Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Difficult Job

The Battle of Hastings (c. 1820) by the British painter Frank W. Wilkin (1791-1842)

Although it’s not a really great painting, it’s interesting because it illustrates the first steps and problems of 19th century history painting. Wilkin painted it for the Battle Abbey near Hastings, a kind of national memorial. At his time there was enough historical literature about the battle of Hastings in 1066 and the famous Bayeux Tapestry was also well known. Nevertheless Wilkins painted the two kings like Greeks or Romans like he had probably learned to paint soldiers. From a modern point of view the crowns are also a little strange like the theatrically presentation of the arrow, which killed Harold.


  1. Good analysis. Interesting too, how Wilkins draws the viewer's focus to his 'white' areas.....the arm of King Harold and the two horses. And, since he painted according to the sytle, it has that bizarre, theatrical, classical look to it.

  2. There are a lot of funny details. I doubt for example that the "English" lions on the knights shield are historical.