April 22, 2004
Popular living painters and popular dead painters

I got an email a while back inviting me to contribute to this. But I have enough places to write at as it is. So, pass on that, I'm afraid.

But by going to the site, I did find something of interest, in the form of this list (which started out here), of Britain's most popular living artists, as measured by print sales:

1 Jack Vettriano
2 Gillian McDonald
3 Mackenzie Thorpe
4 Kay Boyce
5 Sue Macartney-Snape
6 Steven Townsend
7 Mary Ann Rogers
8 Jonathan Shaw
9 David Dipnall
10 Charlotte Atkinson

Vettriano I've talked about here. I looked at what the Internet could offer concerning the next five, and frankly, I was extremely disappointed.

This second list, of the dead artists which Britain likes most, again rated by print sales, I found much more interesting:

1 L S Lowry
2 Monet
3 Alan Ingham
4 Russell Flint
5 John Miller
6 Mark Rothko
7 Vincent Van Gogh
8 Pablo Picasso
9 Gustave Klimt
10 Henri Matisse

Ingham I had never heard of, and Flint only just. John Miller I still haven't heard of, because John Miller is too common a name. (There seems to be another artist called John Miller who is very much alive.) But the others are all big names, of course.

And what interests me about this list is its modernity. Where are the earlier big names, like Turner, Constable, Gainsborough, Rubens, Rembrandt? Where is the Italian Renaissance?

Could it be that print buying is a niche market, which doesn't really measure popularity? Or is this what is really happening to British public taste in paintings nowadays?

Anyway, I'll illustrate my little foray into the (what is for me rather) foreign country of painting with this picture, done by number two on the still-alive list, Gillian McDonald:


… and with this painting, by L. S. Lowry, of L. S. Lowry, from this intriguing collection of self-portraits.


The point I make with this is that Lowry was not all matchstick men and matchstick cats and dogs. I was going to feature the two portraits here but they "cannot be downloaded for any purpose", although I think they actually mean "may" not be.

If you do download either of them, the man with the red eyes will come and get you.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:20 AM
Category: Painting