Thursday, January 28, 2010

Art competition: Wildlife Artist of the Year

This is a quick reminder for anybody who missed this in yesterday's post.

The deadline for submission of artwork to the Wildlife Artist of the Year 2010 award has been extended and is now Sunday 31st January 2010.

The title Wildlife Artist of the Year is awarded by a panel of judges appointed by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) and comes with a cash prize of £10,000 generously donated by the exhibition sponsors and handed out by a well known celebrity!

Wildlife Artist of the Year 2009
Sir Michael Parkinson, David Shepherd CBE and David Gower in front of the winning picture

photograph Rebecca Thomas

Who can enter?

WAY is open to:
  • artists from all over the world
  • amateur and professional artists alike (WAY does not distinguish between them)
  • individual entrants aged 17 years or over (ie you must be 17 by the closing date - 31st Jan 2010.)
What sort of work is admissable?

Admissable work includes:
  • any medium in any style (but see exceptions below)
  • accepted media: oil, acrylic, watercolour, pencil, mixed media, bronze, plaster, wire, collage, traditional, abstract, black & white
  • multiple entries from one artist (plus applicable fee)
Inadmissable work includes:
  • work which is not original
  • work which has been sold
  • pre-published images (ie your artwork cannot have been published as a print – open or limited edition)
  • artwork in photography
  • artwork as film
  • electronically created artwork (my personal interpretation of this is all artwork which has used digital means in some way to achieve the end result)
  • any artwork that you completed before 15th January 2005
Note also that the rules and conditions indicate that Artists using exact reference from another professional artist or photographer risk having their work marked down.

Five categories

There are five categories. My impression from visiting the exhibition last summer (see Exhibition review: Wildlife Artist of the Year 2009) was that a lot of submissions relate to the endangered wildlife category.
  • Endangered Wildlife: Any wild animal or plant that is threatened or endangered nationally or internationally.
  • Wild Place: Any scene or landscape showing the natural environment at its wildest, most beautiful or dramatic.
  • Wildlife in 3D: Any sculpture in any medium.
  • Wildlife in Action: Any wild animal jumping, fighting, flying or showing any other interesting behaviour.
  • Open: Let your imagination run wild!
How to enter

You can obtain the details from the website. There is a page for the Wildlife Artist of the Year 2010 competition

Here you can obtain:
You do NOT submit original artwork. You submit a photograph or digital image
  • either by post (eg as print or file on CD) using the 'postal entry form'
  • If you have an electronic image of your artwork (J-Peg for pc file), we encourage you to follow the
  • or by submitting a jpeg via the on-line entry process on The file size must be no larger than 7MB. All files must have an easily identifiable name eg surname followed by the title of the artwork (smithlions.jpeg)
So - although there are only four days left, you still have plenty of time to submit an entry online!

Wildlife Artist of the Year 2009 - Private View, Mall Galleries

You can check out which submissions were successful last year by looking at the online exhibition - see Wildlife Artist of the Year 2009 - the online exhibition

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Major Art Competitions in the UK - a timetable

This is my annual post listing all the Major Art Competitions in the UK. It excludes
National Portrait Gallery
Sandy Nairne announcing the winner of the BP Portrait Prize 2009
photograph copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Below you can find all the art competitions based in the UK that I'm aware of where the first prize is £10,000 or more. At least three of them have a first prize of £25,000.

Major Art Competitions in the UK in 2010

John Moores Contemporary Painting Prize: the John Moores Contemporary Painting Prize is the UK's best-known painting competition
  • receiving days: between - see below for details
  • prize: first prise of £25,000
  • exhibition:Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (Biennial) - 18 September 2010 to 3 January 2011
  • website: John Moores Contemporary Painting Prize 2010
  • my blog post: to be posted
BP Portrait Award: The leading portrait award - with a hefty prize, an exhibition in the National portrait Gallery and submissions from all over the world.
The Royal Academy of Art - Summer Exhibition 2010: The largest annual exhibition in the UK with well over 1,000 items of art on display for several weeks at the Royal Academy of Art

The Threadneedle Prize for figurative painting and sculpture. A new prize for contemporary figurative and representational art. Loses its USP for 2010 - the major prize will now be awarded by the selectors rather than via a public vote - shame!
  • Registration opens: 1 Mar 2010
  • Deadline for registration: Sculptors: 17 May 2010; Painters: 1 Jun 2010
  • Receiving Days: 5-7 Jun 2010
  • exhibition:Mall Galleries 2nd-18th September 2010
  • website: THE THREADNEEDLE PRIZE for painting and sculpture
  • my blog post: to be posted
Royal Watercolour Society / Sunday Times Watercolour Competition
Lynn Painter Stainers Prize
ING Discerning Eye
  • receiving days: September 2010(?); see below for details
  • exhibition:Mall Galleries, November 2010(?)
  • website: ING Discerning Eye
  • my blog posts: (2009 - see
Wildlife Artist of the Year
I have a resource site which lists all these prizes (and others) and provides links to current art competitions and past blog posts and sites of relevance. Consult the links identified above and/or Art Competitions in the UK - Resources for Artists for further information

The Art of the Landscape

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Real Van Gogh - Portraits

The Postman Joseph Roulin (1888)
oil on canvas, 81.3 x 65.4 cm
Vincent van Gogh

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
all photographs copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Back in December 20087, as part of my Van Gogh project, I wrote a very long post about Van Gogh: Drawing Figures, Portraits and Self-Portraits. It was a particularly interesting experience therefore to be able to visit the The Real Van Gogh Exhibition - The Artist and his Letters exhibition at the Royal Academy and see two rooms which focused on his particular approach to portraiture. The exhibition contains:
  • very many drawings of peasants, friends, their family and models in Arles
  • portrait paintings spanning his career
This post highlights what I learned from the exhibition - and the context of Van Gogh's letters.
What I'm most passionate about, much more than all the rest in my profession - is the portrait, the modern portrait, I seek it by way of colour, and am certainly not alone in seeking it in this way. I would like, you see I’m far from saying that I can do all this, but anyway I’m aiming at it, I would like to do portraits which would look like apparitions to people a century later. So I don’t try to do us by photographic resemblance but by our passionate expressions, using as a means of expression and intensification of the character our science and modern taste for colour.
Letter 879: To Willemien van Gogh. Auvers-sur-Oise, Thursday, 5 June 1890
The Peasant in Action

Drawings of peasants
in Room 2 of the exhibition

Room 2 of the exhibition, follows on from scenes of the Dutch Landscape - to scenes of Dutch peasants. As Van Gogh: Drawing Figures, Portraits and Self-Portraits explained, Van Gogh revered the paints of peasants produced by Millais and used peasants as models to develop his skills in drawing people.

Van Gogh was diligent in his exercises:
  • he studied drawing handbooks and books on anatomy and perspective
  • he copied reproductions of Bargue's lithographs
  • copied a skeleton and learned about the muscle structure
  • rew figures working on the land in Etten (April to December 1881)
Weaver (March 1884)
oil on canvas, 62.5cm x 84.4cm
Vincent van Gogh (see letter 445)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • drew figures in interiors - in particular Sien Hoornik and her family with whom he lived and the weavers
  • tackled different poses
  • endeavoured to reconcile proportions from different perspectives
  • practiced the development of compositions with figures
I can assure you there's a lot involved in composition with figures, and I'm very busy. It's like weaving, you have to give it all your attention to keep the threads apart; you must control and keep an eye on several things at once
Letter 271: To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, Sunday, 8 October 1882
  • he followed Delacroix's creed about processing from volumes rather than lines - and started to draw figures from the torso
  • created a set of large drawings of working figures
The exhibition includes a large lithograph of The Potato Eaters. I was amazed to learn that Van Gogh drew the composition from memory directly onto to the stone without first making a sketch - which explains why the lithograph (and his signature) are both in reverse.

It's interesting that following some severe criticism, Van Gogh seemed to realise that creating compositions with several figures was not an area which he found easy nor did he excel at this. I've certainly been of the opinion for a long time that Van Gogh's earlier figures are surprisingly inaccurate considering the amount of effort he employed. However there are drawings in this exhibition which confound this atttitude.

The Modern Portrait

Van Gogh's principal aim - when he moved to Antwerp was to paint portraits. He had decided that portraiture rather than paintings of groups of figures was more amenable to his talents - and more marketable.

The exhibition catalogue suggests that Van Gogh:
  • he moved away from trying to portray people in action. and
  • his focus shifted to creating paintings of 'character' and 'type'
  • avoided making paintings of the people he was closest to.
Gauguin's Chair (November 1888) by Vincent Van Gogh
oil on canvas, 90.5cm x 72.5cm

Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam

The portrait of Gauguin's chair, which can be seen in the exhibition alongside the portrait of Van Gogh's own chair, might be termed a symbolic portrait.

I'd never realised before that Van Gogh's stated that his painting of Gauguin's chair is a painting of an "empty place" (see Letter 853 To Albert Aurier. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Sunday, 9 or Monday, 10 February 1890).

However the letter was written a year later and Van Gogh misremembered the timing since he painted the chair in the November and it wasn't until several weeks later that they argued, fell out and Guaguin left.
A few days before we parted, when illness forced me to enter an asylum, I tried to paint ‘his empty place’. It is a study of his armchair of dark, red-brown wood, the seat of greenish straw, and in the absent person’s place a lighted candlestick and some modern novels.12 If you have the opportunity, as a memento of him, please go and look a little at this study again, which is entirely in broken tones of green and red.
Letter 853 To Albert Aurier. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Sunday, 9 or Monday, 10 February 1890
The Roulin family also provided models for a number of portraits in the exhibition. He painted the father a number of times. It's certainly apposite that the exhibition should include the portrait of a man who was key to the discourse via letter - namely Joseph Roulin a postal employee at Arles Railyway Station who he had dealings with whenever he sent paintings to Theo. Roulin was also the man who looked after the house while Vincent was in hospital and who kept Theo informed about his state of health.

Van Gogh describes him as a "Socratic type" and "a fierec Republican".

This one of the peasant girl in a straw hat - painted at towards the end of his life - is sketched in a letter to Theo dated 2 July 1890.
Here are three croquis – one of a figure of a peasant woman, big yellow hat with a knot of sky-blue ribbons, very red face. Coarse blue blouse with orange spots, background of ears of wheat.
It’s a no. 30 canvas but it’s really a little coarse, I fear.
Letter 896 To Theo van Gogh and Jo van Gogh-Bonger. Auvers-sur-Oise, Wednesday, 2 July 1890
The other main change between his earlier drawings and later oil paintings is the use of colour. It's not simply the change one sees when an artist shifts from drawing to painting. Van Gogh's bold use of complementary colour to portray many of his subjects creates portraits with enormous impact. His use of colour stemmed mainly from his discovery of Impressionist painters and contact with some of the younger artists - - particularly Signac, Bernard, Gauguin and Seurat.

He used colour for expression and emotional impact. He does this either in Japanese style, using largely flat areas of colour. Alternatively, by using brush strokes of unmixed colour which follow the form of the subject - which he used to best effect in his own self-portraits.

He provided an excellent reason for artists to to pursue portraiture
in their art
I myself still find photographs frightful and don’t like to have any, especially not of people whom I know and love.
These portraits, first, are faded more quickly than we ourselves, while the painted portrait remains for many generations. Besides, a painted portrait is a thing of feeling made with love or respect for the being represented. What remains to us of the old Dutchmen? The portraits.
Letter 804 To Willemien van Gogh. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Thursday, 19 September 1889
More Information about the Exhibition

This is a BBC News slideshow and interview with Ann Dumas, the curator of the exhibition

Royal Academy Magazine: The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters
  • A beautiful mind Martin Gayford explores the Van Gogh beyond the canvas. The artist’s letters reveal his thought processes and give a rich and moving picture of what he was really like
  • Behind the scenes Curator Ann Dumas and Exhibitions Director Kathleen Soriano explain to Martin Gayford the complex negotiations involved in putting together ‘The Real Van Gogh’

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Visual Telling of Stories

This is a link to The Visual Telling of Stories - a site created by Dr Chris Mullen who originally created it as course support for the MA Narrative Illustration/Editorial Design course at the University of Brighton.

It's described as:
a visually orientated taxonomy of the ways
in which pictures are used to tell stories

This site is purely educational
and records a range of material
dedicated to the study of the Visual Narrative.
This website is one of those gems of the visual arts which I find on the internet from time to time. It's both an archive and a lexicon of the visual narrative and has been put been put together with intelligence, expertise and dedication

If you want a clue as to what it's like - I'd liken it to Handprint in terms of both construction and content. It deserves to be getting the same sort of visitors as Handprint.

I'm not going to tell you what's in there or how to navigate - that would spoil the experience! All I will tell you is that it is simply massive.............and that you MUST keep scrolling if you're not to miss anything.

One of the more interesting pages is the rationale and its connection to the teaching of multimedia within universities in the mid noughties.

I wonder if their views would be the same today. It seems to me that this is a marvellous resource which deserves a much bigger audience.
The website of The Visual Telling of Stories aspires to being a Visual Lexicon, dedicated to the primacy of the Visual Proposition. Above all it tries to create an overall consistency of structure and environment, as if it was all taking place in one characteristic landscape through which you are allowed to wander. The main delight and challenge is the invention of non-linear means of navigation through spaces of knowledge with a created balance of reference and discovery.
Dr Chris Mullen

Sunday, January 24, 2010

24th January 2010 - Who's made a mark this week?

The best thing for me this week - by far - being able to attend the press preview for the new Van Gogh exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts on Tuesday.

The worst thing was when I came to process my photographs and realised that my camera's SD card had malfunctioned!

The next best thing was when I realised I was being incredibly dumb about how my card saved image records!!!

They were there all the time............

Self-portrait as an artist (January 1888)
oil on canvas, 65.5 x 50.5cm
Van Gogh Museum
(Letter 626)

Here’s an impression of mine, which is the result of a portrait that I painted in the mirror, and which Theo has: a pink-grey face with green eyes, ash-coloured hair, wrinkles in forehead and around the mouth, stiffly wooden, a very red beard, quite unkempt and sad, but the lips are full, a blue smock of coarse linen, and a palette with lemon yellow, vermilion, Veronese green, cobalt blue, in short all the colours, except of the orange beard, on the palette, the only whole colours, though. The figure against a grey-white wall.
(Letter 626)
I've now got an awful lot of photos of the works on display and the letters.
Sketching at the RA - Friends Room #6
8" x 10", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Art Blogs

Art of the Landscape

One of the interesting spin-offs from the Art of the landscape project are all the new blogs I'm picking up on. The more interesting/more frequent posters are going straight to the blogroll of The Art of the Landscape
Posts on my new blog this week included:
I'm introducing people slowly to the new ning community so please bear with me if you've not yet had your application approved.

Coloured Pencils and Pastels
  • Thanks to Casey Klahn (The Colorist) for highlighting Pastel News. It features pastel artists - the most recent example being Featured Pastel Artist: Liz Haywood-Sullivan
  • Other pastel blogs I've come across recently which are new to me include:
    • Robert Fafond's Mark and Remark - I'm liking his pastel drawings of winter and fields
    • Artists in Pastel. The site features pastel artists according to a template format. The aim appears to be a directory of pastel artists - which is laudable - although I did not that all the artists seem to be one side of the pond at the moment Somebody sent me this link - and I owe them an aplogy as I failed to make a note of who that was!
    • The Pastel Guild This is the home of the Pastel Guild of Europe which was set up last year following an initiative by some of the pastel artists on Wet Canvas. It has three levels of membership.
Nature Art

Art Business and Marketing

I've looked at a couple thousand art blogs over the last three years, and most of them were broken. Most likely, the way you produce and sell your art are outdated and ineffective. If your art is not selling well, as seems to be the case with most artists, then your art is broken, or your marketing is broken, or more likely both are broken.
most of your potential customers have no idea why your images are any better or more expensive than similar images.

Art and the Economy / Art Collectors

Attendance at art museums was down 13 percent from 2003 to 2008, the index found, while audiences at popular music events were down 6 percent. More people are taking classes in knitting and ceramics

Art Competitions and Art Societies

Art Exhibitions and art fairs

  • Art galleries should think big writes Jonathan Jones in his Guardian blog. With one-off exhibitions and no master plan, our national institutions tell us little about the wider story of art.....
it seems to be expected that if an exhibition does more or less what it says on the tin, and gets a reasonable attendance, it deserves a soft ride from the critics.......if I see a show that is fine on its own terms but totally myopic about the larger history of art and humanity – well, I'll continue to say so.
  • ...which is interesting given that on the same day I posted my Exhibition review of Turner and the Masters at Tate Britain. I'm actually very glad I saw this exhibition after I'd done my initial research around the timeline for the development of landscape art. I'm not sure some other people would have appreciated the exhibition as much as possible without that knowledge. An exhibition which references quite so much of art history probably needs a bit more explanation for the unintiated. If you take a look at this post you'll be able to judge how good my sketch is as a copy of Turner's Palestrina.
Palestrina (after Turner) by me!
8 x 10", pencil and coloured pencils in Moleskine sketchbook
Katherine Tyrrell

Art Education / workshops

Art History

  • The New York Times article Cultural Riches Turn to Rubble in Haiti Quake reminds us that in the midst of the utter devastation and horrendous loss of life in Haiti is the loss of a significant cultural heritage. The Episcopal Church’s Holy Trinity Cathedral is known for its murals of Bible stories with all black figures - in a country which can claim the honour of being the first independent black state. This a link to a pdf document (In French) about Le fresque de la Cathédrale Ste Trinité. It makes one realise that the process of aid and reconstruction goes way beyond the immediate difficulties even if those must be of paramount importance right now.
“The dead are dead, we know that. But if you don’t have the memory of the past, the rest of us can’t continue living.”

Art Studios

Art Supplies

Book reviews


  • I knew James Gurney had another book on the go and this week he announced the topic on his blog. It's called Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter and you can find out more about it in Color and Light Book and More About the New Book. For those of you voted on the cover design the Cover Poll Results results are in and there was no doubt as to which was the winner.
  • He's also posted recentlu about a Color Isolator
  • This is a post from a colourman about paint colours of the past - such a shame these are colours for buildings and not paintings!

Opinion Poll

  • Don't forget to vote in the January Making A Mark Opinion Poll if you haven't already. At the moment 13% of you have owned up to having made no archive of your images! Are there any more of you out there? The poll is in the right hand column - under blog followers widget

and finally........

From 29 January until 14 March 2010 British artist Michael Landy intends to transform the South London Gallery into a 600m³ container for the disposal of works of art. Art Bin will gradually fill up over the six week course of the exhibition to create ’a monument to creative failure’. Click here to apply to dispose of art works in Art Bin,

He invited some celebraities to contribute to get the project started - read about this in

My week: Michael Landy

The artist considers his most ambitious work yet – junking the works of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin

The Art of the Landscape

Friday, January 22, 2010

How to enter the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition 2010

View of the Small Weston Room
Summer Exhibition 2009
Photo Copyright Royal Academy of Arts

This post is about how to enter the Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts - for those who have not submitted before - and those who have just forgotten how and need a reminder!

One of the founding principles of the Royal Academy of Arts was to 'mount an annual exhibition open to all artists of distinguished merit' to finance the training of young artists in the RA Schools. Now known as the Summer Exhibition and held every year without interruption since 1769, the exhibition attracts around 10,000 works, the selection being carried out by Academicians chaired by the President.

Every summer, the Royal Academy hosts the largest open-submission contemporary art exhibition in the world. While undoubtedly a platform for the work of the Royal Academicians it always displays new work by a wide range of established and unknown living artists.

The Royal Academy’s 242nd Summer Exhibition will be held in the Main Galleries between 14 June – 22 August 2010. Around 200,000 visitors will visit and view about 1,200 works. It's very much an established part of the Summer Season in London and hence will attract people with funds who like to buy art!

How to enter the Summer Exhibition 2010

Who can enter

Anyone can enter - whether you are trained or untrained, amateur or professional, UK citizen or an artist who lives abroad. You can also submit work which is the result of a collaboration.

How do I get hold of an entry form?

The Summer Exhibition is not like other exhibitions. You first have to register and pay a handling fee of £25 for up to two works in order to apply for an application form!

All completed forms then have to be returned to the Summer Exhibition Office by the 18th March - so no time to lose!
The Entry process is divided into 3 stages:
  1. Call for Entries: The attached form (on the Call For Entries which is available online) is submitted along with your fee.
  2. Entry form: A more comprehensive form is sent to you for completion, detailing each work to be submitted.
  3. Delivery of works: This takes place on the dates described overleaf
An artist is entitled to submit a maximum of two works and there is a handling fee of £ 25 per work (which is non-refundable and includes VAT).
Summer Exhibition: Call for Entries

There are three key documents which you need to download from the Summer Exhibition page on the Royal Academy website

This is how to get hold of an entry form
Entry Forms may be purchased from Monday 11 January until Friday 12 March 2010. To obtain an Entry Form, please register with us in one of the following ways:
  • Complete the attached Registration Form and return it to us together with the correct entry fee
  • Visit our website or email
  • Telephone the Summer Exhibition Office 020 7300 5929/5969 between 10am – 5pm, Mondays to Fridays other than bank holidays.
There's lots of encouragement to do this online and to avoid the telephone which can get very busy. The FAQs document gives you all the details you need to know about how do this and how to pay.

Admissable and Inadmissable

The Call for Entries is not prescriptive as to what can be submitted - below is as much as you get unless it's a sculpture or an architectural model. I think I'm right in saying that I've only seen film submitted by RAs.
the Summer Exhibition is a unique showcase for art of all styles and media, encompassing paintings, sculpture, photography, prints and architectural models.
Summer Exhibition: Call for Entries
Artists are strongly encouraged to submit work which is for sale. I'd take this to be code for "you don't stand much of a chance of being selected if it isn't for sale!"

This is what is defined as inadmissable. (Don't you just love it? They stipulate "no copies" without defining what means in the context of the derivative work which gets submitted and hung in the past! However they do require each artist to stipulate that they confirm, by entering the work, that they hold all intellectual property rights in the work.)
Inadmissible works
5.1 The following types of work are inadmissible:
5.1.1 works that are over the specified size limit of 244 × 350 cm (excluding sculpture);
5.1.2 works that have already been exhibited in an institution in London (excluding prints);
5.1.3 copies of works;
5.1.4 works by a deceased artist who has been dead for more than a year on 16 March 2010; or
5.1.5 works that contain noxious or toxic substances, have flammability below 50°c or incorporate dangerous electrical appliances.
5.2 The artist must ensure that submitted works conform to all applicable health and safety standards and regulations. The artist agrees to indemnify the Royal Academy of Arts, its staff, and visitors to the exhibition for any liability or costs incurred as a consequence or breach of such standards and regulations.

You must submit work unwrapped to the art handling team at the RA. This means you cannot post works - however you can post works to an art handling agent who will unwrap for you. There are no receipts for the work submitted as they are receiving over 10,000 works in just 4 days.

Delivery Dates

It gets really busy at the RA towards the end of March - with 3D works arriving in early May
  • Deadline for photographs of sculpture: 16 March
  • Sculpture invited from photographs: 5 May
  • Deliveries by transport agents only : 25 March
  • Glazed works (watercolours, prints, drawings, etc): 26 and 29 March (all watercolours and prints must be framed behind glass)
  • Unglazed works (oils, acrylics, etc): 30 and 31 March
  • Architecture: 6 May
Selection and Hanging Committe: This year the Academicians taking part in the selection of pieces for the exhibition are: Olwyn Bowey, Stephen Chambers, David Chipperfield, Anne Christopher, Eileen Cooper, Stephen Farthing, Norman Foster, Michael Hopkins, John Hoyland, Allen Jones, David Remfry, John Wragg

After that you just sit back and wait to hear whether or not your work has been selected. Maybe become a fan on Facebook? Bear in mind that only a small proportion of the work submitted through the open submission process will be selected and not all the works selected will be hung.

You should hear whether or not your work has been accepted in early June.

Why not have a go? You never know you might get to go the 'Varnishing Day' Preview Party on 7th June and might win a prize! :)

The prizes include:
  • £25,000 - The Royal Academy of Arts Charles Wollaston Award
  • Bovis Lend Lease / Architects’ Journal Grand Award for Architecture and Award for the Best First Time Architecture Exhibitor.
  • The Jack Goldhill Award for Sculpture
  • £3,000 - The Hugh Casson Drawing Prize
  • The British Institution Awards for Students
  • £3,500 - The Sunny Dupree Family Award for a woman artist
  • £1,000 - The Rose Award for Photography

The Art of the Landscape

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Real Van Gogh at the Royal Academy

The Real Van Gogh - the Artist and his Letters will, without a doubt, be an absolute blockbuster of an exhibition. It opens to the public on Saturday at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

Why? Well here are just a few reasons:
  • This is the first major Van Gogh exhibition in London in 40 years - which makes it almost certainly a once in a lifetime experience for very many people.
  • It's arrived in the UK from a very similar exhibition Van Gogh's Letters held at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. However, the press preview on Tuesday was very crowded and included many non UK press and TV crews. I'm taking this as an indication that there's every reason to expect that this exhibition will be extremely popular, likely to be crowded and people wanting to go could be well advised to buy their tickets asap!
  • The exhibition displays some 65 paintings, 30 drawings and 35 letters. Together these express the principal themes of his longstanding correspondence with his brother Theo. Other artists have written letters but no other artist has written quite so much about the process of creating art - on a contemporaneous basis.
Still Life with a Plate of Onions
(and a letter)
Vincent Van Gogh (January 1889 - letter 732)
oil on canvas, 49.6 x 64.4 cm
Kroller-Mollo Museum
  • Van Gogh's letters are rarely exhibited because of their fragility - which makes this a very rare exhibition. These are also very powerful documents which help to create a real sense of connection with Van Gogh. I defy anybody, having reached the end of this exhibition, not to feel some emotion when looking at the very last letter he ever wrote which is on display in this exhibition. It was found on him after he shot himself.
  • Most importantly this exhibition tackles some of the myths about Van Gogh and reveals him as being a very different artist from the one which is promulgated by 'popular' publications and films (and Brian Sewell apparently - who I don't recall seeing at the preview!). If you want to get to know more about what sort of man Van Gogh really was then this is the exhibition to come and see.
I was fortunate to be able to see the exhibition at a preview on Tuesday and was so impressed that I'm going to be writing a series of posts about the exhibition and what I learned about him.

Poplars and Pines painted at St Remy on display in
"The Late Landscapes" room

Hence why this is by way of an introduction and a prompt to watch out for further posts next week.

This exhibition clearly conveys how Van Gogh lived his life on paper - he drew, he painted, he read and he wrote. His was a very solitary existence - he was apparently so intense and focused on what he was interested in that he was very difficult to live with.

He comes across as a very intelligent and well read man in this exhibition. Also, although his execution of a painting may have been fast at times, the letters and drawings clearly demonstate that he is somebody who studied hard, practiced in a very deliberate way to develop his skills, and created plans for his compositions and colour schemes only after he had thought about this in some detail. Plus - in a view I've expressed before - I've tried drawing with a reed pen and ink and it's not the speediest of tools for drawing. His drawings are remarkably free from blots and dribbles suggesting drawings which have been executed with some care.

The letter (including a sketch), the drawing and the painting
all photos copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I particularly liked the two examples where letter, drawing and painting were brought together - even if, as seems likely, both drawing and letter were produced AFTER the painting was started!

In essence, his letters provide an audit trail of both thought processes and artistic practice - and I'll detail some of this - with images from the letters - next week.

What struck me half way round the exhibition is how much art bloggers will enjoy this exhibition. Van Gogh's letters are the nineteenth century equivalent of an art blog. Just imagine what he would have been like and how he might have been received if he was around today!

So, this is going to be an exhibition where to get the most out of it, people will need to read as well as view art. Logistically that makes for people moving very slowly. However the RA seems to have created ways of easing the path of visitors. The explanations on picture labels have been printed at a font size which allows ease of viewing from further awat than is usually the case. The letters have been displayed in such a way that they can be studied from both sides when appropriate and sometimes at right angles to a painting arther than right next to it. Overall, the layout and display of the exhibition appears to have been thought about from the view of channelling visitors through but also allowing them to view the letters with ease. (This does not look like it will be a repeat of the scrum experienced at the V&A in 2007 when we had Da Vinci's notebooks on display). I also really appreciated the colours that the walls of the exhibition have been painted - they really echoed and assisted the display and the colour themes of different parts of the exhibition and his life.

I also like the way they've provided an opportunity within the exhibition to view the letters online - although I predict problems with the keyboard and mouse which are set into and integrated with the desktop!

Letter 902 - the very last letter from Vincent to Theo Van Gogh
Drawing of Wheatfields after the Rain (the Plain of Auvers)
In his very last letter to Theo dated Wednesday 23rd July 1890, four days before he shot himself in the chest - Van Gogh sent sketches of two no. 30 canvases depicting immense streches of wheat after the rain.......the unfinished letter to Theo, a draft of the one that was actually sent was found on Vincent's person after he shot himself in the fields on 27 July 1890 (and is in the exhibition)
Exhibition Catalogue: The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters
If you'd like to read the letters you can now do so now by visiting the new Van Gogh Museum website dedicated to them - Vincent Van Gogh - The Letters. This gives you access to all 902 letters. If you have the catalogue you can match the drawings and paintings in the exhibition to the letters to which they relate.

Next week I'll be looking at his early studies with perspective; his drawings using a reed pen, the impact of time on his colour schemes for some of the paintings, and developments of different motifs - and the unsung heroine of all this - Johanna Van Gogh.

Details of the exhibition: Dates and times
  • Opens to the public: 23rd January 2010 Closes: Sunday 18th April 2010
  • Open 10am - 6pm daily; Fridays open until 10pm; Saturdays open until 9pm. All days last admission 30 minutes before closing time
  • £12 full price; registered disabled/ aged 60+ £10; NUS/ISIC cardholders £8; 12-18 year olds and those on income support £4
  • There are some tickets available daily at the RA (but from my experience these are likely to generate queues and/or go fast)
  • Tickets can be booked in advance by telephoning 0844 209 1919 or visiting the RA website. Due to the popularity of this exhibition, all pre-booked tickets are timed entry which means you need to arrive 10-15 minutes before your entry time to allow for the collection of tickets and cloakroom services. Advance tickets cannot be bought at the ticket office
Exhibition Catalogue: The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters

The exhibition is sponsored by BNY Mellon

Events and resources: various activities are organised - but the free lunchtime talks are already sold out

RA Magazine: two articles online RECOMMENDED READ

A beautiful mind Martin Gayford explores the Van Gogh beyond the canvas. The artist’s letters reveal his thought processes and give a rich and moving picture of what he was really like

Behind the scenes Curator Ann Dumas and Exhibitions Director Kathleen Soriano explain to Martin Gayford the complex negotiations involved in putting together ‘The Real Van Gogh’

Reviews of the exhibition: Here are links to some of the other reviews:Reviews of the new publication from Thames and Hudson

Vincent van Gogh: The Letters: The Complete Illustrated and Annotated Edition (Vol. 1-6) by Nienke Bakker (Editor), Leo Jansen (Editor), Hans Luijten (Editor)

This is the most complete edition of Van Gogh'e letters ever produced, illustrated extensively throughout, and drawing on fifteen years of scholarship and dedicated research. For the first time, all the works to which Van Gogh refers are shown alongside the letters—not only the paintings and drawings that he himself was working on at the time, but also the works of art by others that he mentions.

Commenting on the new publication are:

NOTE: Vincent Van Gogh - Resources for Artists is my information site which contains links to all previous posts about Vincent Van Gogh on this blog - see Making A Mark - blog posts about Van Gogh

The Art of the Landscape

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Exhibition review: Turner and the Masters at Tate Britain

Turner and the Masters is an exhibition about JMW Turner's engagement with past and present masters of the art of painting.

It closes on 31st January so if you've not seen it yet time to make plans! It's then travelling to the Grand Palais in Paris and the Prado in Madrid after it closes.
It is impossible to be an artist without engaging with the art of the past
If you know your artists, then this is one of those exhibitions where you keep thinking how amazing it is to see quite so many paintings from recognised Masters in one room. Artists included in the exhibition are: Claude Lorrain, Poussin, Titian, Rembrandt, Canaletto, Watteau, Ruisdel, van der Velde, Constable and Girtin. Works are displayed well and in some cases works are reunited here for the first time in hundreds of years and others have never been seen together before in this light.

I went to the exhibition last Friday and am planning to go back before it closes. However although I came to it late in the exhibition run I'm really glad I saw it after I did all the research for the Art of the Landscape project - as the exhibition made a lot more sense to me as a result. The exhibition is predominantly about landscapes but it seemed to me to assume a fair degree of knowledge about art movements of the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. The focus of the narrative in the exhibition is on Turner and, despite the title of the exhibition, I think I might have missed the point about quite how significant some of the other artists are.

I did however try out mine bit of emulation!

(Above) Palestrina - by Turner
1828, exhibited 1830
Tate Britain
(Below) Palestrina (after Turner) by me!

8 x 10", pencil and coloured pencils in Moleskine sketchbook
Katherine Tyrrell

Rivalry and competition

The Tate says the exhibition is about rivalry, obsession, jealousy and is the story of Turner's battle to outdo all other artists. I always knew that Turner was a very ambitious artist and wanted to succeed but I hadn't realised that he was quite so competitive. You can see the Curators dicussing Turner in this link to the Tate's website

This exhibition is certainly about Turner's desire not just to be as good as other painters but also to be better than them. However, the rivalry and competition which exists seems to be entirely in Turner's head. For one thing the artists he is competing with are for the most part safely dead!

However one artist who was not dead was Constable - born in the same year as Turner - and who Turner saw as a great rival. At the Royal Academy exhibition in 1832, Constable's The Opening of Waterloo Bridge and Turner's Helvoetsluys were originally exhibited beside each other in the Royal Academy in 1832. Turner upstaged Constable by adding a dash of red to his own painting at the last minute – which made Cosntable's painting look too fussy and 'overcooked' and left Constable was none too pleased. John Humphreys explains why - and discusses the exhibition with Graham Dixon Wright and Tim Marlow - well worth a listen.

It's interesting that when it comes to his contemporaries he knows when he's beaten and also how to triumph at the line as it were.

The exhibition includes a very fine watercolour painting by Thomas Girtin who's an extremely fine watercolourist. The White House at Chelsea (1820) is one which 'stuck' in turner's memory. The white house is in fact paper which is completely untouched by paint. He tried to use the motif of a white building in his own paintings - but never to my mind as successfuly as Girtin did. Turner is quoted as having said
if Tom Girtin has lived, I would have starved
JMW Turner
In terms of landscape, the exhibition highlights how he strove both to be true to nature, to emulate the Masters and at the same time how he tackled and tested conventions about what you could and could not do.

The most significant difference between Turner's art and that of the Masters he hoped to match and better is Turner's painterly handling of both paint and brushes. It's really interesting to see how his artistic style differs from those he tries to emulate. When comparing him to Claude Lorrain, to my mind he holds his own although Turner can look a bit more brash at times. Lorrain has more subtlety and smoother paint surfaces. Turner has more drama and painterly brushwork.

Having worked out who the signifcant artists were in terms of the development of landscape painting and the seventeenth century ' golden age' of dutch painting. I wasn't surprised to see Rembrandt or Cuyp included in the exhibition.

What I was surprised to see were a couple of artists who focused on figurative paintings of groups of people. My own Simon Cowell conclusion is that Turner should definitely stick to landscape painting and leave figure painting to other people. There is simply no contest when it comes to going up against the likes of Dutch artists Rembrandt and David Teniers the Younger(1610-1690) and Turner's contemporary and competitor the Scottish painter David Wilkie (1785-1841).

You can explore the exhibition and its different themes on the Tate website - although mainly in text. I think it's a very great shame that the Tate hasn't made an online website to display the works better for educational purposes. In this day and age it really seems like a great waste not to take the opportunity to do so - we all know what all the paintings look a great deal better in the gallery then they ever do online so I don't see it having a great impact on visitor numbers.

Turner and the Masters is at Tate Britain until 31 January 2010 (open daily, 10.00-17.50; last admission 17.00). Below are some of the other reviews of the exhibition

If you can't get to it you can decide for yourselves which battles Turner wins, and which he loses in Turner versus the Masters - you decide!

You can find out more about Turner on my information site JMW Turner - Resources for Artists


The Art of the Landscape