An oil painting of a young woman sitting at a piano.

Johannes Vermeer, A Young Woman Seated at a Virginal, c. 1670–72

Look at Vermeer’s painting and the objects nearest to us, around the edge of the painting.

Think about how an image is framed through a camera’s lens. Do you think the composition of the picture suggests that Vermeer used a camera obscura (the forerunner of the camera) as an aid to composition and a method to getting an initial outline for his painting?

Oil painting of a hill-top town on a clear sunny day

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Avignon from the West, 1836

Look at Corot’s Avignon from the West and see the clouds and their shadows create the sense of gentle wind. The painting is a direct depiction of nature and human habitation in harmony. The viewer can almost feel the sun and smell the vegetation.

Think about how the softened foreground and atmospheric background, with the pale faraway hills, create a ‘sandwich’ effect. The centre of the painting glows, capturing our attention with the sandy highlights and building details.

A painting of four ballerinas stretching in an undefined studio space.

Edgar Degas, Ballet Dancers, c. 1890–1900

Look at this image by Degas of a ballet rehearsal. Degas did many paintings and sketches of this subject matter. Why do you think Degas was interested in the training rather than the final performance?

Think about how Degas has used paint to create a sense of movement in this oil sketch of ballet dancers. See how the canvas support has not been covered by the paint and shows through in many places. Artists developed a new style of painting to capture the increasing speed of modern life.

An oil painting of a bridge over a pond covered in water lilies.

Claude Monet, The Water-Lily Pond, 1899

Look at Monet’s painting of a Japanese bridge in the garden he built in France. Can you decide what Monet is primarily interested in? Is it the scene in front of him or light and colour?

Think about what sort of brushstrokes Monet used to create the image. What words would you use to describe those brushstrokes?

Painting of an outdoor scene depicting Mary Magdalene seeing Jesus for the first time since the Resurrection

Titian, Noli me Tangere, c. 1514

Look at the position of the two figures in relation to each other and their body language. This painting is about Mary Magdalene being the first person to see Jesus after the Resurrection.

Titian did quite a bit of re-painting to finalise the composition – originally Mary and Jesus were closer. Think about why he moved them further apart and the effect this creates.