Category: Research

Part 2, Colour relationships Research Point 3

For this research, I was to look at the Optical effects in art which have been exploited by many artists to create movement and depict the effects of light. The impressionists, Post Impressionists and Neo Impressionists in particular the Pointillists, Seurat and Signac, made full use of the new understanding of the nature of human perception. I was to find out about these artist aims and study their pictures to see how they achieved effects such as optical mixing. Look also at the work of Bridget Riley or the Op artists making notes in my learning log.

Optical art covers a broad area of art, as art itself is about optical manipulation. Colour used in a certain way placed adjacent to each other can alter the perception of the colour, the pointillists used this, then we have artists who use realism to convince they eye of the viewer they are looking through a private window of reality. Op art which was being experimented with in the 1960s is about geometric shapes and lines which fool the eye into seeing the picture undulate and move.

Neo-Impressionism or pointillism is a technique where small marks of pure colour are applied to a support and instead of mixing the colours on the page or palette it is left for the eye to mix and create the object or picture.  Georges Seurat is one of the original developers of this technique and was influenced by Chevruel and his colour theories. The paintings by Seurat remind me of Newsprint, the dots per inch giving the apearance of a black and white picture with all the varying tones given by altering the amount of dots there are.  When using colour not only can you adjust colour by dot or mark application you can also fool the eye with the colour it sees. For example if tiny dots of blue and yellow are placed adjacent to each other, colour mixing within the eye happens and we see green.




The Channel at Gravelines, Evening. Georges Seurat.

Bridget Riley and the Op Artists work gives the viewer a greater visual experience. Their work can create the illusion of movement, I suffer Migraine and when in the throes of having one, they can give me the feeling of nausea. I can’t help but look at them though as they hold a fascination with a need to know how they cause the illusion. The Blaze by Bridget Riley is one such picture, I was ill when I first looked at this and felt rather sick.


Blaze 1964 by Bridget Riley born 1931



The Blaze by Bridget Riley


This research has been very interesting, I find the way the eye and brain can be tricked into viewing the way an image is seen fascinating and can only admire the tremendous knowledge artists have gained in regard to the effects of colour and mark manipulation when producing their art.


Adam Butler, C. V. C. S. S., 1994. The Art Book. In: The Art Book. London: Phaidon Press Limited.

Tate, n.d. Bridget Riley – Blaze. [Online]
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Uknown, 2017. The Art Story- Op Art. [Online]
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Uknown, Unknown. Neo-Impressionism. [Online]
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[Accessed 10th October 2017].

unknown, unknown. The Complete Works of Georges Seurat. [Online]
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[Accessed 11 October 2017].


Part 2, Research point 2,

For this research, I was to look at the work of some of the 17th Century Dutch still life and flower painters. Make notes on paintings that I especially admire and find out more about the techniques that were employed at the time. Then research at least 1 painting that has iconographic significance. Which of the objects depicted carry particular meaning and what was that meaning?

Then explore the development of still life through the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. For example, look at how traditional still life subjects were dealt with in some early Cubist painting by Braque and Picasso, investigate how some contemporary artists are interpreting this genre.

17th Century  was known as the Golden Age it was a time when the Netherlands was recovering from the ravages of war with Spain, a time when their National pride helped develop their artistic heritage. Still life although not thought of on the same level as other genre was becoming very popular. The more affluent were able to furnish their houses and the need for art grew. Artwork was also created smaller to increase affordability. Still life was more than just subject painting it had meaning and stimulated the thoughts. Vanitas painting was a form of still life it was about beauty and how this can fade over time. One of my favourite still life artists of this time is Pieter Claesz  his Vanitas paintings are really powerful.  I feel this is showing the end, the end of time as the watch lays like it has had its last tic toc, the glass on the side empty seems to say its pleasure has gone. The skull showing all that remains of life. We may not see things in the same way, but we all see the meaning. It is so beautifully painted. The brushstrokes look delicate and I would love to see it in the flesh so to speak.


peiter Claesz

Having looked at the 17th Century flower painters I enjoy the work by the artist called Jan Davidsz De Heem  his work moved away from the almost sterile statuesque style, to one which showed movement and was inclusive of fauna, although as can be seen by the bouquet shown below- one of my favourites- he still followed a loose triangle in shape. I love the way some of the bouquet spills over the lip of the table giving a depth to the picture. The blooms placed together may not be in bloom at the same time and were unlikely to have been painted direct from the vase, it is more likely they were painted from sketches either drawn earlier or from bought, borrowed images.  The other thing I like about this painting are the insects that appear within the bouquet, every time I look I see another.

Not only is this arrangement far more natural in the flower placement, there seems to be a meaning within the picture, the expensive blooms of tulips, which could in some cases cost more than a man’s yearly wage, appear throughout, within the same bouquet are grasses and pea pods. It makes you think that it doesn’t matter how beautiful or how much something is worth, we are all going to suffer the same fate and experiences. I wonder if this is the reason for the insects seen crawling in and out of the flowers.


flower d

The Dessert Still Life by De Heem below is part of one of his more elaborate pieces, these were known as Pronkstilleven. The beautiful centre pieces and enormous amount of expensive food on the table, is thought provoking when you think of the cost. I must admit this may be a good picture to show his Pronkstilleven work, but I really want to pick up the balanced dish and place it where it is more secure, it is set in such a precarious manner, or could this be to show the precarious balance of good fortune. The light is cleverly managed not only shown coming through what looks like a window, which can be seen on the bottles, but there is light coming from behind the viewer.



Looking forward through the centuries still life painters continue to paint still life but the need for the almost photorealistic restricted painting and storytelling has not been the route for all, but still life through time has often been a pictorial message.  Many centuries after the Dessert Still Life was painted by De Heem , Matisse was inspired enough by the painting to produce an abstract version of his own, where he highlighted the geometric shapes within De Heems original painting. Out of the corner of my eye I am always expecting to see a set of old type scales for some reason.



The Matisse painting above reminds me of the cubism practiced by Georges Braque and his geometric approach to still life. I find his paintings confuse my mind rather like the little toys I had as a child where you had to move around the squares until you moved them in order to create the picture.

His painting Picture Candlestick and Black Fish 1943, shown below is one such picture I find this so confusing and melancholic, and there is that Lemon making its appearance again as in many a still life.



I think the 20th Century has gone the way of other genre of art, in that anything goes and is accepted. All thoughts of Still Life being a lower form of art seem to be fading and we have moved into the 20th Century with no holes bared. The master of minimalist painting must be Giorgi Morandi a favourite of mine, his pots painted in hue and tone producing a pleasant restful feel. I love this one below where one blue and white striped pot stands out among the other objects inline.



We also have still life appearing in Pop Art, as in the picture below by Roy Lichtenstein,



and sculptures like, that of  Hans Op de Beecks Peacock 2015. It is a series of 2 Vanitas mixed media sculptures made from pigmented plaster and wood. It follows the hallmark still life of the 17th Century Dutch painters with the vanity of the Peacock, the skull showing end of life,  as do unlit candles,  in the picture of the sculpture below  there are some modern aspects within the artwork like the ashtray and drinks can.


One of my favourite genres of artwork is still life and I have found this research fascinating, I have only just touched the surface, but even within my limited research it does show how important to artists this genre is. It can show a snapshot of time, hold a hidden meaning and the feelings of the artists who make still life. I for one don’t feel it is a lesser form of art, for me it is every bit equal to any other genre, it is a snapshot of history, mans’ thoughts and beliefs within that moment.

Green, T., 2017. Modern Art Notes. [Online]
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Jr, A. K. W., 2017. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. [Online]
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Maslova-Levin, E., 2017. Looking into the core of a painting: how Henry Matisse opened up Jan Davidsz. de Heem’s “Table of Desserts. [Online]
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Unknown, 2013. Acquavella Galleries. [Online]
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[Accessed 21st August 2017].

Unknown, 2017. Dessert Still Life. [Online]
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Unknown, 2017. Dutch Painting 17th Century. [Online]
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Unknown, 2017. Pieter Claesz. [Online]
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Unknown, 2017. THE VERMEER NEWSLETTER. [Online]
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Unknown, unknown. Giorgio Morandi. [Online]
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unknown, unknown. Marianne Boesky Gallery. [Online]
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Painting 1, Part 2, Research Michel Eugene Chevreul

I was to find out more about the colour theories of Michel-Eugene Chevreul and make notes on how particular artists have used Chevreuls theories to expand the possibilities of painting.

Michel-Eugene Chevreul was a French Chemist one of his achievements was the development of a type of candle to which he obtained a patent. It was said to become a the most popular candle in France.

Later in his career, he became director of dyeing at a tapestry works in Gobelin. In his first year as director he heard complaints in relation to tapestry colours being poor, which he found the cause to be optical.  He spent time investigating the mixing of colours and found colours had influence over one another when placed side by side. Also, he felt our optical effect  when looking at colours will also have some bearing on them and how we observe them. For instance, if we stare at blue square for a short time, then move our eyes to a white background we see a yellow square after image which within a short space of time fades from view, the reason for this is we have red, green, blue colour receptors within our eyes, and when one of the colour receptors is fatigued by over reception the complimentary colour can be observed in a ghost view.

Chevreul wrote a book on colour theory which in the 19th Century was widely used as the colour manual by artists, designers and decorators. It was influential with the work of Impressionists and their search for colour brilliance, experimenting with the juxtapose application of colour allowing the colour mix to be done by eye.

George Seurat the pointillist met Chevruel and experimented with his colour theories, his paintings show the play of light where dots of colour are applied to his support and leaving the eye to mix the tiny applications of colour forming an image.

Josef Albers artist and art educator was inspired by Chevruel’s findings, he published a book looking at colour phenomenon, which is said to have 150 colour plates in relation to the subject. He became a very influential art educator.

Then around the 1910 there was a movement developed called Simultanism by abstract artists Robert Delaunay and Sonia his wife . The word simultanism was taken from the theories in Chevruels book of colour theory, De la loi du contraste simultanée des couleurs. The Delaunay experimented with patches of abstract colour to create movement and light.


Chevruel and Albers were two artists to influence the Op and Kinetic artist Carlos Cruz-Diez with his use of colour and style of art. Some of his pieces, with their coloured juxtapose lines create visual affects causing the viewer to see changing colours as they move around to view the piece. The shapes within shapes seem to hover and alter, I must admit they have an odd effect on your eyes, I am not sure I would like to look at them when I have a Migraine.

I have just brushed the surface of this interesting topic, the enormous influence of Chevruel’s research not only effect those that read his studies, but those that studied the studiers. There is no doubt one colour does influence its neighbour and the subject is a very interesting one, but not all artists felt the research of Chevruel was the colour Bible. Monet for one who was said to be preoccupied with garden colours and its powerful contrasts, didn’t feel it was wise to be over reliant on Chevruel’s colour wheel. I think I will have to study the subject more to be able to come to a more educated view, but in this modern world I am sure most of us have seen in one way or another the way colours do have an effect over one another.


Costa, A. B. (2017, June 21). Michael-Eugene Chevreul. Retrieved from Encyclopedia Britannica:

Courthion, P. (2017, June 26). Georges Seurat. Retrieved from Encyclopaedia Britannica:

Unknown,  (2017, 6 27). Carlos Cruz-Diez. Retrieved from

Unknown. (2017, 6 27). Mastering colour: Franco-Venezuelan kinetic and op artist Carlos Cruz-Diez at Puerta Roja, Hong Kong. Retrieved from Art Radar:

Unknown (2017, 6 27). USING COLOUR. Retrieved from SMITHSONIAN LIBRARIES:

Physclips. (2017, June 23rd). Complementary colours, after-images, retinal fatigue, colour mixing and contrast sensitivity. Retrieved from Physclips.

Roque, G. (2017, JUNE 23). CHEVREUL’S COLOUR THEORY. Retrieved from CHEVRULS LAW F1 WEB:

Unknown. (2017, 6 27). Simultanism. Retrieved from Tate:

PAINTING 1, PART1, Research Point Chiaroscuro


I had to explore the work of some artists whose art is a typical example of Chiaroscuro an Italian word meaning light and dark used in art to visually describe a third dimensional scene, or object. Used in its most extreme form it can produce a powerful picture, evoking an emotional response.

The use of Chiaroscuro has a possible origin dating back to ancient Greek and Romans, but it was an artist with a dubious character called Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio who fine-tuned the technique by darkening the shadow areas.

Merisi de Caravaggio

Saint John The Baptist  Probably 1610

This is a beautifully painted picture of a young John the light revealing the most prominent items in the picture to be the boy and a red cloak. Light gives these shape and form, the sheep although picked out by light is beginning to have less form, as are the plants shown by a change of tone. What is fascinating is the use of light in the top left corner and the lower central bush, a mere touch of light on leaves is enough to give life and the suggestion of a three-dimensional form.

Jusepe Ribera

Paul The Hermit 1640


Jusepe Ribera depicted as a follow of Caravaggio  was known as a Tenebrist painter and printmaker, though the painting above is more in the style of Chiaroscuro, it does show Chiaroscuro effect the dark background with delicate changes of tone show shape and Saint Paul lit by an opening in the cave a skulls form just picking out by half light. As Caravaggio the touch of light gives shape to the subject. I love this painting, the craggy face, bones of the knees and the sagging muscles all shown with great skill.

Peter Paul Reubens

Venus Frigida 1614

This oil painting by Reuben’s is another good example of Chiaroscuro although there is more detail in the painting than seen in others, it’s clear the light falling on Venus is depicting her three-dimensional shape emphasizing the curves of her body and Golden Hair. The painting was said to have been enlarged at a later stage, I didn’t know this when first picking the picture to study but felt it was unbalanced at first view.


John Constable


I chose John Constable because I can see what he means when he says through application of light and sky the painter conveyed emotion capturing what he called the chiaroscuro of nature.” He made a series of engravings from his prints engraved by printmaker David Lucas the second series had the subtitle Principally Intended to Mark the Phenomena of the Chiar’Oscuro of Nature.

This print and its dramatic light and dark is a good example of how nature does indeed create its own chiaroscuro effect.




Adam Butler, C. V. (1994). The Art Book. New York: Phaidon Press Ltd.

America, F. A. (2017, April 23). Saint Paul The Hermit. Retrieved from Fine Art America:

Caravaggio. (2017, May 23). Retrieved from Caravaggio the Complete Works:

Chiaroscuro. (2017, May 23). Retrieved from Encyclopaedia Britannica:

John Constable. (2017, May 23). Retrieved from National Gallery of Art USA:

John Constable, David Lucas, Old Sarum (second plate). (2017, May 23). Retrieved from Tate:

John the Baptist (Caravaggio). (2017, April 26). Retrieved from Wikipedia:

Venus Frigida. (2017, 5 23). Retrieved from Baroque:

Venus Frigida: Rubens’s portrait of love in a cold climate. (2017, May 2017). Retrieved from The Guardian: