Research point: Interiors

Look at interiors that have by painted by various artists from different periods…

This is both a fascinating and also fairly endless topic, so I’ve come up with what might seem  a random selection of paintings and will present them chronologically with a few thoughts. The process of choosing and looking at these images has certainly helped to open up my mind to the ways in which interiors and the objects within them can be portrayed.

1656-las meininas-vela

Las Meninas, Diego Velazquez, 1656


In this his most famous of his paintings (a portrait of the Infanta Margarita, daughter of Felipe IV 1605-1665, surrounded by her servants or “family” in a hall of Madrid’s Alcázar Palace) Velazquez uses perspective to create depth. The eye is drawn to the open door and the figure at the back and there are reflections in the mirror. The paintings themselves frame the scene and seem to dwarf the figures.



The Awakening Conscience 1853 William Holman Hunt 1827-1910 Presented by Sir Colin and Lady Anderson through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1976

The Awakening Conscience 1853 William Holman Hunt 1827-1910


Here the Pre-raphaelite painter Holman Hunt has used the furnishings to frame the figures. The way objects are scattered suggests a spontaneous moment in time captured. The figures are reflected in the mirror behind which is creating depth by reflecting open doors to the outside world. The outside juxtaposed with an intensely intimate interior moment.





Note in Opal: Breakfast 1864 James McNeill Whistler


In this lovely watercolour Whistler draws attention to the figure by contrasting her against an ethereal table and backdrop. Light streams across the image. The artist hasn’t been afraid to let the space talk and has not filled the scene with detail. It’s not necessary.






The Pink Studio, Matisse, 191

It seems that the real focus of this painting is the figure sculpture to the left. The diagonally placed rug is leading my eye to it and then my eye travels around the other objects and the more I look the more I see, such as the white figure / statue to the right. I note how Matisse has left a part of the foreground empty. This has created depth.



Sunlit interior, Edouard Vuillard 1920


A kind of visual passage way has been created by placing all the furniture elements to the sides so that the eye is drawn along a pathway to the figure in front of the window at the back of the room. The high ceiling seems to make the figure look small and frail.






Interior with a table, Vanessa Bell, 1921


This is all about the the lovely curvy shapes of the table and the chair… which complement each other so well. The scene through the window is pretty, as is the vase of the flowers but the furniture is the star of the show.




Mother Bathing Child 1953 Jack Smith 1928-2011 Purchased 1955

Mother Bathing Child 1953 Jack Smith 1928-2011



This is a very literal example of 1950s kitchen sink painting, a term applied to a group of British artists including Jack Smith who painted ordinary people in scenes of everyday life. It depicts stark unadorned reality in a harsh, linear way. It is as if the viewer is behind a counter or shelf of some sort with some distance between them and the scene.





The Studio at Californie, 1956, Picasso


Picasso’s studio in a villa at the foot of the Sainte Victoire mountain.The blank canvas is in contrast a very busy and decorative interior and I cannot figure out what else to say!





Master Bedroom, Andrew Wyeth, 1965


The bed fills the horizontal plane and it takes a moment to see the dog. Who’s bed is it the master’s or the dog’s? This stark, unadorned interior is typical of Wyeth’s work and has loads of atmosphere.




Sink and mirror, Antonio Garcia, Lopez, 1967


Lopez’s work, which also includes dirty, grimy interiors, fridges, washing machines and such like, is stark realism and altogether disconcerting with  grubby traces of invisible inhabitants.








Maids, Paula Rego, 1989

Here the items of  furniture and other objects  seem to act as props in a macabre play. Murder is about to be committed in this menacing painting. The pig is walking into the picture to join the fray. I can’t help but notice how often in  interior paintings an area of clear space is used in the foreground to give depth and lead the eye to the action.



It’s past midnight and time to stop but this has been an absorbing and informative research project and well worth the time and effort.


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