Coming this New Year are the tercentenary of the birth of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the bicentenary of the birth of Alexandre Cabanel, and the centenary of the untimely death of Joaquín Sorolla.
How West failed in his aim of bringing a revolution to history painting by depicting ‘modern history’, and was repeatedly upstaged by others.
His early ambition was to be a history painter. After studying in Rome, when he was on his way back to the US, he stopped off in London. For nearly sixty years.
The man in the background is the husband of Mrs Phelps Stokes, posing as a surrogate for a Great Dane. Note the Renaissance elbow.
How the grand-daughters of the Duchess of Devonshire posed for the triple portrait and referred back to any orgiastic scene of bacchanalian revelry.
Pastellist like Rosalba Carriera led the way in making marks to create the illusion of finely detailed fabrics. This contrasts with smooth and detailed faces.
Joshua Reynolds, who aspired to paint like Rembrandt; JMW Turner who explored colour contrasts and texture; Edgar Degas, who dried his oils before painting.
Physiognomy originated in ancient Greece, but was codified by Lavater in 1772; phrenology followed from 1796, and together they attracted many painters.
How we got from one of the most senior gods, and a winged young man, to a chubby infant armed with a bow and arrow, let alone an unknown former saint.
Independent development of landscape as a genre in Britain, from Gainsborough to John Constable, and radical departure from tradition.