Promise Me


Beverley Craven is British but originally from Ceylon and she is most famous for this hit single “Promise Me” thus, she was an accomplished swimmer and musician as a young adult!

What it was that made the Dutch Golden Age so impressive 


Rembrandt is possibly the most important Dutch artist of all time, and a huge part of the Dutch Golden Age; thus, he was famous for his self portraits without vanity, and clearly had knowledge of what has become iconography – using text, people and his own composition!

Sadly, Rembrandt’s first three children died at very young ages with only his fourth surviving to adulthood.

Rembrandt collected and traded in art himself. Living beyond his means he went bankrupt having to sell his house and his printing press. The Painters Guild then outlawed painters trading in art, so some friends of his set themselves up in business as art dealers and hired Rembrandt as an employee to get round this new rule.

He wanted to achieve through his work the greatest and most natural movement, melding the earthly and spiritual like no other painter has in Western art.

Wife Saskia, son Titus and the common law wife (after Saskia died in another tragedy effecting Rembrandt) all featured in his paintings, many of which had mythical, biblical or historical themes.

Also part of the Baroque movement, Rembrandt is famous for at least five magnificent paintings:

  • Danaë is from Greek mythology, she is the mother of Perseus and is welcoming Zeus who impregnated her with gold and this is one big painting which resides in Russia;
  • Jacob de Gheyn III was a Dutch engraver who helped design the Royal Gardens in the Hague. The painting being so small, has been stolen numerous times and is part of a pair. It seems to have a big connection with South London, having been pinched from the Dulwich Picture Gallery and also it was found under a bench in a graveyard in Streatham. In fact Jacob has been reported stolen more than any other painting;
  • The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp was painted in 1632 and it is an oil painting of a dead armed robber, who had just been executed. This lecture room was an actual theatre and people would pay an entrance fee to see the show just like it were a play;
  • Belshazzar’s Feast was painted approximately in 1635. It was inspired by “writing on the wall” from the Old Testament Book of Daniel;
  • Night Watch is perhaps Rembrandt’s most famous masterpiece because its use of light and shadow plus the perception of motion in a static military portrait;

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn had a large workshop with many pupils and the biggest collection of his work is in Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.


The Fifer


Edouard Manet, The Fifer (1866). Oil on canvas, 160 x 97 cm. Musee d’Orsay, Paris.

Who it was that began the new realism in art

Clarity, candour, culture, courtesy and a virtuous ability to handle paint are said to be the most striking qualities of Edouard Manet!

Manet’s painting of 1866 – The Fifer – depicts a teenage musician from a ceremonial military band, who is standing all alone. This young artiste, appears at first glance to be very direct and uncomplicated, thus the stripe of the trouser in particular (according to John Richardson, 1982) boldly outlines the body, and separates it.

Oddly enough, the figure itself is surrounded by nothing but air. In addition, this small boy’s striking pose is likely to have been derived from a picture on a French tarot card and he does look a little deceptive / intriguing; is there perhaps more to this painting than a charming young man in uniform?

French model Victorine Meurent was a favorite of Manet and appeared in many of his pictures, thus Victorine is clearly seen in the effeminate face of this young fifer, as can Leon Leenhoff who was Manet’s stepson.

Young and handsome, the lad is positioned on the canvas in shallow depth without much geometrical framework; hence, this large, single figure has emphatic contours with sharp blacks and reds, beating out at the viewer.

A ‘fife’ is a high pitched musical instrument (a little like a flute) originating from medieval Europe; popular in marching bands, fifes have appeared regularly as symbols within paintings throughout European art history.

Furthermore, this picture is sometimes referred to as “Young Flautist” hence, Manet completed it after a trip to Spain and it reflects the influence of Pablo de Valladolid, who was an artist Manet would have studied at the Museo del Prado, upon his sojourn to Madrid.

Upon his return to Paris, Edouard Manet decided to portray an anonymous boy in a picture like he was part of the Imperial Guard’s military band, and the artist brought many Spanish ideas home with him to provide a truly modern feeling in France.

Lifelike and alive The Fifer himself, really stands out against an extremely dull, monochrome background; as such, there is a flat emptiness of clear space that gives a strange silence to a musical painting!

It wasn’t until 1884 however (after the artist’s death) that this painting was exhibited in a retrospective exhibition of Manet’s work, having been organized as a tribute to the man who has become known as the Father of Impressionism – even this harmless little boy was yet another rejection by those notorious judges at the Salon de Paris!

Both a devoted and domesticated family man, Edouard Manet was also a pious Catholic and skeptical humanist; now truly loved by the artworld, it has been suggested that he was the first modern painter, and the last classical artist.

How it is that
Perhaps best-known for his work as a curator at the British Museum, Hugo Chapman has been widely published in the field of art history.

Johannes Vermeer Exhibition

VermeerJohannes Vermeer, View of Delft (1660). Oil on canvas, 98 x 118 cm. Mauritshuis, The Hague

How the paintings of Jan Vermeer came to be so revered

A free exhibition celebrating Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer, will be held in the Sainsbury Wing of London’s National Gallery beginning June 26, 2013.

“Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure” will explore how harmony was a pastime for many elite members of society during the Dutch Golden Age, and this forthcoming exhibition is expected to be one of the highlights of the year in London.

The National Gallery aims to enhance viewers’ appreciation of some of Jan Vermeer’s most beautiful and evocative paintings, by including traditional musical instruments that have been preserved from the seventeenth-century; for the very first time, two works will be exhibited together: Young Woman Standing at a Virginal and Young Woman Seated at a Virginal.

Visitors will be able to compare 250 year old antique guitars and lutes, plus authentic songbooks from that period, alongside Jan Vermeer’s paintings. This will offer a unique insight into the artist’s choice of musical instruments, plus the difference between real instruments and the way they are represented artistically!

Music was one of the most popular themes for Dutch artists during her Golden Age and it carried many diverse associations; for example, musical instruments were often included as attributes in elegant portraits, suggesting that the sitter was accomplished in this area.

Songbooks in paintings might suggest education or social position, however, in scenes of everyday life, such symbols might act as a metaphor for harmony, or represent transience, and this is important because iconography is a large part of art history.

Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer specialized in painting the domestic interior scenes of middle class life from the seventeenth-century, and this exhibition will explore musical pastimes of that period in the Netherlands, through a lively display.

Vermeer seems to have been a slow and careful worker (according to Ernst Gombrich, 1972) thus, he didn’t paint very many pictures in his life, and very few represent important scenes.

Painting mostly regular figures, standing in a typical Dutch house and performing a simple task (e.g. The Milkmaid shows a woman pouring out milk) Vermeer’s paintings, are early still-life with human beings that lack any humorous illustration. This makes it difficult to give reasons why such unassuming pictures are among the greatest of all time!

Vermeer’s painting – The Guitar Player – is on exceptional loan from the Iveagh Bequest at Kenwood House and expected to be a highlight of this exhibition at the National Gallery.

“The Art of Love and Leisure” will last until Sept 8, 2013 and will be complemented by the inclusion of soft music from that era to enrich each visitor’s experience of such a great collection of paintings.

Why it is that
Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino was a painter and architect from the High Renaissance. Part of a trinity of great Italian masters, Raphael was perhaps the most productive of them all!


Born in 1483 and living just 37 years, Apostolic Palace of the Vatican, house some of the most magnificent fresco artwork anywhere in the world.

Running a hugely successful workshop, Raphael generated more artists than any other. His team included established masters, young pupils and journeymen who were all diffused across Italy after the Sack of Rome in 1527; Raphael’s more serene and harmonious qualities have always been regarded as the highest models by art historians.

Contemporary biographer Giorgio Vasari said: “Those who are the possessors of such rare and numerous gifts as were seen in the Raffaello da Urbino are not merely men, but mortal gods.”

Raphael mixed easily in the highest circles because he had excellent manners and social skills due to his knowledge of music and literary culture, though he never got on with his great rivals Leonardo and Michelangelo during the Florentine sojourn.

Assimilating the influence of Florentine art (such as the pyramidal composition of da Vinci) with his own style, Raphael reached the epitome of the classical spirit, thus, The School of Athens is a masterpiece without question in the Stanza della Segnatura; Raphael became the father of history painting – the highest in the hierarchy of genres.

Scuola di Atene is a painting which depicts branches of knowledge: philosophy, poetry, music, theology and law. The title of Raphael’s best-known fresco from 1511 refers to Aristotle’s emphasis on wisdom, thus Aristotle and his teacher Plato appear right in the center with Plato holding a book in his left hand.

Just a third of this “school” are Athenians and the architecture contains many Roman elements; Plato and Aristotle are pointing towards heaven and earth which reflects Timaeus – a bible of mathematics, time and space by Plato and a copy of which is the book he is holding.

Remaining in Rome until the end of his life, Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino’s work has since been admired for its ease of composition, its clarity of form and how it achieved visually the ideal of human grandeur. Raphael’s premature death on Good Friday was possibly his 37th birthday and after an extremely grand funeral, he was buried in the Pantheon.

Alicia Keys


Alicia Keys


When it was that the National Portrait Gallery came to be


The National Portrait Gallery (NPG) was the first portrait gallery in the world when it opened in London in 1856, thus the NPG has an unequaled collection of historic and contemporary portraiture housed beside Trafalgar Square.

The Tudor collection at the NPG is a priceless portrait collection in art history, because it includes portraits of Henry VIII with his family and court, thus there are many other portraits of the British monarchy in the gallery.

The ground floor is notable because it houses the pictures of a great many modern celebrities, hence the NPG also carries a huge collection of double portraiture paintings, that are historically important to Great Britain and the art world in general.

This amazing gallery actually moved in 1896 to its current location at St Martin’s Place (in heart of the West End) and just off Trafalgar Square, next door to the National Gallery, where the cafe on the top floor offers impressive views of our capital city.

The NPG has been expanded twice (something that benchmarks its importance) on its current site; moreover, there are also three regional outposts: Beningbrough Hall, Bodelwyddan Castle and Montacute House.

However, the NPG is not connected to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh – though their remits do overlap – and the NPG in London, still stages exhibitions of portrait art by specialist artists and always hosts the BP Portrait Prize art competition annually!

1969 was the year that portraits of living figures were finally allowed into the National Portrait Gallery and the Chandos Portrait of William Shakespeare was the first painting to enter their collection in London more than a hundred years before, thus, as one of their best-known images, the Chandos portrait is the most famous portrait of Shakespeare anywhere in the world and quite possibly the only one he was the sitter for.

This gallery houses portraits of other historically important and famous British people; in particular, many have been selected on the basis of their significance to the sitter – rather than the artist – which marks a big difference between portraiture and other types of painting genres, and this helps to make portraiture the important genre in its own right that it of course is.

The NPG’s collection also includes some photographs and many caricatures, as well as sketches, sculptures and drawings, plus there are self-portraits too: William Hogarth and Sir Joshua Reynolds are name but just two.

The group portrait of the 1604 Somerset House Conference is actually now an important historical document in its own right and there is also curiosity value linked to some other works of art: the anamorphic portrait of Edward VI; Patrick Branwell Brontë’s portraits of his sisters; plus that wonderful sculpture of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in a medieval costume – all are very intriguing!

The three busts over the main entrance to the gallery, commemorate the three people who founded the NPG including Lord Ellesmere who donated the Chandos Portrait and the original building is decorated with stone block busts of eminent portrait artists, writers and historians; making the gallery significant to architectural design as well as with paintings. Infamously though, back in 1909 there was an incident in the Arctic Room where a murder, followed by a suicide took place when a man shot his wife in the back and then put the gun in his own mouth.

In summary, HRH the Duchess of Cambridge has made the National Portrait Gallery one of her official patronages and unveiled her very own portrait there in January 2013.

Depeche Mode


Depeche Mode

Da Vinci Self Portrait
Who it really was behind that mysterious and remote man


Leonardo da Vinci was a “jack of all trades” and master of them all; thus, his diversity of talent ranged from inventing to music, and from art to science, thus it made him one of the cleverest people that has ever lived.

Born in Florence and working all around Italy, Leonardo spent his final years in France in a home given by King Francis I.

Da Vinci drew sketches in the fifteenth-century of helicopters, tanks, a solar panel and a calculator – he was like a giant, modern day university with all its departments rolled into one person!

Later in life Leonardo recorded two childhood incidents: one was when a bird swooped from the sky, brushing its feathers on his face; the second was a cave he believed had a monster hiding in.

A local peasant made himself a shield which Leonardo painted a fire breathing dragon upon; so terrifying it had to be sold and the money was used to buy a different shield with cupid’s arrow on it!

Leonardo began the Mona Lisa in Florence and took it with him to France where the King bought it. Spending time in Versailles, the Mona Lisa then went to Napoleon who had it in his bedroom for a while and now it remains under tight security in the Louvre in Paris. The Mona Lisa was not well known until the mid nineteenth-century when the Symbolist movement began to appreciate it; it is now the most famous painting in the world and a priceless antique.

The Last Supper is in Milan, with Judas leaning back into the shadow taking bread at the same time as Jesus. Most interpretations of the last supper had Judas sitting alone or without a halo; da Vinci’s painting has many references to the number three which represents the Christian belief in Holy Trinity. The Apostles sit in groups of three, there are three windows behind Jesus and his shape is triangular.

Vitruvian Man is a drawing of a male in two super imposed positions, spreading his arms and legs in a circle and a square. It is accompanied by notes on Vetruvius the Roman architect and is kept in Venice. Like most drawings on paper, it is only ever displayed occasionally. The human figure was thought to be the principle source of proportion in architecture and an analogy for the workings of the universe. Da Vinci’s accompanying notes were written in mirror writing with his left hand to keep them secret.

Leonardo Da Vinci died with his head in the King’s arms (sounds like the name of a pub) according to close friend Vasari in 1519. He was present at a meeting with King Francis and the Pope shortly before in the Vatican, where Raphael and Michelangelo were both active and continuing the tradition of High Renaissance.

The Who


The Who

Driving And SafetyCoping with black ice on the road in winter Safety tips for driving in the winter


Bad weather, low visibility and poor road conditions equate to a higher risk of accidents and increase in breakdowns, which are not helped by dark, freezing, foggy, icy, wintry conditions.

According to GEM Motoring Assist UK drivers are largely unprepared for winter. In England, an ice scraper or some windshield de-icer is most people’s idea of preparing their vehicle!


Always have a fully charged mobile telephone, charger and spare battery. Keep an ice scraper, de-icer, torch with spare batteries and first aid kit handy.

Carry a fluorescent warning triangle, warm clothing, a tow rope, a sack for wheel grip, boots, jump leads, blankets, snow shovel, winter weather kit, high energy food and drinking water.

Service the vehicle in the autumn. Put anti-freeze in the radiator and screen wash in the water bottle. Test the battery’s strength, hold snow chains and carry a high visibility jacket.

Chewing gum improves concentration, and a recent Optigrip tire test shows evidence of the new tire that grips in the wet even when it is worn!


Once the snow starts to fall or the gales begin to howl, our driving skills are pushed to the limit. You must reduce your speed by easing off the accelerator rather than braking.

Black-ice is a thin coating of transparent frost, where you can see the dark road underneath it. Difficult to spot, black-ice is especially hazardous and contributes to a massive amount of accidents, therefore avoid or delay the journey.

De-mist, de-ice and when stuck in traffic do not continuously run the engine. This will save petrol. Slightly leave the window open for ventilation but maintaining warmth and raise your feet off the cold floor.

Increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front. It can take ten times as long to stop in icy conditions. Look well ahead to anticipate problems.

When pulling away, use second gear if possible to avoid wheel spin. When braking, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allowing the speed to fall.


If in a skid, turn into it, easing off the accelerator. When cornering, allow the speed to reduce well before bends.

Insurance is a given, but you may like to pay a little extra for emergency accommodation especially if going abroad, where traffic police often have greater powers and can be less forgiving.

Be prepared to take more time over your journey and check the forecast and weather warnings before leaving.

It may seem like common sense to say this but I believe it is worth reinforcing the idea of both drivers and passengers wearing a safety belt.

Drivers should not have drunk any alcohol whatsoever regardless of what the legal limit is, especially in the dark winter and that probably means none the night before.

Hung-over drivers are just as dangerous as exhausted drivers falling asleep at the wheel, especially with regard to reaction times.


GEM Motoring Assist is a trading name for The Guild of Experienced Motorists and was established in 1932 as an independent driver-based road safety association.

GEM’s aim is to improve safety for all road users through the sponsorship and initiation of accident prevention measures throughout the UK and to provide motoring and safety information to its own members.

The Highways Agency Information Line is 0845 750 4030