I was drawn to the opportunity when the Art History department at The University of York, sent through an email highlighting the vacancy. Applicants had to create a project proposal based on a new research angle or interpretive activity around the painting. The aim was to engage audiences with the artwork before it returns to The Bowes Museum, after touring England as part of exhibitions in Bristol and York.
Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Hermine Gallia (1904). Oil on Canvas, 170.5 x 96.5 cm. The National Gallery, London
Last October, I visited the York Art Gallery’s Making a Masterpiece: Bouts and Beyond. I enjoyed this exhibition and found myself especially drawn to the centrepiece artwork, St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child. I liked how the painting boasted a magnificence of colour and luxurious interior furnishings. So, when the opportunity arose to work with this painting, I was particularly thrilled. The project is especially valuable to me, as a curating student, because it provides me with an opportunity to put my curatorial ideas and theoretical ways of thinking into practice.
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Madame Moitessier (1856). Oil on Canvas, 120 x 92.1 cm. The National Gallery, London.
My interests within art history are broad but my specific fascination is the intersection of art, fashion and textiles. Some examples of my favourite art pieces are Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Hermine Gallia, Rembrandt Van Rijn’s Belshazzar’s Feast and Jean- Auguste – Dominique Ingres’ Madam Moitessier, all of which depict textiles through painting. I also love more abstract depictions of fashion such as Sonia Delaunay’s fashion illustrations and Andre Derain’s portrait of Matisse’s wife. St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child feeds my specific interest wonderfully because of the representation of various materials within the painting. I have chosen to centre my project on the idea of the pattern, material and texture within the artwork.
Rembrandt Van Rijn, Belshazzar’s Feast (1636-8). Oil on Canvas, 167.6 x 209.2 cm. The National Gallery, London.
My project aims to encourage you to engage with St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child through an A-Z Instagram series. I understand that as a 15th century painting, some of you may question how relevant it is to us today? However, it is valuable to look at artworks from the past, as they provide an insight into former lifestyles, cultures and ideas. Through St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child, we can explore the life of the artist and their workshops as well as innovative techniques in artistic practices from that time. It is also interesting to consider how artworks and artists have potentially influenced the course of art history and to draw parallels between various examples.
Over the next couple of months, you will be able to find my A-Z of St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child on The Bowes Museum’s Instagram account. The series will provide an exclusive insight into the representation of materials, pattern and texture within the painting. The A-Z format will mean you can gather snapshots of information about the artwork, its context and visual qualities. Each week, you can discover something new and see how the painting relates to various other aspects of art history.
So far, my research has centred around the textiles represented within the painting. I have also learnt about European 15th century fashions. Another compelling area of my research has been investigating the materials used to create the artwork. The series will highlight an interesting contrast between the elements depicted in the artwork and how they were created by the artist.
One of my favourite aspects of the painting is that the closer you look at it, the more interesting it becomes. Its high detail draws you to small elements of the artwork that you may not notice unless you look closely. Examples of this within the artwork are the paintbrushes within the studio and the smooth pebbles in the landscape. The A-Z series will highlight some of these finer details allowing you to immerse yourself within the painting from both afar and when seeing it in person.
I hope you are excited to explore this fantastic painting further. I am looking forward to creating the series for you and providing valuable insight into the pattern, material and texture portrayed within the artwork.
Find the posts on The Bowes Museum Instagram Account.
Blog by: Naomi Lomax, Curating and Art History student at the University of York.
Bouts A to Z is part of the Bouts Project kindly supported by National Heritage Lottery Fund.
With thanks to The National Gallery for providing the images for Naomi’s project and the University of York.