'Portrait of a Woman with Blue and Green Scarf', 1914 

Egon Schiele

Egon was an Austrian expressionist noted for intensity, twisted body shapes and expressive lines in his portraits, with his unique medium of crayon, gouache and watercolour drawings on paper. The piece is bold and the lady's face strong but I couldn't imagine it without the flash of green. 

(Photo credit unknown) 


'Olympia' 1863

Édouard Manet

The father of 'Modernism', I remember this painting in all it's detail from school History of Art essays, and it was indeed a turning point in the art world. Controversial at the time due to the accessories, nudes were acceptable but the subject’s presentation seemed ever so erotic with the added neck tie, bracelet, flower in hair, pretty shawl and that challenging stare at the viewer. Who knew a scarf could be so shocking!

(Photo credit: Museo de Orsay)


'By the Sea', 1892

Paul Gauguin

You are transported into another world when you look at a Gauguin depiction of island life on Tahiti. Here he captures the colourful, bright floral patterns of the Pacific in a sumptuous scene. A native woman removes her ‘pareo’ wrap around shawl in orange and cool navy blue to join a companion already plunging into the sea for a swim. Some of our more tropical cushions are inspired by this same vision of paradise. (see 'PENELOPE')

(Photo credit: National Gallery of Art, Washington)


'Self Portrait with a White Scarf' 1928

János Vaszary

I find this striking pastel on paper quite powerful. The Hungarian artist has portrayed himself in an impressionist manner with minimal detail and yet its not only the hollowed out eyes, sharp cheekbones and hairline and pale skin that make you feel cold but also the prominent scarf wrapped around his neck protruding into the foreground. 

(Photo credit: Hungarian National Gallery) 


'Painting  of Weeping Woman', 1937

Pablo Picasso

Symbolising a universal image of suffering, this dramatic painting portrays a women weeping intensely. All the elements in this piece add to the tragedy, the tears, the eyes, the lines, the distortion and even her hanky. Painted in strong hues a portion of her facial expression which theoretically should be hidden is revealed by her comforting handkerchief highlighted in black and white. It’s jagged edges are like shards of shattered glass further conveying an emotion of shock, pain and anguish. It' a very traumatic piece. 

(Photo credit: Tate Modern London)


'The Blue Scarf', 1931 

Tamara de Lempicka

Baroness Tamara Lempicka was a Polish painter noted for her strong Art Deco style with clean, precise and elegant lines. At the time of this painting she was in New York undertaking fashionable bourgeois portrait commissions, she herself leading an exciting and scandalous life. The woman is clearly beautiful with an almost cinematic aura about her but yet with a cold hard exterior and dehumanised eyes. This ‘soul of ice’ is emphasised by the rumpled and wind swept blue scarf gathered around her.

(Photo credit: 


'Portrait of a Man in Armour with Red Scarf', 1625  

Anthony van Dyck

One of the ‘Old Masters’ Flemish baroque artist van Dyck made his mark as a portraitist and leading court painter. He painted important families from the upper strata of Genoese and English society but various attempts to identify the man in this picture have been inconclusive, it’s also possible that the oil painting is not a portrait but an allegory. I find it’s contrasts appealing, the man obviously looks brave and masculine in his shiny robust body armour and yet the beautiful scarf tied around his arm, the whispy fabric full and flowing, is such a delicate touch. His stance is assertive and yet there’s a mystery behind his slightly poignant gaze, I wonder what happened…

(Photo credit: Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister) 


‘The Potato Diggers’, 1910

Paul Henry 

Belfast born and Paris trained, Paul Henry is one of Ireland’s most famous artists for depicting sentimental visions of the West of Ireland’s extraordinary landscape. Painted in Achill Island, Co Mayo, a couple are captured in the drudgery of potato digging. The female’s headscarf is quite significant in this painting, traditional of peasant life it symbolises the culture and the times. Henry used strong colours and energetic brushstrokes in his paintings but here the vigor of their work is also emphasised in the vibrancy of this pungent red. It's really quite striking indeed. 

(Image credit:


Posted by Katie Larmour

Katie Larmour