Sewell on Zoffany

March 8 2012

Image of Sewell on Zoffany

Picture: BG

A dazzling piece of writing from the master reviewer in the Evening Standard. You must read it. However, his gripe is that the show is too small:

Alas, it is too small and, crowded and cramped, will be uncomfortable for visitors. With Hockney hogging the main floor of the Academy, poor Zoffany is hidden away in an attic that is as gloomy as a cellar, the number of paintings exhibited far fewer than the number in the catalogue, their impact weakened by a plethora of negligible prints, drawings and even knick-knacks. Nevertheless, even if only an hors d’oeuvres riches rather than a banquet, it is a sound introduction to a painter with a very wide range of experience and patronage.


Zoffany deserves a longer review to match a more comprehensive exhibition; from the Academy’s there are absentees beyond understanding — those from the National Gallery, the Tate and Greenwich peculiarly irritating; there are more examples in the Royal Collection, and I would like to have seen again the small full-length portraits of Mrs Salusbury in widow’s weeds (black is such a test of a painter’s ability) and Sir Elijah Impey, Chief Justice of Bengal, indulging in dramatic oratory. And we should have been able to see Zoffany’s paintings in the daylight that floods the great rooms below, currently occupied by Hockney.

Sewell may be right that the exhibition is a little too cramped - as my photo from the crowded private view shows above. But he omits to mention the mitigating circumstances. The exhibition was due to be held at Tate, but they (daftly) pulled the plug. So the only available central London space, the upstairs rooms at the RA, was the next best alternative. Surely it is better to have a cramped exhibition, than none at all...

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