Dear Cleo 18 11 03

Dearest Cleo

It was good to catch up this morning, brunch was excellent, and congratulations again on the 100% no doubt Waterstones wish you did that every week. I have been thinking about Classicism and Romanticism and these are my thoughts following a visit to room 15 at the National Gallery

As a young man, Turner saw Claude’s Seaport with the embarkation of the Queen of Sheba later he painted his response The Dido Building Carthage, they hang together in Room 15 of the National Gallery in accordance with the terms of Turners will.

The paintings are of similar size and both are very imposing in the small room in which they hang but there is one very big difference between them, one is a classical painting and the other a romantic painting. It is good that they hang in such close proximity because it is easy to see the differences in style by carrying out a “spot the difference” exercise between the two paintings

Figure 1 Seaport with the embarkation of the Queen of Sheba Claude

Figure 2 The Dido Building Carthage by Turner

Lets start with the skies, Classicism is famous for its order and structure and you can see this in Claude’s painting. Look at the structure of the cloud formations, the smooth graduation from blue to gold down the sky, and the lack of brush marks.

Figure 3 Claude’s Sky

Compare this with Turners Romantic sky less graduation, painterly realistic loose clouds and brush marks

Figure 4 Turner’s sky

Both pictures are sunsets but Turner’s use of darks in the painting  accentuates the lights in a sublime manner giving more glow to his sunset, Turner was particularly adept at expressive sunsets, I have included another one which gives a better indication of his loose Romantic brushwork in the sky and how he contrasts the lightness of the sky with dark objects

Figure 5 Another Turner sunset

Figure 6 Claude’s figures

In Claude’s classical painting the figures are carefully arranged and are much flatter than Turner’s because he does not fully sculpt his figures according to the light source. The Romantic Turner is fully aware of his light source and exploits the darkness of his figures to fully sculpt them even though he was probably using a much larger brush than Claude to paint the figures but Turners looser brushwork produces much more lifelike and realistic figures

Figure 5 Turner’s figures

Looking at both pictures as a whole compare the tidiness of Claude’s harbour which has almost been swept clean and the trees pruned prior to the picture being painted, whereas Turners harbour is much more untidy and rugged, the tree is much more naturalistic.

I am not sure that this is going to a good place, bedrooms should be tidy and Classical, with the Romantic and the untidiness displayed in the classically hung Romantic images on the wall, as in Room 15 at the National Gallery. An unmade bed is not Romantic, despite what Ms Emin may say.

My love as always

Mickos xx


Dear Cleo 18 10 29


Dearest Cleo

I hope you enjoyed your first day back at school after the half term, my studies are revolving around figure painting at the minute and looking at the work of Van Dyke and Vermeer. The good bit is I got to draw some so it was not all reading and writing.

There are ten Van Dyke Portraits in the National gallery and they all live in Room 20, the casual visitor would classify Van Dyke as a supreme portrait painter and they would be right, but tucked away in a corner of room 21 with other Dutch painters is Van Dyke’s Charity

Figure 1 Charity by Anthony Van Dyke

It is a painting from Van Dyke’s early years when his fame revolved around history and religious paintings and he was a pupil of Rubens before he found fame as a portrait painter.

Charity is a highly finished painting with no visible brush marks whereas the portraits in the next room do have visible brush marks in the back grounds that contrast with the faces this could be intentional but from my research it would seem that Van Dyke only painted the faces in the portraits, leaving the backgrounds to his assistants.

Moving on to room 16, the most striking thing about the Vermeer’s is their size they are tiny in comparison to many of the paintings in the galleries but perhaps all the more jewel like for that. Vermeer must have used very tiny brushes to achieve the detail and fall of light in the paintings.

Young woman standing at a virginal By Vermeer

I have seen Tim’s Vermeer and read Hockney’s theories of lenses but seeing the paintings close up, none of that seemed to matter, the genius is in the craftsmanship of these quiet interior scenes. The funniest review I have read on Tim’s Vermeer was by the Guardian art critic Johnathon James and is cited in the bibliography.

There are not that many surviving Vermeer’s, and I think that I have seen the most of them if not all, and I never cease to be amazed when I see one. I would love to paint on the scale of the old masters but I only live in a small house so Vermeer is an inspiration to pack so much into such a small frame.

I looked at Henry Raeburn and I also looked at the drawings of Van Dyke, I think from experience of doing the drawing courses it would take about 2 hours to do a portrait drawing as detailed and good enough to paint a portrait from. I have done the drawings so maybe this course is my chance to paint one. My life drawings are beginning to come alive and I have attached some below.

Figure 3 Life drawing Charcoal on A2 sugar paper

Figure 4 Life drawing Charcoal on A2 sugar paper

Figure 5 Life drawing Charcoal on A2 sugar paper

Figure 6 Life drawing Charcoal on A2 sugar paper

Figure 7 Life drawing Charcoal on A2 sugar paper

Figure 8 Life drawing Charcoal on A2 sugar paper

I find though I get a greater sense of movement in the sketches of people in my A5 sketchbook. There the people are moving, mostly they have moved on before the sketch is complete so although they are quick sketches they are informed by my studies in the life room.

Figure 9 Sketchbook 01 Ink on A5 cartridge

Figure 10 Sketchbook 02 Ink on A6 cartridge

Figure 11 Sketchbook 01 Ink on A6 cartridge

Figure 12 Sketchbook 01 Ink on A6 cartridge


Figure 13 Sketchbook 01 Ink on A6 cartridge

Figure 14 Sketchbook 01 Ink on A6 cartridge

Figure 15 Sketchbook 01 Ink on A6 cartridge


Figure 16 Sketchbook 01 Ink on A6 cartridge

Figure 17 Sketchbook 01 Ink on A6 cartridge

Figure 18 Sketchbook 01 Ink on A6 cartridge

I am looking forward to catching up again at the weekend, hope you enjoyed the ghost biscuits.

My love as always

Mickos xx



Gallery Visits

The National Gallery

Charles 1: King and collector (2018) Royal Accademy

Vermeer and Music. (2013) National Gallery

Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry (2017) National Gallery of Ireland.

Masters of the Everday: Dutch artists in the age of Vermeer. (2016) The Queens Gallery, Buckingham Palace.


Exhibition on screen (2013) Vermeer and Music

Tim’s Vermeer


Hockney, D. (2006) Secret Knowledge. Rediscovering the lost techniques of the Old Masters. London: Thames and Hudson

Schneider, N. (1993) Vermeer. Koln: Taschen.

Steadman, P. (2002) Vermeer’s Camera. London: Oxford University Press.

Wheelock, A.K. jnr. (1998) Vermeer: The Complete Works. New York: Abrams


Internet research

Faroult, G. (2012) Van Dyck and France under the Ancien Régime 1641–1793, At: (accessed 27/10/18)

Hearn,K. (2004) Sir Anthony Van Dyck’s Portraits of Sir William and Lady Killigrew, 1638. At: (accessed 27/10/18)

Howard, H. (2013) Vermeer and technique. At: (accessed 28/10/18)

Jones, J. (2014) DIY Vermeer documentary utterly misses the point about Old Masters. At: (accessed 29/10/18)


Liedtke,W.(1984) Anthony Van Dyke.At: (accessed 27/10/18)

Tate Britain (s.d.) Sir Anthony Van Dyke At:  (accessed 27/10/18)

Wood , J. (2011) The man who would be British. At: (accessed 27/10/18)

Dear Cleo 18 10 24

Dearest Cleo

There is no need for me to hope you are well, I know you are at Granny C’s and are being spoiled rotten, give your brother a kiss from me, and I will catch up with the two of you at the weekend. For me today was a special day, I got to paint as well as of all the reading and research and writing.

I spent some time looking at Australian cave and rock art, what I did find was a remarkable similarity to European cave painting and some “aliens” that reminded me of figures in Egyptian art. What I didn’t find was anything remotely resembling the illustration in the course workbook. It was obviously far too colourful to be cave art and is in fact an example of Aborigine dot painting.

Figure 1 Aborigine dot painting

The cave paintings are the last recorded aboriginal art, aboriginal art evolved into a style of Performance art involving shaman and drawings in the sand and on human bodies, an art that had little permanence.

The dot paintings evolved in the mid twentieth century when the aborigines were introduced the western pigments by missionaries and encouraged to reproduce the sand drawings of the shaman as art on canvas. It is a similar story to that of Dame Kiri Te Kanawha and her tribe, in fact it is a story as old as art itself, the artistically minded individuals of a tribe or nation of are introduced to a new medium and a radical new art movement is born. Does the fact that the aborigines were one of the last magical tribes and the fact that they actively promote dreamtime increase the surreal aspect of their work? The whole of Pre-Modern art concerns itself with visions and dreams and spirituality.

Following the instructions in the course book, I stuck with the cave painting and produced this.

Figure 2 Self Portrait on a man cave wall in Edmonton early twenty first century. Mouth blown sepia ink on acrylic paper 40 x 40cm

See you at the weekend when you get back

My love as always

Mickos xx

Dear Cleo 18 08 24

Dearest Cleo

It is almost time for you to come home from Granny C’s and I will catch up with you over the weekend while you tell me all about the wonderful time you had. I am going to a Wedding tomorrow but in the meantime I have been studying perspective.

The first Petrus Christus painting I analysed the perspective in was TheNativity, painted in about 1460. This had a single perspectival vanishing point almost at the centre of the work, which indicated a horizon line slightly lower than a standing viewer.

Figure 1 Perspective diagram for The Nativity by Petrus Christos

It would have perhaps been better to extend the rear wall to avoid the apparent hole in the picture caused by the vanishing point.

So far so good, but then I was astonished to find that The Annunciation had 4 vanishing points, one for the floor, one for the foreground arch, one for the upper windows and one for the external view through the door

Figure 2 Perspective diagram for The Annunciation by Petrus Christos

I considered this for a while I knew that if the verticals were vertical, small margins on the receding lines would pass unnoticed, I wondered if Christus had increased the size of the picture frame to match its companion and forgotten where the original vanishing point was but to have 3 extra vanishing points seemed unlikely for a master of mathematical perspective.

Then I found this on the internet.

Figure 3 Perspective diagram for The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck

The Arnolfini Portrait has seven vanishing points which is due to it being observed perspective rather than mathematical. The Annunciation was painted by Christus ten years before The Nativity.

Suddenly it all made sense. Jan van Eyck was the painter of Bruges before he died in 1441, Christus took up that title following van Eyck’s death. Mathematical perspective was rediscovered by Brunelleschi in Florence in the first quarter of the fifteenth century but was not assimilated into the Northern Renaissance until the mid 1460’s.

Well I think I solved that little problem and I am looking forward to seeing you at the weekend.

My love as always

Mickos xx


Perspective in the Arnolfini Portrait Collier J. M,& Carleton J. L. 2014 at accessed on 24 August 2018