The Art of Looking: A new perspective on Dulwich’s Permanent Collection

If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about Dulwich Picture Gallery and delve a little deeper into the history of the objects and paintings on display this new series of Saturday morning talks is your chance. Expert speakers including curators, conservators, art historians and academics will present a range of thematic talks on various aspects and artists represented in the Gallery”s collection.

The first topic on 16 March is Changing Narratives: Telling Stories in Paintings presented by art historian Ben Street. Dulwich OnView caught up with Ben to tell us more about it.

Ben, how would you sum up in a nutshell the Saturday Study Morning?

Come and discover the diversity of Dulwich Picture Gallery

Come and discover the diversity of Dulwich Picture Gallery”s collection with art historian Ben Street

The study morning is informal but informative. We’ll look at the way in which the telling of stories through images changed over the span of history represented in Dulwich Picture Gallery’s collection. I”ll be showing a range of paintings and discussing techniques of storytelling, looking at paintings from all over Europe and considering the way biblical, mythological and historical narratives are told.

What will the talk focus on?

The talk Changing Narratives: Telling Stories in Paintings on 16 March will focus on key paintings in the Gallery’s collection, comparing the text from which the narrative derives with the painter”s approach to it. We’ll consider the way colour, light and composition, as well as setting, gesture and expression, are used to tell complex narratives in a single still image. There”s no one period of focus, the talk will range across the Gallery”s entire collection.

– Why do you think people should book onto the study morning?

When we look at old master paintings on the walls of galleries like the Dulwich Picture Gallery, we are seeing representations of narratives with which the original audience would have been familiar. Now we are less so, so the study morning will fill in the blanks, but also consider the way in which innovations in western painting emerge from the re-telling of well-known stories. These are artists finding new ways to tell something familiar, and their techniques and approaches are not dissimilar to the ways in which cinema seeks to hold our attention and tell stories that, ultimately, derive from the same source material.

– What are you most excited about in giving this talk?

I”m most interested in thinking laterally with regards to the Gallery’s collection by taking paintings out of their contexts to examine the mechanics of storytelling. By getting a sense of the narrative material being depicted, the paintings can come to life – and the choices made by the artists can be illuminated, giving a sense of what makes these paintings special.

To book tickets for this or any other talk in the series call 0208 299 8732, or 

For more information email Lettie Mckie, Education Public Programme Manager

Please CLICK HERE to find out more about the Saturday Study Mornings: The Art of Looking lectures and schedule.

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