Tag Archives: figures

Figures in Paintings

Pissarro (left) and Monet

Two from Turner

Bellotto (left) and Canaletto

I often draw in the National Gallery and last week I spent some time studying figures from several different painters. These are some of the sketches I made of incidental figures. All of these figures, although not the main focus of the paintings, have a vital role to play. They add life and scale to the scene. Since the eighteenth century they have been known as staffage.

Below are some examples from my own work.

Above left: Little Boltons (detail). Above right: Pall Mall (detail)

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By The Thames in Richmond

Richmond Upon Thames
Richmond Upon Thames

Here is one of my recently completed paintings.  It was painted over three days in March 2009 on the river front at Richmond in Surrey.  Most of the work was done on the first two days and on the third day I was just making a few corrections.   The picture was allowed to dry between painting sessions.

As most of my pictures are painted in ‘one wet’, it was quite a luxury this time to be able to work over dry paint.   One of the things I enoy about painting a picture like this one is the challenge of painting the people (staffage).  They are all painted from life and, obviously, it is easier when they come and sit by the river than when they just walk by.  In which case I will often mark the position of their head and feet to fix their size on the canvas and adjust the scale as they walk away – diminishing in size.  And as for those who cycled past – well – I’ll just pretend I didn’t see them.

It is oil on board and measures 10 x 20 inches (25.5 x 51cm).

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