Books from the world’s most prestigious museums and art galleries (Part One: The National Gallery, London)

Yale University Press publishes books on behalf of some of the world’s most prestigious museums and art galleries, producing a range of exhibition catalogues, retrospectives and scholarly works in collaboration with top international authors. Over the coming weeks we will be taking a look at these museums individually, providing information on current exhibitions, must-see works of art and related literature. This week, we will be visiting the National Gallery, London.

The National Gallery, London is one of the city’s most striking buildings, and even if you haven’t had a chance to see inside, you will certainly recognise its magnificent south-facing exterior, overlooking Trafalgar Square.

About the Collection: The Gallery houses over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th to 19th centuries. Unlike comparable art museums such as the Louvre (Paris) or the Museo del Prado (Madrid), the National Gallery was not formed by nationalising an existing royal art collection. Instead, it was founded in 1824 when the British government bought 38 paintings from the heirs of the insurance broker and arts patron John Julius Angerstein. The collection as it stands today is relatively small compared with many European national galleries. However it is eminently prestigious and encyclopaedic in scope, representing most major developments in Western painting.

Paintings to See: Where to begin? Visit the Gallery’s 30 Highlight Paintings page for a guide to some of the amazing works on display. These include Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne (1520-3), Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers (1888) and Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire (1839).

About the Building: The present building, the third to house the National Gallery, was designed by William Wilkins from 1832–8. The building has been expanded throughout its history, however the grand façade onto Trafalgar Square remains unchanged from this time. The Sainsbury Wing, an extension to the west by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, is a notable example of Postmodernist architecture in Britain.

Current Exhibitions: Jan Gossaert’s Renaissance (23 February – 30 May 2011), Bridget Riley: Paintings and Related Work (24 November 2010 – 22 May 2011), An American Experiment: George Bellows and The Ashcan Painters (3 March – 30 May 2011), Jan de Beer: Antwerp Mannerist (18 February – 5 June 2011)

Books from the National Gallery:

Van Eyck to Gossaert: Towards a Northern Renaissance by Susan Frances Jones

Van Eyck to GossaertObjects of beauty and prestige with their rich colour and fine detail, early Netherlandish oil paintings were among the most sought-after works of the Renaissance. Beginning in the early fifteenth century with Jan van Eyck, and ending in the early sixteenth century with the career of Pieter Bruegel, Susan Frances Jones explores the roles played by paintings in political, domestic, religious and secular contexts during this gloriously innovative period. She draws on the National Gallery’s remarkable research into materials and techniques to describe how painters’ working and creative practices changed and shifted, and examines whether Northern European artists, like some of their Italian counterparts, laid claim to intellectual as well as artistic sophistication. Published alongside the exhibition Jan Gossaert’s Renaissance, National Gallery, London, 23 February – 30 May 2011. More

Bridget Riley: Arcadia by Colin Wiggins

For 50 years Bridget Riley has been regarded as Britain’s most important abstract painter, renowned for her large abstract paintings, with their complex, repetitive geometric shapes and undulating linear patterns. Given the graphic nature of these works, it is fascinating to discover that Riley sees her decidedly modern paintings as following in an Old Master pictorial tradition. This affinity stems from her lifelong passion for paintings in the National Gallery, London, with which she has a long association: first as a young student and copyist and later as a Trustee. In 1989 Riley was honoured with an exhibition, ‘The Artist’s Eye’. “Bridget Riley: Arcadia” will mark the artist’s long engagement with the National Gallery. Colin Wiggins explains with great clarity and enthusiasm how the fluid lines of Renaissance and Baroque paintings, together with their palette of ochres, salmon, greens and light blues translate into the abstracted shapes that appear in Riley’s paintings. Marla Prather looks at how the techniques and methods of modern masters such as Cezanne, Seurat and Matisse also act as an important influence in her paintings. This catalogue and DVD accompany the National Gallery exhibition Bridget Riley: Arcadia which opens on 16 November 2010. More

An American Experiment: George Bellows and the Ashcan Painters by David Peters Corbett

An American ExperimentIn the first decades of the 20th century, painters of the Ashcan School, a loosely connected group of gritty, urban realists, created images of New York City from street level. Following older artist Robert Henri’s insistence that artists should make ‘pictures from life’, the Ashcanners renounced the polished academic style taught in art schools of the time. Instead they practised a more urgent manner, seeking to catch the ebb and flow of life in urban America. Some of them also produced vivid landscapes with a highly saturated colour palette and portraits. This book introduces the painters of the Ashcan School and the key characteristics and themes of their work. Detailed commentaries are provided for twelve significant paintings by George Bellows, William Glackens, Robert Henri, George Luks, and John Sloan. In their visual contemplation of early-20th-century New York, these artists offer deep insights into the nature of urban life not only in their time but also in our own. More

Renaissance Faces: Van Eyck to Titian by Lorne Campbell, Miguel Falomir, Jennifer Fletcher, Luke Syson

Renaissance FacesThis lavishly illustrated book explores the development of portrait painting in Northern and Southern Europe during the Renaissance, when the genre first flourished. While both regions developed distinct styles and techniques, each was also influenced by the other. Four renowned scholars consider the relationship between artists of the north and south to illuminate the notion of likeness. The authors offer new research on some of the greatest portraitists of the period, including Giovanni Bellini, Sandro Botticelli, Lucas Cranach, Albrecht Durer, Jan van Eyck, Hans Holbein, and Titian. This book is rich in information about portrait types, styles, techniques, iconographies, the function of portraits, and the connections among painting, sculpture, and portrait medals. Furthermore, the volume features fascinating accounts of the relationships of patrons, artists, and sitters, as well as the process of making portraits. The authors also investigate complex notions of beauty, spiritual belief, and the portrait as a mirror of the soul. More

National Gallery Technical Bulletins

The National Gallery Technical Bulletin, first published in 1977, has achieved a leading position in the study of the materials and techniques of painting, and the scientific examination of paintings. It is essential reading for conservators, conservation scientists, art historians, collectors and curators. Drawing on the combined expertise of curators, scientists and conservators, it brings together a wealth of information about artists’ materials, practices and techniques. See a list of Technical Bulletins

And Coming Soon…

Keep an eye out for Yale’s forthcoming exhibition catalogue Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan, accompanying the National Gallery exhibition opening in November 2011

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