Canaletto & the Art of Venice

Canaletto & the Art of Venice, The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace. London SW1, until 12th November 2017

Canaletto, Piazza San Marco looking west towards San Geminiano, c.1723-4, part of a set of six views of Venice.
Royal Collection Trust/(c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

The two key figures in this remarkable show are Joseph Smith, British Consul in Venice, and George III. The former was also Canaletto’s agent and dealer encouraging the artist to depict Venetian life for the Grand Tour visitors, especially the English ones, in the first half of the 18th century. The latter in 1762 bought almost all of Smith’s collection of paintings, drawings, medals and books which included Canaletto paintings, drawings and etchings as well as the works of other Venetian painters of the day.

Canaletto, The Pantheon, 1742, part of a set of five Roman views.
Royal Collection Trust/(c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

This superb exhibition proves how wise George III was and how fortunate we are to be able to see it brought together – it is the best group of Canaletto’s works in the world! Alongside his paintings of Venice are the series of 5 large-scale Roman views which Canaletto painted in 1742.  I particularly liked the smaller view of the Grand Canal (The Grand Canal looking north-west from near the Rialto) showing Smith’s palazzo with its new classical façade altered later by the artist.

Rosalba Carriera,’Winter’, c. 1726
Royal Collection Trust/(c)Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

Add to this works by Sebastiano and Marco Ricci, Francesco Zuccarelli, Rosalba Carriera, Pietro Longhi and Giovanni Battista Piazzetta and one really gets an absorbing picture of life in 18th century Venice. I loved the Sebastiano Ricci of The Adoration of the Kings (1726) because of the way Christ’s arm and hand are outstretched touching one of the king’s heads in benediction.

Canaletto, The Mouth of the Grand Canal looking West towards the Carita, c.1729-30, from a set of 12 paintings of the Grand Canal.
Royal Collection Trust/(c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

This exhibition should not be missed!

http://www.royalcollection.org.uk

Marco Ricci, Farinelli in walking dress, c.1729-30
Royal Collection Trust/(c)Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

Matisse in the Studio

Matisse in the Studio, The Sackler Wing, Royal Academy of Arts,  Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1, until 12th November 2017

 

© John Kirkwood

I am grateful to John Kirkwood to visiting and writing about this exhibition:

 

It isn’t often that one can visit an exhibition of works by a master such as Matisse and also see the subjects of the work on view alongside them as well. This exhibition brings together 35 objects alongside 65 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and cut-outs and it is startling to see the very objects represented, as Tommy Cooper might have said ‘before your very eyes!’

© John Kirkwood

This is the first exhibition to show that such treasures as are on display were often both the inspiration and the subject matter for the work and we must be grateful for their survival. Some of the objects are represented as you will see them but others get an interpretation from Matisse which shows his imagination and skill in transforming them into works of art.  Altogether a fascinating visit to his studio.

 

© John Kirkwood

http://www.royalacademy.org.uk

OUT & ABOUT: Gazelli Art House

 

Kalliopi Lemos
Wooden Boat with Seven People,
Spital Square, London E1 6DX, 2017
Courtesy Gazelli Art House
Photography by John Sturrock

For centuries the Spitalfields area of London has seen migrants arrive in search of a new life and this sculpture recalls that history. The boat is one that was actually used to transport refugees from Turkey to Greece and was acquired by the artists after it had been left abandoned on the shoreline.

 

http://www.spitalfields.co.uk/public-art/

Kalliopi Lemos
Wooden Boat with Seven People,
Spital Square, London E1 6DX, 2017
Courtesy Gazelli Art House
Photography by John Sturrock

 

http://www.gazelliarthouse.com

 

Sargent in Dulwich

Sargent: The Watercolours, Gallery Road, London SE21, until 8th October 2017

John Singer Sargent, The Church of Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, c. 1904-9,
watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 36.7 x 53.8 cm,
© Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon. Photo: Catarina Gomes Ferreira

It is almost a hundred years since there was an exhibition devoted to the watercolours of John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) so there is much to celebrate in this show. The eighty works by this Anglo American artist are an absolute delight with most dating from between 1900 – 1918.

Unknown photographer, Sargent painting a watercolour in the Simplon Pass, c. 1910-11,
Sargent Archive, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Sargent by 1910 had basically given up the portrait painting for which he was renowned to concentrate on watercolour painting. He travelled in Southern Europe and the Middle East and brought his own idiosyncratic style to these wonderful works whether fragmented glimpses, cities, people or landscapes. As the photograph shows he painted ‘en plein air’ and in some of the Venice watercolours you feel you are actually there with him in the gondola from which he depicts the view before him.

John Singer Sargent, A Turkish Woman by a Stream, c. 1907,
watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, with touches of body colour, 35.9 x 50.8 cm,
Victoria and Albert Museum. Bequeathed by Miss Dorothy Barnard. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Richard Ormond, co-curator and grand-nephew of Sargent, says: “In Sargent’s watercolours we see his zest for life and his pleasure in the act of painting. The fluency and sensuality of his paint surfaces, and his wonderful command of light, never cease to astonish us. With this exhibition we hope to demonstrate Sargent’s mastery of the medium and the scale of his achievement”.
I rather think you will agree with him.

John Singer Sargent, Rome: An Architectural Study, c. 1906-7,
watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 34.9 x 50.2 cm,
Museums & Galleries, City of Bradford MDC

 

http://www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk

 

John Singer Sargent, Highlanders Resting at the Front, 1918,
watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 34.3 cm x 53.5 cm,
© Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Art in the Age of Black Power

SOUL OF A NATION: ART IN THE AGE OF BLACK POWER, Tate Modern, until 22nd October 2017

 

Elizabeth Catlett
Black Unity, 1968
Mahogany wood
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, © Catlett Mora Family Trust/DACS, London / VAGA, NY 2017

 

I am grateful to John Kirkwood to visiting and writing about this exhibition:

 

It is quite startling to enter this exhibition and be confronted by copies of the Black Panther newspaper – the printed form of the ideology behind the Black Panther movement of the early sixties which wasn’t always engaged in peaceful or lawful pursuits.

Faith Ringgold (b.1930)
American People Series #20: Die, 1967
Oil on canvas,1828 x 3657 mm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase; and gift of the Modern Women’s Fund, © Faith Ringgold

There are images in varying media of many of the personalities involved in the rise of the awareness of Black Power including Aretha Franklin, Muhammad Ali and Toni Morrison.  On the more political side we have of course Martin Luther King and Malcolm X who has a painting dedicated to him by Jack Whitten on public display for the first time.  There is a fragment from The Wall of Respect in Chicago which became a powerful symbol of the Civil Rights movement.

Andy Warhol
Muhammad Ali, 1978
Synthetic polymer and silkscreen inks on canvas, 1016 x 1016 mm
Private collection
© 2017 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London

This is a timely and far-reaching exhibition and a major celebration of a crucial but perhaps overlooked area of American art history when black artists rose to the challenge of increasing their visibility and saying out loud and clear ‘We are here!’

Roy DeCarava
Couple Walking,1979
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper, 356 x 279 mm
© Courtesy Sherry DeCarava and the DeCarava Archives

http://www.tate.org.uk

‘Op Art’

Seurat to Riley: The Art of Perception, Compton Verney, until 1st October 2017

Blaze IV,
Bridget Riley,
© UK Government Art Collection © Bridget Riley 2017. All rights reserved

Regular readers of my blog may recall that in October 2015 I posted about a small but enjoyable exhibition Bridget Riley: Learning from Seurat at the Courtauld Gallery and now in this large-scale show at Compton Verney this debt is re-visited and much expanded upon.

La Luzerne, Saint-Denis,
Georges Seurat,
© Scottish National Gallery

It reminds us that since the 19th century some artists have been fascinated by the way in which the eye sees optical illusions as it responds to visual stimuli and this point is well proven in this exhibition. Ninety diverse ‘Op Art’ works are featured in the show, including pieces by Victor Vasarely, Julio Le Parc, Jeffrey Steele, Jesus Rafael Soto, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Peter Sedgley, Liliane Lijn and, of course, Bridget Riley and Seurat.

Our Spectral Vision,2016,
Liz West.
Photo (c) Hannah Devereux

Professor Steven Parissien, Director of Compton Verney sums it up: “Optical Art explores a range of effects and emotions, using complex geometry and advanced mathematics to communicate with the viewer in a way that is simultaneously mentally challenging and visually appealing. This wonderful exhibition demonstrates just how exhilarating, electrifying and (quite literally) eye-opening Op Art can be.”

The show is curated by Penelope Sexton and Dr Frances Follin and appropriately enough supported by Farrow & Ball.

Pulse 05,
White Earthenware, Underglaze colour, matt glaze, 2012.
Sara Moorhouse,
(c) Sara Moorhouse

http://www.comptonverney.org.uk

The Encounter!

THE ENCOUNTER: DRAWINGS FROM LEONARDO TO REMBRANDT, National Portrait Gallery, London, until 22nd October 2017

I am grateful to John Kirkwood for visiting and writing about this exhibition:

Giulio Pedrizzano, The Lutenist Mascheroni by Annibale Carracci c.1593-4
Copyright: Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

This delightful exhibition features old master European portrait drawings by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Durer and Rembrandt, many rarely seen and some not displayed for decades.

Young Woman in a French Hood, possibly Mary Zouch by Hans Holbein the Younger c.1533
Copyright: Royal Collection Trust Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

It attempts to show that the artist and the sitter connected and is rather like going through a Renaissance copy of Vanity Fair featuring as it does eight portraits of people from the court of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein the Younger – the David Bailey of his day – but also people from the street as well.

Sir John Godsalve by Hans Holbein the Younger c.1532-4
Copyright: Royal Collection Trust Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

An exhibition which cheers the soul with these close encounters.

A sheet of figure studies, with male heads and three sketches of a woman with a child by Rembrandt van Rijn c.1636
Copyright: The Henry Barber Trust, the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham

 

http://www.npg.org.uk/

Alma-Tadema!

Alma-Tadema: At Home In Antiquity, Leighton House Museum, 12 Holland Park Rd, London, W14,, until 29th October 2017

I am grateful to John Kirkwood for visiting and writing about this exhibition:

 

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, The Finding of Moses, 1904. © Private Collection

Unbelievably for such a well-known artist, this is the first exhibition of the works of Alma-Tadema in London since 1913. He was a great friend of Lord Leighton and will of course have visited the House which makes the placing of the exhibition here most fitting.

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema,
Self-Portrait of Lourens Alma Tadema, 1852.
© Fries Museum, Collection Royal Frisian Society

A visit to Pompeii on his honeymoon inspired Alma-Tadema to depict carefully researched scenes of life in Ancient Rome which reminded me very much of scenes from the very popular spectacular epic films of the fifties and sixties such as Quo Vadis?, The Ten Commandments, The Fall of the Roman Empire and Ben-Hur and apparently Alma-Tadema had been an inspiration for some of the filmmakers even as late as Gladiator. Indeed many of his paintings are amazingly in the CinemaScope ratio!

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema,
A Pyrrhic Dance, 1869.
© Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London

There are photographs, artefacts and drawings and paintings from his two houses, one close to the Regent’s Canal and the other in Grove End Road whose exterior remains largely unchanged.  There is also a selection of the panels painted by Alma-Tadema’s artist friends including Lord Leighton which hung in Alma-Tadema’s house and which are reunited for this exhibition. The Studio will also house the portrait of Leopold Lowenstam a friend of Alma-Tadema which was rediscovered on the Antiques Roadshow in 2016 and is on public display for the first time.

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema,
Coign of Vantage, 1895.
© Ann and Gordon Getty

The exhibition is a wonderful journey through Alma-Tadema’s work displayed in a beautiful and atmospheric setting.

 

 

http://www.leightonhouse.co.uk

 

Sublime joy!

Raphael: The Drawings, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, until 3rd September 2017

Study for Adam in the Disputa, c. 1508–10
Chalk and/or charcoal with white heightening, 35.7 x 21.2 cm
© Gallerie degli Uffizi, Gabinetto dei Disegni e delle Stampe, Florence

Did you know that the Ashmolean’s fifty Raphael drawings are the most significant group in the world? They have been supplemented by a further twenty-five from Vienna’s Albertina Museum and the rest of the total group of one hundred and twenty drawings come from international collections. The result is an absolutely stunningly memorable exhibition which is a joy to visit.

Study for the Massacre of the Innocents, c. 1509–10
Pen and brown ink over red chalk and geometrical indications in stylus, selectively pricked for transfer, 23.2 x
37.7 cm
© Trustees of the British Museum

Raphael (1483 – 1520) has long held the reputation of being the pre-eminent artist of the Renaissance and through these drawings which take us from the early days in Umbria to Florence and then on to Rome where he was at his very best we can see why.

Study for Charity, c. 1519
Black chalk with very few touches of white heightening, 31.3 x 15.2 cm
© Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

The exhibition also reminded me why I am always attracted to drawings since they allow glimpses into the mind and vision of the artist – ideas that both intrigue and excite – but which may not always be translated into the finished work.  Please, please make every effort to see this show.  The Museum’s director Dr Xa Sturgis says: ‘The generosity of lenders and supporters has enabled us to give people a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity – that of experiencing the visual and emotive power of Raphael’s hand, and of understanding Raphael’s genius.’

 

Studies of heads and hands, and sketches after Leonardo, c. 1505–7
Metalpoint with white heightening, partially oxidised, on white prepared paper, 21 x 27.4 cm
© Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

www.ashmolean.org

The heads and hands of two apostles, c. 1519–20
Black chalk with over-pounced underdrawing with some white heightening, 49.9 x 36.4 cm
© Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

FAHRELNISSA ZEID

FAHRELNISSA ZEID, Tate Modern, until 8th October 2017

 

I am grateful to John Kirkwood for visiting and writing about this exhibition:

 

Fahrelnissa Zeid (1901–1991)
Resolved Problems 1948
Oil paint on canvas, 130 x 97 cm
Istanbul Modern Collection/ Eczacibaşi Group Donation, © Raad bin Zeid Collection

 

Fahrelnissa Zeid (1901 – 1991) was born into an elite Ottoman family in Istanbul and witnessed the birth of modern Turkey and as the wife of the Iraqi ambassador in Berlin she saw the rise of Nazi Germany.  Later in Paris and London she was part of the post-war artistic upsurge until the impact of the 1958 events in Iraq changed her life forever.

 

Her life story which sound like the plot of a Douglas Sirk movie includes a family murder, the death of her first child, marriage into royalty and a narrow escape from political assassination.  It is a wonder she had any time to follow her artistic pursuits but thankfully she did and became one of the foremost exponents of abstract painting.

 

Not easy to classify, indeed Fahrelnissa described a 1980 self-portrait as ‘the hand is Persian, the face is Cretan and the eyes Oriental’ and indeed her work is quite a melange of all those differing influences and it is odd that such a vibrant artist has remained practically forgotten – until now!

Fahrelnissa Zeid (1901–1991)
Third Class Passengers 1943
Oil paint on plywood, 130 x 100 cm
Istanbul Modern Collection/ Eczacibaşi Group Donation, © Raad bin Zeid Collection

 

www.tate.org