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Clive Head: An Artist’s Perspective

Take a tour of the National Gallery’s collection with artist Clive Head – discover how painters throughout history have constructed architecture and space.

Clive Head: An Artist's Perspective

Pieter de Hooch, 'The Courtyard of a House in Delft' – 1 min 59 secs


Clive Head: This painting defines what the purpose of art is in such a distinctive way... because if an artist is going to paint buildings, they can treat buildings in two different ways. Buildings have a degree of permanence in their own right and a straightforward depiction of a building can emphasise that permanence... emphasise that stillness; or, artists can begin to look at buildings and constructions in the urban landscape to see different kinds of spaces.

Clearly, [Pieter] de Hooch has approached that from that point: that we are looking around corners here... we are looking at different kinds of spaces. So we have a distinct scenario in the courtyard and then we’re gazing through the archway into an interior space and then back out of that archway into an exterior space beyond. There’s also another space implied through the open doorway on the right-hand side of the painting.

Now in order to take that breadth of experience in, in actuality if this... if we were occupying the real space, we would actually move through space. We would glance around corners... we would take a step to the left, to the right. We would be aware of the passage of time as we were engaged with the world. Now what de Hooch presents us in this simple painting is those multitudes of spaces but as one. The key thing with this work is that it’s not a moment in time; it actually denies the idea of time.

Now that kind of stasis, I think, gives us that certainty. And we can return to our own world with a degree of comfort. And in many ways, painting is the only art form that can do that because it’s the only art form that’s essentially not linear (time-based). Or not so in reference to our world, like photography, which is essentially... is a moment in our time. There is that detachment.

Look at De Hooch's constructions from a different perspective with Clive Head. Find out how this painting conveys something more than a straightforward linear narrative.

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