Definitely Limericks by Rory Ewins


One of my areas of limerick writing has been a series of brief biographies of fine artists. Rather than bury them in other pages, I thought I’d put them on display here.

Hans von Aachen enjoyed painting boobies
With nipples like two dainty rubies.
His work’s less well known
Than when first it was shown:
Fans embarkin’ today are Hans newbies.

The work of German painter Hans von Aachen (1552–1615), a leading representative of Northern Mannerism, combined influences from his time working in the Netherlands and in Italy. As well as his portraits of the aristocracy and his religious and allegorical paintings, von Aachen was known for his nudes; his erotic mythological scenes were a favourite of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II.

The Scottish-born architect Adam
Would design mighty mansions and clad ’em
In stone and in brick;
All the nobs got in quick,
So to boast at their banquets, “We had ’im.”

The well-travelled Robert Adam (1728–1792) designed and decorated stately homes all over Britain in neo-classical style, notably in Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh, where he had gone to university.

When he wanted both light and dark shown,
Ansel Adams would get in the zone.
Whatever the sky,
His mind and his eye
Gave his landscapes distinction alone.

Renowned U.S. photographer Ansel Adams (1902–1984) co-invented (with Fred Archer) the zone system for controlling how light and dark mapped from scene to final print. It requires significant knowledge of exposures, film qualities and processing techniques, which can make it quite demanding for anyone who isn’t Ansel Adams. His photographic knowledge was so impressive that he was famously able to capture the town of Hernandez perfectly in fading sunlight because he knew the candle count of the moon off the top of his head (Moonrise, Hernandez, 1941).

Josef Albers, a painter of squares
(One inside of the other, so there’s
A whole series, in fact),
Liked his paintings abstract;
Part of Bauhaus, those guys with the chairs.

Albers (1888–1976) was a student and then teacher at the Bauhaus school of art and design from 1920 to 1933, when it closed under Nazi pressure. He emigrated to the U.S., so this piece uses an American pronunciation of ab-STRACT.

Diane Arbus’s portraits beguile;
She would photo her candidates while
They uncovered their souls
And the heart of their roles.
Uncanny, how rarely they’d smile.

Arbus (1923–1971) worked as a photojournalist for various prominent magazines. She is remembered today for her portraits of society’s outsiders, and of ordinary Americans in stiff poses.

I really don’t wanna sound sharp,
But you say that you don’t know Jean Arp?
He was active in Dada,
A sculptor... still nada?
Your pa keep you under a tarp?

Jean Arp (born Hans Arp, 1886–1966) was a sculptor, painter, poet, and founding member of the Dada movement. Most of his sculptures would retain their shape even if they were wrapped in tarpaulins.

Richard Avedon shot JFK,
Although not in a grassy-knoll way.
From the back, to the left,
All his portraits were deft:
Magazine shoots remembered today.

Avedon (AV-uh-don, 1923–2004) went from staff photography for Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue into the realm of fine art, notably his large-format portraits of drifters, miners and cowboys from the American west.

Francis Bacon dissected his grief
Using butcherly pictures of beef
Hanging red in the frame;
As for figures, his aim
Was to blur them beyond all belief.

There were few better painters of the nightmarish side of the twentieth-century psyche than this Anglo-Irish artist (1909–1992).

David Bailey takes pictures of girls
Looking glamorous: monochrome twirls
Round their sinuous forms,
And the viewer’s eye warms
To the torsos each photo unfurls.

Fashion photographer David Bailey (b. 1938) captured the look of 1960s Swinging London with his striking black-and-white work, and has photographed many celebrities since.

The word on the streets is guerrilla
Art rules. Take the piece on this pillar:
A stencil by Banksy,
For which we give thanks—he
Makes work that’s all killer, no filler.

J.-M. Basquiat’s art ruled the streets,
His graffiti expressing the beats
Of his Brooklyn surroundings:
What isn’t confounding’s
His skulls have outlived his defeats.

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988) started out as a graffiti artist within the emerging New York hip-hop culture of the 1970s; by his early twenties his paintings were being exhibited internationally. His colourful neo-expressionist works, combining painting, drawing, text, and abstract and figurative elements (skulls are a recurring theme), have commanded increasingly high prices since his death at 27 from a drug overdose. In 2017, his skull painting Untitled (1982) become the sixth most expensive artwork ever sold at auction, at US$110.5 million.

The expressionist art of Max Beckmann
Showed life as a carnival—heck, man,
A circus of fools—
So the pigheaded rules
Of the Nazis condemned it as dreck, man.

While he didn’t view himself as a German Expressionist, Beckmann’s work is often described as such for its bold colours and stark themes, and was included in the Nazi party’s notorious Degenerate Art exhibition of 1937. Beckmann fled the country first to Amsterdam and later to the U.S., where he died in 1950 at the age of 66.

His sculptures, performances, voice,
Were all heartfelt (and felted, by choice).
From his packs on a sled
To the hat on his head,
There was nothing plain Joe about Beuys.

Joseph Beuys (1921–1986) claimed that his interest in fat and felt as sculptural materials came from a wartime plane crash in which he was rescued by Tartars who rubbed him with fat and wrapped him in felt to keep him warm, although nobody is sure whether this actually happened.

William Blake was an artist of power,
A mystic, a poet, a tower,
Who held in his hand
The infinite sand
Of eternity; England’s wild flower.

Blake (1757–1827) saw all aspects of his work as painter, engraver, illustrator and poet as part of the same spiritual endeavour. His most famous works include the painting The Ancient of Days and the poems “The Tyger” and “Auguries of Innocence”.

My favourite paintings by far
By Parisian artist Bonnard
Show the stretchiest cats
And young women in flats
(Our Pierre liked his femmes in boudoirs).

Pierre Bonnard (bon-NAR, 1867–1947) was one of the core members of the Nabis, a group of Post-Impressionist artists active from 1888–1900 who were strongly influenced by Gauguin and Japonism, using simplified shapes and colours. Bonnard painted many fine interiors typical of contemporary Paris flats or apartments. His extremely stretchy White Cat (1894) hangs in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

Though Bosch painted heavenly sights
In The Garden of Earthly Delights,
The devils all tell
Of its portrait of Hell,
Which exquisitely tortures their nights.

The famous triptych by Hieronymus Bosch (originally Jerome van Aken, c. 1450–1516) hangs in the Prado, Madrid.

Birth of Venus by S. Botticelli
Shows a body to die for, her belly
A beauteous pearl—
So is that why the girl
Was allotted a dais so shelly?

Sandro Botticelli (originally Alessandro Filipepi, 1445–1510) painted mythical and biblical scenes of outstanding beauty—and destroyed several of them when he became a follower of the fanatical preacher Savonarola. Thank the gods he didn’t get his hands on the most famous of all.

Australian art’s Arthur Boyd
In his day left some critics annoyed
By his paintings on race,
But the spirit of place
In his artworks they couldn’t avoid.

The paintings of Arthur Merric Bloomfield Boyd (1920–1999), by turns impressionistic and expressionist, made him a leading figure in twentieth century Australian art. His Love, Marriage and Death of a Half-Caste Bride series in the 1950s met a mixed reaction at home, but was well-received internationally; at the end of that decade he moved to London, only returning in 1971. In the 1940s Boyd was a key figure of the Angry Penguins movement, while in 1959 he was one of seven Melbourne painters who exhibited as the Antipodeans, their manifesto asserting the importance of figurative art in the face of the abstract expressionism of the time. His monumental Great Hall Tapestry (1988) hangs in Australia’s Parliament House.

The linear figures of Brack
In a pub or the streets take us back
To when men in the fifties
Would down a few swifties
At six before hitting the sack.

John Brack (1920–1999) captured Australian life in the 1950s and 1960s in his vivid, stylized paintings. One of his best-known, Collins St, 5p.m. (1955), shows office workers lining the streets of Melbourne after knock-off, many on their way to the pub for the “six o’clock swill” of a few swift beers before heading home.

There are so many works by Brancusi
That choosing is making me woozy—
His refined Bird in Space
Is a picture of grace,
And that polished bronze head is a doozy.

Constantin Brancusi (bran-KOO-zee; also bran-KOO-see, brah(n)-KOOSH) was a Romanian-born sculptor (1876–1957) who moved to Paris in his late twenties, where he became renowned for such abstract and geometrically simplified works as Bird in Space (1928) and Sleeping Muse (1910).

Your Cubist homage? I’d deep-six it.
There’s too little life in the mix, it
Has no sense of motion—
Despite your devotion,
The painting ain’t Braque, so don’t fix it.

Georges Braque (1882–1963) was, with Pablo Picasso, one of the inventors of Cubism, an early-1900s artistic style that broke up and reassembled objects and figures to give a greater sense of form and movement.

Isaak Brodsky admirers, unite!
Marxist portraits are part of our fight.
This socialist realist
And Soviet idealist
Paints Lenin and Stalin just right.

Isaak Izrailevich Brodsky (1884–1939) was a pioneer of socialist realism, the officially approved art style of the USSR. As well as many iconic portraits of Vladimir Lenin and scenes of the Russian Civil War and Bolshevik Revolution, he painted the 1933 state portrait of Joseph Stalin.

The Pre-Raphaelite Ford Madox Brown
Is remembered for Manchester Town
Hall’s twelve murals, and more
Major works: his name’s sure
To afford his descendents renown.

As well as the Manchester Murals he painted in his final years, Ford Madox Brown (1821–1893) is best known for Work (1865), a portrayal of all of Victorian society in a single scene. Brown worked on Work for over a decade, actually completing a second version two years before the first. He’s also known for The Last of England (1855), showing a family of emigrants sailing away from the White Cliffs of Dover. His grandson Ford Hermann Hueffer renamed himself in tribute to him, becoming the novelist Ford Madox Ford.

The imbroglio of Brueghels confounds
Our attempts to determine their bounds.
If they weren’t all called Pieter
Or Jan, how much neater
The art lover’s gallery rounds.

Here’s how to tell them apart. Pieter Brueghel the Elder (c.1525–1569, the only one to sign his paintings without the h) is the famous painter of landscapes full of Flemish peasants. His eldest son, Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564–1638), copied some of his works but developed his own line in religious and landscape art full of fire and brimstone. Pieter the Younger’s brother, Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568–1625), specialised in floral still-lifes and landscapes, and Jan’s son, Jan Brueghel the Younger (1601–1678), copied his works, only not as well. Jan the Younger had another painter for a brother, Ambrosius Brueghel (1617–1675), now less well-remembered; maybe he should have changed his name to Jan or Pieter.

Michelangelo, artist of feeling,
Is known for his Vatican ceiling:
The Pope saw some faults
In its featureless vaults
And said, “Paint over that, Mike—it’s peeling.”

The Sistine Chapel ceiling was originally blue with golden stars until Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to repaint it. The Renaissance master also whipped up a few other sculptures and paintings in his time (1475–1564).

A. Calder’s undoubted facility
With works of apparent fragility
Was one of his strengths:
He went to great lengths
In his efforts to capture mobility.

American sculptor Alexander Calder (1898–1976) invented the mobile, to the joy of art lovers and infants everywhere.

Canaletto, or “Little Canal”,
Painted London—its bridges et al.—
But was more of a menace
To punters in Venice:
He’d paint ’em in any locale.

Giovanni Antonio Canale (1697–1768) sold many of his pictures of Venice to Englishmen on the Grand Tour, moving to London for most of his fifties to be closer to his market.

Cassatt’s finest painting could, say, be
Her Girl in an Armchair, or maybe
Some “Mother and Child”
Interior scene with a baby.

American painter Mary Cassatt (cah-SAHT, 1844–1926) spent much of her life in France, where she exhibited with the Impressionists.

Caravaggio’s shadows and light
Made his paintings a powerful sight,
But the dark in his soul
Sent him out of control:
His most powerful urge was to fight.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610) got into endless brawls during his brief reign as the most famous painter in Rome, even killing a man in one of them.

Paul Cézanne as a painter was great,
But so slow! His poor subjects’ sad fate
Was to sit like an apple;
While he would then grapple
With colours, they’d rot on the plate.

One of Cézanne’s dealers sat 115 times for a portrait, sitting absolutely still “like an apple” each time. Cézanne then abandoned the work with only two small areas unpainted.

Marc Chagall painted circuses, cows
In the night-time, and fruit-laden boughs.
Decades later, it seems
That his colours and themes,
With their echoes of dreams, still arouse.

The Russian-Jewish painter Marc Chagall (1887–1985) spent most of his working life in France.

English lovers of landscapes adored
The French artist known simply as Claude
(First name only, like Prince),
Though it’s fair to say since
Tastes have changed he leaves some viewers bored.

The romantic landscape style of 18th and 19th century painters was heavily influenced by the Baroque painter Claude (born Claude Gellée in Lorraine, France, hence also known as Claude Lorrain or Lorraine, c. 1604–1682), who lived and worked predominantly in Rome. The Claude glass (or Claude Lorraine glass, Claude Lorrain mirror or black mirror) was named after him, as its darkly tinted surface helped painters produce landscapes mirroring his style, although there’s no evidence that he used one himself. Claude’s work was popular with the English, and a strong influence on Turner; half of his surviving works are now held in UK collections.

John Constable painted the clouds
Over Dedham, in gathering crowds
Of charcoal and grey;
His bucolic scenes lay
Under heavy-set heavenly shrouds.

The landscape of Dedham Vale in England is now known as Constable Country after its most famous painter, who lived there for much of his life (1776–1837).

Corot was once figured a great,
The Pére of fine art in the late
Nineteenth century, yet
How soon people forget!
Reputations can have a sad fate.

Poised between Neoclassicism and Impressionism, and a leader of the Barbizon school of French painters inspired by Constable, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (cor-OH, 1796–1875) was highly regarded by many Impressionists, Post-Impressionists and even Cubists. Degas, Gauguin and Picasso admired his figures, while others considered him one of the greatest landscape painters. Yet since the 1930s his fame has faded.

Correggio, mystery man,
Was an avid mythology fan,
Portraying what Ovid
Related: how Jove’d
Swan up to each lady he’d scan.

Little is known about the life of Antonio Allegri da Correggio (c.1489–1534), who worked mainly in Parma, but he was highly influential on the development of Baroque art. Late in life he painted a series on the Loves of Jupiter based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, depicting the Roman god in various avian and meteorological forms.

No Australian culture? A myth.
Read a book about painters forthwith:
There you’ll find that we had
One who made viewers glad
In the form of Grace Cossington Smith.

A pioneer of post-impressionism in her native Australia, Cossington Smith (born Grace Smith, 1892–1984) is known for her colourful interior scenes, but also for The Bridge in Curve (1930) depicting the Sydney Harbour Bridge during its construction.

The Realist Gustave Courbet
Caused people in Paris dismay.
His erotic late paintings
Led ladies to faintings,
And thus were removed from display.

Courbet (1819–1877) broke with the Romantic and Neoclassical schools of the day and attempted to portray real life as Rembrandt had done. Among his most famous works are Femme nue couchée (1862), The Sleepers (1866), and the graphic The Origin of the World (1866), which remains provocative today. During the Paris Commune of 1871, Courbet proposed the dismantling of the Vendôme Column commemorating Napoleon’s victory at Austerlitz; when it was later rebuilt, he was held liable for the expense, avoiding bankruptcy only by dying of liver failure first.

Lucas Cranach the Elder provided
Our portraits of Luther. He sided
With Protestant views
In his search for a muse
Free from papal ideas he derided.

Lucas Cranach the Elder (born Lucas Maler, c. 1472–1553), court painter to the Electors of Saxony, was a contemporary and friend of Martin Luther, and painted the portraits of many Protestant figures of the time. Later in life he explored their ideas in religious paintings, and produced propaganda prints mocking Catholic clergy and the Pope. His son, Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515–1586), assumed control over his workshop after his death and painted in a similar style, but is not considered as accomplished.

Aelbert Cuyp painted afternoon light
Washing over the countryside—quite
The serene point of view,
Which has caused some ado—
But once married, he faded from sight.

Cuyp (1620–1691), one of the most celebrated Dutch landscape painters, was almost forgotten for two generations after his death. In 1658 he married a rich widow, and afterwards seems to have stopped painting. His bucolic scenes of the golden hours of early morning and evening have earned him something of a chocolate-box reputation.

Salvador Dalí would laugh
When the critics objected that half
Of his work made no sense.
“It’s intentional—hence
My new painting, The Burning Giraffe.”

Catalan painter Salvador Dalí (1904–1989) was one of the most famous surrealists, partly because of his talent for self-promotion. His most reproduced work is undoubtedly the Chupa Chups logo.

“This caricature,” said the king,
“As Gargantua still has a sting.
That Honoré Daumier
Really did show me, eh?
Shame he’s in prison, poor thing.”

France’s preeminent caricaturist of the nineteenth century, Daumier (1808–1879), was also an accomplished printmaker, sculptor and painter. Depicting Louis-Philippe I as Rabelais’s giant in an 1831 lithograph got him locked up for six months.

Of the works by David, the, by far,
Most well-known is La Mort de Marat,
Unless we go solely on
His tableaux of Napoleon:
In Republic and Empire, a star.

Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825) was the preeminent painter of the French Revolution, First Republic and First Empire. It’s a toss-up whether his best-known work is The Death of Marat (1793), Napoleon Crossing the Alps (1801), or one of his other portraits of Napoleon, all done in his distinctive neoclassical style.

Was it Mona, you reckon, who chose
To look cryptic? Or do you suppose
Leonardo da Vinci
Just gave her a pinch? She
Perhaps had a Code id her doze?

.tpircs derorrim ni slanruoj sih gnitirw, sgniht rehto ynam, ynam gnoma, rof elbaton saw (9151–2541) odranoeL, nam ecnassianeR lapytehcra ehT

De Chirico’s colour and line
Were intense; his determined design
Was to paint the surreal-
ness of Turin. Most feel
The results are declaredly fine.

The archways and piazzas of Turin deeply impressed the young Giorgio de Chirico (1888–1978). The haunting “metaphysical” paintings they helped inspire were a major influence on the Surrealist movement.

Sacré bleu, Monsieur Edgar Degas,
What a difficult figure you are!
Your artworks were great,
But irrational hate
Cut across your old age like a scar.

It’s hard to reconcile Degas’ delicate dancers in sculpture and on canvas with the indelicate anti-Semitism he expressed in his later years (he died in 1917, aged 83). Renoir said: “What a creature he was, that Degas! All his friends had to leave him; I was one of the last to go, but even I couldn’t stay till the end.”

His paintings you’d never call static,
But the movement of one was dramatic,
His Liberty Leading
The People
From palace to Delacroix’s attic.

Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863) was a leading French Romantic painter whose emphasis on colour and movement later influenced the Impressionists. The French government bought Liberty Leading the People (1830) to hang in the palace throne room as a reminder to Louis Philippe I that he owed his power to the Revolution. It ended up in the palace gallery instead, until it was deemed too inflammatory and removed. After the Paris Uprising of 1832 the painting was returned to the artist, who sent it to his aunt for safekeeping (so, strictly speaking, it was her attic). It was exhibited again briefly in 1848 and 1855, before ending up at the Louvre in 1874, where it hangs today.

Delaroche was more famous, they say,
Than his peer Delacroix in his day.
He’s remembered, though, now
For exhibiting how
Best to execute Lady Jane Grey.

Paul Delaroche (1797–1856) was known for his paintings of scenes from French and English history. The Execution of Lady Jane Grey (1833), showing Mary’s rival for the throne about to be beheaded for treason in 1554, was his most acclaimed work at the time, and it remains a drawcard for the National Gallery in London.

The surrealist Belgian, Delvaux,
Painted women at night in a slow,
Doe-eyed, naked parade;
Trains and skeletons made
For an ever more mystical show.

Paul Delvaux (1897–1994) rarely strayed from these dreamlike motifs throughout his career.

Post-Impressionist painter Denis
Had a hand in the artwork we see
From Les Nabis (the prophets).
“Art’s no photo,” he’d scoff, “It’s
A creation of artists’ esprit.”

Maurice Denis (1870–1943) formed Les Nabis in 1890 with fellow Parisian art students Pierre Bonnard and Paul Sérusier and other artists such as Édouard Vuillard, drawing inspiration from the work of Gauguin and Cézanne. He wrote Les Nabis’ manifesto, the 1890 article “The Definition of Neo-traditionalism”, and later described their rejection of naturalism: “Art is no longer a visual sensation that we gather, like a photograph, as it were, of nature. No, it is a creation of our spirit, for which nature is only the occasion.” By the time Les Nabis had disbanded in 1900 he had turned to neo-classicism; his later work was dominated by large murals and religious themes.

Monsieur André Derain was a beast—
Or so one critic dubbed him, at least—
Painting wild London views
In weird, vivid hues
Until public attention increased.

The work that André Derain (1880–1954) produced alongside Henri Matisse in 1905 saw them dubbed les Fauves, or “the wild beasts”, by a disapproving art critic, a title they embraced. The following year, Derain produced a series of thirty paintings of London in Fauvist style which sealed his reputation.

Herr Ziegler’s Reichskunstkammer hicks
Considered the work of Herr Dix
Insufficiently Nazi
(Degenerate art, see)
And burned it. Insufferable pricks.

The expressionist paintings and etchings of Otto Dix (1891–1969) displeased the Nazis, depicting as they often did the horrors of war. Two of his paintings were exhibited in the 1937 Entartete Kunst exhibition and later destroyed. Dix was forced to join Adolf Ziegler’s Reichskammer der bildenden Künste (Reich Chamber of Fine Arts, or Reichskunstkammer in shortened form) with the promise to paint only landscapes, and to cap it off was conscripted into Hitler’s Volkssturm militia towards the end of the Second World War.

“The most excellent painter ... yet bred”
By his country, a peer of his said.
William Dobson, a Royalist
And Charles I loyalist,
Was dazzling, but too early dead.

The reputation of Baroque portraitist William Dobson (1611–1646) has been limited by the scarcity both of his paintings and of the materials he used when painting many of them during the English Civil War. He died young, and in poverty, not long after Charles I was taken into custody by Parliamentarians. Around sixty of his works survive, but those that do are on a par with the work of Frans Hals. Dobson’s contemporary John Aubrey described him as “the most excellent painter that England has yet bred”, while his 21st-century champion Waldemar Januszczak calls him “the first British born genius, the first truly dazzling English painter”.

My commercial art style? I’ll hone it
In colourful paintings, then clone it
On tea-towels and posters
And beach bags and coasters.
Oz homeowners often Ken Done it.

Ken Done (b. 1940) dominated Australian commercial design in the 1980s with his colourful images of the country’s landmarks, particularly those from his home city of Sydney.

The pictures of Gustave Doré
Showed Quixote and Virgil at play.
The man had a craving
For fine wood engraving,
In lovely Victorian grey.

Gustave Doré (1832–1883) began his career as a caricaturist, and was best-known in his lifetime for his paintings, but was also a prolific illustrator of books and newspapers using the impressive wood engraving techniques of the day. Much of his work was produced for British publishers, and it also appeared in the Victorian weekly newspaper The Illustrated London News. His illustrations for Cervantes’ Don Quixote and Dante’s The Divine Comedy were definitive, and have influenced depictions of their characters and scenes ever since.

Empty landscapes, thin figures, a dearth
Of urbanity: Drysdale gave birth
To a new kind of art.
Australia’s dead heart
Came to life in his scenes of red earth.

Russell Drysdale (1912–1981) was one of the first Australian artists to become well-known outside the country; his stark outback landscapes containing only a handful of figures captured the remoteness of places like Sofala (1947) and West Wyalong (1949) and archetypes such as The Drover’s Wife (1945) and The Cricketers (1948).

After dabbling in wine, Jean Dubuffet
Won plaudits for painting. Want proof, eh?
His wiggly designs
Hatched with red and blue lines
Blew Americans’ minds. See, no goof, eh?

The French painter and sculptor Jean Dubuffet (1901–1985) stopped and started his art career in his youth to pursue the family trade of wine-selling, but after the Second World War found success in America with his distinctive abstract art, which often featured red and blue hatching (shading using closely drawn parallel lines). He was instrumental in promoting art brut, a form of outsider art.

In the toilets, while parking my rump
On the porcelain, taking a dump,
I pondered the art
I once thought was by “smart
Ol’ Duchamp!”—did that make me a chump?

Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) has long been associated with one of the key works of twentieth-century art, the “readymade” sculpture Fountain (1917), an off-the-shelf urinal signed “R. Mutt”. In recent years some have argued that this was actually the work of his friend Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (Duchamp wrote to his sister in 1917 that “one of my female friends under a masculine pseudonym, Richard Mutt, sent in a porcelain urinal as a sculpture”). Duchamp remains, however, an important figure in art: his Nude Descending a Staircase, No.2 (1912) is a key Cubist painting, Bicycle Wheel (1913) is another significant readymade, and sanctioned replicas of The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) (1915–23) are held in collections around the world.

Raoul Dufy liked painting the sea
To an almost obsessive degree.
He would add lots and lots
Of nice palm trees and yachts...
The effect’s a bit kitschy for me.

Raoul Dufy (1877–1953) was part of the Fauvist movement at one point, but later developed his own style, described as stenographic after shorthand. These paintings had a bright, sketchy quality, with features of the landscape outlined in dark lines, and as often as not a lot of sea-blue. He is buried in Nice, whose palm-fringed bay he painted many times.

Dürer’s print of a rhino serves well
To explain the man’s fame. You can tell,
Though he worked sight unseen
(On this woodcut, I mean),
That the sight of his work would compel.

Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), the most famous son of Nuremberg, was a consummate painter and engraver. The fame of his 1515 woodcut of a rhinoceros (or RHINOCERVS, as the caption has it) should really belong to the unknown artist who drew the sketch of the beast that it closely follows, but such was his skill with framing and detail that the print had an immediate impact and has a lasting power that the drawing couldn’t and cannot match.

The portraits by Anthony van Dyck
Are the kind you would certainly like
If you harboured a thirst
For King Charles the First

Van Dyck (1599–1641) was the leading court painter to Charles I in the years preceding the English Civil War.

Though her readymade art might displease
Many viewers, an art-lover sees
Both her heart and her head
In her tent and her bed,
Which is why she’s an éminence grise.

My Bed (1998), by prominent member of the Young British Artists group Tracey Emin (b. 1963), is one of the best-known readymade artworks of recent years. It has been the subject of popular mockery, as was her Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995 (1995), a tent with the names of family, friends and lovers sewn on its interior, even after it was destroyed in a warehouse fire in 2004. Emin’s diverse work, however, across a wide range of media, saw her appointed as one of the first two women professors at the Royal Academy of Arts since it was founded in the eighteenth century.

Max Ernst, the surrealist, invented
A method called frottage, augmented
By grattage: one’s scrubbing,
The other is rubbing
(Quite grubby if no one consented).

Max Ernst (1891–1976) was a German painter, sculptor, printmaker, graphic artist, poet, and pioneer of Dada and Surrealism. In 1925, he invented a technique called frottage (stressed here on the first syllable), using pencil rubbings of objects to create images. He also created grattage, in which paint is scraped across canvas to reveal the imprints of objects placed underneath. Frottage was subsequently used in psychiatry to describe the fetish of rubbing up against a member of the opposite sex while clothed for the purpose of sexual gratification.

The impossible objects of Escher
Loop endlessly. Here’s a refresher:
The top of his stairs
Joins the bottom. So where’s
The beginning? Look closer. No pressure.

Beloved of mathematicians and scientists, M. C. Escher (1898–1972) was neglected in the art world, even in his native Netherlands, until late in his life. He is known primarily for his lithographs, woodcuts, and mezzotints inspired by mathematical objects, tesselation, and impossible perspectives.

A Regency painter, I’ll bet he
Is foreign to most now, and yet he
Was hot in his day
(“Indecent!” they’d say):
All of York was once talking of Etty.

William Etty (1787–1849) was the first major British painter of nudes, best known for his history paintings (which were fashionable at the time) featuring sensual male and female figures. Critics found his work indecent, but it brought commercial success, and in 1828 he was elected to the Royal Academy. His work became highly collectible after his death, but fell out of fashion by the end of the 19th century and was little-known outside his native York for many years. Etty has attracted renewed attention in the 21st century; as of 2011, his Male Nude, with Arms Up-Stretched (1828) was the York Art Gallery’s best-selling postcard.

I like Jan van Eyck. I’ll be clearer:
His meticulous eye draws one nearer.
In his fine Arnolfini
Double portrait, a teeny
Reflection appears in a mirror.

The Arnolfini Portrait (1434) by the Bruges-based Early Northern Renaissance painter Jan van Eyck (c. 1385–1441) hangs in London’s National Gallery.

If you fancy still lifes, monsieur, you’re
Gonna love Henri Fantin-Latour.
You’ll admire his flowers
And portraits for hours—
And buy some as postcards, I’m sure.

Fantin-Latour (1836–1904) was a French painter and lithographer best known for his floral paintings and group portraits of Parisian artists and writers. A contemporary of the Impressionists, he maintained a more conservative style.

Argentina-born Lucio Fontana
Was Spatialist art’s top banana,
Applauded for slashing
His canvases, smashing
Our biases—artsy nirvana!

Lucio Fontana (1899–1968), born in Argentina to Italian parents, lived in Italy from a young age and later in his life, but spent most of the 1940s back in Argentina, where he began to develop Spazialismo, or Spatialism, the art movement most significantly realised in his Spatial Concept or slash series. These monochrome-painted canvases were slashed vertically one or more times to give the impression of opening onto space, an impression enhanced by backing the canvases with black gauze.

The king of the airbrush, Chris Foss,
Painted covers you’d stumble across
On old novels of space.
What’s that look on your face?
Not a keen SF reader? Your loss.

Chris Foss (b. 1946) designed over a thousand book covers for the UK versions of science fiction novels in the 1970s and ’80s, adorning them with scenes which usually bore no relation to the novels within but instead created fantastic worlds of their own. He also worked on the design of key science fiction films of the era, such as Alien, Superman and Flash Gordon.

Frank Frazetta was famous for lusty
Depictions of fantasy busty
Princesses and Conan,
Which brought to mind bonin’
For teenagers; parents thought, “Must he?”

American fantasy and science fiction artist Frank Frazetta (1928–2010) was famous for his depictions of semi-clad figures for book and magazine covers, especially his 1970 cover painting for A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs for Doubleday and his covers for the 1966–71 Lancer editions of Robert E. Howard’s Conan series.

Sigmund’s grandson, the late Lucian Freud,
As a painter of portraits, employed
Old techniques to give fresh
New perspectives on flesh
Those disturbed by grotesqueness avoid.

Lucian Freud (1922–2011) was born in Berlin but in 1933 escaped with his family to Britain. He became one of the country’s best-known figurative painters, painting friends, family and fellow artists, often as nudes, in a discomfortingly realistic style considered grotesque by some. In 2008, Freud’s Benefits Supervisor Sleeping (1995) sold for a record sum—US$33.6 million—for a work by a living artist. He is known to have fathered at least fourteen children.

Caspar Friedrich left viewers agog
As they gazed at his sea of thick fog
With a mountaintop wanderer
Stopping to ponder a
Wonderful end to his slog.

German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840) was known for his allegorical landscapes featuring figures silhouetted against skies, mist or trees while contemplating their surroundings. Perhaps the most famous is Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (1818), with its viewpoint behind a man standing on a rocky outcrop high in the mountains, which has graced many a classical music album cover.

Thomas Gainsborough’s portraits of royals
Capped a lifetime of painting in oils
His diverse clientele.
His career went so well
That he moved to Pall Mall on the spoils.

Gainsborough (1727–1788) was one of eighteenth-century England’s preeminent portrait and landscape painters. His subjects included Johann Christian Bach, the actress Sarah Siddons, and King George III and Queen Charlotte.

“My Sagrada Familia,” said Gaudí,
“Says ¡mai mai! to typical dowdy
Cathedral design.
This example of mine
Will reach up to the clouds. (If it’s cloudy.)”

The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, in the Eixample district of Barcelona, is the largest unfinished Catholic church in the world; once it is complete (sometime in the 2030s) its central spire will be 170 metres high. While never ever (or mai mai in Catalan) a cathedral, it is as ambitious in scope as any, but imbued with the distinctive style of its architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). Gaudí’s works are tourist highlights of Barcelona; seven are World Heritage listed.

Post-impressionist painter Gauguin
Was a genius, but not a good man.
He battered his wife,
And, his art sales in strife,
To a tropical life cher Paul ran.

Gauguin portrayed himself as the victim of a bullying wife, and as enjoying a life of sexual liberation in Tahiti, but we now know that he abused her, and that he exaggerated his South Pacific adventures for Parisian audiences to boost sales of his work. As well as painting some of his most celebrated work in Tahiti, Gauguin fathered a child there with a 13-year-old, and another two with a later mistress he took when she was 14.

Artemisia’s art, an escape
From a masculine viewpoint, took shape
In Baroque times, in Italy.
Her work, perhaps bitterly,
Drew strength from her trials—and rape.

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–c.1656), often referred to by her first name alone to distinguish her from her artist father Orazio, was already an accomplished painter by her teens, displaying similar skill with chiaroscuro to his friend Caravaggio. At 18 she was raped by a tutor, and at his trial the following year had to endure thumbscrews to demonstrate that she was telling the truth. Although some of her work—particularly her paintings of Judith Slaying Holofernes (c.1612 and c.1620)—has been interpreted in light of that experience, it covered a wide range of themes, not all of them as violent. Gentileschi’s work was well-regarded at the time, with paintings going to royal collections around Europe, but was largely forgotten after her death until her rediscovery in the 20th century, when she became a feminist icon.

On this raft, you should picture the lot: it
Should show these men starving and hot; it
Should show that they’re hurt;
One guy waving a shirt...
By Jericho, Théo, you’ve got it!

The Raft of the Medusa (1819) by Théodore Géricault (1791–1824), one of the most famous paintings in the Louvre, depicts the starving survivors of a shipwreck off the coast of Senegal at the moment of their rescue. After its lukewarm reception in France, Géricault took the painting to England, where it was a sensational success. Géricault was a key influence on the development of Romantic painting; he died young after a series of riding accidents and a long struggle with tuberculosis.

The sculptures of A. Giacometti
Were spare, almost simple, and yet he
Caught all of life’s rigours
In tall, walking figures
Constructed of lumpy spaghetti.

The stick-thin “walking man” sculptures of Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti (1901–1966) are cast in bronze rather than pasta, but their lumpy surfaces add to their pathos. Giacometti also painted, made prints, and sculpted nudes and especially heads.

H. R. Giger made alien views
Something horror-art fans could peruse
In a book or a Hollywood
Movie. By golly, could
Any be scarier? Whose?

Swiss artist Hans Ruedi Giger (GHEE-ger, 1940–2014), who typically used an airbrush to create paintings blending human and mechanical forms, designed one of the most horrifying monsters in movie history, the titular alien of Ridley Scott’s 1979 movie Alien, after Scott saw Giger’s 1977 book Necronomicon.

James Gillray was known for the wit
Of his caricatures. He would pit
His engravings against
Georgian targets all thought him a shit.

James Gillray (1756–1815) has been called the father of the political cartoon: his satirical prints of George III, Napoleon, William Pitt the Younger and other political figures of the day were hugely popular and influential, and are regularly referenced by British cartoonists even today.

That Giotto was really no dope:
Should he do someone biblical? Nope.
What’ll definitely work’ll
Be drawing a circle—
No compass. “Take that to the Pope.”

Giotto di Bondone (c. 1267–1337) was an Italian painter and architect from Florence who broke with the Byzantine style of the Late Middle Ages in favour of drawing accurately from life. His frescoes can be found throughout Italy, although many have been lost. His sixteenth-century biographer Vasari related that when Pope Benedict XI sent a messenger to Giotto asking him to send a drawing to demonstrate his skill, Giotto drew him a perfect circle without moving his arm or using a compass. The messenger thought Giotto was making fun of him, but the Pope was indeed amazed by the artist’s skill.

Growing up, I was always a lover
Of landscapes of home by John Glover,
Each bendy-limbed-tree-
covered scene: when I see
One, I hear the faint cry of a plover.

As an English landscape painter, John Glover (1767–1849) at one point was second in earnings only to Turner, but by the 1820s his work had fallen out of fashion. In his sixties he and his wife followed their sons to Van Diemen’s Land, where he painted many scenes of the bush, plains and early settlements of the colony, capturing the distinctive shapes and colours of its trees in particular. In the century after his death this work was little-known outside Tasmania, but he is now considered the father of Australian landscape painting. Masked lapwings (Vanellus miles), commonly known in Australia as plovers, are distinct from British plovers and lapwings; their calls are intensely evocative of rural Tasmania.

Van Gogh was a master of light,
Painting sunflowers and stars in the night
In luminous whorls.
Every canvas unfurls
Yet another magnificent sight.

In his lifetime (1853–1890) the Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh was considered a madman, but he posthumously came to be seen as a misunderstood genius. His paintings had a profound influence on twentieth-century art.

William Gould’s book of fish he completed
While serving a further repeated
Gaol sentence in sorry
Conditions: Macquarie
Gave harbour to England’s defeated.

William Buelow Gould (born William Holland, 1801–1853) was an important early artist in Van Diemen’s Land, where he was transported for stealing a coat by force of arms. Once there he ended up in and out of gaol repeatedly, including two terms at the notorious Macquarie Harbour Penal Station on the colony’s west coast. The watercolours he painted there for the local surgeon are still highly regarded; his Sketchbook of Fishes (c. 1832) containing the first record of a number of species, inspired Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan’s prize-winning Gould’s Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish (2001).

Court painter Francisco de Goya
Was one of Spain’s finest. Enjoy a
Nude Maja (so fetching!),
A battle-themed etching,
Or mural of Saturn, destroyer.

In his early years, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746–1828) was an accomplished portraitist, but his work became darker after an illness left him deaf. He is known for a pair of paintings showing the same unknown woman clothed and nude (La maja desnuda, c. 1797–1800, and La maja vestida, c. 1803), his posthumously published series of prints Disasters of War (1810–1820), and the Black Paintings of 1819–1823, painted directly onto the walls of his house and subsequently transferred to canvas, which include a compelling image of Saturn devouring his son.

The work of this painter has echoes
Of expressionists: many El Grecos
Feature thunderous clouds;
One or two feature shrouds;
Sadly, none feature angst-ridden geckoes.

Domenikos Theotokopoulos (1541–1614), known as El Greco (“The Greek”), was born in modern-day Crete, then part of the Republic of Venice, and worked in Venice, Rome, and finally Toledo, where he spent the second half of his life. He was a key artist of the Spanish Renaissance, although his work was so individualistic that it bemused his contemporaries; its dramatic lighting and colours made more sense to twentieth century audiences. His St. Veronica with the Holy Shroud (c. 1580) and Holy Face of Jesus (The Veil of Veronica) (1586–1595) provide a convenient rhyme for clouds, while his pseudonym provides a joke beloved of art-loving dads: good ol’ El Gecko.

There’s something, I find, that appeals
About Juan—gets me right in the feels.
He gave colour and heart
To the monochrome art
Of the Cubists: Juan Gris greased the wheels.

Madrid-born José Victoriano González-Pérez (1887–1927), known as Juan Gris, lived and worked in France when he was most active as an artist. In contrast with the almost monochromatic style of Picasso and Braque in their Cubist work, Gris adopted the bright colours of his friend Henri Matisse.

The artworks of Grosz depict Weimar
Berlin and its enemies. I’m a
Great fan of his gross-
Looking tableaux: a close
Look reveals where the worst of that time are.

George Grosz (born Georg Ehrenfried Groß, 1893–1959) was a German artist known for his drawings and paintings caricaturing Berlin life in the 1920s. He was arrested during a socialist uprising in 1919 (but escaped), fined for insulting the army with his drawings, and prosecuted for blasphemy. Fiercely anti-Nazi, he emigrated to the US three weeks before Hitler came to power in 1933, only returning to Berlin in 1959, where he died several weeks later after falling down a flight of stairs.

Canaletto’s successor? That’s hard. He
Was influenced, that’s no canard (he
And C. worked together?),
But Venice’s weather
Looks different in paintings by Guardi.

Following in the footsteps of Canaletto as a painter of vedute (cityscapes) of Venice can’t have been easy, but Francesco Guardi (1712–1793) made a good go of it. Starting out as a religious painter, he turned to landscapes in his forties. For many years he was believed to have worked with or studied under the influential Canaletto, but today this seems doubtful. His later work developed its own flavour: Guardi’s scenes tended to feature more dramatic skies and lighting, and he painted many capricci, or imaginary architectural scenes.

Said Frans Hals to his sitter, “My man,
Have a seat. In this chair, that’s the plan.
Good, you’ve worn something black.
Now please smile and look back.
Now hold still for as long as you can.”

Frans Hals (c. 1582–1666) was a Dutch Golden Age painter known for his startlingly realistic portraits. A signature pose, employed in several paintings of local Protestant men over the years, was to have his sitter lean over the back of his chair. Some suggest that his predilection for greys and blacks in his later years, when commissions in his town of Haarlem became scarce, was because black and white pigments were relatively cheap. Hals was almost forgotten after his death until the rise of realism and impressionism in the 1860s brought newfound appreciation for his free, vigorous brushwork and the natural smiles of his subjects.

Richard Hamilton cut magazine
Pages up for his images, keen
To be different, appealing
To art-lovers feeling
That Pop was a cutting-edge scene.

Richard Hamilton (1922–2011), who coined the term pop art, was a member of the Independent Group dedicated to “lowbrow” culture, through which he was introduced to American magazines, comic books, records and posters unavailable in post-war Britain. He used some of these to create his iconic 1956 collage Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?

Duane Hanson made figures from life:
He at first portrayed people in strife,
Before turning to those
In less thoughtful repose,
Like a Florida man and his wife.

Duane Hanson (1925–1996) was known for his hyperrealistic sculptures made of painted fibreglass and dressed in real clothes. His late 1960s work dealt with violence and social unrest, but after 1970 he turned to more subtle themes, portraying the supermarket shoppers, tourists, and other ordinary people of New York and especially Florida, where he spent his later years. His bored-looking, disengaged figures captured the banality of late-twentieth-century life.

Barbara Hepworth made sculptures with holes
Out of bronze, wood and marble. Her goals?
To make sinuous forms
That would challenge art’s norms...
Or else something to jump through for moles.

English sculptor Dame Jocelyn Barbara Hepworth (1903–1975) was a major figure of modernist abstract sculpture. Her rounded forms often featured one or more holes; her Pierced Form (1931) in pink alabaster inspired her friend and rival Henry Moore to call 1932 “The Year of the Hole”.

Hiroshige, never acquainted
With Western art, printed and painted
His ukiyo-e
Artworks, treasured today,
In an Edo completely untainted.

Utagawa Hiroshige (born Andō Tokutarō, 1797–1858) is considered the last great master of ukiyo-e (stressed on the first and last syllables), a Japanese art-form consisting of wood-block prints or paintings of scenes from everyday life. He is best known for his horizontal-format landscape series The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō (1833–34) and his vertical-format landscape series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (1856–59, completed by his son-in-law); his work later inspired Western artists, including Manet, Monet and van Gogh. His death marked the start of a rapid decline in ukiyo-e, hastened by the end of Japan’s centuries of deliberate isolation.

Of the Young British Artists, the worst,
Said his critics, was Damien Hirst.
For the love of God, sharks
In formaldehyde? Sparks
Of invention, or tacky and cursed?

Damien Hirst (b. 1965), one of the leading lights of the Young British Artists group of the 1990s, is reportedly the United Kingdom’s richest living artist. One notable early work, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991), consists of a tiger shark suspended in a glass display case full of formaldehyde; art critic Robert Hughes called it “the world’s most over-rated marine organism”. Hirst’s 2007 piece For the Love of God, a human skull recreated in platinum and adorned in 8,601 diamonds, had an asking price of fifty million pounds, but failed to sell outright.

If you’re after dull scenes of Dutch woods,
Then Hobbema serves up the goods.
Trees too dark, the skies cloudy:
His landscapes look dowdy.
(I should show more respect? Mind your shoulds.)

Meindert Hobbema (1638–1709), Dutch Golden Age landscape painter and pupil of Jacob van Ruisdael, hasn’t attracted much interest or appreciation from art historians, although his work was influential in the Romantic period. His atypical The Avenue at Middelharnis (1689) is the only work of his that I have much time for, largely because it doesn’t feature a blob of dark woodland.

This artist’s from Yorkshire, not Cockney,
So leave it out, guv, with yer mockney.
Ee lad, he’s no fool—
His two blokes and a pool
In the sunlight still rule: David Hockney.

In a life divided between England and Los Angeles, David Hockney (b. 1937) has been painter, draftsman, printmaker, stage designer, photographer and most recently a digital artist. His 1972 Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) was briefly the most expensive artwork by a living artist sold at auction (in 2018, breaking the record held since 2013 by Jeff Koons, until Koons broke it again the following year); it sold in New York for ninety million dollars.

For Georgians, a Hogarth engraving
Enabled a sizable saving.
They flocked to his art,
Which mocked every part
Of the nation for badly behaving.

William Hogarth (1697–1764) was a painter, engraver and cartoonist whose work satirised Georgian England. He sold engravings of his paintings on subscription, enabling more people to own a piece of his art. His work was also widely plagiarised, prompting him to lobby for the introduction of the Copyright Act of 1735. His series of “modern moral subjects” became so popular that the term Hogarthian entered the language; two key examples were his series of eight paintings known as A Rake’s Progress (1732–34), the title of which also entered the language, and his 1751 engraving Gin Lane.

William Hogarth’s satirical scenes
Of debauched urban life and routines—
A Rake’s Progress, Gin Lane
Bring some morals in train:
That’s what being Hogarthian means.

If you have only one print to save
Among Hokusai’s, choose The Great Wave,
His iconic portrayal
Of Fuji: display all
His woodblocks, and that’s what you’d crave.

One of the most famous images in art, and certainly among Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints, The Great Wave Off Kanagawa (1831) was one of Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, which revolutionised Japanese printmaking with their use of Prussian blue ink. As well as woodblock prints, Katsushika Hokusai (HOK-oo-sai, born Tokitarō, 1760–1849) produced paintings, sketches and book illustrations—almost thirty thousand artworks in total.

Hans Holbein the Younger, King’s Painter
To Henry VIII, made art quainter
By adding some quirks
To his portraits. It works,
As their echoes have barely grown fainter.

The portraits of German-Swiss artist Hans Holbein (c.1497–1543, called the Younger to distinguish him from his artist father of the same name) were remarkable for their vibrant colours and attention to detail, making him a favourite of the English court. As well as Henry VIII and some of his wives, he painted portraits of Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell, Erasmus of Rotterdam and other figures of the day. His Double Portrait of Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve (“The Ambassadors”, 1533) features a distorted shape across the bottom of the frame which from the right vantage point comes into focus as a skull, while his Portrait of a Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling (1526–28) includes visual puns on the likely sitter’s town of Estharlyng (East Harling) and in reference to her family’s coat of arms featuring squirrels.

An American artist of note,
Winslow Homer enjoyed a good boat,
Painting turbulent seas
Whipped about by the breeze
Tossing wildly whatever would float.

Winslow Homer (1836–1910), one of the most eminent American painters of the 19th century, was known especially for such ocean scenes as Breezing Up (A Fair Wind) (1876) and The Life Line (1884), but far from all of his paintings were seascapes: his The Veteran in a New Field (1865) is an iconic image of the aftermath of the Civil War.

“All these paintings of princes and queens!”
Said van Honthorst. “My candle-lit scenes
Show more candour and merit.”
“They’re lit, Master Gerrit,”
Said his pupils. “Paint more, by all means.”

I’m not sure if 17th-century art students called impressive things lit or fire like their 21st-century counterparts, but who’s to say they didn’t? Gerrit (or Gerard) van Honthorst (1592–1656), a Dutch painter whose work was particularly influenced by the chiaroscuro style of Caravaggio, painted many indoor scenes of everyday people, often set in taverns and portraying gamblers and musicians. He also painted many religious scenes and portraits of royals from Bohemia, England and Denmark, and taught dozens of students in his two large studios.

Domesticity captivates Pieter
de Hooch, who paints scenes in a street, a
Dark room or a stable;
So, cards on the table—
In this Golden Age, no one’s are sweeter.

One of the masters of Dutch Golden Age painting, Pieter de Hooch (1629–c.1684) was a contemporary of Vermeer, who painted in a similar style. Card Players in a Sunlit Room and The Courtyard of a House in Delft (both 1658) are two fine examples of his work.

Is there any New York painting finer
Than Hopper’s? His Nighthawks—the diner
In green, brightly lit—
Even he would admit
Makes his other work look almost minor.

American realist painter and printmaker Edward Hopper (1882–1967) produced many fine paintings of lonely figures in urban settings, but Nighthawks (1942) is the one most people recognise, not least because it has been endlessly referenced and parodied since.

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