Kiefer’s moving work of 2001 reaches deep into myth and science to help make sense of recent history, particularly in Germany. Other 20th-century artists have tried to revive historical consciousness and to find a moral role for art. Could this be successful in today’s conditions?
During Jean- Léon Gérôme’s career, history painting continued to be popular, even as it was being undermined by new ideas for subject matter. We look at his frequently reproduced picture of gladiators in an ancient Roman arena in the context of Realism, Impressionism, photography, and movies.
A painter of fantastical and catastrophic events, Martin was a master scenographer and a Victorian celebrity. In this Old Testament episode, set in a dizzy vision of Babylon, a blaspheming king gets some bad news.
The painter of this little-known Romantic work, a new acquisition by the Gallery, shows the remnants of the Grande Armée in the greatest defeat in military history. What sense does he make of the event? The questions he poses about war and true heroism are still pressing.
Most of us know this famous image of an inspiring American defeat and a noble death. Trumbull was there that day. We examine what he knew about what actually happened at Bunker Hill, what he chose to paint, and what he wanted to say about the combatants’ values.
One of West’s great masterpieces, this work depicts an act of piety and defiance by a Roman matron. We discuss the American-born West’s remarkable career (he was Historical Painter to George III) and how he managed to distill in a single picture everything that matters about the heroine’s story.
Gavin Hamilton, a gifted Scotsman working in Rome, was an art dealer, excavator, tour guide, and pioneer neoclassical painter. His scene of a virtuous woman and her resolute avengers, taken from Livy’s history of the earliest days of Rome, was a model for later artists in its blunt eloquence.
The Gallery’s best known Renaissance painting shows Hercules about to shoot a centaur who is abducting his bride. Everybody admires the vigorous action and vast landscape. What about the subject? In the myth, she is rescued, but the shooting eventually leads to a horrible death for Hercules. We don’t see that; does it help to […]
In this painting, a recent acquisition, a gifted Renaissance artist portrays a critical moment for the early Church. We look at how Garofalo treats what happened to Saul on the road to Damascus and what that might signify.
This painting is a showpiece of Rubens’s youthful brilliance and ambition. To picture the climax of the story, he paints a fierce storm and invents a large supporting cast of sea nymphs. What did these famous lovers do wrong, and what did their fate say to the artist’s audience?
Marco Pino was the most important painter in southern Italy during the later Renaissance. We examine his career and have a thorough look at this little-known but superb work, focusing on how he presents a frequently painted Gospel story of doubt and salvation.
For six centuries, history painting—pictures based on stories from myth, scripture, and ancient and modern history—was the most prestigious work a painter could do. Renaissance artists and writers laid down the definitions, goals, and rules. We outline these and look at many examples of how they changed as pictorial narrative evolved until its eclipse in […]