Edgar Degas, Woman Drying Herself, 1890s
Edgar Degas never failed to create artistic gold. This highly adept man was a genius painter, master drawer, and brilliant draftsman. It is a privilege to contemplate his work in person, and every piece he created tells a story. His numerous masterpieces, many of which took dance and dancers as their subject, are invariably thought-provoking and rewarding of close attention. Woman Drying Herself is an intriguing example of this artist’s singular talent.
Vincent van Gogh, Olive Trees, 1889
Vincent van Gogh is one of those artists who has left an indelible imprint on society and culture. This troubled genius did it all — from landscapes to still lifes, portraits, and self-portraits. His inner turmoil formed the backdrop to his art, and Olive Trees is part of a series of canvases painted from the confines of a mental institution. According to van Gogh, the trees signified the region but also the story of Christ’s Passion. It is offers a compelling glimpse into the life and mind of one of Europe’s great artists.
Claude Monet, Haystacks (Snow), 1891
There is something magical about marveling in-person at a Monet. This beloved artist was a key player in French Impressionist painting, and from 1888 to 1891, Monet made it his mission to paint over 30 pictures of haystacks in different elements, seasons, and states. There is something simple yet spectacular about his depiction of these haystacks in the surrounding snow.
John Singer Sargent, Lady Agnew Of Lochnaw, c.1892-3
One look at Lady Agnew Of Lochnaw will give you butterflies. The expression on the subject’s face is ferociously captivating and alluring. It is almost as though a snippet of Lady Agnew’s soul is revealed. This painting is an example of why this American artist is considered to be one of the leading portrait painters of his generation. Sargent was also remarkably prodigious and produced numerous sketches and drawings, over 2,000 watercolours, and approximately 900 oil paintings throughout the course of his career.
Antonio Allegri (Correggio), An Allegory Of Virtue, 1520s
Antonio Allegri da Correggio (or Correggio) is responsible for producing some of the most sensuous works of the 16th century. He is also considered a master of chiaroscuro, with his noticeably bold contrasts and juxtaposition of light and dark. An Allegory Of Virture is said to portray the notion of virtue or goodness. Notice that it appears to be unfinished and spend a moment contemplating its frequently disputed status.
Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio), The Bridgewater Madonna, About 1508
Consider Raphael a true High Renaissance man. His meticulous attention to detail, impeccable technique, and stunning Neoplatonic portrayal of the human condition are all evident here. For such a serene painting, there is actually a lot going on. The Virgin is holding her baby in a calm, loving manner. The Christ Child’s eyes meet his mother’s as he twists in her arms. Initially, Raphael painted a landscape background. He then painted over it so that the primary focus would be on the subject.
Leonardo da Vinci, The Madonna Of The Yarnwinder, About 1501
The iconic Leonardo da Vinci was a true pioneer of the Renaissance humanist ideal. This painting of the Christ Child and the angelic Virgin Mary is a source of contention among scholars, who debate the extent of Leonardo’s involvement in its creation. Interestingly, this renowned piece was commandeered from Drumlanrig Castle in 2003. Thankfully, it miraculously reappeared in 2007.
Diego Velázquez, An Old Woman Cooking Eggs, 1618
Velazquez is one of the most influential and celebrated painters of the Spanish Golden Age. Have you ever seen an egg this intriguing? To think that this artist created such a masterpiece at the tender age of eighteen or nineteen is extraordinary. Note his deft use of light and shadow to delineate the human dynamics of the scene.
Sandro Botticelli, The Virgin Adoring The Sleeping Christ Child, About 1485
Italian Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli crafted a wondrous work of art with The Virgin Adoring The Sleeping Christ Child. First, it is unusual to see an infant Christ in a sleeping state. Second, although the painting portrays a wholly religious subject, it is thought to have been created for a domestic setting. The painting radiates an exquisite glow that is a testament to the artist’s mastery.
Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, Vase Of Flowers, Early 1760s
Vase Of Flowers casts a quiet spell. A rarity, this artwork is Chardin’s only surviving flower piece. The painting is radiantly simple — Chardin demonstrates masterful restraint in his delicately observed depiction of the flowers. Linger over the subtle beauty of this work as you take in its soothing blend of soft colours.
Peter Graham, Wandering Shadows, 1878
Wandering Shadows by Peter Graham brings nature to life and is rightfully celebrated for its perfect portrayal of moving clouds. Consider the natural splendor in this magnificent scene and dream of joining the fisherman and sheep in this Highland paradise.
Rembrandt van Rijn, A Woman In Bed, 1646(7?)
Rembrandt captured nuances of the human condition in ways that lent his works a singular, enduring force. He is also, quite simply, among the greatest painters and printmakers in European history. Inspect this masterpiece and speculate on the subject’s identity. Is she Sarah from the Bible watching her groom run at the Devil, or is she perhaps Rembrandt’s mistress? Whoever she is, her depiction here is riveting.
Sir Henry Raeburn, The Reverend Robert Walker Skating On Duddingston Loch, c.1795
Sir Henry Raeburn’s ice-skating reverend is a simple yet intriguing figure. Who is this well-dressed man holding an impressive pose on a frozen mirror of ice? His name was Robert Walker, and he was the Canongate Kirk minister in Edinburgh. Apparently, this holy man also liked to ice skate. Raeburn does a stunning job of catching the skater’s pose and setting the scene. The picture also exudes a sense of the otherworldly, with the subject’s dark form delineated sharply against a hazy, indeterminate landscape.