Tuesday, November 22, 2016

ING Discerning Eye 2016 - award winners and review

A total of 727 works - including paintings, prints, sculptures, drawings and photographs - by 405 artists are on show at the ING Discerning Eye exhibition from 17 - 27 November 2016 at the Mall Galleries in London.
The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition is a show of small works independently selected by six prominent figures from the art world: two artists, two collectors and two critics. 
Each of the selectors has curated an exhibition from works by artists they have personally invited to exhibit, as well as artworks submitted through the Open Call for Entries. The result is six smaller exhibitions within one, each with a very distinct personality.

The unique nature of the ING Discerning Eye is that the exhibition looks very different every year - because both selectors and the way they like to hang their chosen works varies each year.

Unfortunately my osteoarthritis was playing up yet again (it's the timing - wet November evenings are never good for mobility!) and so I missed a lot of the Artists PV last Thursday - and went home before the prizes were announced as I can't stand without sitting for any length of time. However thanks are due to Parker Harris who let me photograph in the period between the end of the exhibition for that day and the opening of the PV. Which means I have photos which actually show you what the exhibition looks like rather than a lot of people's heads with paintings peeping out behind the heads!

This post will highlight:
  • something about each of the six mini exhibitions in the galleries
  • artwork I liked
  • who won which prize (and which curator chose the work!)
I'm going to do something I've not done before which is order the prizes by the selector who invited or picked the work. The link in the
  • name of the artist is to their website (or a gallery website) - where you can see more of their work
  • title is to the work on the ING Discerning Eye website.

Artist: Dan Coombs

artist and writer, currently visiting professor at Haute École d’art et de design in Geneva, 

An eclectic choice by Dan Coombs
I wasn't too sure about Dan Coombs wall to start with. It looked a lot more eclectic than most I've seen at the Discerning Eye before and without any obvious rhyme nor reason.  Some of the juxtapositions seemed very odd.

Louisa Crispin had to bend at the knee in order for me to get a photo of her
Decaying Eringium without it being swamped by the painting above!
Then I learned the story behind it.

Dan Coombs's approach to curating the exhibition:
  • he invited 60 individual artists to each select one work to submit to the exhibition - however he has no knowledge of what was arriving until he came to hang the exhibition.
  • He selected a further 78 works from the open entry and created what is possibly the biggest ever exhibition in the history of the ING Discerning Eye.
When it came to the hang he started with the orange in the middle and then connected paintings from there and worked out across the wall.

When I looked at his wall again with this in mind it made complete sense!

It makes me wonder whether each of the exhibitions should have a short narrative by the curator next to them commenting on how they selected works and hung them. I think visitors would find it very interesting.


Surge Tide, Saligo Bay (£1,750) by Chris Bushe

Artist: Chris Orr RA

Royal Academician Chris Orr RA.

He commented on the process of selection.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

R.I.P Andy Wood PRI, RBA (1947 - 2016)

I'm very sad to report that Andy Wood PRI RBA died yesterday morning. He had been seriously ill with cancer and I've been expecting this very sad news for a little while.

Andy Wood, President of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours
(photographed in 2014 following his appointment by Ted Sepple).
His daughter reported his death on Facebook yesterday
Sadly papa wood lost his fight with cancer earlier today, in the arms of his one true love. There's no words to express the pain and emptiness we're all feeling right now, shocked, heartbroken and speechless.
It was a great honour and privilege having him as a dad, I don't need express how much a legend this man was, as everyone knows.
Rest in peace father, see you again another day. As you'd always say 'Laters'
Some of the comments by fellow members of the RI give a very clear sense of the extent to which he will be missed by his fellow watercolour artists.
The world has lost someone special. I will miss him so much. Rosa Sepple Acting President RI

It was such a privilege to work with Andy...and just to know him. Sandra Walker RI

I loved every minute of the RI working with Andy and enjoying his company - he will be so missed by us all Lilias August RI

Some people come into your life and touch it in a very special way. Andy was one of those people and we will miss him terribly. David Parfitt RI

Andy Wood - a life in art

A timeline

  • 1947: Andy was born in Porlock in Somerset and was later brought up in Surrey. 
  • 1965/67 Croydon College of Art, Croydon, Surrey
  • 1967/70 Newport College of Art, Newport (Casnewydd-ar-Wysg), Monmouthshire (Sir Fynwy) - His degree was in Fine Art (Painting) and Film 
  • Andy didn't go straight into art after graduating. Instead he had many different jobs before settling down in one place and painting. These included: starting out as an assistant school caretaker; stage electrician at the London Palladium; designing posters and programmes for pop concerts while living in Snowdonia, North Wales; building a children's arts centre, teaching arts and crafts; working with a "Theatre in Education" drama group in Sussex. After which he moved back to London where he ran an arts centre and worked on adventure playgrounds in Hammersmith.
  • 1976: PGCE at Maria Grey College of Further Education (a teacher training college) in Twickenham
  • 1977: Moved to Charmouth in Dorset and began painting full time (and just to joined the Dorset Fire & Rescue Service as a Retained Firefighter and continued in the fire service until 2002.
  • 1989 - 1992 - He was an artist in residence in Dorset and Devon on three occasions - at
    the Honiton Festival and Devon Opera in Devon and at the Woodroffe School, Lyme Regis in Dorset.
  • 1996 He opened the Andy Wood Gallery in Lyme Regis. This showed his paintings and prints as well as the work of other artists and friends.  During this time he was also President of Lyme Regis Art Group for three years.
  • 2002: Andy closed the gallery and moved with his family to Rye in Kent

  • 2007-2009 - Served on the RI Council
  • 2009: Andy was elected Hon. Secretary of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours. I think this round about the time I began to get to know Andy better. We often had a discussion in the Mall Galleries about how the RI might change and move forward.
  • 2013 and 2014: Judge of the Shenzhen International Watercolor Biennial in 2013 in China (Facebook Page) reviewing 2,825 entries from 54 countries (2013) and 2,825 entries from 1,700 artists (2014)
  • 2014: Andy became the 15th President of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours. He started using the suffix PRI after his name and also became an honorary member of Royal Watercolour Society.  I remember he was a very proud wearer of his chain of office and performed his formal duties with professionalism and aplomb.

Andy Wood PRI presents Deborah Walker with her Turner Medal (2015)
  • 2015 Trustee of British Institution Fund 
  • 2015 Governor and Trustee of Federation of British Artists
  • 2015 Judge - Watercolor Salon II, Thessaloniki, Greece
This is his more detailed C.V.

Andy's art was international

His work was international - in terms of what he painted, where he exhibited and where his art collectors lived. His work featured in numerous exhibitions in England, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada and the United States of America.

His paintings are alsoin the collections of His Majesty the Sultan of Oman, the Central Carolina Bank, the Chelsea Arts Club, the Lyme Regis Museum and Duke University.

He's also one of a very few painters in watercolour to have broken into and become acclaimed within the Chinese watercolour painting community. Last year Andy was one of the judges of the Shenzhen International Watercolor Biennial in 2013 (Facebook Page)

His paintings have also featured in articles in several publications including: ‘Artists and Illustrators’, ‘Leisure Painter’, ‘Watercolor Artist’, ‘Pratique des Arts’ (France), Art'issime (Canada), and L'Aquarelliste (Canada)

Andy also wrote about painting and being an artist on his blog Andy Wood - Picture This

Here are some of the paintings by Andy which have featured on my blog over the years. I liked both his talent for design and also his handling of colour, tone and brushwork.  He was a really good watercolour artist.

Winner of the Winsor & Newton Prize (2012)
Paintings by Andy Wood
Watercolour Paintings by Andy Wood PRI (2014)
Plus a comment about his paintings of snow (2011).
Andy Wood RI RBA's paintings of snow. From a distance they look photographic but get up close and they are very clearly paintings. Immaculate handling of tonalities and subtle colour changes and terrific attention to the colour of "cold". You can see a couple of them on the home page of his website.

The last time I saw Andy was at the Annual Exhibition in April of this year when he was as ebullient as ever.  Below is a picture of Andy conducting the President's Tour of the annual exhibition.

Andy Wood doing the President's Tour of the 2016 Annual Exhibition of the
 Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours

He talked to me about one of his paintings in the exhibition. It's called Last Chance. You can read the story of the painting on his blog in a post called Route 66 and all that
The bridge in this painting is the Lindsay C Warren Bridge across Alligator River heading out on Route 64 towards Nags Head. I was driving along with the cruise control set at 60mph - the speed limit was 55 but nobody stuck to that and the only time I was pulled over the highway police just passed the time of day asking dumb, dumber and even dumber questions just so they could listen to my 'British accent' – I was driving along, listening to the radio, minding my own business and wondering when the next gas station would be when a Rickie Lee Jones song came on the radio - “Last Chance Texaco” - and the gas station in the painting appeared in the distance. There was no thinking involved – I had to paint it.
Last Chance by Andy Wood (RI Annual Exhibition 2016)

I will truly miss Andy. He was one of life's gentlemen (in both senses of the word) - and an excellent watercolour artist whose paintings I will also miss very much.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Business of Arts Organisations

Should all arts organisations earn money from diverse activities within the private sector in addition to their prime function?

Whether your organisation is large or small, state-funded or entirely voluntary, there's scope to learn from what's being happening in the last three years to organisations which receive public funding.

Sir Peter Bazalgette
Sir Peter Bazelgette - currently Chair of Arts Council England (and the man responsible for bringing 'Big Brother' to the UK plus 'Ready Steady Cook' and 'Changing Rooms')  and who is about to become Chair of ITV in early 2017 - spoke recently at an event Sir Peter Bazalgette on the Business of the Arts - organised by the Creative Industries Federation
The businessman with a passion for the sector will examine questions including what makes successful arts organisations and creative businesses tick.
He expressed his personal views last week on why and how arts organisations can earn money privately - in addition to getting grants from public funding and raising funds through primary activities (eg selling tickets).

Apparently following cuts in funding arts organisations have had to become entrepreneurs.
arts organisations had revealed their “entrepreneurial flair” as he announced figures showing that supplementary income for the largest 600 organisations it funds — revenue generated by activities such as café and restaurant sales and merchandising — had risen by three-quarters between 2012-13 and 2015-16. Financial Times

This is the speech he made (pdf) I've summarised its important key points below and added in my own comments in places.

These are the articles by the proper journalists. Guess which one skimmed the release of the speech.


Context: Historical Funding Model

One of the Arts Councils strategic goals was that
Arts organisations and museums have increased the share of their income that comes from a wider range of contributed or earned income sources
The context was
  • mixed funding model - public investment, earned income and charitable donations using the analogy of a three-legged stool. You need all three legs, or you fall over.

[There's a YouTube video about the Arts Council Funding Ecology - although it is rather more about how it distributes the funds it gets rather than how it actually creates a strategy which reflects the robustness of assumptions made about all sources of income over time.]

Three Key Objectives for each source of funding

  • PUBLIC investment - stabilise funding levels by articulating value of investment
  • CONTRIBUTIONS of charitable donations - increase giving by raising the charitable profile of arts organisations
  • EARNED income - broaden and boost their earned income, beyond ticket sales to include educational activity and ‘supplementary’ income from commercial activities and other revenue streams – cafes, restaurants, car parks, merchandise, services and skills.
    I stressed how critical it was to diversify revenues.

    Real Changes in Funding

    • Between 2012/13 and 2015/16, TOTAL overall income of the National Portfolio (600 larger, publicly funded arts organisations) rose more than 20% to £1.75 Billion.
    • In percentage terms: 
      • PUBLIC funding distributed by the Arts Council via Grant in Aid and Lottery funds remained largely the same, at 22%. Local Authority funding has declined to just over 6% 
      • CONTRIBUTIONS - personal giving plus gifts from trusts and foundations have increased their share of overall income up by 1.5%. 
      • EARNED income has grown from just over three quarters of a billon to more than £1 billion - up by more than 25%. 

    Earned Income - The Story to Date

    • Earned income is ticket sales, hospitality, merchandising and other commercial revenues.
    • Commercial income now accounts for more than 50% of the total funding
      • Income from ticket sales and educational activity has declined slightly
      • income from supplementary activity has grown by 75%.
      • the trends are not uniform across the country as rural areas pose challenges for businesses of all sorts. In the rural South West supplementary income actually declined by 60% over 4 years but was offset by ticket sales and other core activities increasing by just over 50%.
    • Examples of ventures earning commercial income include:
      • major improvements to catering operations
      • making space available for hire
      • charity shops in places where there are tourists
      • sale of branded goods by those with strong visual brands
      • bed and breakfast or hostel spaces run as part of the arts space
      • ticketing in car parks
      • promotion of venues and localities for film locations
      • recording music for commercial ventures
    It shows that arts organisations are increasingly run by business-minded leaders who understand that when you run a great business, it’s a lot easier to make great art.

    It's a good story - but what does this have to do with the Arts Council?

    Wednesday, November 09, 2016

    About Donald Trump, POTUS 2016 and David Parkins

    This evening I finally found the source of the image I shared early this morning from a women's Facebook account to my Making A Mark Facebook Page after spending the night watching the results come in. (I always think the result will be in the next 10 minutes!) Which means I watched both iconic elections of 2016 as they happened!

    The intention was to illustrate the level of shock and dismay experienced by many people following the 2016 POTUS Election - in very marked contrast to the joy and hope which followed the 2008 POTUS Election

    Initially I thought she was an artist and she'd come up with the image herself. But it kept bugging me all day - mainly because most artists are rather better at claiming artwork as their own.

    So in need of some distraction therapy I went on a hunt on the Internet to see if I could find the original - and, as importantly - who exactly had produced what seems to me to be an iconic illustration of this POTUS Election.  (It's actually not very easy to find images on Facebook on the Internet as the finder software in Google Images and Tineye doesn't work very well inside Facebook (See How to do a reverse image search), So I went from Facebook to website to Twitter account - and there found the image posted by somebody else. That gave me the basis for then doing a reverse search - and that's when I found the larger version.

    Cover of The Economist 16-22 July 2016
    Illustration by David Parkins

    It turned out that the image was a crop of a cover of The Economist edition covering 16th-22nd July 2016. Its feature article was about Donald Trump and a divided America.

    This is when I found out that the image is by illustrator David Parkins.

    It's nice to be able to credit the originator of one of the most effective images I've seen to sum up much of the feelings after the result of the 2016 POTUS Election.

    Interestingly the intention at the time was to illustrate one of the themes of the article

    In 2016 that seems to have been turned on its head: America is shrouded in a most unAmerican pessimism.

    About David Parkins

    David Parkins has apparently been an illustrator for over 40 years.  He seems to be a very modest chap as his website contains no bio or CV.  All I could detect is that when he was younger he used to live in the UK and that he now lives in Canada. Odd that - he obviously got in before the Great Canadian Immigration Website Crash of 8th November 2016! ;) Later I found that he also has a Wikipedia entry!
    David Parkins is a British cartoonist and illustrator who has worked for D.C. Thomson, publisher of The Beano and The Dandy. Now based in Canada, he illustrates children's picture books
    His website is however a compilation of a selection of his illustrations over the years - working in different ways for different clients.
    In forty years illustrating, I have been obliged to work in a whole lot of different ways. I like the work to fit the brief. I like to do different types of work. I like my eggs distributed around various baskets because I am fallible, and if they were all in the one basket I'd probably sit on it.
    I found his website both fascinating and utterly delightful in terms of the range of illustrations for:

    Tuesday, November 08, 2016

    Sketching the Vote in 2008

    This is the sketch I drew while waiting for the results of the American election to be announced eight years ago (see my post Another kind of surge

    Another kind of surge (November 2008)
    (or what I did while waiting for the results)
    11.5" x 8.5", pencil
    copyright Katherine Tyrrell

    The thing I remember that was so remarkable then were the huge long queues of people waiting to vote.

    There were so many images of them in the press and online that I decided to start my very own queue and sat adding sketches images of individuals from the various images online until I'd created my very own queue led by an elderly African American lady with a flag.

    It was also a bit of a reprise on a rather well known election poster of a few years back in this country. (I'm sure more than a few of you will remember that one!)

    So who's sketching this US election? Will you be drawing?

    Here's the list of people - with their posts that I found online last time and which I posted in
    9th November 2008 - Who's made a mark this week?

    I decided to make a compendium of all the illustrated blog posts that I could find by artists and illustrators blogging about the election day, the election process and the results....and here they are:
    • Other bloggers posted

    • and inevitably that message was reiterated yet again
    • and just for the record here's a link to what seems to have been a pretty powerful piece of performance art which went viral. The video for Yes We Can has now been viewed more than 50 million times across various video sites.
    .....and just in case you wondered what they were doing while a lot of us watched the TV, here's Behind the scenes with the Obama family - watching the TV!

    Sunday, November 06, 2016

    The Silent Art Auction

    The Silent Auction has become a feature of a number of exhibitions by art societies and other organisations.

    The latest is the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour who are holding an exhibition between 8-13th November at the Mall Galleries - with a view to raising funds for their educational activities and to document its history in a book.

    It will include a silent auction of a large number of small paintings by members - with bids starting at £50 and concluding with last bids on Saturday 12th at 2.30pm!

    Below you can find:
    • what is a silent auction - an overview of what a silent auction is, 
    • how to make a silent art auction successful - MUST DOs for running a silent auction; and 
    • how to succeed with your big at a silent auction!

    What is a silent auction?

    The characteristics of a silent auction are as follows:
    • The auction is run without an auctioneer - meaning 
      • no fee payment to an auctioneer
      • no commission payable to a gallery 
      • no encouragement to bid at a specific time on a specific piece
    • A minimum bid price can be set. 
    • A specific increment for bid increases can also be stipulated
    • A specific time period is set during which bids can be received (typically linked to the length of time of the event)
    • A closing time for the auction is set
    • Specific bids are submitted on paper
    • An individual can rebid before the end of the auction (this happens more often when bidders can see other bids made)
    • At the end of the silent auction, the individual with the highest bid received on paper wins the auction for the item
    • The silent auction can be 
      • either the main attraction 
      • or an event additional to a normal exhibition

    In terms of the bidding process it can be opaque or transparent or both!
    • Opaque: Bids on paper are placed in a receptacle which is not cleared until the auction ends. Bidders might be submitting bids which have already been beaten by existing bids - however they feel good because they tried.
    • Transparent: In "open-book bidding" the bids are written on a piece of paper next to the item. This means:
      • no bid is wasted as everybody knows that to secure the item they need to bid higher.
      • it encourages people to bid higher
    • Opacity within a transparent process: On open bids a bidder may use a number rather than a name when bidding. That way nobody knows who has placed the bid - only the value that has been bid.  Some people find this a more comfortable process. (This is very similar to the way bidding works on eBay auctions - which is now very familiar to many people).

    How to make a silent art auction successful

    This is a checklist of things an organisation needs to do to make a silent auction successful.

    Thursday, November 03, 2016

    2017 Wildlife Artist of the Year - Call for Entries

    The Wildlife Artist of the Year has published its call for entries for the UK's most prestigious independent wildlife art competition - with a top prize of £10,000.

    Entry is online or by post and the deadline for entries is February 20th 2017.

    If you want to know what the exhibition looks like:

    View of the exhibition in the Main Gallery at the Mall Galleries in June this year.

    This is the 10th anniversary year for a competition that attracts entries from all over the world. It's been helping to raise both funds and awareness for endangered wildlife since 2008.  Since it began, the event has raised over £320,000 for conservation projects supported by David’s eponymous wildlife charity, protecting endangered wildlife across Africa and Asia.

    The competition is organised by the conservation charity the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF). (UK registered charity no. 1106893) which works to protect endangered species in the wild.

    The exhibition will provide a week of wildlife art - of some 150 exhibits - in all three galleries at the Mall Galleries.  You can also see original works from supporting artists and there will also be some special 10th anniversary events.


    The first prize is definitely worth winning and the category prizes are also very nice!

    • Overall Winner £10,000 cash prize & title ‘Wildlife Artist of the Year 2017’ 
    • Overall Runner-Up £1,000 cash prize. 
    • Remaining Category Winners £500 each.

    Eligible Artists

    The competition is open to both amateur and professional artists over the age of 17.

    There is no residence requirement and entries are regularly sent from all over the world.

    Eligible Art

    The main conditions are:
    • You may enter up to 5 pieces of artwork at either £10 or £25 per entry.
    • All media are eligible (however photography is not eligible).  For example, the competition is very happy to receive artwork in media that includes oil, acrylic, watercolour, pencil, mixed media, bronze, plaster, wire, collage with styles encompassing traditional, abstract, monochrome, original prints* and many others .
    * An original print is a print either in black or in colour, drawn from one or several plates, conceived and executed entirely by hand by the same artist, regardless of the technique employed, with the exclusion of any and all mechanical, digital or photomechanical processes. Every stage has been completed by hand by the artist. 
    • Entries must be completed by the entrant themselves
      • it must be their own original work. 
      • If a reference photo has been used, then the permission of the photographer is required (i.e. copyright issues are NOT allowed!)
    • Work completed before 15th February 2012 CANNOT be entered

    How to enter

    Full terms and conditions available on line at www.davidshepherd.org or by calling DSWF on 01483 272323.

    The website provides three documents (as pdf files)


    Entries must be submitted to a category. The categories are:
    • Animal Behaviour: Showing a real understanding of animal behaviour, a sense of character, maybe something the judges may not have seen before. 
    • Hidden World: A celebration of remote and rarely observed or lesser known landscapes and species. 
    • Into the Blue: Illustrate the wonderful world of water, be it ocean, seashore, wetland, river or stream. 
    • Urban Wildlife: Entries can be in an urban style or depict the city life of animals and plants. Judges will be looking for both originality in the habitat as well as the contrast between wild and urban life. 
    • Vanishing Fast: Our vanishing world – it can be any species officially listed as endangered or threatened on the IUCN Red List – or any landscape that is at risk. 
    • Wings, Feathered or Otherwise: The extraordinary variety of winged wildlife – birds and insects, in flight or at rest. 
    • Earth’s Beautiful Creatures: The choice is yours! 
    For all categories the judges are looking for....

    not only beautifully executed original artworks but also imaginative interpretation, moving away from the purely photographic to compositions with great characterisation, showing imagination, originality and genuine creativity. 

    Method and cost of entry

    Entries can be my post or online - however
    • all images submitted as an entry must be digital. Please NOTE that no allowance is made by the Judges for poor digital images or bad quality photographs. It's up to you to submit quality images.
    • all entries must reach the Foundation by 205h February.

    Entry is online or via the post.  Your artwork should be submitted as a JPEG digital image via the digital entry form or should be burned to a CD. They recommend:

    • High resolution @300 dpi
    • minimum pixels of 2,200 pixels on the SMALLEST side
    • File size not exceeding 6MB.
    • all files must have an easily identifiable name eg you should use your surname followed by title of art artwork

    Responsibilities of the artists
    • Note that delivery, collection, shipping costs and insurance are the responsibility of the artist.

    What does it cost to enter

    Entry costs vary depending on the status of the artist
    • normal entry fee: £25 
    • concessionary rate: £10 for DSWF members, 17-25 year olds and the over 60s.

    How should I price my work?

    • All entries must be for sale.  Do NOT enter anything you don't want sold as this exhibition aims to sell - and that includes making your sale price appropriate for the exhibition and marketplace.
    • All prices need to be realistic i.e. priced for sale. Note that this competition is a bit different. Sale price will be negotiated with the artist but the final decision will be made by DSWF.  
    • That effectively means that if you enter your work and then put 
      • a silly high price on it so it won't sell, that DSWF can vary that so it will sell
      • a low price on it - maybe because you don't know London prices - that DSWF can raise it so that it's consistent with prices asked for other work of the same quality in the exhibition.


    There are three commission rates:
    • Sales proceeds for works exhibited at the exhibition are to be split 50/50 for sales made for the duration of the exhibition and for one month after. 
    • After one month, any sales made as a result of the continued promotion of the piece by DSWF will be split 70% artist and 30% DSWF
    • Sale proceeds resulting from commissions taken at the exhibition are to be split 70% artist and 30% DSWF. 

    More about Wildlife Artist of the Year in previous years

    Wednesday, November 02, 2016

    Characteristics of Paintings by Caravaggio

    This is about the distinctive features and characteristics of paintings by the artist known as Caravaggio.

    I went to a Breakfast Preview of Beyond Caravaggio at the National Gallery this morning and pondered while I was walking round how I was going to frame this post.

    It suddenly struck me that since the exhibition was about his followers and imitators and interpreters that focusing on his characteristics might be a good idea.

    The Characteristics of Paintings by Caravaggio

    Hence this post is about the style and approach used by the Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (i.e. his name Michelangelo Merisi and he came from a small town called Caravaggio near Bergamo). He is known as Caravaggio.

    Key Techniques employed by Caravaggio

    These included:


    Ha was based in Rome at the beginning of the 17th century when it was a strong centre of Cathocism - but it also had a dark underbelly and underclass
    • he demonstrates intense naturalism - his people, fruit and flowers are very life-like
    • He is a keen observer of nature  
      • he paints from life - and uses models for his paintings
      • he initially specialised in painting fruit and flowers and is credited with producing the very first still life painting (see How to create a still life painting - and then review the bowl of fruit in "The Supper at Emmaus" below!)
    • he uses everyday subjects - ordinary people in sometimes extraordinary circumstances - but also pickpockets, swindlers, charlatans amd steet performers. 
    "painting still life requires as much artistry as painting figures"
    Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
    The Supper at Emmaus, 1601

    Oil on canvas, 141 x 196.2 cm
    The National Gallery, London | © The National Gallery, London
    • his figures are at least torsos, however...
    • he often uses three-quarter length figures; and...
    • occasionally figures are full length
    • his figures are often life-size
    • his hands are sometimes oversized

    The curator contends that as a result his paintings appear very modern, it's easy to make a connection to the characters (you don't need to know any iconography to understand what's going on)


    • narrative paintings (not something we see a lot of these days!)
    • he demonstrates a capacity for very effective storytelling 
      • the storytelling has direct and emotional appeal
      • the stories transcend time
    • which is is underpinned by excellent composition and design. His compositions are:
      • often densely packed 
      • tightly cropped - just enough and no more
      • often employ dramatic tension e.g. subjects which very nearly touch - but not quite 
      • employ a shallow pictorial space
        • bulk and mass are tight againt the four lines which make the frame. 
        • backgrounds are very dark - and indeterminate in depth - which effectively makes them shallow
      • in summary they have a strong illusionistic power - they look real and it feels as if the figures are right next to us and might spill out of the picture frame
    Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
    The Taking of Christ, 1602 

    Oil on canvas, 133.5 x 169.5 cm 
    On indefinite loan to the National Gallery of Ireland from the Jesuit Community, Leeson St., Dublin who acknowledge the kind generosity of the late Dr Marie Lea-Wilson 
    Photo © The National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin


    His paintings frequently use evocative lighting through the use of
    • a strong directional light
    • employment of chiaruscuro - generating strong and prominent contrasts between light and dark
    His paintings sometimes use muted lighting.

    However he NEVER created a painting with a candle - no matter how many candle paintings were produced by his followers (all shown in one room with low lighting which makes the technical way candleight is shown all the more effective- even if it's nothing to do with Caravaggio!)

    Caravaggio's Fans and Followers

    Interestingly Caravaggio did not travel nor did he run workshops although his influence was widespread across a wide range of countries and artists.

    Instead artists apparently:
    • flocked to Rome to see his work for themselves
    • or developed their own interpretations having seen his work elsewhere 
    • or tried new approaches after being told about the techniques and themes he employed.
    One of the latter is Georges de la Tour - and the exhibition is worth going to if only to see his remarkable painting of The Cheat with the Ace of Clubs, c. late 1620s, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. This echoes Caravaggio's paintings of card sharps - although the people and clothing get a completely different treatment.

    Georges de La Tour (1593-1652)
    The Cheat with the Ace of Clubs (about 1630 - 34)

    Oil on canvas 97.8 x 156.2 cm
    Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas | © Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

    At the end of the day though, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever who is the Master Artist in this exhibition. There may not be a lot of Caravaggio paintings in the exhibition - and most that are can be seen on a regular basis as part of the permanent collection - but they tower over all the other paintings in the show in terms of impact and presence.

    Information about the exhibition

    The exhibition is more about Caravaggio's influence and the painters of the the Caravaggesque style which peaked between 1612 and 1620 and had disappeared by c. 1650 - until Caravaggio's skills and talent and paintings were rediscovered in the early 20th century

    It actually comprises 5 definite paintings by Caravaggio, one probable painting and 47 paintings by other artists.

    The exhibition is in the basement of the Sainsbury Wing and continues until 15 January 2017. Adult tickets are £16 and you can find more information about tickets here

    Other reviews

    Tuesday, November 01, 2016

    A Discussion about Museums in a Global Age

    'Museums in a Global Age' is a LONG video organised by Art Review ostensibly about:

    • How do museums engage with and reflect the world they inhabit? 
    • What are their roles and responsibilities?

    It's a very fast discussion about the purpose and future of museums in what's called "a global age". (Which prompts the thought have we ever not had "a global age"? It strikes me as a clumsy metaphor for a more precise concept relating to cultural communication).  They seem to mean in an age where "globalisation" is the norm i.e. money, people, ideas, whizzing around the world faster and faster.

    There are all sorts of problems with this video.
    • the participants are sitting in semi-darkness in front of a projection which never changes. Absolutely ludicrous!
    • Nobody actually uses the projector for slides to expand on and exemplify points being made. So why is it there?
    • It seems as if there's a competition for who can say the most in the least time. Gabbling seems to be the order of the day - which is not wonderful when people are racing through lists of complex concepts in the absence of any powerpoint slides which provide a handle for engaging your brain cells and organising the rapid fire dialogue
    • I recommend some training in podcasting!
    However it is worth listening to! I found it works better if you listen twice!

    This discussion took place last month on 17th October - just before the Frieze Art Fair - at the Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building at the London School of Economics


    Left to right in the picture above, we have:

    Richard Armstrong - the representative of "Institutions"

    • Director of the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum and Foundation since November 2008
    • Previously, The Henry J. Heinz II Director of Carnegie Museum of Art. He also served as Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary Art. 
    • Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art (1981 to 1992) where he organized four Biennials, as well as several other exhibitions.
    • Works with senior staff to maximize all aspects of the Foundation’s operations: permanent collections, exhibition programs, acquisitions, documentation, scholarship, and conservation. 

    Chair: JJ Charlesworth - an art critic, writer and commentator

    • Publisher of Art Review (a leading contemporary art magazine which maintains the Power 100 list) - having worked as a member of the Editorial Staff since 2006
    • Studied fine art at Goldsmiths College, London, in the mid-1990s before becoming a critic
    • Written reviews and commentaries on art, artists, culture and politics for many publications including ArtReview, Art Monthly, Flash Art, Modern Painters, Time Out London, the Daily Telegraph and online platforms art-agenda and ArtNet News. 
    • completed his PhD (a study of art criticism in Britain during the 1970s) in 2016
    • @jjcharlesworth

    Adrian Ellis - a consultant who works for the Institutions and helps plan new ones

    • Founding Director of AEA Consulting, one of the world's leading arts, culture and entertainment consulting firms. 
    • His work spans the fields of cultural strategy, policy, and economics. 
    • Previously Executive Director of The Conran Foundation in London, where he planned and managed the creation of the Design Museum.
    • Former LSE student.
    Comments on political and moral dilemmas relating to:
    • the scale of phenomenal investment in capital infrastructure in museum buildings by public and philanthropic resources 
    • why museums need to stimulate demand to consume that investment.
    • the commodification of cities around the world, the use of culture to differentiate a city - and how badly this is done
    • how many buildings get designed by how few architects
    • how many important factors relating to the development of museums are ignored until a relatively late stage
    • issues which occupy minds relate to how to balance the books not why a museum was built - because funding is often available for capital but not for revenue.
    Speculates about what happens if globalisation goes into reverse - which is actually an issue I've begun to become more interested in as 'globalisation' becomes more and more identified with the ways in which it has had a destructive effect on economies and cultures.

    Tiffany Jenkins - a writer who comments on museums as an academic, broadcaster and columnist

    Interested in the politicisation of culture

    • how fine arts were seen as being a means for soothing the common man in the past - and what's different between then and now and the role of art in social inclusion
    • the dissipation of the hierarchy of art.
    • the unravelling of the canon of high art.

    Did you know?

    You can attend free public lectures and debates at the LSE with high profile speakers from academia, politics, business and civil society. Click the link for what's planned or follow Twitter's @LSEnews for the official feed.