Leonardo’s Vetruvian Man is the most famous sketch ever made. The man in the circle is Vitruvius, the 1st century architect, who wrote that the best architecture is modelled on nature. The surrounding notes are taken from his revolutionary book De Architectura. Leonardo places two men in a circle and a square, exploring the ideal proportions of the human figure in relation to the geometrical principles described by Vitruvius.
Claude Monet, 'The Water-Lily Pond' (1899). Tired of Paris, Monet left for Giverny in 1883. He was a passionate horticulturalist, and so built himself a water garden with a Japanese-styled arched bridge. Over the next 43 years he painted his water-lilies about 250 times, capturing subtle changes in the quality of light and colour. In this work he removes all banks and boundaries, giving the illusion of an endless whole and immersing us in his peaceful refuge. 25 Jun 2012
When asked if his drooping clocks were inspired by Einstein’s theory of relativity, Dalí declined, saying they were inspired by Camembert cheese melting in the sun. The theme of this Surrealist masterpiece is time, decay & the subconscious. Ants swarm towards metal as if it were rotting flesh; a sluggish monster in the profile of Dalí snoozes on the floor; and the Catalonian Mountains in the background blur the division between objective and subjective reality.
Hērō was the priestess of Aphrodite & lived in a high tower overlooking the Hellespont. Across the lake lived a young man called Leander, who fell in love with Hērō & convinced her to light a lamp each night to guide him as he swam across to show his affection for her. This lasted until one stormy night the lamp was blown out, and Leander was drowned. Devastated, Hērō jumped to her death to be with her lover eternally. Twombly dedicated this work to the poet Christopher Marlowe.
Having already been accused of “throwing a pot of paint in the public’s face” with his Nocturne in Black and Gold, Whistler comes up with this - a real punch in the gut. As the first provocateur of “art for art’s sake”, he refused to describe this as a portrait of his mother, but rather an ‘Arrangement in Black and Grey’. Paying almost absurd attention to formal composition, Whistler is saying that art matters more than family, loyalty or any of the Victorian values.