Remembrance Sunday - 11th November 2018
Display of paintings in All Saints Church, Hertford
The Vicar of All Saints Church, Jo Loveridge, asked the Art Society if artists would provide large aisle paintings to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the signing of the armistice. A chance to paint & display large, dramatic pictures? Well, of course we would.
The result was seven very different images – three were figurative (Chris Hewitt’s Christian Soldier, Gillian Harman’s scenes from the war in Egypt and Sudan, Geoff Bennett’s despondent ploughman); one – John Jarrratt’s ‘Everyone's voice was suddenly lifted’ - was largely textual; and three combined figurative and symbolic images (Janet Dobney’s Hertford Lad, a soldier returning to scenes from Hertford, Persis Limbuwala’s biplanes flying over text and poppies, Janet Benge’s wry reference to WW1 Propaganda).
The overall effect of the seven pictures hanging down the central aisle of All Saints Church gave a varied representation of the Great War. The Vicar felt that these heartfelt images would be very well received during the service. They will remain on display for a further 3 weeks.
Portrait in Oils Demonstration - by Rob Wareing
16th October 2018
Rob Wareing was born and grew up in South Africa and still spends a great deal of time there. He studied the techniques of traditional classical painting and became a professional portrait painter at the age of 23. Since then he has had a very fulfilling career spanning over 40 years. He has painted numerous portraits of people of all nationalities and travelled extensively. His work is regularly featured in art magazines. He runs workshops, has demonstrated (on TV and YouTube) and published DVDs of his tutorials.
We are delighted to welcome Rob and his model, Amanda Allen, for this demonstration. He has prepared a canvas, painted in muted shades of acrylic - a typical background to his portraits. His first step is to sketch the model lightly in charcoal, indicating the features and measuring the distances from hairline to eyebrow, eyebrow to mouth, mouth to chin. This initial drawing is critical. He measures and plots the relationships of the model’s features, sketches in the hair, the curve of the cheek and roughly indicates her clothes. The eyes are boldly drawn followed by the nose and the lips. He remarks that the drawing will alter as the painting progresses. He then sprays the sketch to prevent the charcoal mixing too much with the paint.
Rob mixes Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue to achieve a rich, almost black, shade. This he thins with a varnish and turps mixture and boldly establishes the “dark notes”- the hair, eyebrows and eyes. Beginning with the dark hair gives him something to compare the other tones with as the work progresses. Burnt Sienna and Alizarin Crimson is mixed with white to varying degrees to apply mid tones and the highlighted areas of forehead, cheeks and chin. He then uses Cadmium Red and Burnt Sienna (or Yellow Ochre) , again in mixtures with white as he works around the face, placing bold strokes of colour and often smudging with his finger. He uses a variety of brush sizes as he works. Rob changes to a small brush in order to re-draw features in darker paint, re-measuring the distances between the eyes and using a plumb line for the verticals. He adds the whites of the eyes which really starts to bring the portrait to life. He defines the eyelids with small touches of paint. It seems that he likes to get some finishing touches in early, almost completing an element before moving on.
When he is working, he likes to complete a painting in one sitting to get a spontaneous effect. He remarked that “a much better likeness but a much worse painting can be the result of too much fiddling”. He tries not to emphasise areas which are unimportant. He always uses life models, only occasionally resorting to photographs to complete a portrait if times runs out.
Rob now has many colours and shades on his palette and he works around the painting adding highlights, mid tones and darker shades, trying not to mix into the underlying paint, avoiding it becoming “muddy”. Strong brushstrokes are an important aspect of Rob’s work so he aims not to disturb them too much.
Having worked extensively on the face, Rob adds a variety of tones to the long dark hair. The model is lit with a spotlight, which really helps him to show the highlights on brow, nose, cheek and chin. Broad strokes of a light shade are applied behind the right side of the head which really brings it forward when set against the dark hair. Rob’s portraits seem to blend into the background in a soft manner with the clothes rendered in loose strokes. The model’s gorgeous red dress, which complements her complexion and rich dark hair, is finally indicated and some light tones added to shoulder and chest. Amanda was delighted to be presented with the portrait at the end of the session.
This demonstration gave a vivid insight into Rob’s techniques and approach to portrait painting. To be able to bring this portrait to life in such a short time was remarkable. Rob was warmly thanked for giving us such an enjoyable evening and for sharing his hints and tips along the way.
Winter Programme 2018 - 2019
From September each year Society Members and visitors enjoy a Programme of talks, critiques, demonstrations and workshops. These sessions are on Tuesday evenings from 7.30pm to 9.30pm at Cowbridge Hall, Cowbridge, Hertford SG14 1PG. Approximately half the evenings in the Winter Programme are for Members to paint or draw either from still life arrangements or a life model. The remaining evenings are taken up with talks, critiques of paintings brought along by Members, demonstrations from a professional artist or workshops. Visitors are welcome to enjoy the non-practical evenings (marked with an asterisk).
Winter Programme 2018-2019 (pdf) - click here for more details
Summer Sketching & Painting Evenings 2018
Phew, what a scorcher!
That expression describes simply the wonderful weather we have experienced for our outdoor sketching evenings this summer, which was in complete contrast to last year’s cold and dull Tuesdays. For over 25 years now I have organised the Hertford Art Society’s Summer Programme and do not recall better conditions.
For the start of the Art Society’s Summer Programme we met around the Port Hill area of Hertford, followed by a Tuesday evening at Dobb’s Weir then another at Chapmore End Pond. The weekend at Blakeney in early June was thoroughly enjoyed by those attending with good work produced.
Cedars Park was the next sketching destination. On 3rd July, after two years of being thwarted by bad weather, Members enjoyed a truly delightful summer evening at Panshanger Park, with a welcome from Murray Brown of the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust. The Tuesday following was at Wheathampstead village, followed at the weekend by a memorable visit to the Henry Moore Foundation. Four more fine evenings were spent at Great Amwell, Carnwell Farm, Braughing and Ware, although at Ware we did endure a light shower, as if to remind us that we live in England.
The last evening in mid-August saw 23 Members painting around Hertford Town prior to having a convivial meal at the Salisbury Arms.
This was truly a summer to remember.
Wildlife in Acrylics
Demonstration by David Hyde - 18th September 2018
David Hyde is a self-taught professional artist who lives and works close to the river Great Ouse in St. Ives, Cambridgeshire. He has combined a keen interest in wildlife and bird watching with a life-long passion for painting.
Having worked mainly in watercolour, David has, over time, developed a technique in acrylics to suit his style of portraying wildlife. He works mainly from photographs and had chosen an image of a barn owl against a dark background for his demonstration. He favours MDF board as a support, primed with several layers of Liquitex gesso on both sides and then sanded to a smooth finish as fine brushwork and detail is needed for wildlife painting. (He uses a board cut to the size of his framed painting with the area for painting masked around. The process of adding a mount and framing is thus simplified.) He favours Liquitex Soft Body acrylics as they can be applied thinly, rather like watercolour, without loss of colour. He uses a Liquitex medium to thin the paint and normally paints standing with the work on a tilted board.
David had prepared a sketch from the photograph and using a mix of Raw Umber and Paynes Grey he painted onto his sketch using a fairly large brush and light directional strokes to indicate the groups of feathers. He left this layer to dry so that further paint did not disturb the under layer. Acrylic can be used in countless layers as long as the surface is dry and he uses this technique to “build” the image, taking note of the underpainting and leaving some areas uncovered by further paint. Using a dark mix he blocked in the eye and shadows under the wing to give the bird character and form at this early stage, using a wetted finger to blend. He began to paint white feathers around the face using thinned gesso, following the direction of growth. As it is diluted the colour fades as it dries giving the feathers a soft appearance. The dark underpainting forms the gaps between feathers and separates the feather groups. David then added another layer of white for extra texture observing the direction and turning the board for ease. He floated a dark wash around the eye socket and added a light area to the iris of the eye to give life to the image. He defined the mask of the face by adding shadow below, blending with a damp brush. He created form and texture to the face area with a small brush, refining the image with Titanium White to highlight and lift the edges of the feathers around the face.
The Old Masters used the technique of underpainting, laying in the form and adding glazes of colour as the work progressed. David feels this technique works well with wildlife painting. He next used Cobalt Blue mixed with Burnt Sienna and Liquitex Gloss Medium as a glaze on the darker areas, allowing the underpainting to remain sharp. Opaque colour was added to the top of the head, a warm ochre, lightened at the top of the head with white, blended with feathery strokes into a rich red in the shadows. He prefers Galeria brushes by Windsor and Newton for these details. They hold their shape, come to a point and are quite robust.
David’s process is one of building up the form by adding darks and lights gradually with the underpainting showing through a little, thus giving depth and form to the image. At the end of the demonstration the painting was well under way and will be completed later, the dark background adding drama.
This was an absorbing demonstration, the owl gradually coming to life though the careful and skilful application of layer upon layer of paint, with David generously sharing his knowledge and insights into the process he has developed. David was warmly thanked for making the evening so interesting and enjoyable.
Visit to Henry Moore Foundation -14th July 2018
A small group of artists from the Society enjoyed an extensive pre-arranged tour of Exhibitions, Studios and Gardens at the Henry Moore Foundation at Perry Green, Much Hadham. Our Guide, Diana Dale, was extremely knowledgeable about the life and times of Henry Moore and gave us an insight into his early life and emergence as a sculptor, his working practices and the themes his work followed throughout his career.
The current Exhibition - Out of the Block - displays some of his early carvings alongside later pieces which echo his abiding themes. These are: the reclining figure, mother and child and forms within forms. (This Exhibition runs until October 2018.) There are huge sculptures within the grounds and many in the various studios that we visited - they ranged from a tiny dog (his first effort at sculpture) and grew in size over the years to spectacular forms to walk around in, such as his last sculpture, Large Figure in a Shelter, 1985-86. Depending on location and commission some had to be made at foundries abroad and at home.
Henry Moore started with wood carvings initially and he moved to Perry Green after his flat in Hampstead Heath was damaged in the Blitz. He worked and lived here for the rest of his life and was also buried not far from this home called “Hoglands" - as it was a pig farm when he bought the land. The original small house and garden were added to over the years as neighbouring land became available (and his finances improved).
Born in 1898, Moore died in 1986 and at his peak he was as famous for his monumental artistic sculptures as Churchill was known worldwide for his success in WW2. He was born in Castleford, Yorkshire and his Father worked in a coal mine. He was encouraged by a tutor in college and a new sculpture department was formed especially for him to work in. His life’s work spans from wood carvings to stone and marble and all that is in-between. Later works were fashioned initially from polystyrene in order that moulds could be made for the final piece, usually in bronze. He loved working in one of the studios which overlooked a field with grazing sheep and drew them often. He is also well known for his drawings, including those in air -raid shelters during World War II. Some of his drawings have been transformed into magnificent tapestries currently displayed in a barn which was relocated from a nearby farm.
A new Exhibition hall gives his life story in pictures some taken by himself as he was an accomplished photographer. He was a friendly and generous person who managed to reach great heights within his lifetime which is rare for an artist.
The Foundation was established in 1977 and welcomes visitors from around the world as well as many schoolchildren who cannot fail to be entranced by this stunning treasure trove of ideas made real by such a gifted and prolific artist. His past association with the Hertford Art Society is something to be proud of. Many thanks to Trevor Chamberlain for arranging this very enjoyable trip.
Summer Painting Weekend
Blakeney, Norfolk - June 8th, 9th and 10th 2018
The charming coastal village of Blakeney was historically a medieval commercial port transporting spices and oriental cloths, as well as a few smugglers! The estuary today is an amazing landscape of marshes, mud banks and sand hills. It made an ideal venue for the Hertford Art Society annual art weekend.
Malcolm Norris from Lea Valley Art Society joined us on our trip to Blakeney. Inviting other art groups is something we will continue to do in future as it opens up the club to all who are interested in painting outdoors. So feel free to invite others.
The members who took part all agreed that Blakeney was ideal for painting, it would have been better if the sun had shone on Friday and Saturday but still it managed to do its job on the Sunday enabling me to produce a pallet knife oil painting of the harbour.
The dining experiences were memorable with an above average Fish & Chip meal on the Friday night in the White Horse followed by a top notch private function at the Blakeney House Boutique B&B. The chef excelled himself and for the second year HAS members gave the Chef a round of applause at the end. Accommodation at the Blakeney Manor Hotel was comfortable and well priced.
Next year we are thinking of discovering Aldeburgh and plan to take in Snape Maltings. Depending on what’s on we may go to a concert. This will take place on the first full weekend of June 2019 so please book it in your diary. Members will be advised as soon as details are available. Remember, feel free to bring non painting partners and/or painting friends.
Self-Portrait Workshop - 24th April 2018
20 or more artists ventured along (somewhat nervously) to this Workshop armed with pencils, paints etc and each with a mirror. Each set up their mini-studio, some with rather smart mirrors on stands, others with small mirrors attached somewhat precariously to the top of an easel with masking tape. After settling in, a hush descended as each of us made tentative marks on canvas or paper in order to start this most challenging of tasks.
We measured, gauged angles, tried out positions and wondered if Rembrandt and Van Gogh ever felt this anxious when face to face with themselves. Some of us stuck to pencil and charcoal, others mixed paint, and fretted about colour and tone as well as whether both eyes were the same size.
Creating a self-portrait is so different to drawing or painting a model. We are fortunate, as a Society, to often have Life Workshops, giving us the opportunity to study the human face and form and observe the planes, angles and colours as we work. Modelling for oneself is a whole other thing. You need to come back to exactly the same position, having looked down at your work. A serious face is the only possibility, and who likes one’s own serious face?
At times the work went well, and just as you thought you were winning you realised that your nose was much too long! There were a few groans and giggles. We soldiered on and displayed the work at the end of the session for all to see. They were all so different and, yes, many actually looked like the artist. All had great character.
This Workshop was unusual. There was no tutor. The silence was deafening as each artist concentrated on finding just the right line to express something about themselves. It was an introspective and thought-provoking exercise and certainly increased our respect for artists who have accomplished some of the great self-portraits of the past.
Artist, Trevor Chamberlain, visits Bengeo Primary School - March 2018
“Good afternoon, Mr Chamberlain!”
This was the chorus of welcome from two classes of 7 - 9 year olds at Bengeo Primary School in mid-March. Headteacher, Mrs J Starkiss had previously contacted me to say that the school had discovered my paintings on the Internet, had used them as visual aids in art lessons, and that it would be fantastic for the children to be able to meet a “real live artist” and to see some pictures first hand.
After a little “arm-wrestling” I agreed to come to the school and conduct the visit on the basis of a Question & Answer format. I commenced with the pupils sitting on the floor listening to me giving a brief outline of my career. They were fascinated to know that I too attended Bengeo Primary School, albeit when it was located next to Holy Trinity Church and the boys and girls were separated but that was a few years ago now!
My presentation attracted numerous questions and responses especially when I displayed a variety of unframed examples of on-site oils and watercolours depicting a range of subjects - for instance, India, Iran, local landscapes, architecture, interiors and flowers.
Both classes were very attentive, interacted well, and, I am sure, thoroughly enjoyed the experience. At the conclusion I was treated to another chorus: “Thank you Mr. Chamberlain!”
Demonstration by Simon Pemberton - Illustrator and Artist
20th March 2018
Is there a difference between illustration and fine art? Simon Pemberton is an artist whose illustration work has been commissioned by a wide variety of major design, publishing and advertising agencies worldwide. He was born on the Wirral near Liverpool, studied at Central St. Martin's College of Art and now lives and works in London's East End with a studio overlooking London fields. He was much inspired by Andrew Wyeth and landscape figures quite significantly in his work.
Simon originally worked in traditional materials. His grandfather was a commercial artist and Simon initially followed in his footsteps. Having experimented with photography, 3D, welding, printing (in all its forms) he was intrigued when his wife won an Apple Mac in a competition. This provided a new and fascinating direction for Simon as it made the process of creating layered images much quicker and easier than by traditional methods.
He uses Photoshop in a simple way, beginning always with scanned images of his own sketches which involve bold mark-marking (sometimes using found objects such as seedheads), textures and brushstrokes. He often floats colour onto the surface of water in order to take a print - this gives delicate layers in the final work. The selected images can be edited, faded, overlaid, enlarged and blended in all manner of ways. A “history palette” allows work to undo or redo in an experimental way, seeking interesting combinations of marks and textures. Very painterly effects are achieved and Simon demonstrated this on the Wacom tablet connected to his laptop, projected onto a large screen so that all the steps could be observed. The first example was a design for a brochure for a water park and trail in the U.S. He “pulled” the image apart in order to illustrate how it had been designed using his library of images. He then demonstrated how a cool blue and green landscape could be altered, by adjusting colours and overlaying layers into a sunset effect. Direct drawing and editing can be done at any stage in the process, figures and features added. All the stages are saved allowing Simon to go to and fro until he judges the image to be completed.
Working to commission has its issues and clients sometimes like to be given alternatives. With this process this becomes quite simple although Simon remarked that he doesn’t like to give the client too much choice! He showed us some recent work which includes:
- The cover for Shackleton’s Boat Journey, the wave image for which needed to wrap around in an exciting manner. The colour scheme was selected with care to portray a fierce and stormy sea.
- Illustrations for Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin. Having read the book Simon proposed illustrations for certain passages - these are bold and stylised, reflecting Simon’s personal feelings on this extraordinary book.
Simon also produces limited edition prints and exhibits regularly.
Some Members have experience of Photoshop programmes or similar and Simon’s advice was to use your own sketches and artwork to form the backbone of the work, experiment with it, work quickly, keep making mistakes and enjoy it! He was thanked for taking us through his working practice and showing us so many exciting images which bring illustration and fine art together in such a professional way.
Workshop with artist, Paul Regan - Using photographs, without copying
13th March 2018
Paul Regan is the founder of Insight School of Art, North London, where he mentors professional practicing artists and teaches painting. His background is in Graphic Design and Illustration.
The hall was set out with three intriguing workstations and began with a short presentation of work by various artists who had used photographs as their starting points. These included David Hockney’s photo collages and Tracey Emin’s loose figure sketches.
This Workshop focused on using photographs as an inspiration for artworks and not in a literal way.
We split into three groups and as the evening progressed we worked through the exercises provided by Paul:
Group 1 - armed with bamboo poles, onto which a black market pen was taped we were asked to make a line drawing on a piece of A2 paper placed on the floor. This could be from a photograph or could be of figures, faces observed around us. This was a 5 minute task and the distance and lack of fine control was very freeing. After the initial “sketch” had been completed, we were asked to work into it with the various materials available. These included charcoal, crayons, chalks.
Group 2 - the collage table. Using coloured sugar papers we were tasked with making a representation a different photograph in torn or cut paper. Again, a short period for the initial collage, followed by enhancing this further with chosen materials. Some people had brought paints and these were used to good effect.
Group 3 was a novel approach. Working with a partner, one would give a verbal description of a photograph without the other having seen it. Thus the person drawing would be advised to make lines and marks as described in a general way by their partner. For example, to draw a line from the lower edge of the paper, halfway across to the right hand edge, halfway down. Then to draw a box shape in the centre of the sheet. Further instruction followed, again for 5 minutes or so. Only when the sheet had a “drawing” on it were we allowed to look at the photo being described. We then swapped roles with a different photo being described to the other party. Once this stage was completed both artists could further embellish their drawings with reference to the photo. The various outcomes were fascinating, sometimes bearing little relationship to the photos, occasionally eerily similar.
Throughout, Paul gave tips and advice. His guidance was to free up our imaginations during the process, moving away from the constraints of the original photographs by altering some of the elements, using a different colour palette, mixing the media etc.
This was a messy, challenging and very instructive Workshop, with each artist producing three very different works and experimenting with diverse approaches to the three set tasks. Paul showed enormous energy in working with such a large group (about 30) and was delighted with the outcome - as illustrated by the large collage of work at the end of the evening. He was warmly thanked for giving Members such an interesting evening.
Painting with Pastels - Demonstration by Heather Brown
13th February 2018
Mention Squirrels to most artists and they’ll think you’re referring to brushes; not so HAS member Heather Brown, whose one time pet, Cyril used to accompany her on country walks safely tucked in her pocket!
Completely self taught, Heather has loved the countryside since childhood when she particularly enjoyed painting trees and sunsets and it was a rural scene she chose for her pastel demonstration.
Working on her favoured cream “Fisher 400”support, she lightly washed over her initial purply darks with water, softening the edges, having previously sketched out her composition in pastel pencil.
The sky was added in two shades of blue and a touch of pink, Heather explaining her enjoyment of being able to overlay and blend colours at will with soft pastel; Unison, Sennelier and Schminke being her makers of choice.
Building from the background forward and from darks to lights Heather uses a simple selection of shapers and brushes where needed but mostly manipulates the pigment with her fingers. She uses her photos purely as a starting point, adjusting each element to conform to her artist’s intuition.
With the basic painting in place Heather finally added some detail using seasonally correct flora references to introduce some contrasting colour to the finished piece. She then “framed” the image with a card mount, explaining that she always uses a double mount for finished work adding an extra strip behind the bottom edge to enable any displaced pastel to drop harmlessly out of sight, avoiding the need to use fixative.
Heather treated members not only to a first class demonstration but entertained us with stories of her early days as an artist culminating in being a long time member of the Society where she is proud to have had work accepted in to the Open Exhibition every time she has submitted – an enviable record, well deserved!
Still Life Workshop - Tutored workshop with Paul Curtis
10th February 2018
Paul is a professional artist who is based in London and Derbyshire. A Member and regular visitor to Hertford Art Society, he has tutored various workshops, often gives his advice at the monthly critique and has also been a judge at the annual Open Exhibition.
This workshop was well attended and we were greeted by a large and very quirky still life set up which ran the length of the hall. Our first task was to wander around with small paper squares and a pencil in order to observe the items and quickly sketch areas which caught our interest. This exercise encouraged us to look closely at the interaction of the objects on display, the negative spaces between them, and to observe the colours and textures of the items and the fabrics on which they rested. It was a good warm up and, after choosing our favourite sketch, with advice from Paul, we set up to paint or draw a larger version.
As this was an all-day workshop there was time to experiment. Most artists concentrated on one piece but several produced two or more images, perhaps torn between different interesting aspects of the still life set up. Some used watercolours, others acrylics and oils.
Throughout the day Paul circulated, giving each participant advice and suggestions, always bearing in mind the individual’s take on the subject. Some artists used a linear approach, progressing from a detailed drawing to painting, others tackled the task using only paint. Paul encouraged us to carefully observe the fall of light on the items, many of which were white. The many shades of white, from pale yellow, through blue to pale grey, were a strong feature of many of the artworks. Some opted for the more colourful items. Backgrounds were important and Paul suggested keeping the colour palette restrained and sympathetic to the objects portrayed. Strong darks were suggested here and there to give the paintings depth.
The day closed with a few minutes to sketch again the chosen snapshot of objects - these sketches proved looser and bolder than the originals. The completed work was laid out (as a form of collage) which gave an opportunity to see how others had approached this challenge. Paul reviewed the day and was delighted with the outcome. There was a great range of styles and individuality in the paintings. He stressed the importance of the initial sketches in refining ideas at the outset.
This was an absorbing and inspiring day. Paul was thanked for setting up such a vast and exciting collection of objects and for his untiring advice and encouragement through the day. We hope that he will be back for a similar workshop next year.
Birds of Prey - An opportunity to draw and paint three birds of prey presented by Kirsty Allen, Falconer
16th January 2018
We were delighted to welcome back Kirsty Allen of Pennine Falcons, a very experienced and knowledgeable falconry team and breeding project based in the heart of the Pennines. Kirsty and her team offer a range of experiences with birds of prey at various locations. She regularly takes birds across the border into Scotland for exercise and hunting. Her birds are very well travelled and have made several TV and film appearances. For this evening Kirsty brought three birds which she introduced:
The birds had been set up in the middle of the floor. They were very calm and not at all phased by being asked to pose for sketches and paintings. Fortunately they returned to the same pose periodically so working on several drawings at the same time seemed to be the way to go. It was challenging but delightful to observe the birds so closely, they are powerful, alert and designed to hunt. Their markings and colouring gave Members plenty to explore. The sketches and paintings which resulted captured the grace and character of the birds.
Kirsty had visited us a year ago, in January 2017, and, as before, this practical evening was very well attended and welcomed as a very rare opportunity to draw such beautiful birds. Kirsty was warmly thanked for providing such a memorable evening.
A talk on Hans Holbein the Younger and a review of the BP Portrait Awards 2014 by Clare Gittings
19th December 2017
Portrait painting is a risky business!
Bad enough that your subject disapproves of your efforts but when several of your sitters have been executed for disagreeing with your boss, it takes things to a whole new level!
In Clare Gittings excellent illustrated talk about Hans Holbein the Younger 1497 -1543 (Yes, there was an Elder) the life and times of this incomparable artist were brought to life with familiar and not so familiar images.
The painting of Thomas More for example ( just one of Holbein’s sitters who perished at the block ) is one most of us would recognise; less so is this beautiful drawing of one More’s daughters Ceciley Heron; a superficially simple study in black and coloured chalks which is so full of life one can imagine she is about to continue in conversation with the viewer after some momentary distraction. The sitter’s bodice has been loosened to reveal her yellow kirtle beneath, showing her to be pregnant. The drawing was a preparatory study for a group portrait of More’s family.
Hans Holbein the younger was born in Augsberg, Southern Germany and was taught by his father, becoming a member of the Basel Artists’ Guild in 1519. He was married with four children but having painted his wife with two of their offspring in 1528 never saw them again, dying of plague in England in 1543.
He travelled a great deal and in 1526 made his first of two extended visits to England where he became Court painter to Henry VIII. It is largely through his work that we have become familiar with the faces of the great and sometimes not so good of Tudor England.
After his marriage to Jane Seymour, Henry commissioned a huge mural to decorate his Whitehall Palace which tragically was burnt to the ground in 1698. The only record we have is a the fabulous “cartoon” hanging in the National portrait gallery and a poor copy made in the time of Charles II illustrating how woefully inferior even Court painters were in those days; Clare explaining to us that, not only was there a dearth of home grown talent but that, even the likes of Holbein were treated and paid in much the same way as craft and tradesmen!
The mural depicts Henry life size (6ft 4ins) and Holbein has made him intimidating both by exaggerating his physique but mostly by his expression – this is NOT a man to upset! Pity Holbein then when Henry commissioned him to travel to Flanders to capture the likeness of his newly intended, Anne of Cleves. Legend has it that on the strength of Holbein’s portrait, Henry decides she is to become wife No3 but when she arrives, Henry christens her the “Flanders Mare” and the marriage is dissolved in less than 6 months. Posterity does not record how Holbein got away with it!
Portrait painting is a risky business!
In the second half of Clare’s presentation we were invited to critique and judge some of the paintings from the BP Portrait Awards for 2014.
The annual exhibition regularly receives over 2000 submissions and the styles and techniques on show are as varied as the subjects. Unfortunately, due to copyright restrictions we are unable to reproduce any of the paintings here but you can find them at https://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/exhibitions/bp-portrait-award-2014/
Clare Gittings worked in the Education Dept at The National Portrait Gallery and is a regular, and very popular, guest speaker. Clare was warmly thanked for her presentation on the life of Hans Holbein the Younger and for her insight into the 2014 BP Portrait Awards.
Winter 2018-2019 programme
Winners of Critique Sessions 2018-2019 season