A new-found love of Art History

A new-found love of Art History


If you’re not a fan of art or history, I’m afraid this week’s posts probably aren’t for you. What with my post on Monday about Sarah Gristwood’s book, Game of Queens and an upcoming post about day two of Lumiere London, art or history are your only choices I’m afraid. I’ll try and write something hip and cool next week instead but I’m not promising anything (you’ll soon learn I’m neither hip or cool, hence why I use the phrase ‘hip and cool’…)

Anyway, recently, I’ve found a new-found love of Art History and quite frankly, I just can’t get enough at the moment. I’ve always liked both art and history. I knew the names of the famous painters and would recognise some of the most famous paintings but it’s not an area I’d really explored before. Then a few things kind of ‘fell in to line’ so to speak, to open  up the opportunity to discover more.

My interest was piqued more recently firstly by a two part series on BBC 2, Rome Unpacked. It’s a follow up to previous series Italy Unpacked and Sicily Unpacked where Art Historian Andrew Graham-Dixon and chef Giorgio Locatelli travel round discovering slightly off-the-beaten-track cuisine and art history, in this case in Rome. I found the programme fascinating and it introduced me in more detail to Caravaggio and Carracci, Raphael and Michelangelo and their incredible stories and works. It opened the door to renaissance and baroque paintings, the styles of which I already loved in architecture. I thoroughly enjoyed it and knew I wanted to find out more.

The next thing to happen was a decision by my friend Beth (yes, there’s two of us and we spend a lot of time together, she’ll be in future posts I’m sure) and I, for various reasons, to spend a planned weekend in Sheffield instead in the city with both live in and head into Central London. Beth, her boyfriend Aaron and I headed to the Royal Academy of Art for their exhibition on Charles I. Beth and I met through battle re-enactment and Charles I was the monarch at the time that we re-enact so we were both very keen to see the exhibition. (PS Burlington House, where the Royal Academy is is BEAUTIFUL. What a stunning building!)

Beth’s interest in Art History quite frankly, shits all over mine. She’s loved it for years, has studied it and knows more about it than probably anyone else I know. She’s currently studying for an MA in History of Design at the V&A/Royal College of Art and if there’s anyone for me to tap into the knowledge of, it’s her.

There was no memo on camel coloured coats, promise!

The exhibition, called Charles I: King and Collector is the first time so many pieces of Charles I’s extraordinary art collection have been re-united since it was sold off upon his death in 1649. It contains masterpieces of the past by both Italian and Dutch schools and the paintings he commissioned at the time by artists such as Rubens and Van Dyck. With over 100 pieces in the exhibition including sculptures and tapestries, great masterpieces and exquisite miniatures, it was truly brilliant and I can’t recommend it enough. My Mum’s coming to visit in a few weeks and is going to go and see it one of the days I’m at work; I’m genuinely excited to talk all about it with her!

For me, there were two painters that really stood out and those were Titian and Van Dyck. The book that I bought of the exhibition talked about the influence that Titian had on Van Dyck which would explain why I liked them both so much but their style and craftsmanship for me feels like a cut above.

Beth Squared (lols) with our boy Charlie

I’m never going to look at paintings and see the great interpretations of those who look at art and see more than the surface. My pragmatic brain just doesn’t allow for that, but what I will always appreciate is the artistry, the detail and the precision and that’s what I love. There’s something about the way both Van Dyck and Titian paint materials that I just love. The fluidity of the clothes, especially by Van Dyck just make everything look so utterly true to life. I can almost see the silks and broadcloths moving and draping in the styles of the 15th-17th Centuries. I love finding the little details in the backgrounds of paintings and appreciating the subjects, even if I don’t draw out those deeper meanings.

After such a wonderful day at the exhibition where I learnt so much, and from reading my book about it, the following week I decided to take another art history trip.

The following Friday I headed to the National Gallery. I’m very lucky to work less than a two minute walk from the gallery but in the year and a bit I’ve worked there, I’ve managed to visit once and even that was a Saturday. With a fresh reason to make the effort and needing to find something to do on a Friday after work until meeting my Husband at 9pm, it was the perfect opportunity.

I made it round all the 16th and 17th Century rooms finding a wealth of incredible paintings (well obvs, but you know what I mean) by the artists I was wanting to see (Titian, Raphael, Carracci, Van Dyck etc) and also discovering new painters who I hadn’t heard of before or at least, hadn’t known anything about. The ones that I most liked from this was Poussin and Claude, especially this painting by Claude of Psyche outside the Palace of Cupid.


I loved the landscapes of these two painters particularly. The great religious scenes of the Renaissance and the Portraiture I absolutely love, but there’s something about landscape paintings that I really, really adore. I love the outside and nature and the landscapes out there, hence why I like landscape paintings so much.

Overall, I had a wonderful time, enjoying being able to take in so many wonderful works of art and enjoy time in my own company, something I rarely do because it’s not often I actually enjoy visiting places on my own but this; this was a lovely way to spend and evening. After a dash to the shop just before it closed where I picked up another book, this time the biography of Caravaggio by Andrew Graham-Dixon, I was late to meet my Husband (he’s called Aidan btw, I think it will be easier to just call him that going forwards…) and proceeded to bore him to death about art over Italian food as we waited to meet our friends from their train.

So yeah, a new found love of something I didn’t think before I’d find so much interest in and an area I can’t wait to learn more and more about going forwards. It’s been pretty damn wonderful learning about something new and wanting to learn about stuff again for the pure pleasure and intrigue of it, rather than for a particular purpose.



Disclaimer: Nothing in the post has been written about for sponsorship, I just like it all. 




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