This term we are exploring the work of the Dutch artist Vermeer. This week we are looking at the ‘The Art of Painting’. This painting is sometimes called ‘The Painter in his Studio’.
The painting shows an artist at his easel and a model by the window, behind the model is a large map of the Netherlands. Every single object in this painting was chosen because it had a meaning, the model is dressed as Clio, the muse of History and this is shown by her laurel wreath, the trumpet and the book she is holding. Objects on the table also add to this story and would have been chosen carefully. Lots of paintings are much more than just what you see, we can learn to find the stories the artists are trying to tell us. In the senior Levels of the Little Art School course our artists explore using objects to add meaning to a painting.
Many historians regard this as Vermeer’s most fascinating painting. Vermeer never sold ‘The Art of Painting’, it hung in his studio during his lifetime and would be displayed to customers. The purpose of this would be to show potential customers his skills, it was his own ‘advertisement’. After his death his wife tried to save the painting being taken by the creditors, but failed, some historians believe the model was one of their children.
The painting itself has had an interesting history. Adolf Hitler bought it in 1940, despite attempts to stop him. At the end of the war the painting was hidden in a salt mine. When the painting was rescued after the war it was taken (in a locked train compartment) to Vienna. The Americans gifted the painting in 1946 to the Austrian government and it now hangs in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. It is one of the most popular and loved paintings in the gallery and is seen as being national treasure.
At the Little Art School we believe that every child can learn to draw and paint. Our course has adapted methods used by some of the greatest artists of the last 500 years. Every term we look in depth at the work of different artists. What we see from every artist is that they spent many, many years developing their skills. This term we are looking at Vermeer. Over the next few weeks our new-look blog will take you through some of Vermeer’s most famous paintings.
There are only 36 known paintings in the world by Johannes Vermeer, each of these painting is viewed as a masterpiece and they are treasured by the galleries that own them. He is one of the most mysterious artists; we know very little about him as a person or about his life. What we do know is that Vermeer lived and worked his whole life in Holland. He is regarded as one of the greatest Dutch artists of all time. He lived in the 17th Century, when Holland was one of the most powerful and wealthiest nations in the world. At this time New York was actually owned by the Dutch and called ’New Amsterdam’! All this wealth meant that people had money to buy paintings and this led to what is known as ‘The Golden Age’ of Dutch art.
Over the next few weeks we will be looking at some of Vermeer’s most famous paintings; looking at the techniques he used and the hidden messages his paintings contain. We really hope that you enjoy joining us on our art history journey.
Inspiration: The beautiful wintry landscape last year
Plan: It was painted “alla prima” – in one session- in about two hours, from a black and white photograph.
Chosen Medium and Why: 50cm x 40cm in acrylic
Painting Experience: I used a limited palette to create the misty, soft wintry colours in this landscape and I am pleased with the results of the combination of cool blues and soft warm pinks on the winding path. I had to keep thinking about the importance of the negative shapes- in the trees in particular -and worked to ensure that they had equal importance with the positive shapes of the tree trunks and branches.
My Achievement: I like the way the painting allows the viewer to use their own imagination, and doesn’t define any of the scene in detail.
Little Artist’s Tip: Give it a go painting with a limited, strict palette of colours to give a softer, blurred landscape.
Chosen Medium and Why: It is a small acrylic painting, just 25 cm square. Acrylics are useful because you can keep going back to the piece and add more paint.
Painting Experience: I enjoyed doing this painting- but was surprised at how long it took to complete- I kept going back and changing the colours in the sky and sea until I was happy with the balance of colours. I have since painted two other versions of this view – but this one is my favourite.
Inspiration: The acrylic paint left on the palette. When I finish a painting I hate wasting the paint! I use only the colours left to paint small A5 paintings of landscapes from my mind.
Plan: Absolutely no planning, I react to the colours on the palette and place them intuitively on the painting, putting them where it feels right.
Chosen Medium and Why: Acrylic paint, it’s useful to build and create texture.
Painting experience: It is a very meditative way to paint, there is nothing to slavishly represent, just free your mind and enjoy the colour.
My Achievement: I like the depth I have created without having any detail to explain distance. It makes me step forward to look at the texture in the landscape, which is a quality I look for in a painting. Little Artist’s Tip: After doing a painting, try to create a second small painting with the mixture of colours left on the palette. Let your mind wander and paint whatever you feel!
My Inspiration: This is one of a series of portraits done of family members in 2016. I took a photo of my granddaughter Holly on her birthday- wearing her party dress. I liked the way the light was coming in strongly from behind her on the left, and the sense of movement in the informal pose.
Chosen Medium: Acrylic
Painting Experience: I really enjoyed painting Holly and kept in mind that I didn’t want a tight, formal painting – so kept brushstrokes free and loose, avoiding any attempt to do any more than evoke an impression of flowers on her dress.
My Achievement: I have managed to capture a good likeness of her, and was particularly pleased with how the yellow satin sash looked in the final painting as well as the highlights in her hair.
One of my students brought in a photo of these four puffins on Arran. She wanted to paint it but didn’t know where to start. We were both inspired because this was a local scene. This painting came about by demonstrating techniques to a student and developed into a project for myself as well.
I decided to demonstrate how I would begin. I started with practise sketches of the birds until I could feel the shape of the birds.
Chosen Medium and why:
The birds were painted with watercolours and then I used white gouache so that the puffins’ feathers look thick and fluffy.
Painting the birds was so enjoyable. I was more interested in the birds themselves rather than background, therefore when it came to painting the background I did simple washes of watercolour. I wanted to get a fair amount of detail in the birds without overdoing it too much, as that would put it out of kilter with the backdrop.
Each puffin felt like it had its own personality, and as each individual bird came to life it motivated me to continue painting.
Little Artist’s Tip:
Try using a small amount of gouache paint to make parts of your painting bold and stand out.