Painting of the Month

August 2018

The Temptation and Fall of Eve

I finally got around to reading John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and since finishing it I have found myself thinking about it often. Comprised of 645 verses, the poem is a deeply personal and epic retelling of the Genesis story, with which Milton set out to ‘assert Eternal Providence, and justify the ways of God to men’. Considered to be…

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July 2018

Homage to the Square: Departing from Yellow

  I have been unable to obtain an image for this POTM, but am hopeful that I may be able to get one soon. Until then here is a link to the Tate website, where you can see the artwork I am talking about below:   Colour has a profound effect on our lives;…

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June 2018

Jupiter Beguiled by Juno on Mount Ida

James Barry (1763-1806) is a brilliant anomaly in Britsh art history, but is also one of the most (if not the most) important Irish Neoclassical artists. I’ve wanted to choose one of his works for Painting of the Month for some time, but I have been torn between this one, a Self Portrait of 1803 in the National…

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May 2018


Seventeenth-century Spanish Catholic art has a distinct visual language, reflecting the traditions of religious theory and practice in that specific time and place. While Protestantism enforced the biblical commandment forbidding the creation of ‘graven images’, the Catholic Church both defended and promoted their use of art to inspire piety and strengthen faith. As one of the…

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April 2018

Soft Self-Portrait with Fried Bacon

You may find it surprising to know that Salvador Dalí was my first favourite artist. I remember discovering at him when I was studying GCSE Art & Design, and feeling that his paintings had something to say to me –  perhaps disconcerting for a 15 year old. Looking back, I think the main appeal was his ‘painted dream…

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March 2018

The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven Matthew 5:43-45   The etymology of the word ‘martyr’ is derived from the…

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February 2018

The Sower

For Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) his work was his life’s purpose, and through his art he explored themes that meant a lot to him. He saw the work of artists of the past as something to be learnt from, to absorb their lessons and apply them to his own time. Jean-François Millet (1814-75) was someone that van Gogh felt a…

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January 2018

Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth

I’m scared of the sea. I don’t like being in it or on it, or even miles in the sky above it. Watching programmes that explore the vast depths and the creatures that live there make me feel ill, and worse still is footage of tankers or container ships in the midst of a raging storm. Even…

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December 2017

Nativity (Holy Night)

The birth of a baby is a common thing, something that we probably all experience in some way during our lifetime. We know the specific feeling of celebrating a new life and adoring a child. As the first scene of Jesus’ life on Earth it should actively inspire reflection and wonder, emotions far beyond the everyday and the physical….

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November 2017

Susannah at her Bath

When I first discover a musician or band I seek out their entire back catalogue. I apply the same obsessiveness to artists, and such is the case with French painter Hughes Merle (1823-1881). Though he is often criticised as being sentimental, I find that his interpretations of literary and mythological scenes give much more than might first meet…

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October 2017

The Inspiration of Saint Matthew

I have a print of this painting on my wall at home so I spend a lot of time looking at it, mostly from having my ironing board set up in front of it. It is an altar of sorts, which is apt because is at the centre of three paintings in the Contarelli Chapel of San Luigi dei…

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September 2017

Still Life, Pink Roses by Samuel Peploe

Researching for exhibitions brings me in contact with art that I perhaps wouldn’t have discovered otherwise, which is usually a good thing. The Scottish Colourists were a group of fascinating artists, of which Samuel Peploe (1871-1935) was a leading member. The four members of the group, who were active in the 1920s, were from Edinburgh, and all were enormously…

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August 2017

A Boy Bringing Bread

There is something about the quiet harmony of this painting that I find really pleasing. The geometric details and clarity of light and air turn an everyday scene into a masterful work of art. The artist has chosen the asymmetric composition with precision and control, selecting and cropping the scene to create intrigue and balance. Yet it…

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July 2017

Portrait of Miss Anna Pitt as Hebe

If you commission an artist for a likeness, you may not consider dressing-up as someone else for the sitting, but in the 1700s this was very fashionable. Men would typically took on iconic figures from history, showing physical and moral strength through someone else’s characteristics. And women often posed as virtuous allegorical themes such as love…

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June 2017

Saint Sebastian

Earlier this month the National Gallery announced that they are putting on a very exciting exhibition next year; Mantegna and Bellini. Following the success of Michelangelo & Sebastiano (read my review here: it is no surprise that they have chosen to juxtapose and focus on two masters of Italian painting again. Although I am sure…

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May 2017

A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling (Anne Lovell?)

If the identity of a sitter for a portrait is lost, how can it be found? Art has always used symbols to give us clues as well as add embellishment. The lady here is posed with a squirrel, an animal featured on the Lovell family coat of arms. They were popular pets in the 16th century,…

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April 2017

Mary Magdalen in the Cave

Inspired by Waldemar Januszczak’s recent BBC programme Mary Magdalen: Art’s Scarlet Woman, I wanted to share my favourite vision of Mary Magdalen. Painted by Hughes Merle in 1868, I think this is the most emotionally charged and beautiful images of the saint. The first thing I notice is how close we are to her face. It is unusual, although…

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March 2017

The Meeting (or ‘Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet’)

I remember first seeing an image of this in E. H. Gombrich’s Story of Art, which was my bible while studying Art History at college. I found the painting intriguing and appealing without really thinking about why, and I didn’t quite see how Courbet fitted into an otherwise neat chronology that the author had compiled. He was…

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February 2017


I am so excited about the Michelangelo & Sebastiano exhibition opening at the National Gallery in March, especially as they will be borrowing this beautiful work by the lesser known of the two artists, Sebastiano del Piombo. Like Michelangelo‘s sculpture of the same name from 1498-99, this Pietà (1516-17) is minimal in composition, but powerful in its impact. Mary is monumental…

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January 2017

Mrs Siddons as the Tragic Muse

As I am reading Reynold’s Discourses on Art at the moment, I thought it would be appropriate to honour him with January’s PotM. The published lectures were given between 1769-1790, while he was President of the Royal Academy of Arts. In his Discourses Reynolds wrote extensively on both the intellectual and physical requirements for creating a perfect artwork; one that was compositionally…

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December 2016

Black on Maroon

Anyone who knows me, knows about my limited and exacting taste in art. With a few exceptions there is little made after 1900 that I find meets the criteria for a masterpiece. And don’t get me started on Dada. But occasionally I surprise myself, and find beauty in something against my better judgement. Some of…

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November 2016

Marquise de Pompadour at her Toilette

I thought to contrast with last month’s dark Caravaggio, for November I would pick something light and fluffy – two words synonymous with Rococo. Contrary to what I feel great art should be, I can’t help but love Rococo. Obsessed with beauty, sensuality and all things frilly, the style was a reactionary evolution of the Baroque…

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October 2016

The Raising of Lazarus

I’ve resisted choosing a Caravaggio for my POTM for some time, but after going to Sicily especially to look at their three Caravaggio paintings, I had to write about one of them. It is always hard to read a Caravaggio painting with fresh eyes, disregarding the context of his infamous life. Painted during a tumultuous time in the artist’s…

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September 2016

Jack the Ripper’s Bedroom

Walter Richard Sickert is an anomaly amongst the artists that I like. I find his darkness compelling, he draws you into a scene and leave you there. His paintings are often ambiguous and unnerving, they give you an uncomfortable feeling, as though something is not quite right but you can’t tell what. Jack the Ripper’s Bedroom (1907) is an…

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August 2016

The Disembarkation at Marseilles (from the Marie de’ Medici cycle) by Peter Paul Rubens

Having recently discovered the amazing Khan Academy courses online, I decided that my brain would benefit from some fresh art history exercise. Starting with the units on Gothic art I have worked my way up to the Neo Classical so far. Each subject is explored alongside the political and social contexts of where the style…

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