Piece: The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up
Artist: JMW Turner
About: Here, Turner explores striking contrasts. Light and dark, detailed and atmospheric, old guard and new, each are played to great effect – in fact, it was voted the UK’s favourite painting in 2005. The HMS Temeraire was a warship famous for its fight in the Battle of Trafalgar. It is pictured being towed by a steam-powered tug to the shipbreakers, on what would be its final voyage.
Artist: Sir John Everett Millais
About: An iconic example of the pre-raphaelite movement, which opposed the Royal Academy ideals typified by artist Raphael. The pre-raphaelites believed the landscape of a painting was just as important as the subject (in comparison to Raphael and his counterparts) and so Millais chose to paint the background first. Up close, you see that even the tiniest detail of plant life is accurately cast.
Artist: Barbara Hepworth
About: Hepworth’s work explores, for the most part at least, relationships and the interplay between people and environments. She worked from a studio in St Ives and the coast is often a focus. In Pelagos, one of her most famous sculptures, she draws on the ‘tension between herself and the sea, the wind, or the hills’, using taut strings to bridge the gap between two peaks of a wooden spiral.
Piece: Bathers at Asnières
Artist: Georges Seurat
About: A step-change in the art world: gone are the impressionist sweeps and swirls, and instead we have carefully considered pointillism. This was the painting with which Seurat developed his pointillistic technique, using dots created with a conte crayon to slowly build up subtle tonal changes.
Artist: Vincent Van Gogh
About: One of Van Gogh’s most loved paintings, it is in fact one of four sunflower paintings he created for Paul Gauguin. Both the vibrancy of colour, and the layering of yellow on yellow, were groundbreaking at the time, and its influence can be seen in the work of many artists today including David Hockney. The sunflower seeds were created with a technique known as impasto.
Piece: Bacchus and Ariadne
About: A famous 16th century painting, commissioned to decorate one of the rooms at the Ducal palace in Ferrara (near Bologna.) Pictured we see Ariadne near the shoreline, recently spurned by her lover Theseus, caught unawares by Bacchus, god of wine. What’s most striking here is the richness of colour – deep blues, mossy greens and warm reds – a quality Titian was obsessed with getting right.