Critics on the Tate re-hang
May 16 2013
Picture: Evening Standard
It's interesting to see how the press has run with Tate's PR line about their 'rehang', as if displaying the very pictures it was always intended to display was somehow something unusual, and special. One never hears of such a thing at the National Gallery. But anyway, it seems to have gone down well. Richard Dorment gives it five stars in the Telegraph:
So the first thing to say about Curtis’s rehang is that it is gloriously, satisfyingly, reactionary. In 20 galleries that are intended as an introduction to British art for the general public, about 500 works of art including paintings, sculpture and drawings are hung chronologically from the 16th to the 21st centuries. This is art history as it used to be taught before it was hijacked by academic theorists. Every gallery is labelled by the date of the art shown in it, and just in case anyone might think the redisplay is temporary, those dates are set into the floor in large gold letters at the entrance.
In The Times, Rachel Campbell-Johnston, notes the lack of descriptive labels:
The loser looks set to be the student armed with his or her art history book. The labelling is minimal. There is nothing to guide you through major art movements. And so what, to the expert, might seem delightfully risque, may feel confusing to the novice.
The curators' answer is simple - use your eyes.
Ah, the great label debate. I've never understood why people get so worked up over a long and helpfully descriptive label. Nobody has to read them - they're just there for those that want to. Isn't taking away all background information a rather punitive thing to do?
Even Brian Sewell is relieved to see Tate's 'historic collection' back on the walls after so long hidden away. It's undeniably the case though that there is now less space for 'old' art than there was before. As Sewell concludes, when finding whole galleries at Tate Britain devoted to individual 20th Century artists:
With this intrusive silliness, Tate Britain is divided into one third for its historic possessions, and two-thirds for its infinitely weaker holding of recent-modern and contemporary art.
Such a division is extraordinarily and inexcusably unbalanced.
Mary Beale discoveries at Tate Britain
May 16 2013
I was pleased to see in The Independent that Tate Britain is emphasising the work of women artists in the new Walk Through British Art. As Chris Stephens, Tate's head of displays, says, 'it's an area where we have underachieved in recent years'. One could say the same of most UK museums, alas.
Two newly discovered works by Mary Beale (one shown above) have now gone on show at Tate. They were bought in 2010, having been found in a Paris antiques shop. Tate Curator Tabitha Barber says of Beale:
“I think she’s remarkably important and very underrated. People don’t tend to know her now. She was commercially very popular at the time.”
Anne Killigrew is another female artist of the period who has recently come back into the public arena. You can see her striking classical scene Venus Attired by the Graces by Anne Killigrew (discovered, ahem, by Philip Mould & Co.), at Falmouth Art Gallery, while another fine work by her can now be seen at the Queen's Gallery, where her Portrait of James II is part of the In Fine Style exhibition.
Tudor and Stuart fashion at the Royal Collection
May 15 2013
The Royal Collection has put on yet another excellent exhibition at the Queen's Gallery in London. Hot on the heels of the superb 'Northern Renaissance', the new show 'In Fine Style - The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion' looks at the sumptuous costumes worn at court in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Says the Royal Collection website:
This exhibition explores the sumptuous costume of British monarchs and their court during the 16th and 17th centuries through portraits in the Royal Collection. During this period fashion was central to court life and was an important way to display social status. Royalty and the elite were the tastemakers of the day, often directly influencing the styles of fashionable clothing.
In Fine Style follows the changing fashions of the period, demonstrates the spread of styles internationally and shows how clothing could convey important messages. Including works by Hans Holbein the Younger, Nicholas Hilliard, Van Dyck and Peter Lely, the exhibition brings together over 60 paintings, as well as drawings, garments, jewellery, accessories and armour.
There are many fine pictures on display, including Van Dyck's Portrait of Charles I in Three Positions. This is hung next to both Charles' Garter sash, and what is thought to be one of his lace collars (though personally I suspect it is too large to have been worn by so small a man). The pictures have been hung quite low, which makes them wonderfully accesible, and you can really peer into all the details of the costume. And don't forget that thanks to the Royal Collection's enlightened policy on photography (National Gallery please take note) you can snap away to your heart's content. Regular readers won't be surprised to hear that I took the opportunity to stock up on Van Dyck details. Note the smoother modelling of the flesh that Van Dyck appears to have used for his portraits of Charles I and Henrietta Maria - was this highly finished technique the result of a special command from the King and Queen?
In amongst the pictures are illustrated storyboards which tell you all you need to know about the clothes of the period, and in that respect the show is notable for what is not in it: I suspect (without naming any names) that other institutions faced with mounting an exhibition on Tudor and Stuart fashion would have gone down the route of talking mannequins, clever lighting, and fancy dress boxes for da kids.
As ever with the Royal Collection there's also a faultless and lavishly illustrated catalogue, written by the exhibition's curator Anna Reynolds.
Update - Richard Dorment in the Telegraph calls the show 'superlative'.
Update II - a reader writes:
I keep thinking you could have been the sitter for Van Dyck's Portrait of Charles I in Three Positions.
Hanging Houghton revisited
May 13 2013
New labels at Tate Britain
May 11 2013
My recent April Fool on the new re-hang at Tate Britain caught a few of you out, especially the part about the picture labels. It seems, however, that I might not have been so wide of the mark. Here's an interview in The Guardian with Chris Stephens, head of displays at Tate Britain, ahead of the opening (on 14th May) of their much vaunted chronological hang:
"There was once an expectation that every work should have a piece of text," says Stephens. "People would say they won't know what to make of a work unless they were told A, B and C. But what if the label tells you X, Y and Z?" The new hang has taken "a middle course" and a number of short texts will start from a work, but are designed to open up wider historical and political issues. [...]
While the new Tate chronology runs strictly from the 1500s to today, the layout of the museum will allow visitors to dip into areas as they please. "It's all part of this lighter touch that lets people choose more what they look at and how they think about it," says Stephens. "Art seems to be the one domain where we still hang on to academic and historical constructs as a necessary way of it being appreciated." He says that people are not required to know the history of literature and movements before taking a book out of the library, or require knowledge of kitchen sink realism before going to the cinema. "We still have all the historical information available, in many formats, if people want it. But whether it is useful or not, you don't need to know it to appreciate the pictures. Your response is as valid as our knowledge, and this re-hang presents a sort of release for the artist and their work from this encumbrance of academic protocols. Interestingly, some of the people I've encountered who have found it hardest to get their heads round are other curators and historians. But I think the public are going to be fine."
If you think about it, the sentence 'Your response is as valid as our knowledge' is a chilling concept for what is meant to be, at its heart, an educational institution.
David Packwood over at Art History Today is not happy about the re-hang being called 'The BP Walk Through British Art' (and neither am I)
Georgian room unveiled at Boston
May 10 2013
Picture: Museum Fine Arts, Boston/Art Newspaper
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (one of my favourite museums) has re-opened its prized mid-eighteenth century drawing room from Newland House. In pride of place in the picture above is a newly discovered portrait by Allan Ramsay, acquired from us here at Philip Mould & Co last year. More details in The Art Newspaper, and you can see a video of the room here.
Update - a reader writes:
You may like to now that Newland House itself was burnt to a shell early last year and is about to be demolished.....
all very sad tho with luck nothing of aesthetic value in the remaining interiors.....
Monet in Melbourne
May 7 2013
Picture: National Gallery of Victoria
A new show to open on 10th May:
Monet’s Garden is a stunning exhibition devoted to Claude Monet’s iconic garden at Giverny. Renowned as the ‘father of French Impressionism’, Monet was inspired by his direct experiences of nature, culminating in the ravishing depictions of his lily and flower gardens in the rural property at Giverny, northern France, that became his lifelong obsession. Step into the extraordinary this winter for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these masterpieces in Australia, exclusive to Melbourne.
Van Dyck in Canada
May 7 2013
Picture: National Gallery of Canada
A new exhibition on the working practices of Rubens, Van Dyck and Jordaens looks to be worth visiting, if you're in Canada - the National Gallery of Canada is looking in depth into a number of the works it owns, including Van Dyck's Suffer Little Children Come unto Me. Displayed alongside this work will be no less than two studies for the children (the boy with clasped hands and the child bottom right), which were discovered by Philip Mould in sale rooms some years ago.
China to the rescue?
May 7 2013
Picture: BBC News
A reader alerts to a potentially significant exhibition doing the rounds in China at the moment. From BBC News:
JMW Turner's sublime Calais Sands, has been dispatched, along with around 80 other artworks from Bury and 18 other north-west galleries, on a money-spinning six-city tour of China.
The venture was put together by Bury Art Museum manager Tony Trehy, who saw that art collected by industrial barons across the North West of England could be a big draw overseas.
He corralled other galleries to put their "greatest hits" together and head east. "Put it this way," Mr Trehy says. "It's sufficiently lucrative that people have stopped talking about cutting us."
The exhibition is titled Toward Modernity: Three Centuries of British Art. As well as the Turner, it includes works by Constable, Lowry, Henry Moore and Lucian Freud, culled from collections in Chester, Carlisle, Salford and Stalybridge.
Chinese galleries pay to host the exhibition, which Mr Trehy is now hoping to take to other countries, and which could provide the template for further themed exhibitions. "Assuming we can do it on a regular basis, it becomes a significant new source of funding for museums," he says.
I think Tony Trehy deserves a medal for this. We must all - including the trade - follow up on his work, and do all we can to make sure Chinese art lovers like British Art.
Re-hanging Tate Britain (ctd.)
May 1 2013
Tate Britain has a video of what we can expect in their new galleries. I'm very much looking forward to seeing it. The chronological hang is to be called 'The BP Walk Through British Art' (which is a bit too much, even for a free-marketeer like me).
Update - Tate Britain Director, Penelope Curtis, writes more about the re-hang in The Art Newspaper.
Re-opening the Rijksmuseum (ctd.)
April 30 2013
A reader has kindly sent in this response to the new Rijksmuseum, following my earlier post:
I went round the Rijksmuseum today. First things first, it's excellent. The rich collection is shown off well; not too cluttered and fully (read also, sensibly) labelled in English and Dutch. As other commentators have written, the placing of paintings with furniture and decorative arts makes great sense.
The queue was manageable at around 45 minutes - around half that if you book online - but unsurprisingly it was very busy inside. It's perhaps not quite as bad as the attached photos suggest, but there were certainly a lot of people when I went.
I'm not totally convinced the grey blue wall colour works with the paintings, but that may just be personal preference. The layout of the floors is also slightly confusing. I appreciate that this was dictated by the constraints of the building but it is a little annoying that the chronology of the floors jumps around: ground floor 1100-1600, first floor: 1700-1900, second floor: 1600-1700, third floor: 1900-to date. But these are minor quibbles in what is a superb museum.
Go, go go!
Our reader also adds:
One other thing I forgot to mention was that the main sponsors of the Rijksmuseum have had their company names and logos boldly commemorated in new stained glass windows at the end of the main gallery. Although it is a little incongruous, I rather liked it and if they've helped financially in what is such an obvious, not to mention expensive success then why not.
Analysing Van Gogh
April 30 2013
Picture: Van Gogh Museum
It's all go in Amsterdam at the moment - following the re-opening of the Rijksmuseum, tomorrow sees the re-opening of the Van Gogh museum. The museum will open with a new exhibition devoted to Van Gogh's techniques. Nina Siegal in the New York Times reports:
By using an electron microscope and X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, which reveals the parts of pigments without taking invasive samples, researchers found that early on van Gogh used perspective frames as a guide and drew on the canvas to correctly render proportions and depth of field in his landscapes. Later, as he gained mastery, he abandoned these grids. Like many artists, he reworked certain paintings repeatedly to perfect his desired effect. The most important insight was into his palette, said Nienke Bakker, curator of the show.
“We now know much more about the pigments van Gogh used and how they might’ve changed color over time,” Ms. Bakker said. “That’s crucial to our understanding of his works, and to know better how to treat them. The colors are still very vibrant, but they would have been even brighter — especially the reds. Some of the reds were much brighter or have completely disappeared since he painted them.”
Apparently The Bedroom, above, was originally painted with brighter, violet walls.
If you're in Tuscany...
April 25 2013
Picture: Palazzo Strozzi
...then Andrew Johnson of Renaissance in Tuscany says a new exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi on 'sculpture and the arts in Florence 1400-1460' is well worth a visit.
Charles I's Garter sash?
April 22 2013
Pictures: Royal Collection
An interesting little story in the Mail on Sunday for Van Dyck-obsessed Stuart fans (i.e., me):
The blue silk garter ribbon worn by Charles I in his famous van Dyck portrait may have been discovered - attached to a book.
Researchers believe four pieces of cloth could be the sash owned by the monarch after one was radiocarbon dated to the mid 17th century - the period when the King ruled.
The discovery was made after [Sir] Anthony van Dyck's portrait, which features three images of Charles, was selected for a new exhibition and Royal Collection Trust curators decided to examine the silk pieces which were attached to a book about the King.
Update - a reader adds:
It may interest readers of AHN to know that another reliquary of King Charles I is at large, but this one is somewhat more latently gruesome than the blue sash. It may be seen (sitting silently in a small glass display-case) by any member of the public visiting the small and somewhat obscure mueum of 'Fort Paull', which lies on the noth Bank of the River Humber some miles east of Kingston-Upon-Hull.. It was on the site of this museum that the King made camp in order to lay seige to the town at the commencement of the English Civil-War, This singular object is no less than a small section of neck vertebrae, reputedly removed at the time of the tragic King's execution, and then, after passing from hand to hand, latterly finding new employment as.. guess what..? A salt-cellar.
Louvre Abu Dhabi
April 22 2013
Here's a preview of pictures the Louvre will be lending to the new Louvre Abu Dhabi museum, due to open in 2015. More details here.
What's on at Tate next year...
April 22 2013
...Turner, Matisse, Mondrian. The usual stuff. More details here.
Update - a reader writes:
Did you miss the British Folk Art show that Tate are planning? I think it was in the Guardian report - and I know that they have already enquired about two pieces at Bangor: a tavern sign, The Four Alls (Seen, I think on the BBC Your Paintings sites, and one of our carved slates - so that show might be something out of the ordinary, for Tate at least.
BP Portrait Award shortlist
April 22 2013
Pictures: (left to right): 'The Uncertain Time' by John Devane © John Devane; 'Pieter' by Susanne du Toit © Susanne du Toit
Two pictures have been shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award. From the National Portrait Gallery press release:
The two artists shortlisted for the 2013 BP Portrait Award 2013 are John Devane for The Uncertain Time and Susanne du Toit for Pieter.
John Devane (17.08.1954) for The Uncertain Time (1720 x 2490mm, oil on canvas).
A painter who also teaches at Coventry University, John Devane, has an MA from the Royal College of Art. He has been shortlisted for his large group portrait of his three children: Lucy, 25, Laura, 20, and Louis, 15. Painted over three years, the picture sets out to show how children emerge from childhood and begin to assert their independence revealing something of their adult selves. He says: ‘The composition suggests an almost stage-like shallow space constructed in two zones with the three figures presented as if they are awaiting some kind of event’. The artist’s key points of reference are the works of Courbet, Chardin, Degas, Balthus and Samuel Beckett. This will be the second time John Devane’s work has been exhibited at the BP Portrait Award, his In the House of The Cellist was seen in the 1995 exhibition.
Susanne du Toit (05.03.1955) for Pieter (1080 x 830mm, oil on canvas).
Educated at the University of Pretoria and the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, Susanne du Toit is an artist now based in Crowthorne, Berkshire. She has been shortlisted for her portrait of her eldest son Pieter, aged 35. The sitting took place in the artist’s studio, as part of a series of portraits of her family. Susanne du Toit says she allowed Pieter to find his own pose, with the condition that his hands would appear prominently in the composition – she says she has always found hands essential to communicating personality. ‘I look to the body to provide as much expression as the face’, she says. ‘Having said that, the averted gaze of this portrait, which was his choice, struck me as characteristic of his reflective character, and became intensely engaging’.
This year the competition received 1,969 entries from 77 different countries. 55 portraits have been selected for the exhibition (National Portrait Gallery, London, 20 June - 15 September 2013).
Hard to say much about the pictures from the photos so far, but they both look pretty good to me. The main thing is, they're not photo-realist works. Encouraging...
More details here.
Penny on Master Paintings Week
April 19 2013
Video: Master Paintings Week
This year sees the fifth anniversary of London's Master Paintings Week (28th June - 5th July), of which we here at Philip Mould & Company are enthusiastic participants. For the first time, the event now has a sponsor, the Crown Estate, and it also continues to enjoy the blessing of National Gallery director Nicholas Penny, who can be seen in the above video. The London art trade is very fortunate to have support from such an influential figure.
A Real Van Gogh?
April 18 2013
Picture: Nevada Museum of Art
No, but that still hasn't stopped the Nevada Museum of Art putting on an exhibition to investigate the 'Goetz' Van Gogh, which has been comprehensively rejected by the Van Gogh Museum. Here's the background:
In 1948, William Goetz, the famed Hollywood producer, head of Universal Pictures, and legendary art collector, purchased a painting attributed to Vincent Van Gogh for $50,000. Although it was acquired from a reputable art dealer and deemed genuine by a prominent Van Gogh expert at the time, debate about the painting’s authenticity ignited an art world controversy that impacted U.S. foreign affairs.
For decades, only a handful of people knew the whereabouts of the painting, known as Study by Candlelight. Today, the Goetz family heirs hope to learn more about the provenance of the painting by drawing upon recent scientific developments in the study of artist materials and working methods.
In presenting this exhibition, the Nevada Museum of Art makes no attempt to determine the authenticity of the legendary painting. Rather, the exhibition re-visits its extraordinary story through archival documents, correspondence, photographs, and press materials that have never before been brought together in one place. The exhibition will look closely at the Goetz family’s Hollywood lifestyle and legendary art collection, assess what is known about the provenance of Study by Candlelight, consider the painting within the stylistic and historical context of Van Gogh’s body of work, and report on the art world controversies and international politics that have surrounded the painting.