Gauguin: Vision after the Sermon

Paul Gauguin: Vision after the Sermon – 1888 Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh In a letter to Van Gogh (in Arles), dated 22 September 1888, Gauguin writes: ‘I have just painted a religious picture, very badly done but it interested me and I like it. I wanted to give it to the church at Ponte-Aven. Naturally […]

G.F. Watts: Hope

George Frederick Watts: Hope – 1886 London, Tate Britain Hope is one of the Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity) traditionally represented as women. In 1886 George Frederick Watts completed two versions of his take on one of the Virtues, the subject of many images since antiquity and the Renaissance. He sold the original version […]

Gaetano Previati: Dance of the Hours

Gaetano Previati: The Dance of the Hours – 1899 Milan, Fondazione-Cariplo The immediate inspiration for the painting was a short ballet *The Dance of the Hours* which appeared at the end of the third act of the opera La Gioconda, composed by Amilcare Ponchielli. It was first performed in Milan in 1876. But the iconography […]

Puvis de Chavannes: Sacred Grove Dear to the Arts and Muses

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes: The Sacred Grove Dear to the Arts and Muses – 1884 Lyon, Musée des Beaux Arts Commissioned in 1883 by the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon for the main staircase of the museum, this huge painting, on canvas, first appeared at the 1884 Paris Salon before installation in Lyon in August […]

Akseli Gallen-Kallela: Lake Keitele

Akseli Gallen-Kallela: Lake Keitele – 1905 London, National Gallery I first saw this painting about fifteen years ago – not long after it was purchased by the National Gallery in 1999. I caught sight of it across a room full of Post Impressionist masterpieces; its distinctive originality immediately drew me towards it. A decade or […]

Gustave Moreau: Oedipus and the Sphinx

Gustave Moreau: Oedipus and the Sphinx – 1864 New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art The tale of Oedipus has most of the classic ingredients one would expect of one of the Greek myths: tragedy, cruelty, mistaken identity, mysterious monsters, and, underlying it all, a Delphic prophecy wreaking a terrible burden on the hero. Oedipus was […]

Watteau Embarkation to Cythera

Jean-Antoine Watteau: Pilgrimage to the Isle of Cythera – 1717 Paris, Musée du Louvre Little is known about Watteau’s early life but he appears to have been working in Paris by 1702. From 1705 he was employed painting theatre scenery, including scenes from the commedia dell’arte. The troupe of Italian players had been expelled from […]

Turner: Norham Castle

J.M.W. Turner: Norham Castle – c1845-50 London, Tate Britain If it were possible to effect a pictorial manifestation of the sublime then surely this is the work which would come nearest to qualifying. If I were ever given the opportunity to choose one painting to accompany me to a desert island this would be it. […]

Watteau Music Party

Jean-Antoine Watteau The Music Party – c1718 London, Wallace Collection Watteau’s relatively small paintings were, in part, a response to a new vogue in Paris at the beginning of the eighteenth century for more intimate, less formal works. He effectively invented a new pictorial genre, the fêtes galantes — portrayals of elegant outdoor gatherings engaged in nothing […]

Khnopff: The Abandoned City

Fernand Khnopff: The Abandoned City – 1904 Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels In common with Burne-Jones, Khnopff experienced a profound nostalgia for the Medieval world. For Khnopff this anti-materialistic, nostalgic yearning was centred on Bruges, home to a glorious artistic past and the city where he spent his early childhood. The city had lost its […]