Discovering Velázquez, The Duke & Unexpected Treasures

Discovering Velázquez, The Duke & Unexpected Treasures

When Vanessa suggested a spot of Winter sun, if I’m honest, I dragged my feet.

Locations where being proposed and I politely nodded.

When she casually mentioned a possible trip to Seville, my interest was piqued.


Seville was the birthplace and hometown of Spanish artist Diego Velázquez, and one of my favourite paintings is the ‘Waterseller of Seville’ by Velázquez, but I had never seen it in the flesh, was it even in Seville?

Caught up in the fever of ‘my’ trip, I got researching and discovered the painting was actually hanging much closer to home, in Apsley House, London.

Apsley House? Where’s that?

Well as it turns out, it’s known as Number One London and sits at Hyde Park Corner.

How had I missed it on all my gallery trips and what else was there?

Holy Moly! There’s a study for Pope Innocent X by Velázquez, there’s a Goya, in fact, there’s another portrait by Velázquez and some cracking portraits by Sir Thomas Lawrence.

I shouted through to Vanessa ‘Do you fancy a trip to Knightsbridge?

Who knew train tickets could be booked so quickly?…

Number One London

Discovering Velázquez, The Duke & Unexpected Treasures

Apsley House is an amazing Georgian building that I’d passed countless times over the years and hadn’t realised it was once the home of Arthur Wellesley, more commonly known as the 1st Duke of Wellington.

He bought Apsley in 1817 – just two years after his victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. In fact, the Duke’s impressive victories are the key to how many Spanish Masterpieces ended up in his private collection in London.

Discovering Velázquez, The Duke & Unexpected Treasures

From this view, you can see an equestrian statue of the Duke opposite the house. I really like the way the monument has a relationship to the building because of its proximity to it, even though this wasn’t its original location.

It would make a great urban sketch from this angle, you’ve got that graphic silhouette of the sculpture next to the dark and light patterns in the columns and architectural detail of the house.

Discovering Velázquez, The Duke & Unexpected Treasures


Wellington transformed Apsley House into a super palatial home. It was originally designed for Lord Apsley by architect Robert Adam, but the Duke expanded it with a three-storey extension to include a State Dining Room and fashionable apartments decorated in the latest Regency style.

Each room is packed with numerous art pieces, presented to him by European rulers grateful for his defeat of Napoleon. The first painting that grabbed me was a full-length portrait of Wellington at the top of the stairs.

Trying to step back to fully appreciate it, I found myself teetering on the edge of the top of the stairs and craning my neck. You really feel like you want to keep on moving back to recreate the position the artist was in when the work was first painted but its hanging position means you would just descend the staircase!

However, there’s a great example of a Sir Thomas Lawrence painting of the Duke as you move further through the house. You get to see his great use of brushstrokes and handling of colours to give us this confident, yet relaxed portrayal.


The Duke of Wellington, Sir Thomas Lawrence painted after the Battle of Waterloo

Thomas Lawrence was a fab portrait painter who had a real knack for capturing the character of the sitter, by using the figure to full effect.

He would start the painting by transferring a chalk drawing onto the canvas and then painting with long brushes and working ‘sight-size’.

Notice how he’s kept the colours and tonal contrast in the face very muted but then added all the vibrant colour and deep blacks in the rest of the composition. The white edge of his neckerchief helps to frame his face and there are some lovely scumbled reds on the jacket that give a real depth to the colour.

duke of wellington close upThe white highlight is reserved for the sharp dots in the eye and the subtle edge on his nose.

Below is an unfinished painting by Lawrence of the Duke, displayed at the National Portrait Gallery in London that gives us an insight into his underpainting technique. You can see the scumbled Raw Umber coloured ground, then a sketchy black chalk has been used to draw out the main elements and thicker paint has begun to build the structure of the head.

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, oil on canvas, 1829

Because of the strong, simple shapes in the composition, it still has a feeling of a body without any details at all.

The Waterloo Gallery

As I walked through the rooms I had one eye on the paintings and one eye out for where the Velázquez were hiding.

After Wellington became British Prime Minister in 1828, he commissioned a second phase of changes to Apsley, including cladding the whole house in Bath stone and adding an amazing 28-meter long gallery. Built to host sumptuous banquets, it also gave the Duke the chance to show off his important and ever-growing collection of paintings.

I’d hit gold.

Gallery Room

The Waterloo Gallery opulently decorated in the style of Louis XIV

The Waterloo Banquet' (1836), by William Salter

The Waterloo Banquet, 1836, William Salter


Astonishingly, 83 paintings in the collection were acquired by the Duke after his victory at the Battle of Vitoria, in 1813 (Vitoria-Gasteiz)

The paintings had originally been taken from the Spanish Royal Collection by Joseph Bonaparte, elder brother of Napoleon in what was called ‘the biggest loot in history’.

He was an experienced connoisseur of fine art with the power to take what he wanted from his new kingdom of Spain, so when he was forced to leave Madrid hastily, King Joseph took with him coachloads of treasures seized from Spain’s royal palaces and galleries and headed back to France.

One of the guides at the house told us that his ‘baggage train’ started off with over a 100 waggons but diminished on the way towards the French Border.

Paintings were used as packing, many taken from their wooden stretcher bars and rolled up, it’s a wonder how any of the paintings survived at all! Not only were there a number of Velázquez in the haul but countless other masterpieces such as the Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck and important works by Correggio, Titian and Van Dyck.

Wellington was on his heels and finally launched his attack on Bonaparte in the Spanish city of Vitoria and the rescued masterpieces were sent onto the Duke of Wellington’s residence.

In peace time, the victorious Duke tried to return the Spanish Collection, but King Ferdinand VII of Spain answered by presenting the paintings to Wellington, as ‘well deserved’.

N.B. It is said that many other paintings and treasures from Madrid ended up spread over Europe as a result of some serious looting!

The Spanish Masterpieces

Discovering Velázquez, The Duke & Unexpected Treasures
Portrait of a man, possible Nieto, 1635 -45, Diego Velázquez, © English Heritage, The Wellington Collection at Apsley House

Sitting discreetly, next to the doorway into the gallery was ‘Portrait of a Man’ by Velázquez, thought to be his friend Jose Nieto.

It’s got a real quietness to it even surrounded by the opulent red and gold of the room.

It feels sincere and captures the sitters depth and stillness. It’s subtle and a modest portrait with no obvious display of status.

But to fully appreciate the power of the work, you need to get walking.

Have you ever noticed how most people move around an exhibition?

About 2 to 4 feet back from the pictures, at an even speed, until something catches their eye and they might lean in slightly. If they’re really fascinated by the brush strokes they’ll go really close-up to the paint surface.

For Velázquez portraits, you need to take a different approach.

You need to step back.

If you take small steps back from the portrait, yet keeping your eyes transfixed on the painting, you’ll notice something magical happens.

When you get to a certain point the portrait suddenly comes into focus.

Marks and structures that you couldn’t see when up close to the painting suddenly appear that add a deeper sense of realism to the piece. Walk a step back and the effect is lost, a step too close and the portraits blurs again.


Velázquez is thought to have painted parts of his paintings ‘sight-size’.

Sight-size is a method of arranging the subject and the canvas to be painted on so the images can be compared directly next to each other as the same size.

To see the canvas and the subject at the same time you need to step back from the canvas, often 9-10 ft, depending on the size of the work.

Here is a comment by Palomino Antonio on Velázquez’s method:


 “He did it with Pencils and Brushes, which had extreme long Handles which he sometimes made use of to paint at a greater Distance, and with more Boldness: so that near-hand, one does not know what to make of it; but far off, it is a Masterpiece.”

Palomino de Castro y Velasco, Antonio, 1655-1726, An Account of the Lives and Works of the most Eminent Spanish Painters, Sculptors and Architects and where their several performances are to be seen.

The Waterseller of Seville

The Water Seller of Seville

The Waterseller of Seville, 1618, Diego Velázquez, © English Heritage, The Wellington Collection at Apsley House

It is a real luxury to experience viewing a painting you’ve looked at in books, in almost complete privacy.

The day we visited it was lovely and quiet in the house and the Waterseller of Seville was just hanging out casually with a study of the Pope Innocent X,

Surprisingly, neither painting had a title and I had to contain myself from stopping anyone walking past and pointing out the paintings to them.

It was magnificent to study the Waterseller. It was darker and more contrasty than the images I’d seen in books, with the figure in the background practically disappearing. It gave the painting more of a conversation and relationship between the Waterseller and the boy than I’d first thought.

Velazquez, Diego, 1599-1660; Pope Innocent X, 1650

Pope Innocent X, 1650, Diego Velázquez, © English Heritage, The Wellington Collection at Apsley House

The study of Pope Innocent X is a really great portrait with thick passages of opaque colour that seemed to melt into each other, yet still gave that convincing sense of the sitter. Again, this has that magical quality when you step back from it, the structure and features of the face come into full focus.

The full sized painting is on display in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj in Rome.


Seeing the paintings next to each other you can compare how Velázquez’s painting style had developed over 30 years to become looser, more painterly with broken edges and softer transitions.

Velázquez studied and trained in Seville but left for Madrid, age 24, in 1623 seeking new challenges and a sitting with the King.

Velázquez had a soft spot for the Waterseller, it was his ‘Mona Lisa’ and used it his calling card to Don Juan de Fonseca, Chaplain to the King to showcase his talents and techniques.

It worked.

Fonseca bought the painting, sat for a portrait himself then presented him with a rare opportunity to paint a portrait of King Philip IV, who appointed Velázquez as one of his court painters and Madrid became his home for the rest of his life.

When Don Juan de Fonseca died, Velázquez valued his painting collection, giving the Waterseller the highest price and then promptly bought it back for himself.

Velázquez use of Tone


When we look at the tonal range of the figures, it’s fascinating to see just how close they are in tonal (black and white) value, yet each figure remains distinct and separate.

The Water Seller of Seville detail

waterseller shadow of face

Notice how there is still that consistency of values between the shadow on the boys face, the ‘lights’ on the figure in the background and the shadows on the Waterseller’s face.

The only thing that is bringing the boys face into focus is the extreme light on the light side of his face and the difference in hue, cooler and greener where the Waterseller is warmer and pinker.

Keeping the lights simple

Velázquez keeps a reserved handling of the lights that brings a face to life from across a room.

It’s a common mistake to paint highlights on the skin – too light. What is often perceived as bright white, is actually only slighter lighter in tonal value than the rest of the face.

Discovering Velázquez, The Duke & Unexpected Treasures

When you look at the image above in colour, the highlight on the forehead is clearly visible. Notice on the black and white version the highlight is now difficult to make out because of the subtle shift in tone. It’s the difference in warm and cool colour temperature or hue that is helping with the illusion of light fall.

This method of having a simple and compressed range of tones in the lighter values was echoed by the artist and tutor Carolus-Duran who was a great fan of Velázquez.

  “When you think you see in Nature lights as white as you are painting them,  light as you think you see you painted them,  hold up your pocket handkerchief against them and you will see the great difference between them and whiteness.”

The Contemporary Review, In the Studio of Carolus Duran, 1888

“That is how Velázquez would paint it, with a mere nothing. That is how I, with rather less skill, should paint it too. Done like that is should hardly take six minutes to paint, but done in the way some people go to work you might toil at it for six days and then not reach it. Paint like Velázquez, gentleman. Ah Velázquez!”

The Contemporary Review, In the Studio of Carolus Duran, 1888

Apsley House is managed by English Heritage  and open Wednesday – Sunday 11am – 5 pm

So did Vanessa ever get her Winter sun?

Discovering Velázquez, The Duke & Unexpected Treasures

Indeed, we had a lovely time on the south coast of Portugal, eating freshly caught fish and drinking Super Bocks.

Now I’m even more intrigued by the other Velázquez paintings I haven’t seen in the flesh, I wonder if I can weave a trip to the Museo del Prado cunningly disguised as a shopping trip to Madrid…

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This Post Has 160 Comments

  1. This is so interesting, and very well written, too! Thank you for sharing. Love it!

    1. Thanks Jola, pleased you enjoyed it.

  2. It is so great and wonderful i love it, I am appreciate sir, chalee

    1. My pleasure Chalee, glad you enjoyed the paintings.

  3. Wow Will that was amazing. Tonal values are just so important, and so often used incorrectly. Thanks so much for a wonderful article. Could feel your excitement.

    1. Pleased you enjoyed it Jen, yes, they can really hold a portrait together and can so easily sneak out of a logical fall of light.

  4. Thank you for your interesting article. There are so many artists whose work I love, from the early renaissance right up to the present day, but if I had to pick only one it would be Velasquez. I think he was an extraordinary painter. In addition to all to all of his artistic genius that you have highlighted so well, his paintings have such a strange sense of mystery. I believe The Waterseller of Seville was part of an exhibition in London some years ago. I remember seeing it, but I can’t remember the name of the exhibition. I visited The Hermitage in St Petersburg about six years ago and was most shocked to find a Velasquez hung so high on the wall it was impossible to actually look at it! I will definitely take your advice and visit Apsley House. I must have passed it hundreds of times.

    1. Hi Terry, nice to hear from you and really hope you enjoy your trip to the House.

  5. I enjoyed reading this. Very interesting to learn the background and history of Velázquez’s paintings and where some of his works ended up. What even pleased me more was to read on the techniques he used – I love that. I am always paying attention to what techniques and skills were used by master artists so I can learn from them. Great write up, Will, I truly loved this one.

    1. Cheers Dennis, hope you’re doing well, so pleased you found it informative.

  6. In Portrait of a Man…is that a scar painted into the mans temple area?
    This was a fascinating column! I love to read about artist techniques. It’s what makes the great artists great! Thank you.

    1. Hi Patricia, I don’t think it is, the photo doesn’t really do it justice and has boosted the contrast a little from the original, in the painting the transitions are softer.

  7. Beautiful. I love D.Velazquez Thank you.

  8. Please do go the the MUSEO DEL PRADO. you will love his MENINAS (a painting within a painting) Las Hilanderas and other beautiful paintings…

    1. Thanks Celia, yes looking forward to putting the other pieces of his paintings together.

  9. A side note/question. I have only had the pleasure to visit the Uffizzi but noticed there, and in your post, many red rooms for the display of painted artwork in particular. Is there a colour reasoning to this, or just a reflection of the ‘decorator’ preferences?

    1. Hi Tina, more than anything it’s a historical colour that was used at the time, gold gilt frames just look great on it! for some subtle paintings a heavily patterned or strongly coloured wall can really fight with a painting, but if there are strong contrasts in the work it can bring a warmth and power to the piece.

  10. Hi Will

    This is my favourite painting. Now I know that it is in London where I live I will be going to Apsley House as soon as possible.

    It seems to me that the majority of the painting is brown. Am I correct in that assumption.


    1. Hi John, yes, lots of earth colours, if you’re visiting Apsley there is another painting by Velasquez hanging above the Portrait of a man, it’s hard to see in the pictures above but it has a colour palette very similar to the Waterseller, it’s called ‘Two Young Men At A Table’ which was painted a year before the Waterseller.

      Have a great trip.

  11. Thanks for sharing your story & making it a good read and so interesting. Val

    1. You’re welcome Val, really pleased you enjoyed it.

  12. Please write more like this; most informative and enjoyable. How about visiting Petworth House and giving it the same treatment! Anyway next time I am in London I am off to Apsley House. So, thank you. Martyn

    1. Really pleased you enjoyed it Martyn and have a great trip when visiting London next time.

  13. Wonderful piece of writing. Makes me want to pick up my paint brush
    and explore the magic of painting again.

    1. Great to hear it Ellen, nothing brings you closer to understanding how a painter works than through painting itself, enjoy your time back at the easel.

  14. What a feast of masterpieces, a super tutorial, AND a tour of Wellington’s home! It doesn’t get much better than this ! Thanks, Will, so much, for sharing.

    1. So pleased you enjoyed it Bunny, thanks for your kind words.

  15. What a fascinating article! I’ve seen Apsley House on “places to visit” when I’ve been in London, but never been, and now I feel I’ve missed something wonderful. Thanks for sharing your visit.

    1. Hope you can catch them next time you’re in London Martha.

  16. Thank you for such a beautiful article.
    I can definitely recommend the Prado, it’s worth it just for Las Meniñas. I saw it in 1972, in a smallish room on its own – opposite a huge mirror, the size of a wall. That really brought out the three dimensionality of the painting. You felt you were actually in the room with Velazquez. Such a masterpiece. Unforgettable! Alas, I think it is now displayed much more conventionally…
    And if you like Las Meniñas and Picasso, there’s always the Picasso museum in Barcelona, which has a very detailed and enlightening display of Picasso’s numerous studies of different elements of the masterpiece.
    Both cities are also great for shopping, obvs.
    Enjoy your hols.

    1. Thanks for the insights Barbara, pleased you enjoyed the article.

  17. Aloha Will,
    Very well done narrative and photos! I especially took note of how you described the way folks look at art in a gallery. I was on Hawaii Island and I found myself described as I wandered through one of the world’s largest private collections of historical museum pieces from all over the world and European oil paintings at the Hilton Waikoloa Village this past weekend. John Young, a renown artist in Hawaii 50 years ago who loved to paint horses, among other subjects, had a couple of abstract paintings hanging in the gallery. Lo, and behold, when I studied them from far and up close, I saw ‘hidden but obvious’ shapes of horse heads, tails, bodies, hooves, and even spurs! What a surprise to even see a part of a child’s wooden rocking horse near the bottom of one of the paintings! It was amazing to realize that there was a lot of ‘thought’ given to these pieces of abstract art when on first view appeared to be wild splashes of color over white canvas! Only you could appreciate this! What a shame that most visitors except only 2 or 3 casually stopped only a moment to look at something, hurriedly passed by the long passage way corridors that housed the immense collection amassed by art connoisseur Chris Hemmeter. Thank you again, Will; you really inspire me with your love for classical art!

    1. Thanks Liz, and thanks for your insights on the abstract painting. Yes, many abstracts have the structure based on a more representational feel, pleased you enjoyed the John Young exhibition.

  18. Superb article ( as always!) -thanks Will !!
    I love to get all of the ‘notes’ about techniques etc :)
    Interesting to have you explain the warm/ cool colour,
    rather than the use of a white mix.
    Great photos too :)
    Huge thanks!!

    1. Thanks very much Carol, pleased you liked the shots.

  19. Thank you so much for this beautiful art class.You don´t know how luck you are…..seeing these mastrepieces ´´in vivo´´ should be a great joy.
    Thanks for sharing .

    1. Thanks Carolina, yes it’s a real privilege.

  20. Loved this! I now realize that I paint more like Velazquez except in landscapes. I now know to study more Velazquez. Who knew? Please keep writing these essays. We painters far away from museum-rich areas love it.

    1. Cheers Martha, pleased it has inspired your landscapes.

  21. Dear Will,

    thank you! I hadn’t expected an art tour this morning…….and a mini-vacation to boot!

    Your comments were enlightening and instructive…I’m not a portrait painter, but all your observations (about value) would help in any scene. Cheerio!

    1. My pleasure Delores, yes value and drawing are the real cornerstones to a successful representational painting, glad you enjoyed the tour.

  22. Hi Will:
    What a wonderful trip! Thanks for the great article.
    It was great to see the scale of “The Water-Seller” and the portrait
    of the Pope with a person in the museum. So helpful. Thanks again
    for a wonderful educational trip.

    1. Cheers Barry, yes I think it’s always fascinated to see differences in scale of paintings in comparison to the same size in a book, pleased you enjoyed the article.

  23. Thank you for your interesting article.

  24. We lived in Madrid, Spain for two years and the Prado was a “must” for visitors and my visits. Do try to get there as it is worth the visit. It’s just amazing. Thank you for sharing your trip with your followers. Brought back so many memories.

    1. Pleased to hear it Carol and thanks for the recommendation.

  25. Great article
    Cheers Will

  26. Absolutely Beautiful ! Must have been Some experience. I really enjoyed this.

    1. Thanks Dee, so pleased you enjoyed it.

  27. Hello Will,
    Thanks for a very interesting article. I am a great fan of the Duke, history being my second passion after painting. I have visited Aspley House several times, but rest assured my next visit will be even more enjoyable having read your article.
    Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and adding such interesting insights into
    these wonderful artists.
    Kind regards,
    Peter B.

    1. Hi Peter, nice to hear from you, hope it helps to add an extra dimension to the paintings on your next trip.

  28. Thanks for the fabulous insight into another great painter and the wonderful paintings of Apsley House – I was totally unaware it existed ! The information about white highlights is very useful too. I’ve made the mistake of using white on numerous occasions when using acrylics. I think it’s going to create a lighter tone but all it leaves is a horrible chalky film,
    Many thanks again.

    1. You’re welcome Daryl, yes, a very subtle white highlight can sometimes work wonders, but more often than not less is more – especially when viewing from a distance.


  29. Will – So fascinating, I almost felt I was there, too! Your knowledge of art is wonderful and makes me appreciate great art even more knowing the history of the times and the artist! Thanks for sharing all that you do! So glad to hear from you once again!

    1. Thanks Beth, so pleased you enjoyed it, yes, it’s amazing how so many paintings have such history even before they’ve even appeared on the wall.

  30. Always a joy to find an email from you, Will. And this one was no disapointment.
    Fabulously informative, and yes, observing behaviour in galleries and museums is something I do.
    On a recent visit to the Dali museum, l actually saw people walking up to a work of art, turning their backs to it, taking a selfie with the work in the backgound, and swifty moving on without a backward glance!

    Thank you so much for your generosity of spirit and insight.


    1. Ha, ha I haven’t spotted the selfie artwork yet, I’ll look out for it! pleased you enjoyed it Jenni.

  31. Thank you so very much Will. Your lucky to have so much great art around you. It seems to be another world away from Australia thanks for showing me some of what is out there. All the best Malcolm.

    1. Thanks Malcolm, I do appreciate how amazing it is to access these paintings, hope the article gave you an insight.

  32. Hi Will, I’m from ‘the land down under’ & have just discovered your wonderful website! I have only sketched in pencil up until 2 days ago when I completed my first acrylic painting thanks to your step by step instructional video. I’m quitely proud & absolutely hooked! Will definitely be investing in some of your courses. Thank you so much!

    1. Good one Peri, so pleased your painting turned out well, hope you’ve been enjoying the site.

  33. Thank you
    This is extra fascinating with the connection to Wellington.
    Great history lesson on two fronts
    Makes me sorry that I have missed seeing it to this point in time

    1. Cheers Neil, pleased you enjoyed it.

  34. Do you know how lucky you are? :)

    1. Thanks Dianne, yes it was fab to be able to study them so close.

  35. Thanks Will. You did a wonderful job of shedding valuable light on the subject of “light!” Very informative and fun to read. I had never appreciated this artist before. It must really be something to see it all in person. Thanks again. Eric

    1. You’re welcome Eric, pleased you enjoyed it and hope you can track down a Velasquez near you.

  36. Excellent detailing of your tour and lovely pictures. As a newbie to painting, really understanding the importance of tonal value can sometimes be frustrating. Your analysis in this article really helped. Thank you and look forward to your next one.

    1. Thanks very much Linda, pleased you enjoyed the pictures of the visit.

  37. Hello Will! I always know that I will learn something valuable about looking at art and life when I see a message from you. What wonderful article written for so many levels. I appreciate your kindness and willingness to share what brings joy to you. I can hear your voice when I read and feel so lucky to be a “student” of yours. Thanks ever so much. Best regards to you and Vanessa! Lucia

    1. Thanks very much Lucia, very kind of you to say so, so pleased you enjoyed it.

  38. This and your explanations were great. Love your enthusiasm!

  39. Amazing.

  40. Interesting article. I enjoyed a lot , thank you so much for sharing.

  41. Thank you very much Will, for this interesting and informative post, inspiritng really. .I am going to have a go at doing that wonderful view of Apsley House. Irresistible!

    my grand daughter (9) loves art and lives on the outskirts of London. I am forwarding this to her mother.
    mary, Kuala Lumpur

    1. Good one Mary, pleased you enjoyed learning about the collection.

  42. Thank you for sharing your experience. I am fascinated by the life like quality and how the expressions in the water seller’s and boy’s face were so animated. Almost as if they are still from a movie. It must have been so hard to do in a time before working from a photo reference is possible. Amazing.

  43. Thanks for “taking me” there! What is a Super Bock?

  44. Nice story with a happy ending – Bocks, beaches and sun. Thanks for the discussion of tonal values. Even when my brain is saying there isn’t much of a tonal shift here, my hand seems to say “go for the white!” And as soon as I do that, its obvious its too much. Can’t hear this lesson enough.



    1. Ha, ha, yes Dave, the allure of adding white can be strong. Hope it helps in your paintings.

  45. Thank You Will, for sharing your special trip with us. I really enjoyed ‘seeing’ the paintings thru your eyes. You spoke of the extra long brush handles ‘V’ used – – – do you have any idea what length they might have been? I also wonder if he used some kind of device to support or prop-up the paint brush (when painting) back – – – away from the canvas? – Debbie

    1. Hi Debbie, I’m not sure of the exact length of the longer brushes, he also used shorter brushes for details and a Mahl stick, for steadying the hand when working on a canvas with wet oil paint.

  46. THank you for sharing, so kind.
    I learn a lot from this, as well as from your courses :-)

    1. Pleased you enjoyed it Marion and are enjoying the courses.

  47. Such an interesting article, you have whetted my appetite to know more about this artist. thank you Will.

  48. Always a joy to read of your experiences and adventures in art Will. Thank you! Thank you too Vanessa!

    1. Cheers Lynda, so pleased you enjoyed it, I’ll pass on your regards to Vanessa.

  49. Hola Will; I’m writing to you from the land down under, Melbourne Australia
    I was moved to write a comment on your experience of visiting your favorite Velazquez as it reminded me of a similar experience I had at our own National Gallery in Melbourne a few years ago when we had an exhibition of impressionist masterpieces and I had the opportunity to see up close Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’.
    To be able to see every brushstroke and thumbprint, every colour/pigment mark and swirl on the canvas, that when you are really close it looks almost chaotic,not unlike some psychodelic vision of the 70’s, yet when you take a few steps back and the whole canvas is in frame you are confronted with this exquisite nighttime landscape, you can feel the breeze over the river, you can see the flickering lights in town and it is like you are inside the painting.
    It was an amazing experience, inspiring,emotional and to this day I can still recall the thrill and awe of that encounter. This is what I believe a masterpiece is all about. Thank you for sharing your experience,I hope to visit Velazquez in Apsley House sometime in the future.

    warm Regards

    1. Hi Maritza, thanks for sharing your experience with the Van Gogh painting, sound like a great exhibition.

  50. Wonderful….as always!!!

    1. Thanks very much Tamara, hope you’re doing well.

  51. Another great informative and entertaining article – thanks Will.
    in a recent exhibition in Sydney I came upon Velazquez’ “old woman cooking eggs” not a great title but what an amazing work. I think it may feature the same boy model as in the water seller! I was torn between the Velazquez. the Singer Sargent in that particular exhibition, both mesmerising. definitely have to pay a visit to Apsley House next time we are back in the UK. Thanks again.
    Oils are my preferred medium – so looking fwd to your glazing course.

    1. Hi Sandy, yes it’s a great painting, was it part of ‘The Great
      Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland
      ‘ tour, I heard great things about the show. Pleased you’re looking forward to the glazing course.

  52. Thank you Will for sharing your experience at Aspley House with us. Your explanation of Velasquez techniques is very valuable. I’ll certainly put Aspley House on my list of galleries to visit when in London.

    1. You’re more than welcome Sandra, hope you get a chance to see the paintings next time you’re in London.

  53. Really enjoyed this article, not only because I love Velazquez but also as I too stumbled across the painting quite by chance (had no idea it was there!) on a recent visit to London and the hop-on-hop-off bus. Completely bowled over when I saw it. And your detailed comments on sight size and muted highlights are interesting. Look forward to the glazing course!

    1. Thanks Simon, what a coincidence, pleased you enjoyed the collection at the house.

  54. Thank you for sharing this wonderful piece, I almost felt like I was there! I’ve been dabbling in portrait paintings and the observations you make about subtle color changes for lighting effect in the portrait are so helpful. Would love to be on a field trip with you!

    1. That’s great to hear Betsy, glad it added an extra insight to the paintings, you never know we might bump into each other at an exhibition!

  55. Will, thank you so much for such an interesting look at these masterpieces! Your commentary on how the subtle shades and tones were used is something I probably wouldnt have noticed. Thank you so much. I always enjoy your articles, and next time I get to London, I will surely go to the Apsley House and enjoy these paintings by Velazquez, one of my favorite painters as well.

    1. My pleasure Connie, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  56. This article is amazing, I love it alot I wish I could see this in reality believe me it’s the true Spanish art and inspiration for the artists

    1. Thanks very much Aqdas, very kind of you to say so.

  57. Thank you for another fantastic escapade. Someone should nominate you world’s president of the arts!

    1. Ha, ha you’re too kind Patricia, so pleased you enjoyed the article.

  58. Hi Will, thanks for your writing on one of the Old Masters, they where truly the inspiration of all artists today, there work is timeless and i throughly enjoyed reading your article on Velazquez and i will definitely make the effort to visit and see the works of such a great Master. Regards.

    1. Pleased you enjoyed it Keith, hope you get the the opportunity to see them in the flesh.

  59. Will, yet another delightful account of a painter’s odyssey, thank you for the tour with all your masterful comments; – Appsley House is undoubtedly a national treasure. And to think The Duke went to school in my native Trim, Co. Meath where a monument commemorates him, he certainly knew about Art. Thank you indeed.

    1. Hi Paddy, nice to hear from you and really pleased you enjoyed the virtual tour and interesting to know about the Trim connection.

  60. This is a really wonderful article Will and I am already planning to visit Apsley House on our next visit to London.

    1. Thanks very much Elaine, pleased you enjoyed it and hope you have a great time on your visit.

  61. I couldn’t help but become teary-eyed as I ‘walked through’ Apsley House with you this morning, Will! I truly longed to be the one sitting on the sofa in front of those amazing works of Velazquez… who knows, perhaps one day? Thank you so much for an outstanding tour. I loved the historical depth you gave to it! A blessing!

    1. So pleased you enjoyed it Nita, lovely to hear you enjoyed the tour.

  62. This is a very interesting article. As a young amateur artist living in a small town in the U.S, I will only see these beautiful works of art in photographs. You have an eye for details that I would have overlooked, but I am eager to learn. As young art student, I have learned a great deal from your knowledge and perspective. As always, your insights and teachings continue to inspire me. You have forever influenced my view of art. Thank you very much for sharing with us.

    1. You’re more than welcome Lavender, glad that you’ve found the insights helpful in your own paintings.

  63. Thank you for this great article. I can understand how you need to step back to see the painting come into focus. I did this very same thing when I visited the Metroplitan Museum in NYC to see John Singer Sargents Paintings. I was fascinated with the way he captured the silk and satin fabrics of the dresses. I kept getting up close to see the large brush strokes he used yet stepping back the fabric appeared smooth and silky. I also learned a lot from your article thinking back of the painting of the Portrait if Madame x, about keeping the lights simple and the use of tone and value. Again thanks for this very informative article. I hope to start painting some portraits soon.

    1. Pleased you enjoyed the article Ramonita, yes, Sargent paintings can be fascinating to see the differences from different distances.

  64. Will,
    I am supposed to be cooking for loads of family coming home this weekend but just got totally transfixed by reading of your superb visit and your interesting comments about Apsley House. I have decided I am going to London to visit the gallery next week – how exciting!
    Thank you for your inspiration.

    1. How lovely to hear Bridget, so pleased you enjoyed the article, have a fab bank holiday with your family and a great time next week at Apsley.

  65. I wasn’t going to spend the time reading this with so much else to do, but now so glad I did! I really am a rank beginner with fantasies of becoming the next John Singer Sargent so really love to see how it’s supposed to be done! Thank you!

    1. You’re welcome Carole, pleased you enjoyed it.

  66. Hello Will ,
    Thank you for sharing your visit to Apsley House with us . I didn’t know those great paintings by Velázquez were on exhibition in London — what a wonderful find for you !
    Thank you also for the John Singer Sargent feature ; Sargent is one of my favourite artists .
    Very best wishes ,
    Patrick .

    1. Hi Patrick, thanks very much, pleased you enjoyed the articles,

  67. Thankyou for showing these treasured paintings and history of Aspley House. Regards, Lorraine Filmer

    1. My pleasure Lorraine, pleased you enjoyed the article.

  68. Thank you so much for posting this interesting and informative piece. I had known nothing about Velazquez previously, and your presentation has made me interested in finding out more.
    Thank you.

    1. So pleased you enjoyed it Connie and hope you enjoy learning more about Velasquez’s paintings.

  69. Thanks for the informative article, I enjoyed it so much. I tried backing away from V’s work as you suggested and it really worked! Strange, I felt as if my eyes were the lense of a camera, it was eerie.
    Love your website, work and tutorials. Next time I have a few days off I hope to take one of your online classes.
    Again, thank you!

    1. Good one Marri, so pleased you enjoyed the article.

  70. Fascinating. I lived and worked in London in the late 70’s and have never heard of Apsley House… I think the thing I miss most about London is the free galleries and museums…

    1. Cheers Glen, pleased you found it of interest.

  71. Thank You Will for the beautiful information you provided us from trip, very informative.
    I love your website.

    Take Care


    1. Thanks very much Micaela, so pleased you enjoyed the article.

  72. Hi Will,
    This is such an interesting and informative article, thanks. Your enthusiasm for Velazquez’s work is infectious – I am now an admirer of Velázquez! I have enjoyed reading your analysis of all the works in the article. If there is such a thing, I nominate you for “Ambassador to Classical Painting”.

    One question about the soundtrack in your courses – is that a ukulele or mandolin that Vanessa plays? I find myself humming along to the music, great stuff!

    1. Hi Maria, thanks very much for your very kind words, so pleased you enjoyed it. On the courses, Vanessa is the music Maestro but doesn’t personally play any of the instruments, she was trained in classical violin and has a great ear for a hum along Ukelele!

  73. It is so exciting to realize that an art treasure is (relatively speaking) in your neck of the woods.
    Thank so much for writing about this art adventure. Inspiring!

    1. Pleased you enjoyed it Nicole,

  74. Hi Will,

    Thank you for the very informative and interesting article on Velåzquez. I am planning on visiting London this Summer so will definitely visit Apsley House! great tips on’ how ‘ ‘and ‘what ‘ to look out for when viewing a Velåzuez!



    1. Glad you enjoyed it Janis and hope you can find time in your trip for a visit to Apsley.

  75. Thanks Will,
    Loved reading your article….. totally motivating to pick up the brushes! (especially heading into winter in New Zealand). Thank you.

    1. You’re more than welcome Carina, pleased you’ve feeling inspired!

  76. Thank you, Will, for sharing this amazing place with one who will never have the opportunity to see it in person. I have a large book titled “ART, Over 2,500 Works from Cave to Contemporary”, published in Great Britain by Dorling Kindersley Limited, first copywrite 2008. You may be familiar with DK books. ( At any rate, there are a couple of pages dedicated to Diego Velazquez showing a few of his paintings with brief but profound descriptions and insights. Thank you again for bringing this great Spanish artist to everyone’s attention. Much appreciated. Laurel

    1. Thanks Laurel, pleased you enjoyed the article.

  77. Your post re Apsley House arrived at a perfect time for my wife and I. We received it just prior to heading to London from Canada. We had already decided to visit Wellington Arch and Hyde Park, so Apsley House was a perfect fit to complete a day in that area. Your descriptions of the various paintings and what to look for were excellent. Thank you Will.

    1. That really does sound like perfect timing Dale! so pleased you enjoyed the trip to Apsley, hope you had a good trip to London.

  78. I’ve just spent hours engrossed in your blog and instructional videos. I’m recommending these to others. As a photographer attemptingball my life to paint, my reach has always far exceeded my grasp and I’ve wasted many hours and money on supplies I was afraid to use. Art and fear – – so closely related. In your writing and your videos you strike such an excellent balance, pointing or demonstrating quite detailed information but never talking down to the reader/viewer and thus far imparting the useful information while not skipping over the technical bits and still imparting a confidence and relish that encourages and inspires. I know from my own experience that seeing work through the eyes of the practitioner is quite different than admiring from a distance and my photographic work has always benefited from imitating the masters to see exactly what problems they were working on and their solutions. Thank you so much for you work – next month I hope to take a class from your assortment. Please consider a class on foreground techniques as that it always where I fall down, after framing quite naturally in my photographs I find myself unable to msnage a landscape foreground in any painting mecium whatsoever!

    1. Hi Stacy, thanks for your kind words, much appreciated. So pleased you’re enjoying the lessons and finding them helpful in your transition from the photographer’s eye to the painter’s eye!

  79. Thanks Will, you are such an inspiration! I read this article and will now head off to Apsley House this Sunday!

    1. Good one Sherrill, really pleased you found it helpful, hope you have a fab time walking back and forth in front of the Velasquez!

  80. Hi Will, so glad to hear you are planning a trip to the Prado – also on my dream list – just very far from SA! I really enjoyed this blog and visit to Apsley House. I am more aware of tonal values and the very subtle nuances , and me as a painter not spending enough time on looking at mid-tones. stepping back and observing tones.

    1. Hey Karen, great to hear from you and really pleased you enjoyed the article.

  81. I still vividly recall seeing “Los Barachos” the first time. I was passing through Madrid
    after heavy drinking during San Fermin. In the Prado, through the Velazquez painting, I could feel the wine flowing and the impending hangovers. Somewhere in the mid eighties.

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