Pop Quiz # 4 - Imaginary Gallery

Painting no. 1

A) Islanders Fleeing the Wrath of Krakatoa (1771) by Thomas Gainsborough. Kunsthalle, Basel (Basel, Switzerland).

B) Dante’s Seventh Circle of Hell (1684) by Claude Lorrain. The National Gallery (London, UK).

C) End of Days (c. 1650s) by Jacob van Ruisdael. The J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles, CA).

D) Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the Islands in the Bay of Naples (c. 1776-1780) by Joseph Wright of Derby. The Tate Britain (London, UK).

Painting no. 2

A) Escape from the Zoo (1752) by Thomas Gainsborough. The Yale Center for British Art (New Haven, CT).

B) Lion on the Hunt (1789) by Hubert Robert. The Louvre (Paris, France).

C) Horse Attacked by a Lion (1764) by George Stubbs. The Tate Britain (London, UK).

D) Lunch (1526) by Titian. The Uffizi (Florence, Italy).

Painting no. 3

A) Village with Copse of Trees (c. 1630s) by Salomon van Ruisdael. The Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam, The Netherlands).

B) A Woody Landscape (c. 1665) by Meindert Hobbema. The National Gallery (London, UK).

C) Cottage in a Wood (1656-1658) by Jacob van Ruisdael. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY).

D) Wooded Road (1756) by Thomas Gainsborough. The Holburne Museum (Bath, UK).

Painting no. 4

A) Journey up the Nile (1800) by Hubert Robert. Museum of Grenoble (Grenoble, France).

B) Capriccio with Pyramid (c. 1780) by Francesco Guardi. Sforza Castle Museum (Milan, Italy).

C) The Pont de Bruchalezzo (1734-1735; 1737) by Canaletto. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, MA).

D) Santa Croce Canal (1751) by Giovanni Paolo Panini. Gallerie dell’Accademia (Venice Italy). 

Painting no. 5

A) The Foundry (1645) by Georges de La Tour. Kimbell Art Museum (Fort Worth, TX).

B) The Blacksmith’s Shop (1771) by Joseph Wright of Derby. Derby Museum and Art Gallery (Derby, UK).

 C) The Swordsmith (1834) by Jean-Léon Gérôme. The Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland, OH).

D) Smithy (1765) by Joshua Reynolds. The Royal Collection (Windsor, UK).


Okay, let’s tally up your score:

Painting no. 1: Pre-Romantic Italianate landscape. Dramatic lighting. Volcano. Vesuvius, specifically. The Bay of Naples. A poetic moon. We can comfortably rule out Baroque players Claude Lorrain and Jacob van Ruisdael. And we know Gainsborough painted the English countryside (Suffolk in particular). So who is it? Probably the dude who was obsessed with painting Italian caverns and volcanoes. It’s a Joseph Wright of Derby, y’all!

Painting no. 2: I am not even going to get into why the others are wrong. You know one painter on our list so far is all about animals. This painting is Romantic. It’s British. The animals have an anthropomorphic thing goin’ on. Look at the fear and pain in that horse’s eyes. George Stubbs, come on down!

Painting no. 3: Aerial angle. Linear perspective. Building a couple hundred feet off. Little figures heading down a road. Puffy white clouds. And get a load of that squiggly-as-can-be Lorax tree next to the cottage. Could it be? Yes, it’s our dear friend, Meindert Hobbema!

I know, this one was hard. How can we rule out the other guys? Salomon van Ruisdael wouldn’t have used linear perspective. Jacob would have thrown in some combo of dead, “blasted” trees, some more menacing clouds, and a little more man-against-nature drama. And Gainsborough would have used brighter greens and warmer browns, with thinner paint and broader strokes. Having said all that, the second-best answer would have been an early Gainsborough, as he was certainly inspired by Hobbema. So if you went with D, don’t beat yourself up about it.

Painting no. 4: Okay, this one was a bit of a stretch too, but it is gettable, based on what you know. First of all, this painting is a capriccio. It has Venetian gondoliers navigating their way past a pyramid! You know who didn’t paint capricci? Canaletto! So I don’t care if there’s a gondola in there. Canaletto can get lost! (And the paint style is clear as mud – not Canaletto at all.) What about Panini and Robert? Those guys painted capriccios. Those guys painted sun-drenched ruins. Well, it’s not Panini, because Panini was the Canaletto of Rome. He didn’t go for gondolas! How about Robert? Robert, of all the painters so far, is a reasonable answer. But is this work “about” the architecture? Not really. There are certainly ruins in it, but the gondoliers are given equal weight. And how about that painting style? It is dirty. Lived-in. Robert’s scenes have a gaiety to them. As we’ve discussed, if you “zoom in” on a Robert, you might get the Fête galante of a Fragonard. People strutting around in nice clothes, not usually doin’ a whole lotta work. And again, Robert was trained in Rome, not Venice. So who is it? Well, either you got it, or now you know by process of elimination. It’s Francesco Guardi, whom we know from his affinity for Venice, the lived-in, slightly sketchier/impressionistic nature of his work, his dark colors, and of course, his love of the capriccio.

If the above explanation sounds a little too technical, just try using Occam’s Razor, and don’t worry about all the little details like who trained where first. Just look at the painting and know that it’s of some kind of imaginary Venice. Think about whom we know who is associated with Venice. 1. Canaletto and 2. Guardi. In that order. You know it’s an imaginary Venice, so you go with the latter.

Painting no. 5: This is like painting no. 2. You know there’s one painter who loves painting genre scenes of guys in a dark room doing science-y things lit by a single dramatic artificial light source, often with a pre-Romantic moon seen through a window. You can see the overt use of tenebrism at the darkened edges of the frame. You may remember that Georges de La Tour painted scenes with a single light source sometimes, but those lights were candles. In religious scenes. Nothing like this. So who is it? It’s Joseph Wright of Derby. Again. Because he’s that good, people.

How did you do? If you got more than 3, you get a free toaster!*

* Not a real offer.

Pop Quiz #3 - Imaginary Gallery

Step into my imaginary museum again. I’ve got three new paintings for you. Learning about paintings is a cumulative process, so let’s keep checking in with the friends we’ve met so far.

Painting no. 1

A) General Stuart Bradley of the Light Horse Dragoons (1632) by Anthony van Dyck. Edinburgh Castle (Edinburgh, UK).

B) Portrait of George TownshendLord Ferrers (c. 1773) by Joshua Reynolds. The Wallace Collection (London, UK).

C) The Prince of Friesland (1635) by Meindert Hobbema. Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam, the Netherlands).

D) Laurence Strathpole, 2nd Marquis of Londonderry (1745) by Joseph Wright of Derby. The Courtauld (London, UK).

Painting no. 2

A) Killdrummin Castle (1755) by Joseph Wright of Derby. Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA).

 B) Ruins of Castile Tremona (1763) by Giovanni Paolo Panini. Galleria Borghese (Rome, Italy). 

C) The Jewish Cemetery (mid-1650s) by Jacob van Ruisdael. Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, MI).

D) View of Hempstead, Suffolk (1812) by John Constable. The National Gallery (Washington, D.C.).

Painting no. 3


A) The Roman Forum (1757) by Francesco Guardi. The Huntington Library (San Marino, CA).

B) Capitoline Hill (1799) by Hubert Robert. The Sir John Soane Museum (London, UK).

C) Roman Landscape with the Column of Trajan (c. 1730s) by Giovanni Paolo Panini. Marble Hill House (Twickenham, UK).

D) After the Goths (1742) by Canaletto. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (Birmingham, UK).

Let’s see how you did…

Painting no. 1: It’s not a van Dyck because of the clothing alone. This is clearly an 18th-century British “Redcoat” uniform, as is the powdered wig. It’s not a Hobbema because it’s a portrait, not a Dutch landscape. So that narrows it down to Reynolds and Wright of Derby.

Oof. That’s not so easy, is it? Well, what do we know about this painting? Rococo Grand Manner portrait. Earth tones. A very important person striking a very important pose. A ghostly-pale appearance, indicating the mixture of carmine and white pigments, which fades over time. Come on down, Joshua Reynolds!

Painting no. 2: Is it a Derby? The interplay of light and dark is not the focus of the painting. Also, it’s not an Italianate landscape or a landscape of an English valley.

Is it a Panini? Ruins, sure. But again, not Italianate.

How about Constable? Sure, there’s a rainbow. But this is not the flat, green landscape of the Suffolk countryside, is it? It’s not exactly a peaceful, bucolic scene either, which you see in Constable’s paintings. There’s a certain violence to it.

So, again, let’s go with what we do have: a ruined castle, a waterfall, dark clouds, and a blasted tree that has knocked over a man-made monument, a tomb. It’s a Jacob van Ruisdael!

Painting no. 3: Knock out Canaletto and Guardi from the get-go. Forget the painting style: this ain’t Venice. So that narrows it down to Robert and Panini, and this is where it gets tricky. Panini and Robert are very similar painters. In fact, Robert studied under Panini! They both painted sun-drenched ruins in Italianate, specifically Roman, ruin capricci. So if you answered either one, I’m giving you credit. But how can you possibly tell them apart? Well, two little tips: 1)Robert liked to paint shadows on buildings more than Panini, his scenes taking place in the late afternoon, while Panini’s often take place in the bright of the day, when the sun is highest and brightest; 2) Panini liked to clump all the monuments of Rome together in one painting, to enhance the “postcard” quality of his paintings that made them attractive to Grand Tourists for souvenirs. Robert’s paintings are less a jumble of actual ruins than a reimagined Rome that looks like an actual city – a Bizarro Rome. So this one, if you haven’t guessed already, is a Panini. But there is no shame if you could have sworn it was a Robert.

If you got 2/3 or more, you are getting pretty stinkin’ good at this!





Pop Quiz #2 - Imaginary Gallery

It’s your turn now. My virtual museum is open. I’m going to show you five paintings by some artists we’ve discussed so far, and you have to pick out who painted them. Ready to start?

Here we go!

Painting no. 1

Painting no. 2

Painting no. 3

Painting no. 4

Painting no. 5

Okay, let’s see how you did. Here are the answers:

Painting no. 1: French. Orientalist. Bold, dense color. Dynamic, almost photographic composition. It’s our old friend Jean-Léon Gérôme!

Carpet Merchant in Cairo (c. 1887) by Jean-Léon Gérôme. Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Minneapolis, MN). 

Painting no. 2: British. Dramatically lit by one main artificial source of light. Neoclassical pseudo-scientist on the verge of discovery. Romantic moon in the background. It’s an early Joseph Wright of Derby behind door number 2!

The Alchymist, in Search of the Philosopher’s Stone, Discovers Phosphorus, and Prays for the Successful Conclusion of his Operation, as was the Custom of the Ancient Chymical Astrologers (1771) by Joseph Wright of Derby. Derby Museum and Art Gallery (Derby, UK).

Painting no. 3: British. Firmly Romantic. Pond in the foreground, with small figures and oxen. Salisbury Cathedral in the background. Could it be? Yes, It’s a Constable!

Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Garden (1826) by John Constable. Frick Collection (New York, NY).

Painting no. 4: French Rococo landscape. Sun-drenched Italianate ruins. Capriccio. It’s definitely “about” the architecture. We eliminate Guardi because he’s Baroque and this is clearly newer. So… Hubert Robert, come on down!

Ancient Ruins Used as Public Baths (1798) by Hubert Robert. The Hermitage Museum (Saint Petersburg, Russia). 

Painting no. 5: Landscape/cityscape of Venice. Impossibly precise architectural “postcard” of the Piazza San Marco in Venice, viewed from the canals. Crystal-clear paint job. Canaletto!

Return of the Bucentoro to the Molo on Ascension Day (c. 1733) by Canaletto. Royal Collection (Windsor, UK). 


Pop Quiz #1

Okay, time for a quiz! I'm going to show you a painting, and you have to pick out the artist. Ready?

Any idea?

An ethnographic Orientalist painting with photographic detail, bold, dense color and – oh, you already knew this one was a Gérôme? Okay, that was a test to see if you were paying attention!

Here are the details:

The Snake Charmer (1879) by Jean-Léon Gérôme.  The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (Williamstown, MA).