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 Townshend, Lord 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!