THE 100 BEST PAINTINGS IN BRITAIN? PART 2
Sunday 02 February 1997
depths of your imagination worlds above and
depths of your imagination worlds above and worlds below the sun shines on the black
Amedeo Modigliani Nude (Courtauld, London). This was probably one of the pictures shown in a short-lived exhibition of Modigliani's nudes at Berthe Weill's gallery in Paris in 1917. The police objected to his realistic depiction of pubic hair and closed the exhibition.
Claude Monet The Water-Lily Pond (National Gallery, London). By 1899, the year of this picture, Monet was rich, famous and widely regarded as the greatest landscape painter in France. This painting of the Japanese Bridge on his estate at Givernay is one of the greatest of his legendary water-lily series.
Giorgio Morandi Still Life 1946 (Tate, London). Morandi is one of the most exquisite and meditative of all 20th-century painters, closer in spirit to Piero della Francesca or Chardin than to any of his contemporaries. This still-life is a characteristically low-key arrangements of simple objects.
Ben Nicholson 1932 Au Chat Botte (Manchester City Art Galleries). An important transitional picture by the painter who did more than any other to inject English art in the 1930s with a dose of much-needed modernism.
Artist Unknown: The Wilton Dyptich (National Gallery, London). A little folding altarpiece, no bigger than a large book, painted for the private devotions of King Richard II in the last years of the 14th century. This was the fourth most frequently nominated picture in the Top 100
William Nicholson Gertrude Jekyll (National Portrait Gallery, London). Father of the more famous Ben, Nicholson senior made his living as a portrait painter, but was also one of the most delightful and unpretentious painters of landscape and still-life in the history of British art.
Pablo Picasso The Three Dancers (Tate, London). A key work in Picasso's career and in the history of 20th-century art. In 1925 this painting introduced a new violence to Picasso's work and marked the beginning of his interest in Surrealism.
Piero della Francesca The Baptism of Christ (National Gallery). Sometimes, rather ambitiously, claimed as the first Cubist artist. The mathematical precision and cool light of Piero's mid-15th-century paintings make them some of the most beautiful and graceful of the whole Rennaissance. He was the fifth most nominated artist on our list.
Piero di Cosimo The Fight Between the Lapiths and the Centaurs (National Gallery). One of two mythological works by the artist in the National Gallery made for the back of a piece of Florentine furniture at the turn of the 16th century. In these secular paintings Piero de Cosimo was one of the most quirky and engaging artists of his day.
Nicolas Poussin Gathering the Ashes of Phocion (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool). A painter's painter and the most classical of all French Classicists. Poussin began life as the son of a Norman farmer and ended up as one of the leading painter-philosophers of 17th-century Rome. He was nominated by many of the artists on our panel.
Henry Raeburn The Rev Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch (National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh). Raeburn is one of the greatest of all Scottish painters, but remains little known further afield. This, probably his masterpiece, from 1784, is one of 40 portraits by him in the National Galleries of Scotland.
Allan Ramsay The Painter's Wife (National Galleries of Scotland). This intimate and delicate portrayal of the artist's second wife, Margaret Lindsay, demonstrates the French influence that crept into his work in the 1750s. Ramsay was a deeply cultured painter who knew Diderot and Voltaire and counted Johnson, Walpole and Hume among his friends.
Raphael The Miraculous Draught of Fishes (Victoria & Albert Museum, London). One of seven cartoons for a series of tapestries designed to be hung in the Sistine chapel in 1515. They are owned by HM the Queen but have been on loan to the V&A since 1865 under an arrangement confirmed by successive monarchs.
Eric Ravilous Train Landscape (Aberdeen Art Gallery). An eccentric choice which received a few mentions but only made the final 100 by virtue of its subject matter - one of the mysterious chalk drawings on the South downs which were nominated several times in their own right.
Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn Portrait of the Artist (Kenwood House, London). One of several fine Rembrandt self-portraits in British collections (those in the Walker Art Gallery and the National Galleries of Scotland were also nominated), this late masterpiece, circa 1663, was by far the most popular single picture in our entire survey.
Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn A Girl at the Window (Dulwich Picture Gallery). Painted in 1645, during Rembrandt's period of mid-career misfortune. His wife Saskia had died in 1642 and he was struggling to pay his bills in the wake of buying a huge town-house in Amsterdam. Rembrandt is one of only two artists to have three pictures in the Top 100.
Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn Woman Bathing in a Stream (National Gallery). The star of the National Gallery's roomful of Rembrandts, this informal portrait of his mistress narrowly beat the Wallace Collection's Titus onto the list. Their combined nominations took Rembrandt to the top of our Top 100.
Paul Nash The Menin Road (Imperial War Museum, London). Nash is the one of the great war artists of all time and, after Stanley Spencer, was the second most nominated 20th-century British painter in our Top 100. This First World War masterpiece is in the same collection as an extraordinary group of pastels which just failed to make the list.
Pablo Picasso Weeping Woman (Tate, London). Painted at the height of his so-called most misogynistic period in 1937. The model was Dora Maar, who had been his companion since 1936 and whose distorted beauty was the subject of many works in the late Thirties and early Forties.
Nicolas Poussin The Nurture of Jupiter (Dulwich Picture Gallery, London). The second of two paintings by Poussin on the list. His series representing the Seven Sacraments from the National Galleries of Scotland narrowly missed being the third. Overall he tied with Seurat for eighth place in the Top 100.
Raphael Pope Julius II (National Gallery). Part of the Angerstein Collection that formed the cornerstone of the National Gallery. In the 19th century this extraordinary and highly influential portrait was thought to be a fake. Its rightful attribution was restored in the 1970s.
Ercole de' Roberti Pieta (Walker Art Gallery). The centre of Roberti's altarpiece for the Church of Sant Giovanni in Monte, Bologna. This is one of the most pictorially inventive and moving examples of 15th-century painting in the country
Mark Rothko Black on Maroon (Tate, London). One of nine deeply contemplative canvases originally painted for a New York restaurant, but withheld by Rothko at the last minute. He gave them to the Tate in 1969 on the understanding that they were always hung in their own enclosed space
Peter Paul Rubens An Autumn Landscape with a View of Het Steen in the Early Morning (National Gallery). This depiction of Rubens's country house, painted in 1636, had a significant influence on later traditions of English landscape painting
Pieter Jansz Saenredam The Interior of the Buurkerk at Utrecht (National Gallery). Saenredam worked closely with architects, basing his finished paintings on meticulous perspective drawings. This view of Utrecht's main church was drawn in 1636 and finally painted in 1644
John Singer Sargent Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (Tate, London). A masterly combination of a pre-Raphaelite subject and Impressionist handling painted in 1885-86 by the Anglo-American painter, better known for his swaggering portraits of fashionable Edwardians
Georges Seurat Bathers at Asnieres (National Gallery). This was Seurat's first large-scale composition and one of the first French paintings to treat an ordinary scene in the monumental style usually reserved for history. It was rejected from the Paris Salon in 1884 and bought by the NG 40 years later
Walter Richard Sickert Minnie Cunningham at the Old Bedford (Tate, London). This is one of several great paintings by Sickert in the Tate collection; surprisingly, it made the list ahead of his more famous images, Ennui and Brighton Pierrots
Stanley Spencer The Sandham Memorial Chapel (Burghclere, Hampshire). Another well-nominated Englishman. Spencer was the most popular 20th-century British painter in the Top 100 and of all his fellow countrymen only Turner was more frequently mentioned. This, his masterpiece, was begun in 1927
George Stubbs Hambletonian Rubbing Down (National Trust, Mount Stewart, Northern Ireland). This is Stubbs's late masterpiece, painted in 1799 and full of the strangeness that makes him so much more than just another 18th-century sporting artist
George Stubbs Whistlejacket (National Gallery, on loan). An extraordinary, life-size portrait of the Marquis of Rockingham's racehorse, painted in 1762 and originally intended as an equestrian portrait of King George III. For political reasons the horse remained riderless
Jacopo Robusti Tintoretto The Origin of the Milky Way (National Gallery). Typical of the theatricality that marks most of Tintoretto's paintings. His work was an attempt to combine Michelangelo's draughtsmanship with Titian's colours. The drama, however, was all his own
Titian Diana and Actaeon (National Galleries of Scotland). Titian was one of the most successful painters ever, with the Kings of Spain and France, the Pope, and three Holy Roman Emperors among his patrons. On our list, only Rembrandt and Velasquez were nominated more often
Titian Bacchus and Ariadne (National Gallery). Originally painted for the picture gallery in Alfonso d'Este's Castle of Ferrara in 1523. This is of several great works by Titian in the NG and, purchased in 1826, it was one of the gallery's earliest acquisitions
Joseph Mallord William Turner A Bedroom in Venice (Tate, London). One of 19,300 works bequeathed by Turner to the nation. A slightly strange inclusion in the Top 100, but it tells more about his magic than any finished work and gives a glimpse of his incredible influence on subsequent painters
Joseph Mallord William Turner Rain, Steam, Speed (National Gallery). Exactly as the title suggests, this was Turner's vision of the railway (specifically the Great Western line on the Maidenhead Viaduct) as a blur of luminous light and weather
Paolo Uccello The Battle of San Romano (National Gallery). Uccello was obsessed by perspective. The historian and biographer Vasari records Uccello's wife complaining that her husband would arrive in bed with the words: "Oh what a lovely thing this perspective is."
Paolo Uccello The Hunt in the Forest (Ashmolean, Oxford). One of two works by Uccello whose combined nominations make him the sixth most popular artist on the list. This painting alone was the third most frequently nominated picture; amazingly it was the only one from the Ashmolean
Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velasquez The Waterseller of Seville (Apsley House, London). This is one of several fine early works by Velasquez in British collections. He was mentioned more times that any other artist except for Rembrandt
Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velasquez Old Woman Cooking Eggs (National Galleries of Scotland). Another of the great early works. Painted in Seville circa 1620, before Velasquez became court painter to King Philip IV, and already displaying the unflinching vision which characterised his life's work
Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velasquez The Rokeby Venus (National Gallery). One of the first paintings to be saved for the nation by the National Art Collections Fund. They raised the necessary pounds 45,000 to buy it for the NG in 1905 - a sum then nine times the gallery's annual budget
Jan Vermeer A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal (National Gallery). One of less than 40 surviving pictures by the master of the cool interior. The NG also owns the companion picture, A Young Woman Seated at a Virginal
Jan Vermeer The Guitar Player (Kenwood House). The third painting in the Top 100 from the main drawing room at Kenwood House, making it the most popular single location in our survey. Vermeer was the seventh most frequently nominated artist on the list
Edouard Vuillard Woman in Blue With Child (Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries). A characteristically intimate depiction of domestic life. Vuillard was at his best painting quiet corners of cluttered interiors - giving a subtle grandeur to the wallpaper and bric-a-brac that were the staples of the bourgeois home
Jean-Antoine Watteau Les Plaisirs du Bal (Dulwich Picture Gallery). The French Rococo mood (a blend of dreamy pleasures and melancholia) is best felt at the Wallace Collection, in a room dominated by Watteau, Lancret and Fragonard. None, however, were nominated more than this, at Dulwich
Rogier van der Weyden The Magdalen Reading (National Gallery). In 1956 the cleaning of this little panel's blackened background revealed the legs of the two figures visible today and the landscape through the window. It was cut from a larger altarpiece, two other fragments of which are in Lisbon
James Abbott McNeill Whistler Nocturne in Blue and Gold (Tate Gallery, London). This was the famous view of Old Battersea Bridge that caused Ruskin to accuse Whistler of "flinging a pot of paint in the public's face" and so prompted Whistler to sue for defamation. The trial that followed nearly ruined them both
Richard Wilson Snowdonia from Lyn Nantle (Walker Art Gallery). The experience of Rome in the 1750s and the influence of Claude informed Wilson's work with a kind of elevated classicism which he then brought to all his subjects, even those in his native Wales
Joseph Wright of Derby Experiment on a Bird with an Air Pump (National Gallery). Painted in 1768, against the background of the Industrial Revolution and the advance of a modern age, Wright's subject is an intriguing mixture of science and mystical setting. It was presented to the NG in 1863
Johann Zoffany Colonel Mordant's Cock Match (Tate, London). Zoffany was German by birth but came to England in 1760 and soon enjoyed extensive patronage, firstly from the actor David Garrick and then from the Royal Family. Between 1783 and 1789 he travelled to India, the setting for this picture
COMPETITION: VOTE FOR YOUR FAVOURITE PAINTINGS
The paintings featured this week and the last week in the Sunday Review were chosen by a panel of 100 assorted experts: artists, critics, curators, writers, historians, dealers ... Now it's your turn: simply write in and tell us what you think are the 10 best paintings on public view in Britain, and (briefly) why. We will process the results, and publish the winners in the Review in a few weeks time. As an incentive, we'll also award a bottle of champagne to the senders of five wittiest and/or most persuasive lists. Write to: The 100 Best Paintings in Britain, Arts Desk, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. Usual competition rules apply; the editor's decision is final. !
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