Seeing a painting first-hand is the best, but if you don’t have that luxury, online viewing is a wonderful alternative. With so many museums and galleries digitising old artworks over the last fifteen or so years, the masses are being exposed to images of well-known art on an unprecedented scale. Public institutions benefit, because digital attachment to an artwork often leads to seeking it out in person or buying a printed copy. With a digital specimen you never really know how close to the original it really is, as appearance can be changed during shooting and post-production. The Tate and National Gallery both now use Hasselblad large format digital cameras to capture their artworks, they then may or may not engage in some form of post-production using a graphics editor (like Photoshop). Other museums probably use similar equipment if their resources allow. But perhaps the most variation is added by public photography of permanent collections (photography of temporary exhibitions is nearly always prohibited) or web content managers who Photoshop-in their own perceived enhancements. Case in point: Acclaimed Victorian landscape painter Benjamin Williams Leader’s February Fill Dyke, 1881. The images below, borrowed from three reputable websites, show his british quintessential landscape ranging from luminous and bright, to dark and dank. At what point did they become different and more importantly, which painting would you rather see on arrival at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery?
The meaning of February Fill Dyke
The title for this painting comes from the saying “February fill dyke, be black or be it white; Be it white, ’tis better to like“, meaning we should celebrate snow in February as it is good for the ground’s water resources, which will be good for the plants and spring beauty.
Photo via Visit England
Photo via Birmingham Museums Trust via BBC Your Paintings
Photo via Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery