Friday, November 15, 2019

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2019 - less submissions, more series and fewer photographers

There are four significant differences in the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2019 - which has had an enthusiastic following in the past - which has wavered this year.
  • LESS photos were submitted this year (3,700) compared to the two previous years. That's a 17% reduction compared to 2018. However it's 35% down on two years ago. One has to ask what has happened?
    • 2018:  4,462; 
    • 2017:  5,717 
  • MORE series were selected for exhibition (13) - compared to 4 in 2018 and just 18 photos in 2017.
  • As a direct result of showing more series, FEWER photographers have had the opportunity to raise their profile for their photography in this leading photographic portrait competition and exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.
    • 2019:  31 photographers - represents a reduction of 38%
    • 2018:  49 photographers
    • 2017:  50 photographers
  • the exhibition emphasises diversity - almost to the point where it dominates the exhibition
Finally, fewer photographic portraits were hung in the exhibition - just 55 compared to 57 in 2018 and 59 in 2017. This difference is less significant - but it is significant that artificial screens have had to be introduced into the Porter Gallery in order to hang the photographs properly. After all series require they are hung as a series!

However first the Prizes and then the Analysis.
The exhibition is on in the Porter Gallery at the National Portrait Gallery from 7 November 2019 – 16 February 2020. Unlike the BP Portrait Award this is not free entry and tickets are priced at
  • full price tickets from £6 with concessions from £5
  • £3 tickets for under 25s on Fridays
  • £3 tickets for concessions and over 60s Monday - Wednesday 10:00-11:00am
  • Free for members (that's me until the Gallery closes next year!)
at the press preview of the exhibition - with the photographers
Extra artificial walls in the Porter Gallery


This is a photography exhibition with a decent set of prizes - sponsored by Taylor Wessing.

First Prize (£15,000):
Gail and Beaux; Mom (our last one) from the series Goldie (Mother) by Pat Martin

It's always good to see an older person being the subject which has won a prize. I had a suspicion Pat Martin would be the winner of the First Prize when I saw he had two photos shortlisted for the prizes.

I loved the photo of Pat's mother wearing her chihuahua T shirt with her chihuahua Beaux - who now lives with Pat.

Pat Martin with Mom (our last one) and Gail and Beaux;  from the series Goldie (Mother)
This was a great series of photos (see below). Pat told me he finds he spends more time now photographing older people.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Review: Episode 5 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 at the Tyne Bridge

Welcome to Episode 5 of Cityscape Artist of the Year. Landscape Artist of the Year is so old hat as are landscapes without buildings!

Five episodes and five really odd buildings and bridges and rather a lot of rain have been the big challenge so far.

In this episode it was yet more bridges and rather a lot of wind.

The pods in Gateshead looking at the Tyne Bridge and Newcastle.

The Location

The Tyne Bridge - and three more bridges beyond that!

This episode the big challenge was
  • the Tyne Bridge viewed from the Gateshead side of the Tyne and 
  • the fact that Kate Bryan was in London having her baby.  
  • So just Tai and Kathleen as Judges this week.
The view was a major challenge because the scale of the Tyne Bridge was HUGE and they were very close to it. Their only real option given the proximity of the pods to the bridge was to crop.

Some artists engaged in compositional studies of how make sense of the scale and the "bittiness" of the background in terms of scale vs detail.

The challenge lay in going bigger to make choices about construction simpler or to go smaller, making it easier to cover the surface while at the same time requiring that you are crystal clear about how to edit and simplify and only suggest detail.

The weather

The day was dry - but the wind was strong and gusting and particularly affecting the Wildcard Artists who were much more exposed - especially those that sat on the footbridge over the Tyne

Episode 5: The Artists

The artists after they had finished and the Judges were in a huddle

Six Professional Artists

  • Clare Bowen (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) - Used to be a ski instructor but is now works as professional landscape painter who frequently works plein air. She was greatly influenced by Carol Marine's book 'Daily Painting' and the confidence she gained through daily painting helped her with her switch to plein air painting while working in oils. She's now one of the artists on the Mall Galleries online 'buy art' website. READ her very informative blog post Sky Landscape Artist of The Year Contestant!
  • Leavon Bowman (Instagram) - a studio based artist
  • David Fox (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) - Based in Dublin, he works as an Operations Manager for a bus company. Previously participating in the 2016 series - at Scotney Castle.  Note: David should take a look at this painting!
  • Leigh Glover - Inspired by an exhibition of collage work by Matisse to develop his own collage art. Studied at Oxford Brookes University and Heatherley’s School of Fine Art, London. He's exhibited in the Royal Institute of Oil Painters (2008), Royal Society of Portrait Painters (2009), Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize (2010), BP Portrait Award (2011) and the ING Discerning Eye Exhibiton (2014).
  • Andrew Halliday (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) - Born into an artistic family in 1969, he now divides his time between Barnes in South-West London and Lymington in Hampshire. Studied at Bournville Schoolof Art before graduating with a BA honours degree from Wimbledon School of Art in 1991. Heat finalist in 2018 at Inveraray Castle. He's obsessed with high rise architecture and love drawing and painting cityscapes READ his blog post Landscape Artist of the Year 2019: My time on the Toon
  • Joanne McAndrew (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) - an Irish artist based in Dublin who specialises in landscape, still life and figurative painting. Not a cityscape artist. She is currently attending self-directed life drawing Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin

Two Amateur Artists

  • Wei Deng - Chartered Landscape Architect who was trained to paint in watercolour in the traditional Chinese way by his father who was a painter.
  • David Youds (Twitter | Instagram) - Lives in Hyndburn and works as a site supervisor at Accrington Academy. Has five daughters. Fits in his painting as and when he can. His submission was the view out of his sitting room window painted using a head torch. See Talented school supervisor to appear on Sky for Artist of the Year

Note: Professional vs Amateur

Following my comments about professional vs amateur status in the last review I've been asked to clarify what I mean by those terms. 

In brief I've written previously about these terms in these posts
I'm guessing rather a lot of the artists in the Landscape Artist of the Year are actually semi-professional artists i.e. they also work at another job which may or may not be their main source of income but might well generate enough turnover as an artist to be required to declare it to the taxman (as opposed to using the new hobby allowance - see ​The bonus if you're selling art - but not a lot!)

The Wildcard Artists

The march continues at the beginning of every Wildcard event.

This pic now gets labelled the "Wildcard March" - you have to be able to carry or push all your kit!

However the wildcard artists then tend to split up - this time as before along Gateshead Quays - the Gateshead Millennium Bridge on the left and the Baltic on the right.

Random perspectives from random Wildcard Artists

Here's one of the reasons why one woman took part as a Wildcard Artist ‘He would have been proud’: South Shields mum to appear on Sky’s Landscape Artist of the Year show in tribute to son

Themes and Learning Points

Today, these are:
  • Studio Artist vs Plein Air Painter
  • How many different ways can you paint the same view
  • Where is the sun?
  • To shadow or not to shadow
  • Don't be twee
  • Different tools for different folks
  • Learning points from the participants

Monday, November 11, 2019

Review: Episode 4 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 at Herstmonceux Castle

This review of Episode 4 of Series 5 Sky Arts Landscape of the Year is rather later than I had planned having been sideswiped by my errant iPad Pro which managed to go missing at Terminal 3 of Heathrow Airport when I was flying out to the USA last month. It popped up online and then needed retrieving from Lost Property - and that was the day I'd planned to do this post!

I have to say I found this episode somewhat disappointing. I'm not sure whether it was artists not used to painting plein air or the nature of the day or what - but much of the art produced was actually very disappointing.

However I am even more convinced that one of the key criteria for the shortlist selection is the extent to which the painting produced in the heat have some sort of relationship with the one submitted at the Call for Entries stage.

In other words if the two paintings don't look like they were painted by the same painter, there may be no point in entering!

The Location

Pods in front of Herstmonceux Castle and its moat

Heat 2 of Landscape Artist of the Year at Herstmonceux Castle morphed into Episode 4 of Series 5.

One of the contestants wished that the pods had been pitched further away from the red brick crenellated castle - and I agree.  So did Kathleen - she commented that the view was almost too close.

We had too much full on castle and not enough reflection on a building within a setting - and not a lot of scope to include the water because they were too close to the edge of the moat.

It was clear from the filming from above on a sunny day that it looked very different when there was good light.

I wonder if the person pitching the pods knows anything about how artists size up a view - or what happens to a subject when the light is bad.

The weather

They didn't have the rain of Heat 1/Episode 2 at the nearby observatory. Instead they had 

  • a very grey sky with no light arriving to enhance the subject - a lot of brick castle and some greenery 
  • and WIND! Paintings were taking off from the easels!

The light issue turned into the key factor that Tai wanted addressed in this heat. How were they going to tackle the fact that the day was grey and the light was no helping them.

The Artists

Artists in their pods - waiting for the start

In the listing of participating artists below you will find links included to
  • the artist's website - embedded in their name - for those wanting to know the standard of work by artists who get selected
  • their social media - which follows - should you wish to follow them
  • blog posts written about the day - IF they've written one

Seven Professional Artists

  • Satdeep Grewal (Facebook | Instagram) - Born and raised in London, Satdeep now lives in Hampshire where she exhibits, produces painting commissions, and delivers art workshops. Describes herself as 'British artist painting chaos/science/nature'. 
  • Gary Jeffrey (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) - Gary seems to live in south west London. he's painted a lot over the course of 15 years - for 10 years after college in the 1980s-90s; then a break of 16 years (four years in retail and 12 as a layout designer in children's publishing) and back to painting in 2015. He always works from life and really enjoys plein air painting. He's a gallery artist at the Riverside Gallery in Barnes and also sells paintings from his website. I'm just really surprised I've not seen his paintings more in the open exhibitions of the FBA societies based at the Mall Galleries. He's a natural for at least three of them! I like the way he holds his brush.
  • Ian Leaver (Facebook | Instagram | Etsy) - Brighton based mural artist with a penchant for vintage movie posters

My nightmares were vivid and frequent.
Terrible weather, no light, impossible subject and worst of all, a disastrous outcome.
Some of my fears were realised, but do you know what? I had a bloody good time on the day and I’d definitely do it all again
. Sarah Manolescue
  • Fatma Ummanel (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) - The youngest participant - age 25. Fatima is a Graduate with a BA Fine Art: Painting and Drawing, MA Fine Art and MA Art Psychotherapy (Trainee)
  • Colin Watson (Facebook | Courses website) - Colin lives and works in Belfast and teaches painting in Morocco. He uses a home made blend of treated oils - incorporating a wax medium.  He mixes his colours on the canvas. He has held seven solo exhibitions in London, at John Martin Gallery, the Pym’s Gallery and at Simon Dickinson Fine Art, as well as in Dublin, Northern Ireland and Morocco. In October 2008, Colin was invited by HRH The Prince of Wales to accompany him on the Royal Tour of Japan, Brunei and Indonesia, as his official Tour Artist. He has also exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts, the Royal Ulster Academy and the Royal Hibernian Academy, winning awards at the latter two. He's had portrait paintings accepted for the BP Portrait Prize Exhibition, The Royal Society of Portrait Painters annual exhibitions and at the Discerning Eye at the Mall Galleries.
  • Issy Wingham (Instagram) - Issy is a professional artist based in Norfolk. She graduated with a BA (Hons) Illustration degree from Norwich University of the Arts. She mainly creates drawings of the beautiful North Norfolk coast and surrounding villages - and sells digital prints of her work via Etsy.

One Amateur Artist

  • Russell AshcroftInstagram ) - describes himself as a permanent student

the artists - after they had finished

I continue to be surprised as to who gets into which category of artist. 
There again one can debate the label "professional" at length. I think maybe Sky Arts need to provide them with a bit more help in terms of what is an amateur artist and what is a professional artist.  Or why not just call them all artists since the categorisation has become so very meaningless.

Indeed, very often, those painting as wildcard entrants sometimes produce much more interesting paintings than those in the pods.  There again - that's probably because they include quite a few professional painters trying to get noticed!

50 Wildcard Artists

Just look at the amount of stuff which the wildcards bring with them!

Wildcards lugging their gear out to....
....the orchard where the wildcard artists were situated for the duration.
More about trees than castle which can be just be seen peeping out behind the trees in the background

Tip to the Editors of the programme - we can tell who is going to win the wildcard from the beginning!

Themes and Learning Points

Those who are regular readers will know that I offer up my comments on what I see as being the main themes of the episode - and try not to repeat those comments made in previous episodes.  If you want to see a summary of what I came up with last year have a read of Learning Points from Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 - a summary

What to do when it's a grey day with bad lighting

Saturday, November 09, 2019

The Best of The Drawing Year

On Friday morning I went to a preview of The Best of the Drawing Year 2018/19 in the Duke Street Gallery - a selling exhibition of over 100 drawings and wrks on paper by contemporary artists and teachers from the Royal Drawing School - at Christies

I've put an album of my photos of the exhibition on my Making A Mark Facebook Page 

preview of the exhibition

Venue: Duke Street Gallery, Christies, 5 King Street in London
Dates: 8 – 12 November 2019
Hours: Monday to Friday 9am–4.30pm, Saturday & Sunday 12pm–5pm
Admission: no appointment necessary / free admission

It's an exhibition which I commend to those interested in
  • contemporary drawing 
  • and/or interested in the courses held by the Royal Drawing School and in particular their postgraduate level course of The Drawing Year.
Every time I visit it is different - reflecting both the participants on the course that year and who has been teaching them.

This year I saw rather more artworks which were leaning hard towards painting, which I understand are works created as part of the individual's practice outside the course.

I felt on the whole I'd rather see:
  • MORE works in the exhibition which are much more about the drawings produced during the year - and which are a reflection of the studies during the course of the year
  • their personal practice diverted to other exhibitions - where I frequently see them - given the number of Drawing Year alumni who pop up as selected artists in various art competitions and open exhibitions in London. 
After all there's lots of places to see the work of an artist as they continue on their journey but only a couple of opportunities to see work produced during the drawing year. 

Below you can find out about
  • the purpose of the exhibition - and see some images from the exhibition (but see also the album of my photos)
  • profiles of three graduates in 2019
  • details of The Drawing Year - notably the fact it a year of drawing is offered for free - no tuition fees and studio space for free
  • the NEW BOOK "Ways of Drawing: Artists Perspectives and Practices" by the Royal Drawing School.

Purpose of the Exhibition

The exhibition comprises over 100 paintings, drawings, prints and works on paper by the 30 students of The Drawing Year 2019 at The Royal Drawing School - on the Shoreditch/Hoxton boundary - who graduated in 2019.

The Drawing Year is the equivalent of an MA Course of postgraduate study.  These are the best of the over 300 drawings by The Drawing Year which will be on show at the Royal Drawing School in Hoxton between 29 November 2019 and 15 January 2020.


Three graduates in 2019

I met three of the graduates from the 2019 Year.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Call for Entries: BP Portrait Award (Part2) - How to Enter

This post is about 
Key info is highlighted in red.

Selected portraits for the 2019 Exhibition
- the winning entry is on the right
Yesterday, in Part 1, I wrote about the key things you need to think about when considering an entry to this competition.

I recommend that you READ THESE POSTS before submitting an entry
The GOOD NEWS is that the works exhibited in the Porter Gallery for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Award (which I saw yesterday at the press preview) are all at head height.  

I was advised that the gallery has listened to the comments they received about the hang of the BP Portrait Award 2019 exhibition and additional display walls have been introduced to provide the extra space needed to provide a decent exhibition.

My reservation is that the corridors they create are narrow and I anticipate the complaint in 2020 will be that you cannot get far enough away from the painting to look at it properly. The corridor at the back is particularly narrow.

New display boards in the Porter Gallery
(for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Award)

BP Portrait Award 2020: What are the major changes?

Oh dear! 
The Official Document about the Entry and Judging Process

There really is NO EXCUSE for misleading people who to enter the competition!

Major Change for BPA2020 #1: Deadline for Entries is 11 December 2019

The first major change is that the deadline is 6 weeks earlier than last year - i.e. 11th December 2019  and nearly two months earlier than it has been in the past - with absolutely no prior warning.
Or as one person put it on Facebook...

BP portrait award 2020...closing entry date is 11th December 2019!!!!!!!!!??😳😱

It's rather more instructive that so few people have picked this up because there are almost no comments about it on Facebook of Twitter.

I reckon that's because momentum to think about submitting an entry usually only gets underway in December.  Some think about planning to get their work finished in time while others start thinking about starting so they can get it finished over Christmas and get the digital entry sorted without the oil looking wet before the end of January!

The crucial aspect for portrait painters who use oils is drying times. Not to mention those who are routinely painting right up to the last minute!

So I think the notion of having something else to do over the Christmas New Year period is just beginning to dawn on a few portrait artists. Or maybe more than a few?

I gather the issue has arisen due to the fact that a decision to close the entire gallery has only been taken relatively recently. Hence the lack of notice.

Major Change for BPA2020 #2: A Much Shorter and Earlier Exhibition

EVERY Introduction Page to the BP Portrait Award microsite that I have ever seen has included the dates of the Exhibition

Except the one for 2020.

I conclude the reason is because:
  • the dates and length of the exhibition have changed. 
  • when the Call For Entries was published last week the NPG had still not announced that the National Portrait Gallery will close for three years as of the end of June 2020.
  • Instead of it being a three month exhibition between June and September, 
  • it's now going to become a five week exhibition ONLY between May and June.
The net result of this is much less exposure than hitherto and probably fewer visitors to the exhibition.

Or alternatively the same number of visitors in a shorter space of time - which will make viewing unpleasant.

Hopefully it will be counterbalanced by longer displays at more provincial galleries - but there's no indication of that at present.

BP Portrait Award 2020:
How to enter for those who don't like lots of small print

First read this paragraph from the website - and then reflect on whether you are sending your very best work.
The BP Portrait Award 2019 received 2,538 entries from 84 countries. Judged anonymously, 44 portraits were selected for the exhibition.

The basics - on the website

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Call for Entries: BP Portrait Award 2020 (Part 1)

This is my annual summary of what you need to do to enter the BP Portrait Award - for 2020.
This post is going to be published in two parts and tells you about

Part 1

  • why this exhibition has changed in the last two years - and I'm afraid not for the better
  • reasons from the past as to why you should enter this competition for a first prize of £35,000
  • my recommendations as to a possible approach for 2020.

Part 2 (will follow shortly) 

View of the BP Portrait Award 2019 in The Porter Gallery

But first a preamble

Much of what I am going to say was first aired in June in my posts.
I am restating key points here because it appears nothing has changed - and it's now time to take stock.

    "the most prestigious painting competition in the world"

    I've been calling the BP Portrait Award "a prestigious art competition" for well over a decade.
    Indeed I used to always START this "call for entries" blog post with a long list of reasons why it was a great exhibition to enter.

    However ONLY the National Portrait Gallery is still calling it "the most prestigious" portrait competition. (i.e.ignoring those who simply reproduce text from press releases)

    I'm not sure I am continue to call it "prestigious" going forward - for a number of reasons. Hence why I've changed the order and am now starting with this preamble to avoid any artists being disappointed.

    Few others seem to have commented on the points I have identified - at least in print. Maybe those that feel as strongly as me would still like to get into the exhibition - so don't want to ruin their chances through being seen to express negative comments. I certainly wouldn't blame them for behaving like that.

    However I personally don't submit work and - for very many years - I have instead focused on enabling artists to succeed. So if anybody is less than impressed by what I have to say I'm not really concerned - so long as the artists understand my perspective. When it needs saying, it needs saying!

    Bottom line the key points are that the exhibition:
    • is selected by people who have much less expertise in portraiture than hitherto
    • is now housed in a much smaller space with less wall space to hang paintings
    • hangs fewer paintings - of which many are small head studies
    • hangs them badly - because paintings are now skied making it impossible to inspect the work of the artist
    This for the exhibition which continues to attract the biggest number of visitors to the National Portrait Gallery - although less than it used to - despite other exhibitions attracting the "blockbuster" label!

    If there is a sensible rejoinder I'd very much like to hear it - and provide a blog post in which to publish it....

    The gallery space is now much SMALLER

    This exhibition was always held in the larger Wolfson Gallery (Room 42) - for very many years. Certainly since I started reviewing it - and I know it was in there when I used to visit it before that.  This is also a space which is a large quadrilateral which makes it easy to bring in extra dividers to increase the hanging space and route people around the exhibition - and still have room for people to manouvre around the exhibition.

    It moved.

    In 2018 and 2019 it has been in the Porter Gallery (Room 34).  Presumably at the instigation of the new (then) Director who oddly enough is NOT a specialist in portraiture.
    • The Porter Gallery has two spaces providing a SMALLER gallery - which does not promote an orderly flow
    • Since 2018, works were executed to open up the gallery and make it look more attractive - and this year the space had no dividers. The net effect was that the space looked much better - but the exhibition did not - because there was an EVEN SMALLER HANGING SPACE than in 2018!
    • It also completely EXCLUDES the BP Travel Award exhibit which is now hung elsewhere and is probably not seen by the majority of visitors to the exhibition.

    It's so small a space that they are unable to hold the announcement of the winners in there and that is now done in the Ondaatje Wing Main Hall (where the tickets are sold and school parties assemble).

    As a result of using this gallery - here are some of the consequences......

    Monday, November 04, 2019

    Brexit #2: The Pre-Election Update

    The government has revved up all its advice pages on Brexit on the GOV.UK website ready for going into "purdah" when Parliament rises tomorrow, prior to the General Election on 2012.

    This post is about the latest updates issues prior to the change in what can and cannot be done or said. It's especially relevant to

    • all those who trade outside the UK
    • all those who are not living in their country of birth.
    You can also read my first post Brexit #1: Do or Die? About which one might comment that Boris is not dead in a ditch somehere

    Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

    What is "purdah" in an election context in the UK?

    For those who have never worked for the government (unlike me) "purdah is a technical (and quite possibly an inappropriate) term to refer to the constraints on government activity during the period of time between
    • the dissolution of the governing administration and 
    • the swearing in of the new government.
    This time around, this will cover an approx. six week period from 6th November to 12th December 2019. 

    There are restrictions on what a government can do during this period and very tight restrictions on all publicity. see 

    Which is how come I got an email from the HMRC part of the GOV. UK website 4 hours ago to say this
    The UK government has agreed an extension to the Brexit deadline until 31 Ja‌nu‌ar‌y 2020. 
    HMRC will continue to help businesses prepare for Brexit in all scenarios, including the possibility of the UK leaving the EU without a deal on 31 Ja‌nu‌ar‌y 2020.

    • Many of the steps that you have already taken to get your business ready for Brexit will still be useful preparation for the UK leaving the EU, with or without a deal:
    • if you have received an EORI number starting with GB, please retain this number, your EORI number will remain valid for use in trade with businesses based in the EU if the UK leaves the EU without a deal – your EORI number can be used now to trade with businesses based outside of the EU
    • if you are an importer and have registered for Transitional Simplified Procedures (TSP), you should retain your letter of approval – it will remain valid if the UK leaves the EU without a deal
    • if you received a letter from HMRC telling you that you’ve automatically been registered for TSP, we will be writing to you again soon to authorise you to use it to import TSP standard goods from the EU if the UK leaves without a deal – please retain these letters and your TSP number.
    To find out more about the steps you need to take to get ready for Brexit, go to GOV.UK.
    Then on the official Brexit Page it says this

    Preparing your business for Brexit

    Check how to get your business ready for a no deal Brexit.

    Visiting the EU

    To visit Europe after Brexit there are things you need to do before you travel.
    • For example, you will need to check your passport, get travel insurance which covers healthcare, and get the right driving documents.
    • Visit Europe after Brexit

    Living and working in the EU

    • Living and working in an EU country after Brexit depends on the rules in that country.
    • You may need to register or apply for residency. 
    • You should check that you’re covered for healthcare. 
    • You may also need to exchange your UK driving licence for a licence issued by the EU country where you live. 
    •   Check what you must do in the country where you live 

    Staying in the UK if you’re an EU citizen 

    Brexit: check what you need to do if there is no deal

    I still need to get my head around all this - but thought I'd get the summary drawn to your attention....

    .....while you think all you need to do in the next couple of months is christmas shopping and sending off the artwork ordered from your website!

    Sunday, November 03, 2019

    American Impressionism and Portraiture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

    On my recent visit to New York, I visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art twice.

    The first area I headed to (after the roof!) on the first day was the section devoted to American Impressionism. (The American Wing - North West corner of the Met - 2nd floor the 700s rooms).

    Leaving the Met at the end of the day - on 15th October 2019 
    The view of Lower Manhattan and the southern part of Central Park
    from the terrace on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Tuesday 15th October
    It's a real revelation to see some of the paintings you've admired for so long in art books be revealed to you in their normal "home".  Seeing some of the exhibitions I found is not quite the same as seeing them in the Met!

    On the whole I think I'd recommend a chronological approach to the Impressionist Galleries unless you are short of time - in which case head straight to the Impressionists and make sure you see some of Hudson School too.

    I've uploaded some of my photos into American Impressionism and late 19th Century Portraiture at the Met - a public album on my Making A Mark Facebook Page

    Rooms I recommend 

    Gallery 771: Portraiture in the Grand Manner, 1880–1900
    After the Civil War, the United States experienced profound changes, including rapid economic expansion and population growth, and emerged as a world power. Great wealth and a desire for conspicuous display characterized the period, which has been called the Gilded Age. American artists studied abroad, especially in Paris and Munich, and then competed with their European contemporaries for portrait commissions from American patrons. Both the patrons and painters were also aware of the mode of portraiture prevalent in Great Britain, which was at the apex of its imperial influence and prestige. John Singer Sargent, the quintessential American cosmopolite, was born in Italy, studied and worked in Paris, and operated thereafter with equal success in London, Boston, and New York. This gallery is a testament to the ability of Sargent and his contemporaries to capture on canvas the personalities of their intriguing acquaintances as well as their paying patrons.
    Having met Claude Monet in Paris, probably in 1876, the expatriate John Singer Sargent was inspired to experiment with Impressionism. Throughout his successful career as a portraitist headquartered in London (as evidenced in 771), Sargent would always refresh his studio work by painting out of doors in both oils and watercolors. By 1887 several other American artists had been attracted to Giverny, on the Seine about fifty miles northwest of Paris, initially by its charm and then by the presence of Monet, who had settled in the village in May 1883 (Sargent also called on Monet there in the 1880s). Theodore Robinson became the leader of the American Giverny group, first visiting in 1885 and spending months there annually from 1887 until 1892. Back in the United States, Robinson and Childe Hassam shared their enthusiasm for French Impressionism with their American colleagues, including John H. Twachtman and J. Alden Weir, who became converts to the style.

    Gallery 769: American Impressionism and Realism, 1880–1920

    During the 1880s, after studying in Paris, American artists returned home and began to experiment with French Impressionism. Among the most celebrated of these artists were William Merritt Chase, who painted Impressionist scenes of New York’s public parks and of the seaside at Shinnecock, Long Island, and Childe Hassam, who became the leading Impressionist chronicler of New York and New England.Rejecting the prevailing trends of academism and Impressionism, a modern, rugged realism emerged in the early twentieth century in the work of such artists as Rockwell Kent and George Bellows. Their canvases portray the emergence of the modern city, technology, and engineering prowess while also celebrating the vitality of nature in the American landscape.

    Gallery 768: Images of Women, 1880–1910

    Around 1900, refined women were favored subjects of many American artists. The works in this gallery reflect the contemporary notion that a woman's proper sphere was within a harmonious interior, absorbed in cultivated pastimes, or in a sheltered outdoor setting, engaged in leisure activities. These works also suggest the wide range of styles that artists enlisted to depict their genteel subjects. Women artists were especially successful in describing women's activities at first hand. Among them were the painter, pastellist, and printmaker Mary Cassatt, who settled in Paris in 1874, responded to the influence of the French Impressionists, and became the only American to participate in their exhibitions; and the sculptor Bessie Potter Vonnoh, who worked principally in New York and produced statuettes of women in conventional roles.

    Artists whose work is included

    The links in their names are to their entry on the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History on the Met website in terms of both a bio and artwork

    Mary Cassatt (1844 - 1926) 

    the American Artist and Impressionist painter and printmaker who was a friend of the French Impressionists
    portrait paintings by Mary Cassatt (left and right)

    Childe Hassam (1859-1935) 

    - a pioneer of American Impressionism. Did you know that, after John Singer Sargent and Mary Cassatt, there are more paintings, drawings and prints by Childe Hassam in the Metropolitan Museum of Art than any other American Impressionist painter?

    Crop of Childe Hassam's painting of Celia Thaxter's garden on the Isles of Shoals in Maine.
    This painting is one of the finest of a series of works that Hassam made during summers in the 1890s on Appledore Island, one of the Isles of Shoals, which lie ten miles east of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This series portrays the sumptuous wildflower garden cultivated by his friend, poet Celia Thaxter, a garden that provided a marvelous contrast to the rugged terrain of the island itself. In this painting, vibrant red poppies entangled in lush green foliage introduce a view of bleached Babb's Rock. The painting shows Hassam at the height of his creativity as an American Impressionist.
    SEE ALSO the website I created ages ago About Childe Hassam - American Impressionist Painter

    John Singer Sargent (1856–1925)

    - the noted American painter, draftsman, portraitist, muralist and watercolorist.
    Portraits of society women by John Singer Sargent
    Paintings by John Singer Sargent

    William Merritt Chase (1849–1916)

    Paintings by William Merrit Chase

    Maurice Prendergast (1858-1924)

    Central Park by Maurice Prendergast

    I'm finishing with Central Park because a combination of lack of time and needing to pace myself so I could stay on my feet meant that Central Park is something I have looked at - but not yet visited.

    However I was very impressed with New York and I plan to go back.....

    Saturday, November 02, 2019

    Society of Wildlife Artists: New Members and Associate Members

    The Society of Wildlife Artists have some new members - as detailed below.  If you

    • are interested in becoming a member of the SWLA you get a LOT of clues below as to the sort of artist they like to have as a member.
    • want to see their work "for real", the SWLA annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries closes at 1pm tomorrow.

    Descriptions of the artists are by Harriet Mead who has been re-elected President for a 10th year.

    Red Deer stags "The Duel"
    Nick Bibby SWLA
    Bronze (edition of 12), 40.5 x 137 x 42 cm,

    NEW Full Members

    Nick Bibby Born in County Durham in 1960. He had a precocious talent and was  drawing and painting as soon as he could hold a pencil or paintbrush. However, he was drawn towards work in three dimensions. His early childhood sculptures were made using plasticine, or whatever came to hand when the plasticine ran out, as it often did. He then began selling work in his early teens and became a full-time sculptor in his late teens, after leaving art college at eighteen.

    Emperor Penguin by Nick Bibby
    Bronze (edition of 12)
    101.5 x 61 x 61 cm
    Nick Bibby is an extraordinarily meticulous sculptor and it was easy to vote him in as his work is stunning. His attention to detail is superb but he knows exactly when to stop and allow the form to be key. My pet hate in all media is when the artist portrays feathers individually because they know they are there, rather than realising that when we see a bird we do not see individual feathers we see the mass of the bird.

    John Dobbs NEAC - born in Windsor in 1961. He grew up in Denham, Buckinghamshire before moving to nearby Harefield, Middlesex where he now lives. John trained and worked as a Draughtsman in electrical engineering before becoming a full time artist in 2003. He was awarded the New English Art Club Drawing Scholarship (2012) and was then elected as a member of the NEAC in 2015.

    Tiger by John Dobbs
    47 x 58 cm
    John Dobbs's work stands out as a fine artist painter who happens to paint animals-and I think this is key. His paintings are about the experience of seeing the animals and they sing out. He has seen all those animals - sketching and observing - and it is obvious to us that he has experienced it himself. 

    Bill Prickett - an established wildlife artist based in the UK. His sculptures are held in contemporary art collections worldwide. Bill produces both bronze and silver wildlife sculpture as well as hand carved originals. He is also recognised for his plywood sculpture, a modern and beautiful material

    School of Rays and Three Rays by Bill Prickett
    Birch Plywood
    Bill is another artist who is very good at conveying form and using his chosen materials in a very exciting way. You must remember the amazing octopus from a few years ago...he is meticulous in his work and takes great care with how he mounts and displays his finished work-another pet hate of mine is sculptors who are slapdash about how they finally get their work to stand up, so often it looks shoddy and a complete afterthought!

    Richard Jarvis - Wildlife artist from Leicestershire specialising in linocuts and print making.

    Linoprints by Richard Jarvis

    Richard's work is beautifully composed and quietly shows his delight in the subject. Interestingly he rekindled his love of printmaking by attending a workshop that we held in the much missed Learning Centre. I think it was Bob Greenhalf and Max Angus who led it and he was totally fired up to get printmaking forward and here he is as a full member.

    Simon Griffiths - a sculptor living and working in the North Pennines. He spent as much time as possible in the woods and fields near my home as a child where he explored and drew the creatures that lived within them, especially the animals and birds. His work primarily stems from direct observation of the subject.

    Ceramics by Simon Griffiths

    Simon is another sculptor who takes great care over how his work will sit and celebrates the clay in his own style. He spent hours doing a sculpting demonstration on Thursday and had the audience captivated.

    NEW Associate Members

    Louise Scammell - a printmaker based in South Devon. She prints in her own studio in South Brent and teaches at Dartington Print Workshop. Louise gathers ideas and inspiration for her work from walking on Dartmoor and from the South Devon coast where she dives, rows and fishes. She is happiest when she can translate her field sketches into prints. She uses copper, lead or wood to make her plates.

    Britt, Ballsaddle Rocks by Louise Scammell
    Wood lithograph (edition of 7, 2 available), 57 x 46 cm,
    £380 (£210 u/f)
    Louise Scammell is married to a bass fisherman who fishes sustainably. She is a diver and it is obvious that she loves the underwater world. Her gorgeous prints are atmospheric and completed grounded in observation. As you know that's a real 'thing' for us at the SWLA. Go and see it if you can before you create your interpretation. There are so many other senses involved which can inform the finished work-you can't smell and hear a photograph!

    Wynona Legg - Based on Devon and Cornwall. Her website says she explores mark making, as a filter between true representation and emotional response and works in materials that offer immediacy when drawing subjects directly from life, most often inks, graphite, charcoal and soft pastel. Drawing is at the core of her practice and often forms the finished work. Gestural line and partly abstracted shape and form convey familiar subjects.

    “I am concerned less with pinpoint accuracy of representation and more with capturing the energy at play within a moment of time. The power of marks to convince the eye of familiarity.”
    Feeding time at the Gullery by Wynona Legge
    Ink & soft pastel
    50 x 73 cm
    Wynona Legg has benefitted from 2 bursaries in recent years and is such an assured and talented artist-her strong sense of line and strong voice (you can tell one of her drawings a mile off) is a very exciting prospect. I see her drawing as very sculptural and it's a delight to see the confidence in her lines.

    Lisa Hooper - lives in and is inspired by the landscape and natural history of South West Scotland. She uses a wide variety of techniques to capture pattern, light and texture in her subjects.

    Phalaropes, Shetland by Lisa Hooper
    Linocut (edition of 19, 2 available)
    70 x 86 cm
    £490 (£420 u/f)
    Lisa has won a couple of awards at the exhibition, most recently the Dry Red Press Award and she has consistently had work accepted for a number of years. I particularly liked her phalaropes, and she is another artist who spends time watching her subjects before making her work.