The Walker Art Gallery's audio guide provides a brilliant introduction to the gallery’s highlights. This morning I decided to use the audio guide to find out a little bit more about 17th and 18th century art; and two paintings that I found particularly interesting were Rembrandt’s ‘Self portrait as a young man’ (c.1630) and Gainsborough’s ‘Isabella, Viscountess Molyneux, later Countess of Sefton' (1769).
The guide offered unique insight into both of these paintings and because you are listening at your leisure the experience isn't dissimilar to a private tour.
Rembrandt painted his self portrait when he was about 25, and about to become very famous. Encouraged by the audio guide to step forward, I discovered that the blend of colours to create the light falling over his skin is particularly intricate and beautiful. This portrait was the first Rembrandt painting to enter Britain’s Royal Collection in the early 1630s when one of Charles I courtiers presented it to him following a diplomatic trip to Holland. The painting stayed in the palace at Whitehall until Charles I was executed in 1649 and the Royal Collection was sold off.
Gainsborough’s portrait of Isabella Stanhope is designed to impress; it was painted in 1769 shortly after she had married Viscount Molyneux. Something else which I wouldn’t have discovered without the guide was the unique way that Gainsborough has created the shine on Isabella’s dress; Gainsborough stood away from the canvas with an extended brush and ‘painted what he saw’. If you look closely you can see the large brush strokes which when viewed from afar, blend to a satiny sheen.
The audio guide provides the ideal way to find out more about some of the highlights at the Walker. It only costs £1.95 and there’s enough on there to get several visits worth out of it if you don’t want to listen to everything in one go.