Reflections on the Course

I have always been interested in art, but have never painted or drawn, my interest being photography. I was following the Photography degree pathway before starting this course but found that I enjoyed it so much and learnt many things that I could apply to photography that part way through I asked to change to the Creative Arts degree pathway. This will allow me to study both art history and photography throughout the course.
I have learned a great deal from both a technical and historical point of view. I have studied in a lot more detail artists I had heard of before starting the course as well as discovering quite a number that I had not come across before.
I really enjoyed my final project on the Norwich School. Having fairly recently moved to Norfolk I found that I was learning about the history of the area as well as the artists of the period. The more I read about the subject the more interested I became and the more I wanted to read.
What has changed as a result of the course? Well I spend a lot more time studying individual works of art than I ever used to. Previously I would probably glance at a painting and wander round a gallery thinking ‘I like that painting’ or quickly bypassing ones that didn’t immediately appeal. Now I spend more time in a gallery looking at fewer works of art.
Perhaps my progress can be summed up in how I have approached the various annotation exercises throughout the course. At the beginning I would look at the painting, research it to see what other people had said about it and use the research to describe the painting. By the middle of the course I would look at the painting, start to think about my views on it and then use the research to inform or modify my views. By the end of the course I think that I am now looking at paintings and forming my own opinions, I use the research I do to reconsider those opinions but not necessarily modify them; I have much more confidence in my own views now.
I think that I have learned a lot that can be applied to my photography, whether it be poses in portraits, composition of landscapes or many other details I have studied in this course which are transferable.
Finally the course gave me the interest and confidence to attend art auctions locally – and to buy something! The first time I just went to a viewing prior to an auction to study the paintings, I also went once just to see what the auction process was like. With the knowledge I had built up from the course and my project on the Norwich School I ended up buying etchings by JS Cotman and Joseph Stannard – something that would never have happened without doing the course. Not only am I pleased to have completed the studies I now have the fruits of them to enjoy at home.

Written Review – The Norwich School of Painters

I’m very pleased that I chose this as my topic for the written review, having recently moved to Norfolk it has helped me get to know the history of the area as well as the artists involved.

I found this a fascinating subject and could have written so much more, one of the most difficult things was editing down my original draft to around 2000 words. As it was I could only discuss two artists (albeit the two preeminent members of the School) and only one work by each. I could have carried on writing about other works by Crome and Cotman and other members of the School.

I was fortunate in having the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery nearby with its permanent exhibition of Norwich School paintings, Norfolk’s main library also had a number of books on the subject.

The more I read about this subject the more i wanted to read and found a number of second hand older texts online which were really useful.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing this piece, I only hope that I have done it justice within the available word limit.

My report can be found here, as always with the photos removed for copyright reasons: The Norwich School of Painters – no photos

Exercise: Analyse an Impressionist Landscape

I had a couple of options for this exercise, I studied Whistler’s Nocturne: Blue and Silver – Chelsea  at Tate Britain as well as a couple of Philip Wilson Steer paintings that were on display at the Masterpieces exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. I had not come across Philip Wilson Steer before and was quite taken by his technique. Steer is described by Jane Munro in Oxford Art Online “By the beginning of the 1890’s Steer was the leading follower of French Impressionism in England.” I analysed both the Whistler and the Wilson Steer paintings and decided to use Wilson Steer’s Walberswick – Children Paddling for the course.

What I liked about this exercise was that it made me think about how to view paintings that are done in different styles – can the same criteria be used for say an impressionist landscape or a more classical one?

It was good to come up with my own criteria for judging an impressionist landscape – an exercise that is getting me to think more deeply about the paintings I am viewing and how I am judging them.

The analysis of the Philip Wilson Steer, with photos removed, is here – Walberswick no photos

Exercise: The classical landscape

I had seen Claude’s work before but had never studied it in detail. It was really valuable to read the extract from Kenneth Clark’s book (which I was able to borrow from the library) and it enabled me to look at the two Claude pictures I studied in a new way, by looking at how he structured his paintings.

The thing that struck me most about the paintings I studied, particularly Apollo flaying Marsyas, was the quality of the light and how Claude painted the sky. There is a real sense of depth to his paintings from how he has structured them and the sky seems to recede for ever – as it does in real life! Without this course I wouldn’t have been able to identify how Claude had achieved this (or indeed done anything other than say ‘What a nice painting – what a lovely sky’!

As usual the pictures have been removed from the attached annotation

Apollo flaying Marsyas – no photo

Exercise: Room with a view

I found this exercise a bit difficult. It wasn’t easy to find paintings which I thought were suitable for the theme, there were plenty of paintings that featured a window but there did not seem to be a great deal about the scene beyond the window that could be discussed. I did come across a few paintings that were suitable but none of them were on display in this country and, wherever possible, I like to do my annotations from paintings I can actually go and study.

I was going to annotate one of the scenes from Hogarth’s Marriage a la mode series which had a window overlooking the Thames and London buildings. I studied the picture at the National Gallery and was going to write it up.

But then I came across A Boy Bringing Bread by de Hooch. This seemed much more suitable and had the advantage not just of a window but also a scene through an open doorway. So I went to the Wallace Collection to study the painting, I’m pleased I did as I learned a lot about perspective and the technique de Hooch used to obtain this involving a pin and some thread.

Boy bringing bread

Research Point Trompe L’oeil

I had great fun with this exercise, looking through examples of this effect. I was surprised bot at how long established it is – one of the examples I found was from 1465, the latest a contemporary piece from Banksy. I also found a very useful article on the subject on Wikipedia, the link is in the attached report. I looked through loads of images and selected a few for the attached piece which I have divided into categories of where the originals are to be found (e.g. as paintings, interior effects, external paintings).

The images need to be seen to fully appreciate them, but for copyright reasons I can’t reproduce them here, so I’ve had to substitute  web links for the images in the attached document. It doesn’t look so interesting I’m afraid!

Research Point trompe l’oeil – no photos

Visit a public interior

For this exercise I chose to visit the Wallace Collection in London. I had previously visited to look in detail at some paintings and thought that one of the rooms would be an ideal subject for this exercise.

What I liked about doing this exercise was that it made me think not just about architecture, or paintings, or furnishings, but how it all fits together. Not just that, but to what purpose are they all being put together? So far as the Wallace Collection is concerned they were originally put together to showcase the collection of the owner – in short to impress visitors. This gives a very different feel to the Wallace Collection now (as a museum) compared to say the Tate collection. At the Tate the emphasis is on the paintings themselves which allows them to be studied close up and with space to stand back from them, at the Wallace Collection the paintings are there as part of an overall impression on the visitor. Little attempt was made to bring out the best in each painting – some are positioned high on the wall over the top of doorways, others with little space to step back from them in a smaller room. It was fascinating toi reflect on the different approaches.

Visit a Public Interior

Annotate an Interior View

I found this an interesting exercise that required me to do a bit of research, while I had heard of Vermeer, I had not previously come across the paintings of David Wilkie (nor indeed heard of genre paintings).

Of the various options given for annotations for this exercise I chose a Vermeer painting at the National Gallery and a Wilkie painting at the Tate.

It is so important to see the original paintings when doing these annotations, otherwise it is difficult to get a sense of scale and appreciate the very subtle colouring and textures that you cannot get from even the best reproductions.

I spent a lot of time looking at the Vermeer, noting something different the more I looked at it. What I think makes it so special is an almost pearly lighting effect the artist achieves, that and the direct gaze of the central subject.

As I said I had not heard of Wilkie or of genre painting until a few weeks ago, that is the great thing about this course, you learn so many new things and I am fortunate enough to then be able to go and see them at first hand. What I also enjoyed in this exercise was how the artist was considered by his then peers, of the fears that Sir Joshua Reynolds had that work such as Wilkie’s would become accepted and approved in the Royal Academy.

My two annotations are attached, as usual the pictures are removed so as not to breach anyone’s copyright.

A Young Woman seated at a Virginal – no photo

The Blind Fiddler – no photo

4th Assignment

For the last exercise for this part of the course I chose to do an illustrated report on a single figure portrait. I chose the Marchioness of Cholmondley by John Singer Sargent. I selected thios portrait as it was on display at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts as part of the Masterpieces: Art of East Anglia Exhibition. It was a good choice of painting as I learned a lot more about John Singer Sargent and how his work was regarded at the time and in the period since. It also meant that I was able to visit the exhibition three or four times to see the painting, it was interesting that I seemed to see something new in it on each occasion that I went back.

What made this special to annotate was that the dress worn by the Marchioness was on display alongside the portrait. This gave a great opportunity to see how an artist can represents black velvet, silk and voile!!

The report, with pictures removed for copyright, can be seen here: Portrait of the Marchioness of Cholmondeley No Pics

Annotate a Henry Moore figure sculpture

This was quite a challenging exercise. I enjoyed seeing the Henry Moore sculpture at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts and I think that I learned a lot. Thanks to following this course I now look at works of art with a much more curious eye  – I don’t just look at them any more I ask myself questions about them and then research them when I get home. This exercise has helped me to understand Henry Moore’s work much better after reading about his work. I liked the comment he made about sculpting a figure in two or more pieces, how it can come to represent a landscape. My annotation can be seen here: Henry Moore