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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Peeling Back Layers

I thought I'd write a bit about my last trip to the National Gallery in London.

Over the years, every time I have been to London I have made a point of visiting the gallery and taking time to cruise the halls, and gaze in awe at the work of past masters. A significant amount of that time was spend trying to understand how they painted. As someone who has never studied art formally, the techniques used were a mystery to me. Reading books can only teach one so much. Practical learning takes one further.  For the last year I have shifted from painting with arcylics to painting with oil paints and, having to teach myself, I have been forced to learn the craft from scratch, with only the benefit of what I have read to teach me. 

Well, what I discovered was that, that practical experience has helped me gain a clearer understanding of the methodology of classical artists. Of course, I don't for a second pretend that the quality of my work can be compared to anything in the Gallery. What I am saying is that, through the last years experience of getting to grips with oils I was able to look at, say a Titian, and identify how he worked; to peel back the layers of his work and recognise the methods he used, the techniques, and the order in which he did things.

I realise that this doesn't sound very impressive, but to me it was very exciting.  It also enabled me to view the paintings with a greater depth of insight, and see them each in a whole new light.
At one point I was looking so closely at a work that I think I made the security guard uncomfortable. :)  It felt a little like suddenly having learned to read ... suddenly all the stokes and lines made sense.
Oh, what I would have given to be able to share that experience with someone.

 What I hope is that having a better grip on what they did, I will be able to better adopt their methodolody where I can, and thereby improve my work. What better mentors than the Dutch and Flemish masters!


Anonymous said...

did u get 2 the Tate Modern?

Carl said...

Yes, I actually did. It's a different experience to the National Gallery ... less hushed and museum like, more art warehouse and edgy. I'm not a big fan of the venue, but do enjoy seeing the work of Giacometti (my favourite sculptor) there, as well as the few Dali's, the huge Cezanne and even the Modriaans, the Pollocks and Kandinskys although that really isn't my thing.
Gauguin was about to be exhibited, but I was two days early, which was sad. I would have liked to have seen those.