The Forensic Eye, Find Your Inner Connoisseur – A talk by Chantal Brotherton-Ratcliffe on October 7th

Society members had a brilliant lecture from Chantal Brotherton – Ratcliffe, consultant lecturer on Old Master Paintings and a 16th and 17th century expert.  Chantal is also a trained painting restorer. Her lectures emphasise historical painting techniques. This lecture was entitled ‘The Forensic Eye, Find Your Inner Connoisseur.’

Chantal began by urging us to look at paintings with our eyes wide open and thus find our inner connoisseur! When identifying the artist look for clues:

SIGNATURE Precise signing didn’t begin until the 19th century. Before that the artists wrote their names indistinctly, or it was well camouflaged. Some signatures are not correct, or attributed to the wrong artist, or written by the owner with wishful thinking! Sometimes the signature was over painted for financial reasons.

CANVAS The pattern on the canvases varied, different artists preferring different textures. The way the canvas was stretched also affects the final effect of the painting.

COLOURING Some artists (particularly early Renaissance  and Impressionists) liked to paint on white giving a bright tone. In the middle centuries, white canvas is toned down with base colour giving more harmony.

STYLE Every artist has their own style which is characteristic to them – heads and hands are not always anatomically correct for example. Some are good some not.

DRAPERY Again individual to the artist- some are natural some overdone. Pupils often adopted their master’s techniques.

BRUSHWORK This is about how the paint comes off the brush – tight close work or broad distant strokes. Thickness of paint is also characteristic, some almost sculptured.

OUTLINE Artists paint outline first and then fill it in. Some outlines are incorporated, but some remain very obvious giving hard edges

COMPARING ORIGINAL AND COPIES Very subtle differences, needing a trained eye and careful observation. Chantal particularly pinpointed the painting of fabrics, folds, drapes and shading.

SIGNIFICANT CHARACTERISTICS When painting people, artists have identifiable quirks, for example the proportion of the body, size of heads, shapes of faces and length of limbs.

Chantal has certainly given us much to think about, which will enhance our enjoyment and understanding next time and in the future when we visit art galleries etc. We will certainly “ look with eyes wide open”.

Dee Pidgeon