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The National Gallery in London houses one of the greatest collections of paintings in the world, with over 2,300 works. Founded in 1824, the Gallery’s paintings date from the mid-13th century including many famous works, such as van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus, Turner’s Fighting Temeraire and Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.
In May 2024, the Gallery will begin its Bicentenary celebration – 200 years of bringing people and paintings together. With this wondrous celebration on the way, we thought this was the perfect moment to look at the four gems on at the Gallery over the coming months that you don’t want to miss.
For the first time, Picasso’s ‘Woman with a Book’ (1932) from the Norton Simon Museum, California, will be brought together in exhibition with the painting that inspired it, ‘Madame Moitessier’ by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.
Left: Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, ‘Madame Moitessier’, 1856 © The National Gallery, London. Right: Pablo Picasso, 'Woman with a Book', 1932. The Norton Simon Foundation © Succession Picasso/DACS 2021 / photo The Norton Simon Foundation
The National Gallery says: “Picasso first encountered the enigmatic ‘Madame Moitessier’ at an exhibition in Paris, in 1921, and was enthralled. Over the next decade, he repeatedly referenced Ingres in his art, and painted ‘Woman with a Book’, one of his most celebrated portraits, in homage to Ingres’s famous work.
For Ingres, a 19th-century French artist steeped in the academic tradition, the beautiful and wealthy Madame Moitessier represented the classical ideal. Wearing her finest clothes and jewellery, she gazes at the viewer majestically, the embodiment of luxury and style during the Second Empire.
Picasso, born 100 years after Ingres, is famous for a very different, abstract, style of art, but his inspiration is clear. The model for ‘Woman with a Book’, Picasso's then young mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, mimics Madame Moitessier’s distinct pose. The painting balances sensuality and restraint, striking a chord with the eroticism latent beneath Ingres’s image of bourgeois respectability.”
The ‘Picasso Ingres: Face to Face’ exhibition offers a unique opportunity to see these two portraits, side by side, for the first time, and to trace the continuous thread between 19th and 20th-century artistic development.
For the first time in the UK, the Gallery presents an overview of Winslow Homer (1836–1910), the great American Realist painter who confronted the leading issues facing the United States, and its relationship with both Europe and the Caribbean world, in the final decades of the 19th century.
Image left: Winslow Homer, 'The Gulf Stream', 1899 (reworked by 1906). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1906 (06.1234) © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Homer’s career spanned a turning point in North American history. He lived through the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery, so-called Reconstruction, and war with the last colonial European power in the Americas, Spain.
From his sketches of battle and camp life, to dazzling tropical views and darker restless seascapes, the works reflect Homer’s interest in the pressing issues of his time; conflict, race, and the relationship between humankind and the environment – issues still relevant for us today.
With more than 50 paintings, covering over forty years of Homer’s career, 'Winslow Homer: Force of Nature' is part of a programme of exhibitions that introduce major American artists to a UK and European audience and follows on from our exhibitions about George Bellows and the Ashcan painters, Frederic Church and Thomas Cole.
In addition to its inimitable collection and exhibitions, the National Gallery also offers a range a wonderful courses – some of which are free, some online and others in person.
Sketchbook Saturdays are creative sessions held in the morning with the aim of exploring the various ways in which artists have approached their own image making.
Image: Detail from Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, 'Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando', 1879
Why not develop your creative skills in a thematic session drawn from the Gallery’s collection and beyond?
In this session, led by Sarah Tombs, we explore different ways to capture movement and form through gestural line drawing. We will look at three paintings and create drawings with Conté crayon, brush and ink, and marker pen. Participants are encouraged to make a small ‘drawing in space’ using soft aluminium or copper wire inspired by Degas’ ‘Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando’ but can continue drawing if unable to find the right materials.
Sketchbook Saturdays are suitable for beginners, as well as those wanting to improve their current skills, each month the gallery explores a particular theme or subject through practical activities based upon the art and artists found in our collection.
From drawing techniques and materials, to the ways that artists today have taken inspiration from the past, develop your own toolkit of ideas for making art at home.
About the Tutor
The tutor for this session is Sarah Tombs – a figurative sculptor and lecturer in art history. Sarah uses drawing and collage as a basis for her sculpture and as a research tool. She has worked as lead artist on sci/art research projects with the National Botanic Garden of Wales, Cornell University and the University of Wales, Trinity St David.
Date: Saturday, 1 October 2022
Time: 10.30 am - 12 pm BST
Available online only
For details about the event and what materials you will need to partake, visit the Gallery website here
If you haven’t heard of the Friday Lates at the National Gallery, you’ll want to add it to your must-do list now.
And as part of an upcoming Friday Late, you can also join an evening drawing session inspired by the Gallery’s paintings titled: ‘2B Or Not 2B Life Collective’. For the session you can expect life models and music in an informal session inspired by the surrounding paintings.
Image: Detail from @tattoo_pole_boy by Charlotte Noruzi. Image courtesy of 2b Or Not 2b Collective
The National Gallery says: “2B Or Not 2B Collective are a BIPOC-run life drawing group based in London with an international audience. Their objective is to uplift marginalised and under-represented models while unifying different communities through art. They focus on fostering new connections, artistic development and cultivating mental wellbeing. They have worked with organisations including Tate Modern and Cass Art, and have worked in partnership with the NHS, University of the Arts, London and Bafta-nominated animation studio Cartoon Saloon.”
This event is available on a first come, first served basis. Although you do not need to book this event, you will need to book your free Gallery entry ticket to gain admission to the National Gallery.
The Gallery recommend you please arrive in good time to access the building and find the event.
Note: Materials are limited but you are welcome to use your own sketchbook and pens or pencils.
Date: Friday, 28 October 2022
Time: 6.15 - 8.15 pm
Location: Room 34
For details about the event, and to book, visit the Gallery website here
We are very pleased to share that for our late summer prize draw, 10 people (and a guest) have the chance to win a private tour of the National Gallery followed by afternoon tea on Thursday 10th November. Entries close 17th September, so don't miss out.