If there's one artist who might never find their way into a picture frame on most peoples' bedroom wall, it's Hieronymus Bosch. While there's no denying the talent of this Dutch Renaissance artist - once referred to as 'the devil's painter' - anyone who has seen works by Bosch will know that his creations could inspire nightmares in the hardiest of horror film fanatics.
Asked to think of a truly great artist, most of us would probably find names like Picasso, Van Gogh, Da Vinci and Rembrandt springing to mind. In this day and age, despite the modern trend for conceptual art, most people still associate the word "artist" with something quite specific; a person in a paint-smattered smock, creating a masterpiece at their easel with brushes and oils.
You can imagine how delighted we were to get a glimpse at the art collection owned by the late - and much missed - David Bowie. Not only was Bowie a legendary musician, celebrated around the world for seminal albums such as The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and Hunky Dory, he was also a cult movie star, a fashion icon, a refreshingly alternative sex symbol, and a serious art junkie.
Hokusai Katsushika's limited-colour woodblock print 'The Great Wave Off Kanaguwa' (also known as 'Under the Wave Off Kanaguwa' and 'Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji - The Great Wave' as well as 'The Great Wave' and simply 'The Wave') is an iconic masterpiece, one of the most famous works ever executed, an impressionist tour-de-force that conveys the menace of a claw-like rogue wave near modern-day Yokohama in Sagami Bay and with Mount Fuji some 50 miles away in the background. Its subject, and the peril to which the three oshiokuri-bune crews are subjected, renders it timeless. Indeed the peak of the mountain is associated with eternal life and that surely contrasts starkly with the life-expectancy of fishermen such as these.
The work 'Wintry Trees' is a colourless 90.5 x 31 cm (35 x i12 inches) ink-on-paper hanging scroll, featuring an idealised and harmonious unpopulated mountain-and-water landscape on an overcast winter's day during the Ming dynasty. (Incidentally 'Ming' means 'bringer of light and certainly these were quite enlightened times.) Yet its execution was very much reminiscent in the style of a predecessor from half a millennium earlier, Li Cheng (919-967) who was an exponent during the so-called 'Later Liang' dynasty.
The work 'Night Attack on the Sanjo Palace' is a massive 45.9 x 774.5 cm (16 inches x 22 feet) Japanese handscroll (or 'emaki') created with ink and colour on paper. It's an action-packed and arguably-pornographic narration of a complex series of events that is designed to be viewed from right to left. But ordinarily one would look at just one section of a handscroll at a time, not all of it. The artist is unknown.
The work 'Akarbarnama: Mines Exploding During the Siege of Chitor' is a 1009mm x 4150mm watercolour painting executed within the Indian subcontinent (so in modern-day Pakistan and India) during the Akbar period of the Mogul Empire by the artist Sarwan though the composition is attributed to Miskina. Although it was apparently created in the early 1590s, it depicts an imagined aerial or bird's-eye view of an event that had actually occurred a quarter of a century earlier in 1567. Be aware that this work is often confused with a corresponding work of the same dimensions that depicts the work of military engineers during the same siege. They were on opposite pages. Sometimes they are collectively viewed as being the same piece.
The work 'Fire' is the 2nd panel of 15 so-called 'Hiroshima Panels' created between 1948 and 1982 by husband-and-wife team Iri (a Chinese-ink painter) and Toshi (an oil-painter) Maruki, after they'd witnessed the aftermath of the atomic blast at Hiroshima in 1945.
The work 'Zebra' was painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper in 1621 during the Mogul Empire. It is a miniature, being just 18.3cm x 24cm, and may well have been the last miniature that the artist executed. It is attributed to Ustad Mansur, with 'Ustad' being a complimentary title meaning 'Master' and acknowledging his status. But it didn't stop there because such was the artist's eminence that Mansur was accorded, during his lifetime, the title 'Nadir al-'Asr' or 'Wonder of the Age'. Today that would be the equivalent of calling him 'a national treasure'.
The work 'Chairman Mao en route to Anyuan' was painted in oils on canvas by Lui Chunhia (please note that he is also known as Liu Chenghua, Chunhua and Cunhia), a youthful member of the radically communist Red Guard, more than half a century after Mao Zedong (the founder of the Chinese Communist Party, also known as Mao Tse-tung) led a peaceful miner's and railway worker's strike during 1922 in the Anyuan region (in the South of China, a little North of Hong Kong). Ultimately many of those workers joined his Red Army and set up the state we know in 1949
The work 'Self Portrait Along the Borderline Between Mexico and the USA', by a largely-self-taught naive-folk-art-cum-surrealist painter who was in every sense unconventional, features the artist at 25 as she straddles the threshold betwixt two contrasting worlds (that of the agrarian Mexico from which she came and the industrial North America on which she felt her commercial career depended).
'The Inevitable' is a 9-part ink drawing that was described by the Tate Modern, when it mounted an exhibition of Ibrahim el-Salahi's work back in 2013 as the first ever retrospective of any African artist, as being evidence of 'a new Sudanese visual vocabulary, which arose from his own pioneering integration of Islamic, African, Arab and Western artistic traditions'. But the hyperbole apart, the story of how Ibrahim el-Salahi came to develop his unique contribution to art is truly fascinating on a human level because the horrendous circumstances in which he conceived this work explain both the subject-matter and the style-of-execution he employed.
'Shah-Jahan receives his three eldest sons and Asaf Khan during his accession ceremonies on 8th March 1628' is a 30.6 x 21.3 cm illustration within a 58.4 x 37.0 cm page for the 'Padshahnama' (or 'Book of Emperors') which was commissioned by the Mogul Emperor Shah-Jahan as a piece of propaganda to celebrate his reign (over what is the modern-day Indian subcontinent and beyond) as it drew to a close. This initial panel, which now hangs in Windsor Castle's Royal Library, was painted in 1656 to 1657 by Bichtr. We'll examine the illustration, drawing on what The Royal Collection Trust tells us about what it depicts. Yet we will do so in the broader context of its execution and, in doing so, complement the information which is readily had from the owners and exhibitors.
William Holman Hunt was the principal founder of the Pre-Raphaelite movement that he established when he was just 21 with artist-and-poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a movement which was subsequently joined by the likes of John Everett Millais and Thomas Woolner. It was a movement that was mirrored by contemporary writers including the polymaths John Ruskin and Thomas Carlyle, and essentially Holman Hunt and other artists simply sought to depict their take on truth, vividly colouring in a world where every detail could well be symbolic. Fundamentally the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood harkened back to the religiousness, or at least the spirituality, of the medieval times before the Renaissance supposedly made everything rational and explained (or potentially explicable) by science. So, essentially, Holman Hunt and his fellow Pre-Raphaelites celebrated enduring mystery - seeing God's hand in every aspect of creation and the world they observed around them. That included nature, beauty and love. But, actually, the artist's initial fame came when he exhibited religious work.
Bessie Nakamara Sims (an indigenous / aboriginal Australian painter, draughtswoman and printmaker born circa 1932) is credited with the creation of the painting 'Possum Dreaming' (or 'Janganpa Jukurrupa') which is currently in the keep of Brighton and Hove Museums on the UK's South coast. This piece should not be confused with another work, 'Kangaroo, Cabbage, Ceremonial Speer (sic), Possum and Bush Carrot Dreaming' which she co-created with her husband Paddy Japaljarri Sims (born circa 1916) and which is in the keep of the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, Glasgow on the West coast of Scotland.
Born Vincent Willem van Gogh to a father - Theodorus van Gogh - who was a preacher and a mother - Anna Cornelia Carbentus - from a well-to-do family, Van Gogh has come to personify the archetypal misunderstood and underachieving artist. He had several different career-starts and managed to bungle all of them, wrecked his own health, was rarely happy with anything or anybody, was constantly broke and reliant on his little brother even for his art materials, supposedly only ever sold one painting of the thousands of artworks he created (and even then it was to a pal's sister), and was so psychotic that he cut off his own ear then shot himself at the age of just 37.
Born Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, Sandro Botticelli was an Italian-born early Renaissance artist who may have acquired his professional surname on account of a flippant association with one of two brothers. One brother (Antonio) was apparently barrel-shaped (in Italian a barrel is a 'botticello') and another (Giovanni) was a goldsmith as was their father (in Italian a goldsmith is a 'battigello'). However it isn't clear which was the case. Moreover we're not even sure about when Alessandro (shortened to Sandro, obviously) was born but 1445 seems likely and he had the good fortune to be born in Florence which was, at that time, Europe's cultural capital (and therefore the world's cultural capital).
Raphael (full name: Raffaello Sanzio da Urbin) was a master painter, printmaker and architect of the Italian High Renaissance - really the last notable artist of that era - and a so-called 'mannerist' who to this day is renowned for his expansive, calm, harmonious and serene compositions, his religious art, his idealised beauty and his sense of colour. As a Renaissance man he merged art, science, mathematics, biology, philosophy and more. And, in his time, was called 'The Prince of Painters'.
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was a prolific multitalented artist and arguably not just the greatest that the Dutch ever produced (if we dismiss his contemporary Johannes Vermeer, which might be unfair), and quite possibly the greatest 17th century master, but one of the greatest talents that the world ever witnessed.
Henri-Emile-Benoit Matisse was a highly-influential French artist who is often mentioned in the same breath as his contemporary, lifelong friend and rival Pablo Picasso because of the impact that the duo made during the early 20th century.