Leon Kossoff: The Artist Who Shall Outlive Us All

Leon Kossoff: A Short Biography

Childhood and Early Experiences

Leon Kossoff (1926 – present) is a British figurative painter. He is best known for his portraits, life drawings and London cityscapes. He was born to Russian-Jewish parents in Islington, East end London. In 1939, when he was only twelve, he was evacuated with the rest of his elementary school to King’s Lynn, Norfolk, where he began living with Mr and Mrs R.C. Bishop. Kossoff’s foster parents encouraged him to pursue his interest in art, and it’s during his time with them that Kossoff made his first paintings. Upon his return to his native London in 1943, he enrolled in the Saint Martin’s School of Art. At the age of seventeen, he started his studies in commercial art and began attending life drawing classes in the evenings at Toynbee Hall.

View of Dalston Junction, 1974. I’m not a huge fan of Kossoff’s work in general, but out of his paintings I could find I like this one the most. The colours, quick brushstrokes and muddy quality of the painting make for a pretty accurate portrayal of the spirit and weather of London.

Military Service and Artistic Studies

Kossoff spent his military service with the Royal Fusiliers, attached to the 2nd Battalion Jewish Brigade. He served in Italy, Holland, Belgium and Germany for three years before returning to the Saint Martin’s School of Art in 1949. From 1950 to 1952, he attended the Borough Polytechnic, where he studied under David Bomberg. During this time, he became close to a classmate of his, Frank Auerbach. They grew to become influenced by each other, as they both dealt with similar emotions and subject matter in their work, an used a heavy impasto technique in their paintings. It was also around this time that Kossoff refined his cityscape subject matter to the area of London where he was born. Kossoff’s studio was located at Mornington Crescent from 1950–1953, he then moved to Bethnal Green and stayed there until 1961. He also sought additional education in art and studied at the Royal College of Art from 1953–1956. 

Father Looking Up, 1978. This painting makes me kind of uncomfortable, probably because the subject looks SO MUCH like the character Kingpin from Marvel’s Daredevil.
For reference, here’s Kingpin.










From Student to Teacher

After his graduation from the Royal College of Art in 1956, Kossoff was promptly invited to join Helen Lessore’s Beaux Arts Gallery, located on Bruton Place in London. A few years later, in 1959, Kossoff began a teaching career at the London schools Regent Street Polytechnic, Chelsea School of Art, and Saint Martin’s School of Art. He continued his artistic career at the same time and soon started featuring in galleries and shows alongside his friend Frank Auerbach and other artists such as Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. After moving his studio away from Bethnal Green and then Willesden Junction, he finally settled in Willesden Green in 1966.

From Poussin ‘A Bacchanalian Revel before a Herm’. I actually like this one.

Late Life and Work

Kossoff exhibited art the 46th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale held in 1995. In 1996, he was the subject of a Tate Gallery retrospective, and in 2007, the London National Gallery, held an exhibition of Kossoff’s work: “Leon Kossoff: Drawing from Painting”. Kossoff declined the offer he received to be appointed a “Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire”, which is to be considered a high honour. Kossoff’s 2010 traveling show of new paintings and drawings, began at Annely Juda Fine Art, London, traveling across the US to the  L.A. Louver, Los Angeles. His latest traveling show lasted from 2013 to 2014, and the works exhibited some of his urban landscapes of London.

Head of John I, 2005.
Arnold Circus (2008-2010). I kind of like the feeling of strong wind in this one.










Artnet, Leon Kossoff: http://www.artnet.com/artists/leon-kossoff/

Annely Juda Fine Art, Leon Kossoff: http://www.annelyjudafineart.co.uk/artists/leon-kossoff

Tate Museum, Leon Kossoff: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/leon-kossoff-1436

Wikipedia, Leon Kossoff: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leon_Kossoff

Morris Louis

Morris Louis Bernstein (1912 – 1962) was an American painter born in Baltimore, Maryland. He was one of the first to explore Color Field painting in the 1950s, and he formed an art movement known today as the Washington Color School in collaboration with other Washington D.C. painters.

Morris Louis, ‘Para III”, 1959. I really like the fluid movement of color and abstract pattern happening in this one.

Youth and Education

Louis began studying at the Maryland Institute of Fine and Applied Arts on a scholarship when he was seventeen, but left shortly before completing his degree in 1933. He worked wherever he could in order to continue painting, and by 1935 he was president of the Baltimore Artists’ Association. Louis then moved to New York City in 1936 and worked in the easel division of the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project. While he lived and worked in New York, he shortened his name to simply Morris Louis and became acquainted with other artists such as Arshile Gorky, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Jack Tworkov.

Morris Louis, ‘Landscape (Mid-day)’, 1953. Created during his period of experimentation with Abstract Expressionism.

Artistic Development

Color Field Painting

Louis left New York to return to Baltimore in 1940, where he would teach privately. He began using Magna paint, which was a newly developed oil based acrylic paint made for him by Leonard Bocour and Sam Golden, in 1948. Louis moved to Washington, D.C. in 1952, where he worked mostly isolated from the New York art community. Here he developed Color Field painting along with a group of artists including Kenneth Noland, Hilda Thorpe and others. The group was known as the Washington Color School. Its work and ideas contrasted with the other artististic approaches of the 1950s and early 1960s as it greatly simplified the idea of what constitutes the look of a finished painting.

Morris Louis, ‘Tet’, 1958. Created during his time with the Washington Color School.

The Color School was inspired by the work of Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, and Ad Reinhardt. They followed in these painters’ tradition in that they narrowed down and eliminated the gestural and compositional aspects of drawing. Instead they used large areas of raw canvas and solid planes of thinned and fluid paint. An expressive and psychological use of flat intense color and repetitive composition was common in the group’s works.

Stain Painting

In 1953, Louis and Noland visited Helen Frankenthaler’s New York studio. Inspired by her stain paintings, Louis and Noland together experimented with various techniques of paint application. Louis developed a technique where he applied extremely diluted, thinned paint to an unprimed, unstretched canvas, where he allowed it to flow over the inclined surface. He completely eliminated the brush gesture in his work.

Morris Louis, ‘Pillar of Fire’, 1961.

In 1954, Louis produced his series of Veil Paintings. The works were characterized by overlapping, superimposed layers of transparent color poured onto and stained into sized or unsized canvas. They became at one with the canvas, creating a completely flat picture plane.

Morris Louis, ‘Airborn’, 1959.

Many of his works created between 1955 and 1957 were destroyed by the artist himself. From 1958-59, Louis continued his work on the Veils. Similar works including Florals and Columns, Alephs, Unfurleds and the Stripe paintings he created in the years that followed.

Morris Louis, ‘Phi’, 1960-1.
Morris Louis, ‘Horizontal I’, 1962. This is my favourite out of his paintings that I’ve seen. Everything about it, including its placement on the canvas and exact length and width, is pleasing to me. Nice.


Morris Louis, Morris Louis: http://morrislouis.org/

Wikipedia, Morris Louis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Louis

The Art Story, Morris Louis: https://www.theartstory.org/artist-louis-morris.htm

Wikiart, Morris Louis: https://www.wikiart.org/en/morris-louis

Yves Tanguy

Early Life

Yves Tanguy (1900-55) was a French surrealist painter. He spent his first eight years in Paris, but when his father passed away in 1908, Tanguy moved to Locronan with his mother and spent most of his childhood living with various relatives.

When he turned 18, Tanguy joined the merchant navy for a short while before being drafted into the Army, where he befriended Jacques Prévert. In 1922, he returned to Paris, where he worked anywhere he could. When he stumbled upon a painting by Giorgio de Chirico, he was so filled with awe that he was inspired to pursue painting himself despite his lack of training.  

Yves Tanguy: Mama, Papa is Wounded! (1927)


Tanguy had a unique method of creating his artwork in which he focused deeply on strictly one painting at a time. His very small studio only had room to hold one wet piece at a time, so this spacial constraint might have induced his working habits.

In 1924, Tanguy joined the circle of surrealist artists formed around André Breton. He quickly developed his own unique painting style, and gave his first solo exhibition in Paris in 1927. He also married his first wife Jeannette Ducrocq in the same year.

Indefinite Divisibility, &ves Tanguy, 1942. My personal favourite painting of his. I love the colour palette and the certain ‘beachy’ Feeling iI personally get from it.

Tanguy struggled throughout the 1930s as did many other artists. His dire financial situation ultimately led to the failure of his first marriage. In 1938, Tanguy had an affair with Peggy Guggenheim when he went to London with his wife to hang his first retrospective exhibition in Britain at her gallery Guggenheim Jeune. The exhibition was a great success, and his affair with Guggenheim would only end when he met the surrealist artist Kay Sage who would become his second wife.

The Ribbon Of Extremes, Yves Tanguy, 1932. I really like the colours of the sky in this one.

Later Life

Tanguy was judged unfit for service in WWII, and he and Sage moved together to New York. They were married in 1940, and at the end of the war they moved to Woodbury, Connecticut, converting an old farmhouse into an artists’ studio. In 1948, Tanguy became citizen of the United States and would stay in the US for the rest of his life. In 1955, Tanguy died of a stroke. His ashes were scattered with his wife’s in 1963.

Outside, Yves Tanguy, 1929.

Style and Impact

Tanguy’s style is one of unique, recognizable nonrepresentational surrealism. His paintings feature vast, abstract landscapes painted in a very limited palette of colors, with only the occasional flashes of contrasting color accents. Abstract shapes and forms, which are sometimes angular and sharp, sometimes eerily organic crowd his landscapes. Tanguy’s distinctive style deeply influenced younger painters such as Wolfgang Paalen, Roberto Matta and Esteban Francés. Tanguy’s paintings also influenced the style of the French animated movie Le Roi et l’oiseau, by Paul Grimault and Jacques Prevert.

Extinction of Useless Lights, Yves Tanguy, 1927. I have to say one of my favourite features of some of his artwork is in the lower horizon lines. It somehow makes the landscape feel vaster, emptier and more alien.

(I apologize about the size of the images! I really couldn’t find any bigger ones!)


‘Wikipedia, Yves Tanguy: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yves_Tanguy

Guggenheim: Yves Tanguy: https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/artist/yves-tanguy

Tate: Yves Tanguy: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/yves-tanguy-2023

WikiArt: Yves Tanguy:https://www.wikiart.org/en/yves-tanguy


André Derain – From Fauvism to Classicism

Early Life

Born the 17 of June 1880 at Chatou, France, André Derain was eleven years younger than the great fauve painter Matisse. Derain received a formal education at the Sainte-Croix-du-Vésinet institution, then at the Chaptal college in Paris. Derain was, much to the disappointment of his parents, only interested in painting, music, sports and curiosities. He quit college at age 16, with his only outstanding marks being in drawing classes.

Bateaux à Coilloure, André Derain, 1905. I really appreciate the vibrance of the blue water as well as the mosaic-like brush strokes applied to mimic reflections.

Early Work and Philosophy

In 1900, Derain met Maurice de Vlamnick, who would also become a painter. Derain then frequented the Carière Academy and met Matisse, who convinced the boy’s parents to let him explore a career in painting. Inspired by Vlamnick and Matisse, Derain compared colour to dynamite. He thought colour should be thrown onto the canvas by the tube. His portrait of Henri Matisse clearly demonstrates the young artist’s fire and surety. However, while he did use many bright, vibrant colours, he knew when to temper and flatten them according to composition and subject matter.

Portrait of Henri Matisse, André Derain, 1905.

Unlike his friend Vlamnick, who hated museums, Derain spent long hours at the Louvre where he found ethnic works that deeply inspired him. He had, like many other young painters of his time, a copyist card which allowed him to go work in front of masterpieces in the gallery. He proceeded to transpose in pure tones Le Portement de Croix by Ghirlandaio, using a palette that seemed so violent at the time that he was almost expulsed from the Louvre for “damaging beauty”. However, if we look at Picasso’s later transpositions of Velazquez’s Meninas and Manet’s Luncheon, Derain’s modifications to Ghirlandaio’s work seem almost muted in comparison.

André Derain, Le Portement de la Croix, copy of Ghirlandaio’s work using bright tones.

Growth and Change

This exercised restraint was consistent behaviour for Derain. Right from his beginnings as a artist, he had manifested a sort of indecision between his instincts and his culture. Unlike Matisse, he didn’t strive, or wasn’t able, to synthesize the two. Even in the midst of his fauvist period, Derain couldn’t separate himself from the marked taste he had for classic composition. In 1908, this predicament brought him closer to cubist stylization. Later, in 1925, he became one of the principal initiators of the Return to Order, which was a post WW1 movement that rejected the extreme avant-garde art of the years up to 1918 and took its inspiration from traditional art instead.

Portrait de Madame Paul Guillaume au grand chapeau, André Derain, 1928. An example of his more realism-oriented later work as an initiator of the Return to Order movement.

Derain passed the 10th of September in an accident, only weeks before Matisse’s disappearance.

Paysage en Provence Matrigues, André Derain, 1908. Here he makes use of a more cubist composition.
Les montagnes à Collioure, André Derain, 1906. Possibly his most famous work.


Jean-Louis-Ferier, Les Fauves: Le règne de la couleur, 1992.

Wikipedia: André Derain: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andr%C3%A9_Derain

Wikipedia, Return to Order: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Return_to_order

Tate Museum, André Derain: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/derain-henri-matisse-t00165

Odilon Redon

Bertrand (Odilon) Redon

Odilon Redon (1840 – 1916) was a French symbolist and post-impressionist painter, printmaker, draughtsman and pastellist.

Redon was born in Bordeaux to a wealthy family. His birth name was Bertrand Redon, but he was nicknamed ‘Odilon’ by his mother, Odile. He had been drawing since he was a child, but began studying architecture at the age of fifteen at his father’ insistence. He never became an architect, but his younger brother Gaston Redon would become successful in this field.

After briefly studying painting at Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts under Jean-Léon Gérôme in 1864, he returned to Bordeaux and began sculpting. He also became learned in etching and lithography thanks to the teachings of Rodolphe Bresdin. In 1870, his artistic career was interrupted for a year when he was drafted to serve in the Franco-Prussian War.

Redon’s Guardian Spirit of the Waters (1878), published in his album of lithographs in 1879.

After the war, he moved to Paris and focused on working in charcoal and lithography. He called these works, entirely made in shades of black, his ‘noirs’. His work gained a little recognition in 1879 when he published his first album of lithographs, “Dans le Rêve” (In the Dream). However, Redon still remained somewhat in the shadows until a 1884 cult novel by Joris-Karl Huysmans titled À rebours (Against Nature) featured a decadent aristocrat who collected Redon’s drawings.

In his early years, his ‘noirs’ and his other works featured fantastical and often dark imaginative figures. They demonstrate a deep exploration of his mind, feelings and psyche.

Odilon Redon, Caliban, c. 1881.

Come the 1890s, pastel and oils became Redon’s favourite media. He produced no more noirs after 1900. Redon was very interested in Hindu and Buddhist religion and culture, and this fascination showed as the Buddha became increasingly present in his work. In much of his art after 1899 the influences of Japonism can be easily seen.

In these later pastel and oil paintings, Redon made use of a non-naturalistic color palette which prefigured the later development of Expressionism and abstraction. Redon explored the power of colour to express and suggest in all of his works ranging from portraits to decorative ensembles.

Redon, Evocation, undated. Feature the figure of the Buddha, and Japanese Ukiyo-e influences are apparent especially in the style of the blue tree in the foreground. I love the use of colour in this one.

A recurring theme in Redon’s works, especially in his earlier noirs, is that of the the disembodied/decapitated head. It is usually floating in the space of the canvas or reduced to a single eyeball, and it was a symbol for the desire, the need the artist felt to escape the ordinary world and achieve a higher level of consciousness. Much of his work also featured hybrid human-plant or human-animal creatures. These, that he called “his monsters” were the product of his imagination and knowledge of natural sciences. He owed much to Charles Darwin’s theories as his work on evolution established a tangible relationship between humans and other animals. I think Redon’s use symbols such as the severed head and the nightmarish yet dreamlike creatures that surge form his imagination as recccurring focal points in different pieces is what makes his work look really alive and mysterious. 

Redon, The Cyclops, c. 1914. Again, I love the colour and attention to detail in the foreground. The human figure successfully balance the composition while adding a narrative to the scene.


Redon, Chariot of Apollo, c. 1910. The suggestion of what looks like an nderworld make at the bottom of th picture really speaks to Redon’s dark aesthetic and intensely creative mind. I really like the subtle suggestion of Apollo’s chariot in what is meant to be blinding sunlight.


Odilon Redon, WikiArt: https://www.wikiart.org/en/odilon-redon

Odilon Redon, MoMA: https://www.moma.org/artists/4840

Odilon Redon, The Art Story: https://www.theartstory.org/artist-redon-odilon.htm

Odilon Redon, Wikipedia: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odilon_Redon

Odilon Redon, Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Odilon-Redon

Jean-François Millet

Personal History and Artistic Training

When Millet was 18 (1833), he went to Cherbourg to study with the portrait painter Paul Dumouchel. He stayed here and studied with Lucien-Théophile Langlois, a pupil of Baron Gros, until 1837 when he moved to Paris. There he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts with Paul Delaroche, and In 1839 his first submission to the Salon was rejected.

When a portrait of his was accepted at the Salon in 1840, Millet returned to Cherbourg to work as a portrait painter. In 1841, he married Pauline-Virginie Ono, and they moved to Paris together. Multiple rejections at the Salon in 1843 and his wife’s death by consumption (tuberculosis) compelled Millet to return to Cherbourg. Millet moved to Le Havre with Catherine Lemaire in 1845, and he married her in 1853. Here he painted portraits and small genre pieces for several months, then returned to Paris.

In the 1840s in Paris, Millet became friends with Constant Troyon, Narcisse Diaz, Charles Jacque, and Théodore Rousseau. Like him, they would become associated with the Barbizon school. He also befriended the artist Honoré Daumier, and was influenced by his figure drawings, as well as Alfred Sensier, a government bureaucrat who would become Millet’s lifelong supporter and later the artist’s biographer. Millet’s first Salon success came in 1847 with the exhibition of a painting Oedipus Taken down from the Tree, and in 1848 his Winnower was bought by the government.

Oedipus Taken down from the Tree, c. 1847, Millet.

Millet’s most ambitious work at the time, The Captivity of the Jews in Babylon, was unveiled at the Salon of 1848. However, it was disliked and mocked by art critics and the public. The painting disappeared shortly afterwards, and historians believed that Millet destroyed it until 1984 when an x-ray of Millet’s painting The Young Shepherdess (c.1870) revealed that Millet had painted this work over Captivity. It is thought that he reused canvases when materials were scarce during the Franco-Prussian War.

His Time at Barbizon

Millet continued to paint commissions for the state and tried to please the salon until 1849, when he settled in Barbizon with Catherine and their children and started to favour a more personal and realistic approach to his painting.

Millet revolted against the academic idea that ‘dignified paintings must represent dignified personages’, and that workers or peasants weren’t fit for representation in scenes other than those in the tradition of the Old Dutch masters. Around 1848, a group of artists under the influence of Constable gathered in the French village of Barbizon to look at nature with fresh eyes. Millet decided to further to incorporate figures into this programme. He wanted to paint scenes from peasant life as it really was, to paint men and women working in the fields. This should have been considered as revolutionary at the time, since the art of the past mainly depicted peasants as comic yokels.

Millet’s famous picture ‘The Gleaners’ (c.1857) represents three are-working people in a flat field where harvesting is in progress. Nothing dramatic is occurring, and there is no suggestion of country idyll shown in the picture either. They are at work, square, solid, deliberate, and neither graceful or beautiful.They are firmly modelled in simple outlines against he sunbathed plain. The three women in the painting have a sort of natural dignity, and their arrangement, which looks casual at first, leads the eye and gives stability to the design.

In 1850, Millet exhibited Haymakers and The Sower, at the Salon. This is considered his first major masterpiece, and is the earliest painting from his most famous three that would include The Gleaners and The Angelus.

Millet worked on Harvesters Resting (Ruth and Boaz) from 1850-1853, the longest he would work on a painting. He considered this painting as his most important. It was made to rival the work of his inspirations Michelangelo and Poussin, and it was the piece that initiated Millet’s move from depicting symbolic imagery of peasant life to that of ‘contemporary social conditions’. This work was the only one he ever dated, and was the first painting of his to gain him official recognition in the form of a second-class medal at the 1853 salon.

Harvesters Resting (Ruth and Boaz), Millet 1850-1853.

His Impact on the Future

Millet and his work served as a source of inspiration for many artists and writers that came after him. Vincent van Gogh, especially in his early work, was very inspired by Millet. Van Gogh often mentioned the older artist and his work in his letters to his brother Theo. Millet’s later landscapes also served as reference to Claude Monet’s paintings of the coast of Normandy, and Millet’s ‘structural and symbolic content’ was an influence to Georges Seurat as well.

The main protagonist of Mark Twain’s play Is He Dead? (1898) is Millet, in which he is depicted as a struggling young artist who resorts to faking his own death to score fame and fortune. Most of the aspects of the play are fictional.

Edwin Markham’s famed poem “The Man With the Hoe” (1898) was inspired by Millet’s ‘L’homme à la houe’ . Markham’s poems in turn served as the inspiration for the later poet David Middleton’s collection The Habitual Peacefulness of Gruchy: Poems After Pictures by Jean-François Millet (2005).

L’Homme à la Houe, c. between 1860 and 1862, Jean François Millet.

Millet’s masterpiece the Angelus was often reproduced during the 19th and 20th centuries, and captivated the surrealist Salvador Dalí. He wrote an analysis of it, The Tragic Myth of The Angelus of Millet, in which rather than seeing the painting as a work of spiritual peace, he theorized it held messages of repressed sexual aggression. Dalí also thought that the two figures were actually parents praying over their burial site of their child, rather than to the Angelus. His fervour led to and x-ray being done of the canvas, the results of which confirmed his suspicions: the painting contains a painted-over geometric shape strikingly similar to a coffin. Millet’s intentions regarding the shape remain unclear.

The Angelus, c. 1857–59. Jean-Francois Millet. (My personal favourite painting of his – I love the treatment of colour on the sky and the plant detail near the man’s feet)



Wikipedia, Jean-François Millet: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Fran%C3%A7ois_Millet

Wikipedia: L’Homme à la Houe: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jean-Fran%C3%A7ois_Millet_-_L%27Homme_%C3%A0_la_houe.jpg

EH Gombrich, The Story of Art, pp. 508-510

Encyclopedia Britannica: Jean-François Millet: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jean-Francois-Millet-French-painter-1814-1875

Joshua Reynolds – The man who had it all

Joshua Reynolds was born in Plympton, Devon, on 16 July 1723, and was apprenticed in 1740 to the London portrait painter Thomas Hudson. In 1749, Reynolds sailed around the Mediterranean, and ended up in Rome. There he spent two years studying the Old Masters and learning the “Grand Style”, a form of painting which promoted the idealization of the imperfect. Reynolds travelled home on land, and crossed Florence, Bologna, Venice, and Paris. He was accompanied by the young Giuseppe Marchi, who was to become his studio assistant.

In 1752, upon his return to England from Italy, Reynolds settled in London, where he remained for his career and life. He rapidly achieved success, and worked very fast, producing a large number of works. He was recommended by members of high society, and painted the Duke of Cumberland, third son of George II.

Sir Joshua Reynolds, self-portrait.

Reynolds painted full-length portraits a well as a considerable amount of smaller works. It was his belief that history painting was the superior form of art, and he hoped for its revival in England, but he accepted that portraiture was what was in demand in the circles. Near the end of the 1750s, he received five to six sitters a day when the social season was at its peak. He was particularly recognized for his portraits of children, as he placed much emphasis upon the innocence and natural grace of these subjects (his portrayals of children are my favourite as well). He liked to add an extra interest to his paintings of people to bring out their character and their role in society. His portrait of the Italian scholar Joseph Baretti was described as being a perfect record of the man. It was intimate enough without being impertinent, and the technique he used is soft and elegant. A comment I would make on this particular painting, though, is that I feel the rendering of detail is a bit lacking in the hands and the ring of the subject. It looks almost as if he were wearing gloves. However, the character of the man is very well portrayed overall.

Portrait of Joseph Baretti by Joshua Reynolds, c. 1773.

The clothing of Reynolds’ sitters was usually painted either by one of his apprentices, his studio assistant, or the specialist drapery painter Peter Toms as he did not have time to render these parts of the portraits which required less genius and mostly technical skill. Reynolds often adapted the poses of his subjects from the works of earlier artists, especially classic renaissance masters. Although he wasn’t known for his landscapes, Reynolds did paint them. He often painted the view from his house.

The lady Caroline Howard, c. 1778.

Reynolds was dedicated to is art, and often worked long hours. However, he was very sociable, as was often remarked by his peers, and was intellectually inclined. He was friends with many of London’s intelligent peoples such as Dr Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, Oliver Goldsmith and others. Reynolds, as he was a popular painter in his time, founded a club in 1764 thanks to his connections to famous and wealthy people. Some of the original members included his friends Burke and Goldsmith, as well as Thomas Hawkins and others.

Kitty Fisher and her parrot, painted by Joshua Reynolds 1763-64.

Reynolds was one of the earliest members of the Royal Society of Arts, helped found the Society of Artists of Great Britain. In 1768, he became the first president of the Royal Academy of Arts, a position he held until his death in 1792. In 1769, he was knighted by George III, the second artist ever to be so.

The Age of Innocence, one of Reynolds’ most famous works. c. 1788, Demonstrates the way in which Reynolds put emphasis on the natural grace and beauty of children.

His Discourses, a series of lectures delivered at the Academy between 1769 and 1790, are remembered for their ‘sensitivity and perception’. Reynolds believed in the rules of taste and the importance of authority in art. “He believed that the right procedure in art could, to a large extent, be taught, if students were given facilities for studying the recognize masterpieces of Italian painting.” (Gombrich). He considered only grand and impressive works to be great art.

Reynolds died in London on 23 February 1792, aged 68.

The Ladies Waldegrave, c. 1780. I quite Like the portrayal of the lady on the far left, especially her facial expression. She seems to be pensive, buried in thought.
The Infant Samuel, painted by Joshua Reynolds in 1776. My personal favourite painting of his. The composition is simple and yet effective, and the saint looks truly like a child in expression and in energy. I love the way the light illuminates the subject’s angelic face.






EH Gombrich, The Story of Art, sixteenth edition

Jan (or Johannes) Vermeer – A Master of Mundanity

Jan Vermeer van Delft (1632-75) was a Dutch painter who specialized in painting interior scenes of everyday, domestic middle class life. He was somewhat locally successful during his lifetime, but he was not wealthy.

Vermeer was a slow and careful worker who often used expensive pigments, especially lapis-lazuli. He is now known for his beautiful and masterful treatment and use of light in his work. He did not produce many paintings, less than 50 in total, of which only 34 have survived.

The bulk of Vermeer’s work was composed of domestic interior scenes. Most of his paintings are set in the same two rooms of his own house, with different arrangements of the same furniture and different people, mostly women, existing in them. His paintings, as described by Gombrich, are like “still lifes with human beings” (433). One such painting is that of ‘The Kitchen Maid’ (c. 1658). It depicts a middle or servant class woman in a kitchen pouring milk into a bowl. While the subject matter is simple and may appear uninteresting, “The Kitchen Maid”  is considered to be one of the greatest masterpieces of all time. The complete and painstaking rendering of colours, textures, and forms without the picture ever looking harsh or laboured, mellow and yet precise is what makes Vermeer’s paintings unique and remarkable.

In ‘The Art of Painting’, it is said Vermeer intentionally omitted the left leg of the artist’s easel for the sake of clear composition.

The Astronomer
Oil on canvas
51 cm × 45 cm
Lady Seated at a Virginal
Oil on canvas
51.5 cm × 45.5 cm
The Art of Painting 1665–1668
Oil on canvas
130 cm × 110 cm
Girl with a Pearl Earring
c. 1665
Oil on canvas
44.5 cm × 39 cm
The Kitchen Maid, c. 1658
Oil on canvas 45.4 x 41 cm




















Works Cited:

EH Gombrich, The Story of Art

Wikipedia, Johannes Vermeer: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Vermeer


Antonio Allegri (1489-1534) was born in Correggio, Italy, a small town. Little is known about Correggio’s early life or training. It is assumed that he was first educated artistically by his father’s brother, the painter Lorenzo Allegri. Correggio was known as a “shadowy, melancholic and introverted character.” He was enigmatic as he did not appear to have emerged from any major apprenticeship. Correggio visited the cities of northern Italy and studied the works of Leonardo’s pupils, learned about his treatment of light and shade. According to the Story of Art, “It was in this field that he worked out entirely new effects which greatly influenced later schools of painters”. Considered a master of chiaroscuro, Correggio created some of the most vigorous and sensuous 16th century works. He is thought of as the most “progressive” and mot daring innovator of the whole period. He made use of ‘dynamic composition, illusionistic perspective and dramatic foreshortening’ (wikipedia) in his work in a style much like what would be to come in the Baroque Era of the 17th century and the Rococo art of the 18th century. The way that Correggio painted the ceilings and cupolas of churches was copied for many centuries thereafter. He gave the worshipers looking up the illusion that the ceiling had opened and that they were looking straight into Heaven. His mastery of light effects enabled him to fill the ceilings with sunlit clouds between which the heavenly host seem to hover with their legs dangling downwards. Lots of people at the time objected to the fact that this may not look very ‘dignified’. Correggio had in fact little immediate influence in terms of apprenticed successors. However, his works are now considered to have been revolutionary and influential on later artists.

Notable works:

The Holy Night – Nativity Scene
The Assumption of the Virgin
Leda and the Swan (c.1532)
Allegory of Virtues
Jupiter and Lo (c. 1531)

Works Cited:



The Story of Art, EH Gombrich

Jean Fouquet – Late Gothic and Early Renaissance

Jean Fouquet (1420-1481) was the leading French artist of the 15th century. In addition to being a master of panel painting and manuscript illumination, he is recognized as the inventor of the portrait miniature. Fouquet’s excellence lay in the rendering of minute detail and clear characterization on a very small scale. He was the first French artist to travel to Italy and witness the early Renaissance. In 1447, Fouquet painted a portrait of the Pope Eugene IV. A few years later, he painted a donor’s portrait: that of “Estienne Chevalier, Trésorier de Charles VII de France, avec St Stéphane”. This is considered to be one of his most important works because of Fouquet’s merging of the new ideas of the Italian Renaissance with the refined attention to detail of Flemish art. This combination formed the basis for early 15th century French art, and Fouquet became the founder of a new school of art. During his life, Fouquet worked for the court of Charles VII, treasurer Etienne Chevalier, and Chancellor Guillaume Jouvenel des Ursins. In his later years he became a court painter to Louis XI.  


Works Cited:



The Story of Art – EH Gombrich


The Annunciation
Portrait of Chancellor Guillaume Jouvenel des Ursins.
His self-portrait miniature is thought be the earliest sole self-portrait surviving in Western art. That is, if the 1433 portrait by Jan van Eyck ‘Portrait of a man in a turban’ is in fact not a self-portrait.
One of Jean Fouquet’s most important paintings is the Melun Diptych (c. 1450). The right wing shows a pale Virgin ( portrait of Agnès Sorel) and Child surrounded by red and blue angels.
The second half of the Melun Diptych shows the patron saint protecting the kneeling figure of the donor. St Stephen wears a deacon’s robe, carries a book and on it is a large sharp stone (because he was stoned). The figures are fully rendered and modeled, and light and shade are skillfully used. perspective can be seen in the background. However, the minute textural, precise rendering of fabric, marble, etc is of th3 Northern European style (Jan Van Eyck), as opposed to the bold figures Italian renaissance painting represented.