Botticelli to Van Gogh

Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London

Technology and Art

The exhibition 'Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London', spanning 450 years, reveals how changes in technology made possible new ways of picturing the world. Through the ages, the ability to copy reality through art has been a prized skill. Before the development of photography, Vermeer used a camera obscura (the forerunner of the modern-day camera) as an aid to drawing outlines and composing his paintings. By the late 19th century, artists used cameras to capture fleeting events. The production of paint tubes in the late 19th century also transformed the act of painting, enabling artists to be mobile and paint out-of-doors with natural light. Another technological innovation that transformed art making and society was electric lighting. This not only provided stronger and more stable light sources, but helped to develop a flourishing nightlife in cities.

Look at each of the paintings and determine what lighting sources may have been used.

Think about how the invention of artificial lighting, the steam train and the camera transformed people’s lifestyles. Can you think of recent inventions and technologies that have changed the way we view the world?

Create a series of five photographs of the same landscape (for example, your garden or a local park), taken every half hour (6pm, 6.30pm, 7pm, 7.30pm and 8pm) as daylight fades.

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