Fifth Blog

TASK: Write a short summary of your gallery visit today. Mention 2 or 3 of the paintings that most appealed to you and why.

My visit to the NSW Art Gallery this week was one of great interest and also reluctance. Reluctance because I was wondering why we were going to look at art, when we were literature students? While at the gallery, the answer hit me like a bolt of lightning. The answer was because, like languages, most aspects between subjects, like art and English, can be translated and recognised in each other. Once I had this realisation, I had an innate desire and curiosity to study these paintings further and see what I could find for myself. Two, in particular, struck me.

“Chaucer at the Court of Edward III” by Ford Madox Brown (1847) was one painting that struck me. I thought this was a lovely painting, not just because of the bright and vibrant colours, but because of the celebration of the English language. The painting depicts a variety of people at court, who are all engaged in conversation of some kind with each other. Everyone seems to have something to say and they seem to have an interest in what’s going on; they are all paying attention to each other and giving them their undivided attention – something rare nowadays, what with the various distractions technology provides.

chaucer at the court of edward iii

“Chaucer at the Court of Edward III” (1847). Image from:

The other that struck a chord with me was “A Young Lady Holding a Pug Dog” by Francis Boucher (c. 1740s). This is a painting from the Enlightenment period and it makes clear to me why people wanted a Revolution and wanted change in society. The girl in the painting is portrayed in an uptight, uncomfortable position with a rigid back and wearing extravagant, pretentious clothes. This makes the painting seem forced and a lot less natural, unlike paintings of the Romantic era, where people seemed to be captured in the moment, like “Chaucer at the Court of Edward III”. The pug the girl is holding has a ribbon around its neck – perhaps representing the oppression the lower classes were placed under by the upper class and how the upper class thought themselves so superior because of their refined and restrained manners. It represents the hold the aristocracy held on everyone, even animals like the dog. The rigidity and tyranny of the upper class, represented in this painting, makes it obvious to me why people were keen for a Revolution at the time and, while the methods and what happened during the Revolution is a sad thought, it makes me feel better about the 21st century world that we don’t have those kind of social barriers.

a young lady holding a pug dog

“A Young Lady Holding a Pug Dog” (1740s). Image from: