Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Portrait Halls

The British artist Joshua Reynolds painted this formal portrait of a Member of Parliament, Charles Churchill, in 1755. Reynolds shows him as a gentleman of leisure in the countryside. The artist experimented with technique, and that had its drawbacks. Churchill didn't actually look like death warmed over; the look of the painting results from unstable red pigments and glazes that have long since vanished, leaving an undercoat that leaves the subject appearing pallid.

The American artist Benjamin West, who would end up spending his productive life as an artist in Britain, painted this self portrait around 1776. It started out as a copy of another self portrait, but West took it in a different direction. The other self portrait, now in a Baltimore gallery, is featured on the panel beside the painting.

Dutch artist Peter Lely also spent most of his career in Britain, esteemed as a portrait artist. Around 1647 he produced this portrait, Sir Edward Massey. The subject, who served in the House of Commons, was a member of the Parliamentary Army during the English Civil War, before switching sides and ending up with the Royalists. 

Charles I As Prince Of Wales is an oil portrait by Dutch artist Daniel Mytens the Elder, who served as a court artist for the English court. Painted in 1624, the year before Charles ascended to the monarchy, the large portrait shows the ill fated royal in full decorated glory.

British artist Thomas Gainsborough painted The Reverend William Stevens around 1780. The minister was personal chaplain to the Duke of Cumberland, and preached at St. George's, Hanover Square.

Greek mythology inspires this dramatic painting by the Flemish artist Thomas Willeboirts, also known as Bosschaert, and his workshop. The Death Of Adonis was painted at some point after 1642, and depicts Venus mourning the death of her mortal lover Adonis, wounded by a wild boar during his hunt. Her son Cupid is close by.

I finish today with an oil landscape. View Of Lake Nemi was painted in 1748 by French artist Claude-Joseph Vernet, and depicts a lake south of Rome.


  1. It's a shame when paint fades over time.

  2. Not my favorite art but I fully understand it's value and importance in art history. Keep up these interesting posts.

  3. I'm starting to suspect that you are a refined scoundrel!

  4. @Linda: I spoke with a docent about the Churchill portrait during my visit in January. She said Reynolds' experimentation had the drawback. Usually with careful conservation, art can stay in good shape. This one's still good to look at, but you expect the artist would have reconsidered experimentation if he'd known the result.

    @Marleen: quite so!

    @Tom: very much so.

    @Red: thank you!

    @Cloudia: emphasis on the scoundrel, of course.

  5. What a grand collection of beautiful art! I was wondering if we would have these today if the iPhone was available back when they were done?

  6. I really like that last painting!

  7. The difference between art now and then couldn't possibly be more different.. can you imagine how affronted these classical artists would be by the thought of street art.. outrageous! ☺ But then that's exactly what I enjoy about art, the way it evolves.

  8. What great art. The clothes they wore were definitely different from today's attire.

  9. a distinctive style and age that might 'grow on you' with time. a visit to gallery is sure to engage us in new ideas.

  10. It's fun to see the different portrait styles.

  11. I like the landscape. Churchill looks a bit pale. That is true. What can I say? Experiments not always result in what we hope for. That's the beauty and thrill of experiments.

  12. I would think a self portrait would be difficult to do. I wonder if they usually improved on their looks?

  13. @Lowell: I think the nobility would think selfies beneath them!

    @Linda: me too.

    @Grace: some street art, I'd agree with them!

    @Bill: very different!

    @RedPat: especially for West.

    @Julia: it does inspire me.

    @Halcyon: it is, yes.

    @Klara: it was probably a good idea at the time, but it didn't pan out for him. I wonder if he used it again, or if the problems were evident early on.

    @Janey: I think a lot of mirror work and pencil sketches at first. I've seen self portraits of another artist, and then her done by other artists. In her case, there was no self-propping up her looks.

  14. I always wonder if these old portraits really look like the people they were painting. They are interesting to look at!

  15. Wonderful set of paintings, although Venus looks more like she is just waiting for Adonis to die, rather than mourning.

  16. I agree with Red Pat: selfies from another time!

  17. ...William, such a lovely gallery filled with classics.

  18. I always think it must be so difficult to paint a portrait, but they are always nice to see.

    All the best Jan

  19. Our sefies won't stand the test of time the way these have.

  20. The portraits tell so much about these long-dead peeps.

  21. @Lois: often an idealization.

    @Mari: she does.

    @Kay: indeed.

    @Tom: it is a wonderful space.

    @Jan: they really are.

    @Norma: no.

    @Jennifer: they do.