Art Painters,

Goya, the portraits


Above: María Antonia Gonzaga, Marchioness widow of Villafranca 1795 by Francisco Goya (1746-1828). An example of the character and intensity Goya got into his work. Not to mention the fashionably frizzed hair style of the time. This is a woman to be reckoned with.

This exhibition, in London’s National Gallery till 10th January 2016, far exceeded my expectations, and is a must-see.  As a demonstration of Goya’s ability to bring individuality and depth to each portrait it was fantastic. I loved browsing around the panoply of characters from punchable windbags, fiery independent noblewomen to thuggish royalty all rendered almost palpably alive. He reserved his most unflinching eye for his closest friends and even his much-loved son.

His several self-portraits pull no punches. I loved this crabby faced Self Portrait (1795-7) which must be the glowering sight of the people who sat for him.

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I think the pack of cards on the table of The family of the Infante Don Luis (1783) below was a tarot pack. One of the cards showing was The World (the exhibition notes did not notice this) which made sense for me of varying emotions of the people drawn into the magnetic field created by Don Luis and his wife. Goya painted himself into the lower left in the shadows.

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An excellent exhibition, that helps us see Goya afresh.


Peder Balke at The National Gallery, London

Paintings by Peder Balke

I knew nothing about Peder Balke (1804-87) before my pal Bob suggested we go to see the exhibition at the National Gallery (on till April 12 2015). I learned that the Norwegian had made extensive trips around the coast, and then revisited some of the scenes in his imagination, such as North Cape, repeatedly for years.

This is the dark side of Romanticism, with Tolkienesque swarms of seabirds, moonlight behind clouds sending eerie beams over storm-tossed seas, towering cliffs and glaciers.  Not all of it worked for me. Some pieces, such as a broken tree in snow, had Bob and I saying “Christmas card” to each other, and comparing it unfavorably to Caspar David Friedrich other work was fascinating.

Later, when the public lost any interest in his work, he began to develop a freer brush sense, and reducing his palette to black and white to depict stormy seas or even the Northern Lights. These latter paintings, claimed by his fans to be early precursors of Modernism, apparently languished in his attic till his star gradually rose again.

North Cape, Peder Balke, (c) The National Museum of Art and Architecture, Copenhagen.

I was also reminded me of Roger Dean’s improbable SF-tinged landscapes of the 1970s too such as the coastal scene below. I’d recommend popping in to see for yourself should you find yourself at Trafalgar Square.

Peder Balke Coastal Landscape.