Thursday, 4 August 2011

Upton House - Posting 3 - Painting Collection

"Upton House is known mostly for it's collection of paintings. Walter Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearsted, bought Upton House in 1927 to provide a setting for his art collection. His father, Marcus Samuel, the 1st Viscount, had made the Bearsted fortune through the creation of the Shell Transport and Trading Company, today part of Royal Dutch Shell.

Walter Samuel enlarged Upton to accommodate his growing collection of paintings and by the time of his death in 1948 had assembled one of the finest private art collections in England in the twentieth century."

There are outstanding examples of both British and European painting. Paintings are hung throughout the house, but there is a picture gallery, shown below. I've included some close ups and details of a few of the paintings, though not all. You'll have to visit!

 Explanations of some of the paintings come courtesy of the National Trust leaflets and room guides.

I have posted about the paintings at Upton before, but some while ago, so I've revisited them and added some new ones for you.

 Now this chap on the left is an absolute favourite from a painting point of view. I love it for the details of his clothes and his skin tones. The beard and wrinkles are just perfect.

The volunteer steward saw me looking and said that it was her favourite too and didn't he look kind?

I didn't argue but to me his eyes are so shrewd. He's a man with undercurrents of hardness. He was Henry 3rd of France' Secretary of State, so not a man given to naivety. He was 84 when this was painted so he got to a ripe old age; not easy for many reasons, so I think he knew how to look after himself.

This one has "Rembrant" underneath, but isn't. Its now been attributed to Jan Lievens (1607-74) A Magus at an Altar.

I love the light reflecting on the fabrics.

"Paintings such as this using vivid lighting effects were often produced by young artists in order to display their skills. This is one of several versions of the composition. His work is often confused with Rembrant".

Love this horse. The muscles are so wonderfully done. This is a small painting of one of the French kings. It measures about 8" square.

By Francois Clouet (1510-72) Francis 1 of France on Horseback.

"Francis 1 succeeded his cousin Louis XII, whose daughter he married in 1515. He appointed Francois Clouet court painter in 1541 after the death of the artist's father Jean. Another version of this painting is in the Uffizi."
 I absolutely love this one below. It's called Death of the Virgin by Pieter Bruegel (the elder) About 1525-1569

"Pieter Bruegel was one of the most significant artists to emerge from the Netherlands in the 1500's Having travelled in France and Italy, he settled in Brussels in 1563, where he produced his best known works. In his lifetime he achieved a considerable reputation and his works were highly sought after following his death. In this unusual work, the dying Virgin Mary is surrounded at her bedside by the huddled forms of Apostles praying, as she grasps a single candle as a symbol of her faith. Her death is presented as a very human event, but a spiritual presence is conveyed by the intense white halo of light around the head of the Virgin. There is an atmosphere of hushed intrusion and grief as the moment of death approaches. If you look carefully you will see further ghostly figures in the background."

As you can see it's very very dark on the whole left side and you can see people in the shadows if you look. The focus is the light from the candle being held in front of the Virgin. It casts wonderful shadows into the room. Spell binding. I could gaze at it for hours.

Conversely, these two give me the creeps.

I'm really interested in using gold leaf in paintings. I have tried bits as experiments only, but I like the effects of it in backgrounds.
And another icon with gold leaf and egg tempera.

 Below: Adoration of the Kings (triptych open) Christ before Pilate and Visions of Hell (triptych closed)

Workshop of Hieronymus Bosch (1450 - 1516)

"To our eyes, Bosch's medieval world of half-human creatures and demons appears to have more in common with Tolkien than with the artist's real life in a town near Antwerp. Although much of the symbolism of the painting has been lost to us, his aim was to depict the eternal struggle between good and evil.

The central depiction of the three Kings bringing gifts to the infant Christ is a reduced version of a painting now in the Prado, Madrid. The Moorish king is gorgeously attired in a fringed white robe, as he waits to present his gift of a golden bird mounted on a white globe.

  Although Bosch has not strayed from the Biblical text, there are some strange elements. The mysterious figure standing in the stable doorway appears to be suffering from a skin disease, which could identify him as King Herod, who was said to have contracted leprosy after ordering the Massacre of the Innocents. An atmosphere of unease is created by details such as the bearded face peering through a hole in the crumbling wall.

In the background is the skyline of Jerusalem, in the guise of a great European city. The classical stone building or temple in the left panel symbolises the fall of the old, heathen world at the dawn of Christianity. It is a calm scene as the elderly Joseph gathers water and firewood.

By contrast, in the right panel the Kings entourage jostle together, some looking upwards, perhaps at a guiding star which may have been depicted in the top of the original panel.

The infant Christ appears vulnerable under the rickety stable, which stands far from the protection of the town walls, suggesting a dangerous and hostile world.

The triptych form and small scale of the altarpiece enabled it to be easily portable. The outer wings would have protected the delicate inner surface, although they too were often painted with religious scenes, as here."

Below: The Massacre of the Innocents
After Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

Moving on from the The Picture Gallery, paintings can be found dotted around throughout the house. Here's some more in situ.

Just another passing look at this one. I forgot to note the painter, but I think it is Reynolds. Certainly looks like one of his.

Below: There are also a couple of rooms full of Shell posters.

 And lots more china.
 On the right: Reynolds. 

On the left: School of Van Dyke. Queen Henrietta Maria daughter of Henry IV of France and who married Charles 1st.

Henrietta Maria, in situ.

 There are also examples of Stubbs (dining room - previous posting) and Hogarth (picture room) and many many more besides. (Hogarth is a family favourite for his satirical depictions of 18th century life which exposed the folly and greed of the age.) It's worth a visit if you like paintings, and if you don't there's a really good bog garden and stepped walled garden, to walk around. The tea room is excellent if a little slow.

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