties, caggie-handed, mancino and those using the sinister hand were always viewed with suspicion. It is surprising then to find out just how many famous left-handed artists there are. Although attitudes towards left-handedness do make it hard to get the complete picture and there is conjecture over a number of them, especially the big three – da Vinci, Raffaello and Michaelangelo, it would be fun if they were though.

Karel Appel – Dutch painter

Vladimir Borovilovsky – Russian painter

Luca Cambiaso – Genovese painter

Robert Crumb – American cartoonist

Raoul Dufy – French painter

Albrecht Durer – German painter

M.C. Esher – Dutch printmaker

Henry Fuseli – Swiss/British painter

Jan van Goyen – Dutch painter

Matt Groening – American cartoonist

Cathy Guisewite – American cartoonist

Han Holbein the Younger – Bavarian painter

Patrick Hughes – British painter and sculptor

Thomas Kincade – American painter

Paul Klee – Swiss painter

Leonardo da Vinci – Florentine polymath

Michelangelo Buonarotti– Florentine painter and sculptor

Edvard Munch – Norwegian painter

Patrick Nasmyth – British painter

LeRoy Neiman – American painter and sculptor

Raphael Sanzio – Umbrian painter

Rembrandt van Rijn – Dutch painter

Peter Paul Rubens – Flemish Baroque painter

Sebastiano del Piombo – Venetian painter

Ronald Searle – British cartoonist

Criminal artwork

  • Lost artwork– “The Battle of Anghiari” by Leonardo da Vinci and “The Battle of Cascina ” by Michelangelo, were both frescos in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. and were lost when the building was redeveloped. “Young Man” an early painting by Raphael Sanzio, was lost during the Nazi art plunder of the Second World War and while it is still believed to be in existence, its whereabouts remain a secret.
  • Accidental lost artwork– Picasso’s “Le Peintre” was destroyed when Swissair 111 crashed in Canada in 1998. In 2004, over 50 contemporary works of art were incinerated when the Momart warehouse in London caught fire.
  • Natural destruction– In 1966 extensive flooding of the River Arno in Florence led to the loss of many pieces of artwork throughout the city. An earthquake in 1755, Lisbon caused a fire at the Ribeira Palace destroying the building and many paintings including ones by Titian, Rubens and Correggio.
  • Casualty of war– Art throughout history has fallen prey to wars, plundered from collections, sacked from museums, it has always suffered at the invaders hands. The Protestants destroyed thousands of pieces of Catholic art in their supposed cleansing of northern Europe. Napoleon’s armies pilfered many rare and irreplaceable objects in his march across Europe. Both world wars saw art both stolen and destroyed in acts of wanton vandalism and through sheer greed. Even today ISIS are clearing out archaeological sites and raiding museums and selling or smashing beautiful, ancient objects.
Jean Corot - Real or Fake?

Jean Corot – Real or Fake?

  • Most famous forger– Han van Meegeren famous for his 20th century Johannes Vermeer forgeries.
  • Largest Art Heist– At 1:24am, March 18 1990, the Isabella Stewart-Gardner Museum, Boston. During an 81 minutes dash, thieves made off with 13 rare paintings worth over $500 million. The crime is still unsolved and included “The Concert Player”, Vermeer, “Lady and Gentleman in Black” and “Storm on the Sea” both by Rembrandt, “Chez Tortoni” by Manet and “La Sortie de Pesage” by Degas.
  • Most prolific art vandal – German, serial vandal, Hans-Joachim Bohlmann, between 1977 and 2006 attached over 50 paintings with sulphuric acid, causing more than €138 million worth of damage.
  • Most vandalised painting– Mona Lisa has long been a target for attacks. These have ranged from acid being thrown at it, rocks, spray paint and a teacup. Other popular forms of vandalism have included lipstick, felt pens and knife attacks.
Cecilia Gimenez

Cecilia Gimenez “Ecce Homo”

  • One of the most unintentional and well documented acts of vandalism has to go to  octogenarian, Cecilia Gimenez. She made an attempt at restoring the Sanctuary of Mercy church, Borja in Spain’s  19th century fresco “Ecce Homo”. Glimenez, having never painted in her life before, tried her hand at art restoration and failed miserably.

Art in practice

  • Gallery architecture– the familiar look of many galleries was established by John Sloane with his design of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London in 1817. His vision was one of large, interconnecting, well-lit halls with vast uninterrupted spaces to hang paintings.
  • Paint by numbers– first released in March 1950 by Max S. Klien’s company and sold in Macy’s Department Store, New York. The inventor Dan Robbins, took the idea from Leonardo da Vinci, after hearing how he would put numbers on his works for his apprentices to fill in the colours. The company’s strapline on there box read “A beautiful oil painting the first time you try.”
  • Aerial perspective –the blue or purple colouring of the horizon used by artists to create the illusion of depth. It has nothing to do with flying.
  • The Colour Wheel–  central to understanding painting theory was invented by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666.
  • Colour blindness – problems differentiating between colours was first investigated by Chemist, John Dalton in 1798. The dotty Ishihara colour test cards were introduced in 1917 by Dr Shinobu Ishihara.
  • Patron Saint of Artists– Catherine de Vigri, St Catherine de Bologna.
  • The oldest art school– The Accademia di Belle Arti, Florence was established in 1563 and educated such luminaries as Michelangelo, Donati, Vasari and Giambologna.
  • The oldest art award– is Australia’s Taylor Art Award, founded by Captain George Archibald Taylor and giving bursaries to aspiring artists since 1860.
  • Prestigious annual art awards– Turner Prize, UK (Est 1982), MacArthur Fellowship, US (Est 1981), Golden & Silver Lions, The Venice Biennale, Italy (Est 1986)
  • Camera Obscura– the dark box that is used to project light onto a canvas or paper enabling artists to reproduce scenes more accurately. Amongst others, was written about by Leonardo da Vinci and is believed to have been used by artists Vermeer in their works. The first record of a camera obscura date back to 470 – 390 BC in China and are mentioned by Aristotle between 384 and 322 BC.
Vanitas Painting

Vanitas Painting

Vanitas paintings – these are 16th and 17th century still life canvases which allude to the patrons sense of mortality. They were predominantly created in The Netherlands and Flanders and are rich in symbolism representing death, decay and the transient nature of life. Common objects found in Vanitas paintings include watches, hourglasses and smoke indicating times brief passage, soap bubbles and musical notes depicted as instruments are a sign of life’s brevity. Flowers and fruit too show the short period in which we inhabit the earth, while lemons point to life’s beauty but bitter taste. The final touch is usually a skull or the presence of bones, the ultimate reminder of our inevitable death.

  • Trompe-l’oeil– Meaning “deceiving the eye”, a style of painting popular during the Baroque period for creating a perspective illusion using real objects.
  • Horror Vacui – The opposite to Minimilism, where paintings are overcrowded with imagery. It comes from the Latin for a fear of empty space.
  • Ontbijtje –  A Dutch term for a still-life based around scenes from the breakfast table, elements often included bread, herring, cheese, meats. Literally meaning “Little Breakfast” it was a popular style in the early 17th century.
  • Vernissage – the french expression for a “Private Viewing” first night of an exhibition.
  • Colour
    • Colour – the general term that covers all hues, shades, tones and tints
    • Hue – a pure colour
    • Pigment – a material added to a binder to create a specific colour such as cadmium, cobalt, chrome, copper and lead
    • Tint – a pure colour that has been mixed with white to create a lighter colour
    • Shade – when a hue is mixed with black or grey to achieve a darker colour
    • Tone – the amount of light and shade within a colour

Bodily fluids

Piero Manzoni

Piero Manzoni

Artists regularly put their blood, sweat and tears into their work, some artists have taken this quite literally. Medieval stained glass painters would use urine to fix the paints and Indian Yellow is made from bull’s urine. However, here are some artists that have used bodily fluid as the art.

  • Piero Manzoni – canned 90 tins of his own excrement, 1961
  • Andy Warhol – had his friends urinate on copper impregnated canvases 1977
  • Marc Quinn – made a cast of his head using his own frozen blood, 1991
  • Chris Ofili – used elephant dung in his paintings
  • Millie Brown – paints by vomiting onto her canvases, 2004

Painting technical terms

Frotage – the creation of an image through taking textural rubbing with pencil, crayon.

Pointillism – painting using only dots in order to depict colour, shadow and highlights.

Sgraffito – marking making by scratching the surface.

Grisaille – monocromatic form of painting

Impasto – the thick use of paint to form a raised, three dimensional deposit on the surface of the picture.

Strange colours

In the time before the industrial mass-production of artist colours, painters would grind, soak, boil and distil plant, rocks and clay to created their palette. Here are some of the stranger ingredients and places that have given their names to colours.

  • Malachite (mineral) – vibrant green
  • Gamboge (Cambodian tree resin) – mustard yellow
  • Falu (Rock from a Swedish Copper mine) – dark red
  • Arsenic (metalloid) – grey blue or red orange
  • Caput Mortuum (iron oxide, rust) brown purple
  • Burnt/raw Siena (oxidized earth from around Tuscany) – warm brown
  • Indian Yellow (Bull’s urine) – luminous yellow
  • Sinopia iron oxides from around the town of the same name) – red
  • Burnt/raw Umber (clay from Umbria, Italy and Cyprus) – rich brown
  • Naples yellow (lead antimonate) – pale red yellow
  • Paynes Grey (named after the painter William Payne) – blue grey

The Colour of sin

Each of the seven deadly sins has a different colour and animal associated with it. These have been used by artists over time to represent a particular weakness.

  • Anger – red/ bear
  • Envy – green/ dog
  • Gluttony – orange/ pig
  • Greed – yellow/ frog
  • Lust – blue/ cow
  • Pride – purple/ horse
  • Sloth – light blue/ goat

Styles of Painting

Raffaello MaddonnaGoldfinch

Down the ages there have been a number of different ways of depicting highlights and shadow, depth and colour. The use of hue and tone has varied greatly over time and many formats have been invented for painting in 3 dimensions on canvas.

The four canons of the Renaissance

  • Chiaroscuro – dramatic shadows and highlights. Caravaggio, El Greco, Rembrandt, Goya
  • Cangiante – meaning “to change” involves the swapping of hues to achieve shadows and highlights. eg, yellow hue with a red shadow. Michelangelo, Fra Angelico
  • Sfumato – a soft smokey look to the painting, achieved by using toned down glazes of colour, with an absence of hard lines or edges. Da Vinci, Rafaello, Correggio, Luini
  • Unione – is a blend of shadow, highlights and mid-tones, while maintaining brilliance levels, similar in style to Sfumato but with more intense colours. Rafaello

Early painting styles

  • Cennini -1390, here the shadow and mid-tones made by adding white to the pure pigment.
  • Bellezza di colore – bright colours
  • Isochromatism – Balanced arrangement of colours around a central axis.
  • Alberti – employed the use of hues as mid-tones and black for shadows and white for highlights. Very typical of Late Byzantine and High Gothic works.

Later embellishments

Judith beheading Holmes

Artemisia Gentileschi

  • Tenebrism – Popular with the Mannerist artists, a murky, more pronounced form of Chiarascuro with violent contrasts between shadows and highlights. Caravaggio is credited with its invention. Gentileschi, Ribalta, Ribera.

Antique reading on art

Il Libro dell’Arte – a 15th century book , (http://www.noteaccess.com/Texts/Cennini/) written by Cennino Cennini (1360 – 1427) describing the painting practices of the early Renaissance.

The Lives of Artists, Sculptors and Architects, 1550 – Giorgio Vasari

Art Movements of the 19th & 20th century

– Modern Art 1860 – 1945

– Contemporary Art 1946 – present

Artistic Deaths

Egon Schiele

Egon Schiele

Artists often have a reputation for living life hard, fast and to the full, dying alone and in poverty, at a young age. While this is not true for the majority of famous artists there are some of the greatest masters who succumbed to the popular, stereotypical image.

  • Egon Schiele– Died in 1918 of Spanish Flu in total poverty in a garret in Vienna, aged 28. Two days before his six month, pregnant wife, also died. Schiele spent his last hours alive drawing her dead body.
  • Paul Gauguin– Died in 1903 on Haiti from an overdose of morphine used to ease the pain of syphilis. He’d had enough money to travel to the islands but not return and died in poverty awaiting the start of prison sentence aged 54.
  • El Greco– Died unknown and destitute in 1614 in Toledo, Spain, later his works were acknowledged as amongst some of the most innovative of their time.
  • Vincent Van Gogh– Commited suicide in 1890 and died from a gunshot to the head, having only ever sold one painting.
  • Amodeo Modigliani– Died in 1920 after a lifetime struggling against drug and alcohol addiction, he was 35 years old. His pregnant, artist girlfriend Jeanne Hebuterne killed herself the next day, throwing herself from the window of her parent’s apartment.
  • Barbara Hepworth – 1951 aged 72 in a fire in her St Ives’ studio. The cause was a carelessly discarded cigarette she was smoking.
  • Caravaggio– 1610 aged 38. Famous painter and drunken brawler, he fled Naples after a nasty fight, in which he was injured. He died some days later in Tuscany of his wounds and suffering from the long-term effects of lead poisoning as a result of mixing his paints.
  • Jackson Pollock– Died in New York in 1956 aged 44 of injuries sustained when the car he was driving left the road and hit a tree. He was reportedly drunk at the time.
  • Tomasso Masaccio– 1401 – 1428. Died at the age of 27 and is recognised for his short life and revolutionary use of chiarascuro painting.
  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti – Founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement, passed away at a friends house in 1882 from Brights Disease, the result of many years addiction to chloral hydrate and whisky.
  • Georges Seurat– Died suddenly in 1891, at the height of his career at the age of 31, from a suspected case of meningitis . Known for his use of pointillism.
  • Keith Haring– Street Graffiti artists was a victim of the AIDS virus in 1990, Haring died aged only 32.
  • Mark Rothko– At the age of 66 years old, Rothko took his own life after a long battle with drink and smoking. Suffering from a aneurysm and depression he committed suicide in 1970.

Top ten art posters


According to image searches on Google Trends as of 2014, these are the most sought after art poster images.

  1. Mona Lisa– Leonardo da Vinci
  2. Starry Night– Vincent van Gogh
  3. Marilyn Munroe– Andy Warhol
  4. The Dream– Pablo Picasso
  5. The Last Supper– Leonardo da Vinci
  6. Guernica– Pablo Picasso
  7. Water Lillies– Claude Monet
  8. The Creation of Adam– Michelangelo
  9. The Scream– Edvard Munch
  10. Girl with Pearl Earring– Johannes Vermeer

List of Artist featuring films

JMW Turner film Poster

Mr Turner 2014

  • Mr Turner – J.W.M. Turner 2014
  • Big Eyes – Margaret Keane 2014
  • Renior – Pierre Auguste Renior 2012
  • The Mill and the Cross – Pieter Bruegel 2011
  • Little Ashes – Salvador Dali 2008
  • Caravaggio – Caravaggio 2007
  • Nightwatching – Rembrandt Van Rijn 2007
  • El Greco – El Greco 2007
  • Goya’s Ghost – Francisco Goya 2006
  • Klimt – Gustov Klimt 2006
  • Modigliani – Amodeo Modigliani 2004
  • Girl with a Peal Earring – Johannes Vermeer 2003
  • Frida – Frida Kahlo 2002
  • Pollock – Jackson Pollock 2000
  • Goya – Francisco Goya 1999
  • Love is the Devil – Francis Bacon 1998
  • Artemisia – Artemisa Gentileschi 1997
  • Surviving Picasso – Pablo Picasso 1996
  • Carrington – Dora Carrington 1995
  • Dali – Salvador Dali 1991
  • Vincent and Theo – Vincent Van Gogh 1990
  • Caravaggio – Caravaggio 1986
  • Ovin – Paul Gauguin 1986
  • Edvard Munch – Edvard Munch 1974
  • The Agony and the Ecstasy – Michelangelo 1965
  • Gli Amori di Montparnasse – Amedeo Modigliani 1958
  • Lust for Life – Vincent Van Gogh 1956
  • Moulin Rouge – Toulouse Lautrec 1952

Infamous painters

Famous people who paint and exhibit –

  • Winston Churchill (Politician)
  • Adolf Hitler (Nazi)
  • George W. Bush (Politician)
  • Grace Slick (popstar)
  • Johnny Depp (Actor)
  • Dennis Hopper (Actor)
  • Lucy Lui (Actor)
  • David Bowie (Popstar)
  • Joni Mitchell (Singer songwriter)
  • Jim Carey (Actor)
  • Johnny Cash (Musician)
  • Bob Dylan (musician)
  • Stevie Nicks (Singer songwriter)
  • James Franco (Actor)
  • Rosie O’Donnell (Actor)
  • Anthony Hopkins (Actor)
  • Janis Joplin (Singer songwriter)
  • Frank Sinatra (Crooner)
  • Silvester Stallone (Actor)
  • Michael Jackson (Popstar)
  • Marion Manson (Popstar)
  • Ronnie Wood (Musician)
  • Yoko Ono (Herself)
  • Tony Bennett (Crooner – paints under his real name Antonio Benedetto)
  • Kim Novak (Actor)
  • Robert Redford (Actor)
  • Peter Falk (Actor)
  • Freddie Mercury (Popstar)
  • Tim Burton (Director)
  • Robbie Williams (Popstar)
  • Jennifer Anniston (Actor)
  • Patti Smith (Popstar)
  • Keith Richards (Immortal Being)
  • Paul McCartney (Popstar)
  • Jane Seymour (Actor)
  • Pierce Brosnan (Actor)
  • Viggo Mortensen (Actor)
  • Macaulay Culkin (Actor)
  • Paul Stanley (Musician)
  • Tony Curtis (Actor)

Art Quotes

James McNeill Whistler

James McNeill Whistler


  • If you hear a voice within you saying “you cannot paint” then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.  Vincent van Gogh.
  • Painting is another way of keeping a diary – Pablo Picasso.
  • I found I could say things with colour and shapes I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for – Georgia O’Keefe.
  • Art enables us to find ourselves and lose others at the same time – Thomas Merton.
  • A man paints with his brain and not his hands – Michelangelo.
  • A line is a dot that went for a walk – Paul Klee.
  • There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept – Ansel Adams.
  • I like to pretend that my art has nothing do with me – Roy Lichtenstein.
  • A room hung with pictures is a room hung with thoughts – Joshua Reynolds.
  • I choose a block of marble and chop off what I don’t need – Auguste Rodin.
  • An artist is not paid for his labour but for his vision – James Abbott  McNeill Whistler.
  • Art for artsake, money for God sake – 10cc.
  • Art can never be modern, art is primordially eternal – Egon Schiele.
  • Art is not what you see, but what you make others see – Edgar Degas.
  • Art is what you can get away with – Andy Warhol.
  • The beautiful body perishes but a work of art dies not – Leonardo da Vinci.
  • If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint – Edward Hopper.
  • The job of the artist has always been to deepen the mystery – Francis Bacon.
  • Art is not what you see but what you make others see – Edgar Degas.
  • Making your unknown, known is the important thing – Georgia O’Keeffe.
  • Life obliges me to do something, so I paint – Rene Magritte.