The Hay Wain by John Constable, 1821.
Whereas the Romantic painters of the period aimed to depict epic, emotive
mountainous landscapes such as the Lake District, it was the less dramatic Suffolk countryside of his youth that captured. Constable’s imagination. Constable set himself apart by painting naturalistic countryside scenes, while still giving them a Romantic sense of emotion. As he himself said: ‘Painting is with me but another word for feeling’. The foreboding clouds are key here, Constable believed that clouds were ‘the chief organ of sentiment’ in landscapes. The National Gallery.
Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh, 1888.
While Van Gogh famously struggled with mental illness and self-doubt, for him, sunflowers and the colour yellow were emblems of happiness. Van Gogh painted this in a period of positivity, as he awaited the arrival of his friend, painter Paul Gaugin. With some in full bloom and others wilting, the flowers represent the entire spectrum of life. Though Van Gogh’s time here was tragically short, this painting, his testament to life’s joy and beauty, lives on. The National Gallery.
Whaam by Roy Lichtenstein, 1963.
One of the most iconic works of 1960s Pop Art, “Whaam!” is still controversial 50 years on. Blurring the boundaries of “high art” and “low culture”, Lichtenstein scales up a tiny comic book image as if it were a historical war painting. Is “Whaam!” parodying pop culture’s romantic vision of war? Is it a metaphor for his battle against critics? Is it art? Or plagiarism? Lichtenstein left it for you to decide. As fellow pop artist Andy Warhol once put it, “Art is what you can get away with”. Tate Modern.