The paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites
(Hunt, Rossetti, Millais, Burnes-Jones)
will be shown on this page.
(a) Please work out what sort of knowledge we need about the historical epochs to understand the context of the paintings we will be studying. Make a list of questions you would like to be able to answer about the historical periods. Try and answer them for the period of the Middle Ages in England.
(b) In class we will try to characterise the epoch in broad outline.
Find out who commissioned works of art during the Middle Ages, what sort of works were commissioned, what the social standing of artists was.
(c) Study the following three pictures, all from illuminated books, and make sure you have the vocabulary to describe what you see. Try to find out something about St Luke.
How do we know that it is St Luke and not an ordinary painter?
1. Your research:
(a) The period: Get an overview of Tudor England. What had changed from the
Middle Ages regarding government, agriculture and trade. How did people of the
different classes live (health, education, literature and language)?
(b) The painters: Read the text on Hilliard by John Murdoch.
2. For discussion in class:
(a) Hans Holbein (painter at the Court of Henry VIII): Portrait of Henry VIII
(b) Nicholas Hilliard (painter at the Court of Elizabeth I): Three miniatures
3. Written assignments:
(a) Translate any five of the 13 "Grundfragen zur Betrachtung eines Bildes".
(b) Comment on one of the mediaeval pictures you studied for the last session: describe the picture and try to analyse it in the context of the period.
Describe this portrait. What conclusions can we draw about the purpose of such a painting?
Describe this miniature: the young man's pose, clothes, gesture, the background. What conclusions can we draw about the "message" of the picture?
Compare this portrait with that of the young man among the roses.
Compare this portrait with that of Henry VIII by Holbein.
1. The period - 17th century England
Please read up the essentials on the conflict between the Stuart kings, James and Charles I, and parliament, why there was a civil war 1742-51, and what the 'Glorious Revolution' was.
Who were the major figures in science and philosophy?
2. Painters of the period
Sketch the biography of Van Dyck.
Comment on the picture: note the manner in which the subject is presented, the composition, the background.
Describe the painting.
Compare it with the Holbein portrait of Henry VIII.
Compare this self-portrait with that of Hilliard.
Sketch the biography of Peter Lely.
Margaret Hughes was the mistress of a wealthy aristocrat, who was a patron of the arts. She is holding a jar of ointment, one of the attributes of Mary Magdalen, the friend of Jesus who is said to have had a colourful past.
Describe and comment on the painting.
Outline Godfrey Kneller's biography.
Outline the significance of Isaac Newton.
Describe the picture.
Compare the portrait with Holbein's portrait of Henry VIII.
1. The period: Sketch the central features of pre-industrial 18th century England.
2. The artists: what do we need to remember about Hogarth's life?
What do we mean by "Enlightenment"? Could you outline the ideas of any writer of the German Enlightenment?
In how far does this portrait resemble those you have seen of the previous century?
In how far is it different?
"The Bench" is the term used for a panel of judges.
Comment on the message of the picture. Do you know any comparable caricaturists?
The three books in the foreground are by Shakespeare, Milton and Swift.
Why do you think Hogarth chose these writers?
Comment on the portrayal of the painter.
What does the dog add to the picture?
The picture series A Harlot's Progress is discussed by David Dabydeen cf. Reader p. 23-26.
George Vertue, a contemporary of Hogarth, engraver and antiquary, wrote about this series:
"The most remarkable Subject of painting that captivated the Minds of most persons of all ranks and conditions from the greatest Quality to the meanest was the Story painted and designed by Mr.Hogarth of the Harlots Progress and the prints engravd by him and publishd.
He began a small picture of a common harlot supposed to dwell in drewry lane just riseing about noon out of bed and at breadfast with a bunter waiting on her. This whore's desabille was careless and she had a pretty Countenance and air. This thought pleasd many; some advisd him to make another to it as a pair which he did. Then other thoughts encres'd and multiplyd by his fruitfull invention till he made six different subjects which he painted so naturally that it drew every body to see them. He proposed to Engrave in six plates and to print them at one guinea each sett. He had daily Subscriptions in fifty of a hundred pounds in a Week, there being no day but persons of fashion and Artists came to see these pictures, the story of them being related about how this Girl came to Town, how Mother Needham and Col. Charteris first deluded her, how a Jew kept her, how she lived in Drury lane, when she was sent to bridewell by Sr. John Gonson, a Justice, and her salvation and death.
Before a twelve month came about whilst these plates were engraving, he had in his Subscription between 14 or fifteen hundred (by the printer I have been assured 1240 setts were printed) Subscribers. He publickly advertized that those that did not come in before a certain day should be excluded which he did, and all this without Courting or soliciting subscriptions, all comeing to a dwelling in common Garden where he livd with his father in Law Sr James Thornhill. And it is probable he might have had more. No Soonner were they publisht but several Copies were made by other hands and dispersd all over the Countries."
List essential features of "baroque" art.
What is different about works of the "rococo" style?
What do we mean by "classicism"?
Describe the composition of the painting.
How does it contribute to the portrait of the sitter?
Nelly O'Brien was a courtesan.
What impression of her character is conveyed through the painting?
Study the composition of the painting.
How is this army officer characterised? Compare the portrait with that of Captain Orme.
George Clive was an official of the British East India Company. His brother, Robert Clive, became governor of Bengal, having conquered the province.
Comment on the relationship between the figures portrayed.
Sarah Kemble (1755-1831) married William Siddons. After a triumphant success at Drury Lane she became the leading tragic actress in the country. Mrs Siddons is represented as the Tragic Muse (Melpomene), whose attributes of a dagger and cup are held by allegorical figures of Pity and Terror. The treatment was possibly suggested by W. Russell's poem of 1783. The pose, which according to the actress's own account she struck spontaneously, appears to be based on Domenichino's Saint John the Evangelist.
Describe the portrait.
See below: also Mrs Sarah Siddons, portrayed by Gainsborough off-stage.
Can you find "dramatic qualities" in this portrait?
What does the painter show us about the relationship between the couple?
How does the background fit in?
Can you identify rococo elements of the portrait?
Comment on the background in relation to the portrait of the Countess of Howe.
Describe the portrait.
Compare it with the self-portrait of van Dyck.
What is the social status of the couple portrayed?
Comment on the presentation of the landscape.
Note: This painting is so well-known that it can serve contemporary caricaturists:
What were the decisive changes caused by the Industrial Revolution?
What made it possible?
The creation of a vacuum is demonstrated by the death of the bird in the glass.
Study the composition of the painting and the use of light and
colour. Comment on the reactions of the men, the woman, the boy and
girls. Compare the scientist in this picture with Kneller's portrait of
This is a workshop of the traditional kind. How is the technology pictured? Why do you think the artist included four non-workers in the painting? Study the composition and use of light.
The great Viennese psychologist Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) had a copy of this painting over his desk. Can you explain why?
In this tragedy, Lady Macbeth and her husband have murdered their rivals for the throne of Scotland; Lady Macbeth walks in her sleep, haunted by guilt. In the background we see her doctor and a lady-in-waiting. She says: "Here's the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand."
This play is a comedy. Titania, queen of the fairies, has had magic ointment put on her eyelids while she sleeps; this makes her fall in love with the first person she sees on awakening. That person happens to be a human being, Bottom. He is a weaver who has gone into the wood with his friends to rehearse a play in which he wears an ass's head.
Fuseli's subjects - folk mythology and the Shakespearian world - are Blake's subjects, too. But Blake was also a poet inspired by biblical narratives and by a mythological world of his own creation.
In ancient Greek mythology and philosophy, the creation of the world
was carried out by a number of gods: the earth, the seas, the heavens
were understood to be the work of different deities. Newton is
portrayed here as such a demiurge or divine craftsman.
(Elohim = Hebrew name for God). The serpent has entwined itself around Adam; the human condition is subject to death - to the frailty of the body and to time.
This is one of twenty-one prints illustrating the Old Testament Book of Job ( = Hiob), which Blake published in 1826. Blake saw Job's trials and eventual spiritual rebirth as parallels to the creative struggles of the artist. Under this image there is a quotation stressing Job's submission to his trials.
Thomas Phillips greatly admired Blake's paintings and his writings. In how far is this reflected in the portrait?
John Constable: The Man and His Work
John Constable is today recognised as the major English landscape painter of the 19th century, matched only by his contemporary, J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). But he was not particularly successful during his lifetime.
Born in East Bergholt, Sussex, on 11th June 1776, he was the second son of the six children of Golding Constable (a miller) and Ann Watts. He was educated at a private school in Lavenham and at the grammar school in Dedham. He was taught the technique of painting by John Dunthorne, a local plumber and glazier who was an amateur painter. Then in 1796, while staying with relatives at Edmonton, he met John Cranch (a mediocre artist whose style he emulated) and John Thomas Smith, an antiquarian draftsman, with whom he made drawings of picturesque cottages.
His family had hoped that young Constable would follow in his father's footsteps, but the art patron Sir George Beaumont (1753-1827) persuaded them to allow their son to join the Royal Academy Schools in London. Here he was encouraged by Benjamin West (1738-1820), the history and portrait painter, and began to study nature, devoting himself almost exclusively to painting landscapes. He also exhibited his first picture there in 1802.
In 1809 he met and fell in love with Maria Bicknell, but was unable to marry her until 1816, owing to the hostility of Maria's grandfather. Following the marriage the couple lived in London. The marriage, which was the prelude to Constable's finest work, was an intensely happy one, and produced seven children, to whom he was completely devoted. Maria was never particularly healthy and died in 1828. Constable never fully recovered from the shock.
Initially, Constable worked in the manner of Gainsborough (1727-88) but gradually developed his own unique style of painting humble subjects and nature without pretention or what he was fond of calling "fal-de-lal" or "fiddle-de-dee". Although this gained him little recognition in England, the French were impressed with his work and his reputation grew rapidly in the Paris salons. Indeed, one of his most famous paintings, The Hay Wain (1821), had an enormous influence on the modern school of landscape painters and he was admired by Delacroix and Bonington among others. In spite of this, Constable never ventured abroad, producing his finest works in the places he knew best.
After his marriage he returned to Suffolk less often, but became more familiar with the south of England, visiting Salisbury, Brighton, Arundel, and Petworth on numerous occasions between 1824 and 1835. When his father-in-law died in 1828, Constable inherited £20,000 (a considerable sum in those days), which allowed him to devote himself entirely to his work. From then on he was able to fully express his intense love for the countryside and experiment with changing light and the movement of clouds across the sky.
Although his latter years were dogged by bereavements, poor health and depression, he continued to work steadily - even though his landscapes were often unsold - and was finally elected a full member of the Royal Academy in 1829.
He died in Hampstead on 31 March 1837. Today many of his finest landscapes, such as The Valley Farm and The Hay Wain, hang in London's National Gallery, while others can be viewed in the Tate and the Victoria and Albert Museum.The Stour valley in his native Sussex is now known as 'Constable Country'.
You will find a short text by Constable in the Reader p 49 - a letter about his work to the archdeacon of Salisbury Cathedral.
By 1826, water mills were giving way to the sort of 'mill' painted by de Loutherburg in Coalbrookdale at Night, to the factories with their steam-driven machinery.
Comment on the impression created of English rural life.
Cathedrals are urban centres of ecclesiastical power. Study how the church is presented in this rural scene.
This is the term for land provided by the church for the use of its clergy. You see the church in the background behind the parson's house.
Note the manner in which the foliage is painted. How does the perspective of the painting help to convey a sense of harmony and peace?
The huge structure near Salisbury (unrestored in Constable's time) was built about five thousand years ago : it was a temple of the sun and the moon. The designers were excellent astronomers and ingenious organisers and builders.
Comment on the skyscape, and on the composition of the painting. Compare it with the picture of Salisbury Cathedral.
You will find an account of Turner's life and work in the Reader pp 50-5
Turner painted this scene as the buildings were burning.
The Temeraire was Admiral Nelson's flagship in the famous battle of Trafalgar of 1805, which was fought against the French and Spanish fleets. Nelson won the battle but lost his life.
Comment on the emotional qualities of the painting.
Turner was greatly admired by the French impressionists. Compare this painting with The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons.
The 1840s was the age of railway construction in England. Can you find similarities between the presentation of steam here and in The Fighting Temeraire?
You will find an article on the Pre-Raphaelite painters in the Reader pp 56-62.
In the writings of Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin and William Morris you will find the theoretical background.
The picture illustrates a scene from a ballad by the romantic poet Alfred Lord Tennyson The Lady of Shalott
This lady lives near King Arthur's court; she is under a curse and must weave a tapestry of the view from her castle window which she is only allowed to look at through her mirror. When the handsome knight Sir Lancelot passes by, she looks at him directly: the curse descends on her. She dies in a boat which takes her body to Camelot.
The topic and the execution of the painting are typical of the Pre-Raphaelite painters with their interest in the mediaeval period, which they perceived as a better one than their own, and their scrupulous attention to detail.
Lilith is a demon associated with the night. She is said to have been Adam's first wife, whom he left for Eve. In another painting, Rossetti shows her vengeance on Adam and Eve.
This is an illustration of Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet: Hamlet loves Ophelia, the daughter of Polonius, but treats her harshly in his distress caused by the murder of his father and the treachery of his mother. He kills her father; unable to bear the double loss, she becomes insane and drowns herself.
If you know the play, do you recognise Ophelia in this painting?
The Pre-Raphaelite painters were interested in mythology: Pan was
the Greek god of shepherds and huntsmen; he had horns and the legs of a
goat. He invented the flute. Cupid, the god of love, is charmed
by Psyche, a king's daughter; he visits her secretly at night but
forbids her to look at him. She does so, however, whereupon he leaves
her. She wanders the earth in search of him, subjected to much
suffering by Venus until Jupiter takes pity on her and reunites her
During the first decade of the 20th century, we find art taking a radically new direction - in literature, in the visual arts, in music.
What had happened in the world (in politics, in science, in technology) to make such changes necessary?
Try to relate your findings to the works depicted on this page.
In 1912 Lewis became the founder of Vorticism, a literary and artistic movement. In his journal, Blast (1914-15), Lewis attacked the sentimentality of 19th century art and emphasized the value of violence, energy and the machine. In the visual arts Vorticism was expressed in abstract compositions of bold lines, sharp angles and planes.
From 1916 to 1918 Lewis served on the Western Front as a battery officer. After the war he developed right-wing views and was sympathetic to German Nazism and Italian fascism.
Merry-Go-round was painted after the Battle of the Somme. It shows a group of military and civilian figures caught on the vicious circle of the roundabout. One gallery refused to show the painting because Gertler was a conscientious objector.
Revolting against ornate, pretty art, Epstein made bold, often harsh and massive forms of bronze or stone. His sculpture is distinguished by its vigorous rough-hewn realism. Avant-garde in concept and style, his works often shocked the general public. He used expressively distorted figures, drawing more on non-Western art than the classical ideal.
In the 1950s Moore began to receive increasingly significant commissions, including one for the UNESCO building in Paris 1957. With many more public works of art, the scale of Moore's sculptures grew and he started to employ a number of assistants to work with him.
You will find an article on modern art in the Reader p 63, one on Stanley Spencer on p 79, two articles on Francis Bacon pp 81 and 86, and two on Lucian Freud on pp 88 and 92.
There is a photograph of Bacon in the Reader p 81. Compare the two pictures.
Comment on the composition, use of colour and representation of the artist.
Compare this with Bacon's self-portrait.
Compare Freud's self-portrait with that of van Dyck.
This miniature portrait made headlines in the British press. An art critic claimed it was the most significant royal portrait since Goya; the "quality newspapers" found it impressive, whereas the "Sun" proposed that the painter be thrown into the Tower. The Queen did not comment.
1. Welches sind die äußeren Daten und Werkangaben?
2. Welche Gegenstände aus der Natur und der sichtbaren Wirklichkeit sind mühelos auf dem Bilde zu erkennen?
3. Welche Entdeckungen werden beim Erkunden des malerischen Geländes gemacht?
4. Wie wird der Blick im Bilde eingefangen und durch das Werk hindurchgeführt?
5. Welche Rolle spielen Linien, Richtungen und Punkte im Bildgeschehen?
6. Wie bestimmte der Maler durch die Form der einzelenen Flächen, durch ihre Maßverhältnisse und die Art ihrer Anordnung die Wirkung des Bildes?
7. Wie sind die Helligkeiten und Dunkelheiten sinnvoll im Bild verteilt?
8. Wie wird die Wirkung des Bildes durch die Farben bestimmt?
9. Wie trägt das verwendete Material und die Art der Maltechnik zur Wirkung des Bildes bei?
10. Warum wurde der flächenhafte Charakter des ‚gemalten' Bildes ins Plastisch-Räumliche und Bewegte erweitert?
11. Wie fügen sich alle Teile zum sinnvollen Ganzen? (Komposition)
12. Welche Beweggründe, welche Absicht waren Anlaß für das Werk?
13. Welche Bedeutung hat das Werk?
(Johannes Mangels, 100 Fragen zum Betrachtung eines Bildes, 1980)
R. Myers: Art in late mediaeval England 4
John Murdoch: From Manuscript to Miniature, on Hilliard 5b,c,d
Kenneth Clarke: 17th century art and science 6
Oliver Miller: Baroque art: van Dyck 10
Ellis Waterhouse on William Hogarth 16
David Dabydeen on Hogarth 22
Giuseppe Gatt on Thomas Gainsborough 28
Ellis Waterhouse on Joshua Reynolds 36
David Piper on William Blake 44
Tate Millenium Blake exhibition 47
John Constable on painting 49
William Gaunt on William Turner 50
William Gaunt on the Pre-Raffaelite painters 56
Jerrold Morris: On the Enjoyment of Modern Art 63
Brian Fallon on Stanley Spencer 79
Aidan Dunne on Francis Bacon 81
Bacon in Paris 86
Aidan Dunne on Lucian Freud 88
Peter Fuller: The Visual Arts 93
ACTON, MARY: Learning to Look at Paintings, 1997, Routledge
BRYANT, MARK & HENEAGE, SIMON: Dictionary of British Cartoonists and Caricaturists 1730-1980, 1994
CHADWICK, WHITNEY: Women, Art and Society, 1990, Thames and Hudson
CHADWICK, WHITNEY: Women artists and the Surrealist Movement, 1985
COMPTON, SUSAN: British Art in the 20th Century, Royal Academy of Art, 1987
CONSTABLE: World of Art, 1987, Thames and Hudson
DUBY, G.: Power and Beauty, 1992
GAUNT, WILLIAM: English Painting, A Concise History, London, 1983
GEORGE, MARY DOROTHY: Hogarth to Cruikshank, 1968
GORDON, CATHERINE: British Paintings: Hogarth to Turner, 1981
HASKELL, FRANCIS: History and its Images, Yale, 1993
HASKELL, FRANCIS: Patrons and Painters, 1980
HERRMANN, LUKE: British Landscape Paintings in the 18th Century, London, 1973
HOBSBAWM, ERIC, Industry and Empire, 1999
HOGARTH, WILLIAM: Hogarth, the Complete Engravings, 1974
JANSON, H.W. & ANTON: History of Art for Young People, Abrams, 1997
JARRETT, DEREK: England in the Age of Hogarth, 1974
LICHTENBERG, GEORG CHRISTOPH: Ausführliche Erklärung der Hogarthischen Kupferstiche, 1782/1999
LEVITT, MORTON P.: The Modernist Masters, 2002
MORTON, A. L.: A People's History of England, 1938/1976
MURDOCH, JOHN: The English Miniature, Yale, 1981
OAKES, C.: The Mediaeval Artist and his World, 1986
THE OXFORD HISTORY OF ENGLISH ART
PAULSON, RONALD: The Art of Hogarth, 1975
PEVSNER, NIKOLAUS: The Englishness of English Art, 1976
READ, HERBERT, A Concise History of Modern Painting, London, 1988
ROTHENSTEIN, JOHN: An Introduction to English Painting, 2002, Tauris Parke
STRONG, ROY: Art and Power 1984
STRONG, ROY: The Cult of Elizabeth, 1977
STRONG, ROY: Van Dyck, 1972
UGLOW, JENNY: Hogarth - A Life and a World, 1997, Faber and Faber