This Autumn, the National Gallery will take visitors on a journey in black and white to examine what happens when artists cast aside the colour spectrum and focus on the visual power of black, white and everything in between. 

Odalisque in Grisaille, about 1824-34

Odalisque in Grisaille, about 1824-34, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and workshop.© The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource / Scala, Florence. 

Featuring paintings and drawings by Old Masters such as Jan van Eyck, Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, the exhibition will be revealing fresh insights into the use of colour as a choice rather than a necessity.

Alongside the Old Masters, the display will also feature works by contemporary artists such as Gerhard Richter, Chuck Close and Bridget Riley to journey through a different aspect of painting in black, white and grey, in each of the five rooms.

Lelia Packer and Jennifer Sliwka, curators of Monochrome: Painting in Black and White, explain, “Painters reduce their colour palette for many reasons, but mainly as a way of focusing the viewer’s attention on a particular subject, concept or technique. It can be very freeing – without the complexities of working in colour, you can experiment with form, texture, mark making, and symbolic meaning.”

Meanwhile, National Gallery Director Dr Gabriele Finaldi, said “Artists choose to use black and white for aesthetic, emotional and sometimes even for moral reasons. The historical continuity and diversity of monochrome from the Middle Ages to today demonstrate how crucial a theme it is in western art.” 

Monochrome: Painting in Black and White will be on display at the National Gallery from the 30th October until the 18th February 2018. For more information visit:

6 thoughts on “PREVIEW: Monochrome: Painting in Black and White, National Gallery

  1. This looks like a very good exhibition, but somebody should have told the curators that monochrome means one colour, including shades of grey, and NOT just black and white. In fact most artists are well aware that in painting there is no such thing as black, or white, and no grey is without some kind of colour. That being so, this exhibition really appeals to me and I’m looking forward to it very much!

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