Paintings You Should Know: Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’ (c.1486)

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Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, c.1486

Representing a definite break from the Christian themes of the Gothic period, Sandro Botticelli’s (1445-1510) painting depicts the goddess Venus springing fully formed – and stark naked – from the foam of the sea. She was the Roman goddess of sex, love, and fertility, so Freud would have fun with that one. Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’ (c.1486)”

Paintings You Should Know: ‘Impression: Sunrise’ by Claude Monet, 1872

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Monet, ‘Impression: Sunrise’, 1872

Although the term ‘Impressionism’ was already in use to describe a style of painting emerging in France in the latter part of the 1800s it was Monet’s use of the word as an off-the-cuff name for this 1872 work (in French, ‘Impression, soleil levant’) which led to its formal and widespread adoption. Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: ‘Impression: Sunrise’ by Claude Monet, 1872”

Paintings You Should Know: Caravaggio’s ‘The Death of the Virgin’, C.1602-06

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Caravaggio, The Death of the Virgin, 1604-06

The interesting thing about this painting, beyond anything to do with the composition or the skill of the artist, is the fact that it was, and for some arguably still is, controversial to the point of outright offensiveness. Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: Caravaggio’s ‘The Death of the Virgin’, C.1602-06”

Paintings You Should Know: ‘The Skating Minister’ by Henry Raeburn (1784)

This is one of those paintings that you really should know about just because it’s fun. What’s not to love about The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch? The Minister so solemn and intent in his serious black coat, hat, and hose, arms folded in what one might imagine is a gesture of restraint – and yet gliding in joyful frivolity over the ice of the Loch, one leg upraised behind him.

The skating Minister, by Henry Raeburn
Henry Raeburn, The Rev. Robert Walker Skating, mid-1790s

Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: ‘The Skating Minister’ by Henry Raeburn (1784)”

Paintings You Should Know: Raphael’s ‘The School of Athens’, 1509-1511

With my nascent interest in the world of philosophy now seemed like the perfect time to write about the Renaissance masterpiece which is The School of Athens. The painting is a fresco, part of a series commissioned for the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City. Regarded as Raphael’s masterpiece, it captures the Renaissance fascination with the philosophy of the Classical (ancient Greek and Roman) world.

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Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: Raphael’s ‘The School of Athens’, 1509-1511”

Paintings You Should Know: Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ series (1887-89)

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Sunflowers (fourth version in second series), Vincent Van Gogh, 1888

I’ve been watching a lot of Doctor Who lately, and when I saw the episode ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ (Series 5) I knew what my next painting post would be about.

In the three years prior to his death in July 1890, Vincent Van Gogh painted multiple studies of sunflowers. Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ series (1887-89)”

Paintings You Should Know: The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan Van Eyck (1834)

The Arnolfini Portrait, also known as The Arnolfini Wedding, The Arnolfini Marriage, or The Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and His Wife, is one of those paintings which changed the world of art. During the preceding Gothic period, art had been focussed almost exclusively on religious subjects, but this is a large-scale work depicting two real individuals in a realistic setting.

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Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan Van Eyck (1834)”

Paintings You Should Know: Michelangelo’s ‘The Creation of Adam’, 1511

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The painting of the Sistine Chapel seems to have been one of those projects which got wildly out of hand. The Pope (Pope Julius II) had originally commissioned Michelangelo to design and build his tomb, but handed him a number of side-projects. One of these was to paint the twelve apostles on the triangular pendentives that supported the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and cover the central part of the ceiling with ornamentation. Michelangelo envisaged something rather grander, and convinced Julius II to give him a free hand. Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: Michelangelo’s ‘The Creation of Adam’, 1511”

Paintings You Should Know: Albrecht Dürer’s ‘Self-Portrait at Twenty-Eight Years Old Wearing A Coat with Fur Collar’

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Self-Portrait at Twenty-Eight Years Old Wearing A Coat with Fur Collar, Albrecht Dürer, 1500

The neologism ‘selfie’ first entered the Oxford English Dictionary’s online edition in 2013 and has come to be associated primarily with narcissistic adolescent girls, but historically the great Queen of the Selfie was in fact a King, the great Northern Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer.

Over the course of his lifetime Dürer painted at least three self-portraits, of which this is the last. He also completed several sketches of himself, and may also have used himself as the model in several paintings of Christ. Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: Albrecht Dürer’s ‘Self-Portrait at Twenty-Eight Years Old Wearing A Coat with Fur Collar’”