Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Review of the Barocci exhibition at the National Gallery (London)

Barocci exhibition, London

An important exhibition of the Renaissance painter Federico Barocci (about 1533–1612) at the National Gallery in London has just ended. According to the National Gallery website, Barocci is:

…celebrated as one of the most talented artists of late 16th century Italy. Fascinated by the human form, he fused charm and compositional harmony with an unparalleled sensitivity to colour.

The exhibition will showcase Federico Barocci’s most spectacular altarpieces, including his famous ‘Entombment’ from Senigallia and ‘Last Supper’ from Urbino Cathedral, thanks to the cooperation of the Soprintendenze delle Marche.

The display assembles the majority of Barocci’s greatest altarpieces and paintings, together with sequences of dazzling preparatory drawings, allowing visitors to understand how each picture evolved and revealing the fertility of Barocci’s imagination, the diversity of his working methods and the sheer beauty and grace of his art.

The exhibition comprised religious paintings, altarpieces and portraits – paintings as well as preparatory sketches. Since the works on display have never before seen outside Italy, I felt it was a privilege to visit the exhibition at the National Gallery, which is just a 30-minute metro ride away from my house. The Barocci exhibition was, as is done for larger scale exhibitions, set up in the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery. As expected, the works were beautifully arranged.

Whilst in the media most of the attention had been drawn to the religious paintings, I found that the drawings, of which Barocci produced many, were much more interesting and beautiful than the finished works. Apparently he spent a lot of time sketching and making other preparations (he was seen around town a lot, clutching his sketch book) before moving on to painting. He actually painted his paintings relatively quickly – I guess this might have been because, whilst sketching, he had come to know his subject matter really well so could put everything on canvas quickly. Looking at the paintings, I felt that it was almost as if he wasn’t interested in producing the end product, but instead loved to sketch and experiment with the world around him. To me it was quite clear that his true passion was drawing.
Subject matter was mostly anatomical and life drawings, studies of drapery etc. I found the intimate portraits of women and children in particular very beautiful. There is an intens energy radiating from the carefully and lovingly rendered lines.

Blue faded paper
Interestingly, he had a certain formula which he followed for the majority of his sketches: most works in this Barocci exhibition were on blue (faded) paper, using red, black and white chalk. Other sketches were done in pen and brown ink or red and black chalk on white paper. The blue paper in particular produced a magnificent effect – people seemed to come alive due to the illusion of cool shadows on skin and bodies provided by the paper.

As I’m personally interested in chiaroscuro (the use of strong contrasts between light and dark) I spent a lot of time in front of Barocci’s chiaroscuro studies of the “Madonna of the holy girdle” and the “Madonna of the rosary”. These preparatory works were done using:

Chiaroscuro pigments:
“black chalk and pen, brown ink and brown wash heightened with white”
“black chalk and pen, brown ink, dark brown wash, ochre and white oil”

Use of colour
The finished paintings all used bright colour. According to the video played in the room adjacent to the exhibition, Barocci is one of the strongest colourists to have ever lived. Drapery was certainly very bright;  brightly coloured drapery was used to enhance elegance and introduce drama, while Barocci also made sure that he stayed true to human anatomy. Apparently the use of chiaroscuro in his work is a late development; Barocci’s paintings were foremost about bold colour.

I truly enjoyed the Barocci exhibition at the National Gallery. As always the exhibition was presented beautifully. While I expected to walk into rooms full of religious paintings, I was amazed and delighted to find intimate portraits, touching drawings and beautiful draughtsmanship. Very inspiring!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Dutch Oils now listed on - your source for local products

Dutch Oils are now listed on Kimwetu!
Kimwetu Logo
Kimwetu helps you find locally made products. Now Dutch Oils' paintings and drawings can also be found here, as part of..

"a whole range of goods made close to where you live. ... Kimwetu UK has built up its directory of UK manufacturers so that you can reduce your carbon footprint by shopping locally whilst supporting local businesses.

Kimwetu is different to any other major online directory as we list producers and manufacturers in the UK, but not retailers, distributors or services, so it's easier to find a product closer to home. All of our companies make some or all of their products in the UK.

Click on a product category and a region or postcode to find what’s available close to you or use the text box to search for specific items in a region or near a postcode."

Saturday, 4 May 2013

A new Bird oil painting

It seems that oil paintings of birds sell well in the borough of Richmond Upon Thames. I recently sold a painting of a puffin and was asked to paint some more birds. So, off I go!

I have been taking photos of birds anywhere I can over the past few months. I now have a growing library of geese, chickens, sparrows, pigeons, robins, seagulls, etc. When I went through these two days ago I decided to paint a young sparrow.

A few thumbnails and then a quick sketch on the linen canvas I'm going to use gave me enough of an idea what I want this painting to be like, so I got the paints out to start work on the underpainting. This method is part of a classical way of working when painting in oils. I'm using my usual verdacchio mix of yellow ochre, mars black and titanium white (Old Holland paint). This is now left to dry. In the next few sessions I'll further refine the bird and develop the background. I may restretch the linen to a smaller set of bars as well.