Category: Exhibitions

Flemish portraits 1400-1700

September 13 2017

Image of Flemish portraits 1400-1700

Picture: via Mauritshuis

The Mauritshuis in The Hague has a new exhibition of Flemish portraits on loan from the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, the KMSKA. Says the Mauritshuis website:

The exhibition includes major works by Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Memling, Pieter Pourbus, Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck. Remarkably, almost all the sitters can be identified. This is why the exhibition will not only highlight what makes Flemish portraits so special, but also who appears in the pictures and how they wanted to be viewed.

The KMSKA is currently closed for refurbishment, and is planned to reopen in 2019. It has been closed since 2011 - and is further proof that museums should never entirely close for refurbishment, as it's a recipe for delays and a loss of momentum. That said, the KMSKA has been quite good at putting works from its collection on loan elsewhere. 

Waldemar on the NPG's 'Encounter'

September 13 2017

Image of Waldemar on the NPG's 'Encounter'

Picture: BG

If you haven't read it, the Great Waldemar's succinct review of the National Portrait Gallery's exhibition, The Encounter, spares no punches:

Not for the first time in my life, as I left the new show at the National Portrait Gallery, I was moved to mutter: “Thank heavens for the Queen.” Once again, Her Majesty had saved the day. Were it not for her loan of a wall full of commanding Holbein drawings from the Royal Collection to the exhibition entitled The Encounter: Drawings from Leonardo to Rembrandt, that exhibition would be a poor event. Short on quality. Short on direction.

It is the fate of the National Portrait Gallery to be searching continuously for angles. Portraiture is, after all, a straightforward affair. Over here you have the artist. Over there you have the sitter. One records the other. And that’s it. Finding inventive ways to present this exchange is, therefore, a museum challenge that encourages much smoking of mirrors.

The problem with the angle attempted by The Encounter is that it isn’t an angle. Every portrait ever produced is the result of an encounter — it’s all a portrait can be. Putting a definite article in front is not enough to give this effort any true purpose or meaning. As for the subtitle, Drawings from Leonardo to Rembrandt, it’s a tease. Neither Leonardo nor Rembrandt is represented here in a significant fashion. If you ignore these directional problems, you are left with a drawing show in which various Old Masters of various levels of talent have been arranged in a string of sections that are supposed to frame telling aspects of Old Master portraiture. But don’t.

'The Encounter' at the NPG

August 23 2017

Video: NPG

I enjoyed the new Old Master drawings exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London. It's on until 22nd October. There are a number of connoisseurial conundrums, including the below 'Venetian School' portrait drawing of the early 1500s, which is nagging me because I'm sure I've seen him before somewhere. Anybody got any ideas? It was once called Durer.

There were other conundrum drawings in the show, but I was stopped from taking photos, even though all the works are of course out of copyright. Meanwhile, in the next door gallery at the NPG you could take photos to your heart's content, even though all the works were in copyright. I suppose the argument is that some lenders insist on not allowing photography. In which case, major institutions like the NPG, which allow photography everywhere else in their galleries, should simply refuse to borrow from these lenders.

Curiously, the catalogue for the exhibition contains (as numbered catalogue entries) two oil sketches, one of which, attributed to Rubens, I have long wanted to see. But they were not included in the actual exhibition. I've never seen this before.

Richard Waitt exhibition

August 7 2017

Image of Richard Waitt exhibition

Picture: Grantown Museum

Bravo to Bonhams, who are sponsoring an exhibition of the Scottish portrait artist Richard Waitt. The Grantown museum in Scotland has assembled Waitt's portraits of Grant clan. More here

Antoon in Scotland!

July 25 2017

Video: AHN

The National Portrait Gallery's Van Dyck self-portrait has finally made it up here to Scotland, on the last leg of its three year UK-wide tour. And poor Antoon, for he has been slotted into a very curious little show at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, called 'Looking Good - the Male Gaze from Van Dyck to Lucian Freud'. The blurb tells us that the exhibition:

[...] considers the theme of male image, identity and appearance from the 16th century to the present day. The selection of portraits, from the National Galleries of Scotland and National Portrait Gallery, London collections will explore the elaborate hairstyles and fashions of the courtiers and cavaliers of the 16th and 17th centuries; the emergence of the dandy in the early 18th century; the rise of celebrity and the interest in male beauty and personal grooming; and representations of gender and sexuality.

But alas it doesn't really work. The aim, and the wordy exhibition texts,  try to tick every right-on box under the sun, but the finished result doesn't deliver. For a start the exhibition is too small, with only 28 objects of multiple media spread over five centuries, and cannot begin to 'explore' all the themes that have been wedged into its remit. It's hung in one of the SNPG's smaller rooms, used for minor displays, and everything feels too scattergun; Grayson Perry is predictably wheeled out as a transvestite, and there's David Beckham with great hair. Worst of all, there's an oppressively terrible 'soundscape' blaring out, whether you want to hear it or not. In the video above you can hear the blessed moment of silence when the room warden came to switch the music off (we visited just before closing time).

This exhibition feels like the result of museum group-think - but nobody has thought of the poor visitor. If you're in Scotland, and wanted to come and see the Van Dyck self-portrait, learn more about the artist, the time in which he lived and worked, and how he painted and why, then you would leave this show none the wiser. Finally, the lighting is dreadful, as you can see with the darkened full-length Mytens in the above video. The National Portrait Gallery's £10m Van Dyck deserves better. 

The show is open till 1st October. More here.

Update - there's a more enthusiastic review of the show in Apollo, here

Bowie's Tintoretto at the Rubenshuis Museum

July 6 2017

Video: Antwerp Museums

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to the unveiling of a new loan at the Rubenshuis museum in Antwerp (one of AHN's favourite museums, as regular readers will know). There was a wonderful concert of period music, played on 'instrumenti originale'.

The painting, of St Catherine, was one of the first artworks bought by David Bowie, and was sold with his collection last year in London by Sotheby's. It didn't fetch a great deal, to be honest (£191k), as its status was somewhat misunderstood - some suggested it was merely a studio piece. But new research has revealed that in fact it was a major commission for Tintoretto, in competition with Veronese, for a church in St Mark's square in Venice. And new analysis such as infra-red drawing has revealed numerous pentimenti, and astonishing underdrawing, which confirms it as an autograph work by Tintoretto. Eventually, it is hoped that a new campaign of conservation will remove any old overpaint. It has been sympathetically re-framed. 

For now, though, the painting looks fantastic at the Rubenshuis - Rubens of course being a great admirer of Tintoretto. A new book on the painting will further explore Rubens' interest in Tintoretto, and how he borrowed many of Tintoretto's poses. Also, it turns out that David Bowie was a frequent visitor of the Rubenshuis - so this all has a serendipitous feel to it, especially when you consider that the private collector who bought the painting in London only found out about it three hours before it was due to sell. And did you know that Bowie's music label was called 'Tintoretto Music'?

I'll post more details on this painting soon, with photos of the infra-red etc, showing the under-drawing. 

Sargent watercolours

July 6 2017

Video: Dulwich Picture Gallery

Lachlan Goudie guides us around the new Sargent watercolour exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery. There was a good review of the show from Jackie Wulschlager in the FT, here

Bowes museum show in London

June 6 2017

Video: National Gallery

This September the Wallace Collection in London will host an exhibition of Spanish paintings on loan from the Bowes Museum. In the video above, the Wallace's new director, Xavier Bray, tells us more.

Incidentally, although the National Gallery's slick video about their forthcoming exhibitions (below) is excellently made and well produced, the Wallace's video, shot on a phone in a few minutes, is no less effective. AHN urges more museums to try this approach, especially if you don't have a large media budget. Stick a short film on Twitter and You Tube, and you're off. Of course, Bray makes it look easier than it is - but also shows us how important it is for museums to have effective and enthusiastic communicators in leadership roles. 

'Vermeer and the Masters' (ctd.)

June 5 2017

Video: National Gallery of Ireland

If you didn't get to the Louvre to see the sell out show, 'Vermeer and the Masters' (or if you did and couldn't actually see any of the pictures) then fear not, for the show opens in Dublin on 17th June. More here, and tickets here

Don't you think that's a good 'trailer' video above, by the way? See how easy it is to make Old Masters exciting in a minute and a half, for either a museum exhibition or an art auction? All you need is good music, an intriguing narrative (preferably with just text or voice-over rather than say a curator or specialist talking to camera), and some good close ups of the paintings themselves.

Raphael drawings at the Ashmolean (ctd.)

May 30 2017

Image of Raphael drawings at the Ashmolean (ctd.)

Picture: via Guardian

The new Raphael drawings show at the Ashmolean gets five stars from The Guardian:

This outstanding show makes you understand why his contemporaries adored Raphael. It was not just that he was very good-looking – as can be seen from a self-portrait at the start of the show – and a famous lover. There’s an innocent sweetness to these drawings, even a goodness.

Not only is he human, he’s vulnerable. We see Raphael here not as some shining cultural monument but a young artist learning on the job. In 1504 he is in Florence, watching a competition between his elders Michelangelo and Leonard da Vinci, copying them both. He happily learns from these two titans. Then he goes to Rome, to paint for popes and cardinals, to rival Michelangelo himself.

The Le Nain mystery

May 26 2017

Image of The Le Nain mystery

Picture: via TAN, Mathieu Le Nain, the Denial of St Peter, Louvre

The three Le Nain brothers, Antoine, Louis and Mathieu, were famous painters in the 17thC in Paris,a nd still highly regarded today. But identifying which brother painted what has been fiendishly difficult, not least becase what signed Le Nain works there are (16 out of roughly 75 in total) only bear the signature "Le Nain". A new exhibition at Louvre Lens seeks to work out who painted what, as Donald Lee writes in The Art Newspaper:

[...] the Louvre curator, Nicolas Milovanovic, has daringly and controversially arranged the works in differently coloured sections of the airplane hangar-like exhibition building by attribution, with galleries devoted to each brother. Because Mathieu lived on for nearly 20 years after his brothers' deaths, it has been slightly easier to distinguish his works, but Milovanovic's sifting of all three has been predominantly connoisseurial, with assays of circumstantial evidence such as it exists. 

His argument, grosso modo, is that the middle brother, Louis, about whom the least is known, is the most prolific and distinguished of the brothers. His work is characterised by cool, subdued and subtle colours (Allegory of Victory, around 1635), free but controlled brushwork, a tendency for classicising (Venus in the Forge of Vulcan, 1641) and a feeling for landscape (to be seen in the backgrounds of his religious canvases). To him is also given the main hand in several religious paintings (The Penitent Magdalene, around 1643) and, above all, the many peasant scenes. 

AHN congratulates Milovanovic for tackling this connoisseurial conundrum - bravo! 

More on the exhibition here

Vermeer show at the Louvre; 'victime de son succès"

April 26 2017

Video: C News

The Vermeer show at the Louvre seems to be a great success - but it looks as if the Louvre under-estimated the number of people who'd want to visit.

Raphael drawings at the Ashmolean

March 22 2017

Image of Raphael drawings at the Ashmolean

Picture: via Artnet

The largest exhibition of Raphael drawings since 1983 will open at the Ashmolean museum on June 1st. More here

Louvre overwhelmed by Vermeer demand

March 1 2017

Image of Louvre overwhelmed by Vermeer demand

Picture: Tribune Du Lard

Art Market Monitor reports that the Louvre's ticket system has crashed, such is the demand for its new Vermeer show. I'm told it's quite crowded in the exhibition too. Seeing how closely hung the (mainly small) paintings are, I can't imagine it's an ideal picture-viewing experience.

'Michelangelo & Sebastiano'

February 22 2017

Video: National Gallery

A trailer for the National Gallery's latest exhibition.

Old Master portrait drawings at the NPG

February 20 2017

Image of Old Master portrait drawings at the NPG

Picture: Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty the Queen, drawing by Hans Holbein the Younger.

This looks like fun; an exhibition of Old Master portrait drawings at the National Portrait Gallery in London. 'The Encounter: Drawings from Leonardo to Rembrandt' opens 13th July till 22nd October. More here.

Del Piombo chapel recreated in London

February 1 2017

Image of Del Piombo chapel recreated in London

Picture: Sunday Times

The National Gallery's next major exhibition is called Michelangelo and Sebastiano, and opens on 15th March. The PR machine is already in full swing, and the most interesting story so far is that the National has commissioned a 90% scale reproduction of a fresco by Sebastiano for the Borgherini Chapel in Rome. The paintings are based on designs by Michelangelo. 

I'd love to be able to point you to more information on this story, but so far it's only appeared in the Sunday Times (here, but paywall), and is only available as 'exclusive content' for National Gallery members. (I am a member, but seem to have forgotten my password for the site, if indeed I ever had one.)

Russian Revolution at RA

February 1 2017

Image of Russian Revolution at RA

Picture: Guardian

A new exhibition on Russian revolutionary art will soon open at the Royal Academy (11th February - 17th April). In The Guardian, Jonathan Jones says this is a Bad Thing:

The way we glibly admire Russian art from the age of Lenin sentimentalises one of the most murderous chapters in human history. If the Royal Academy put on a huge exhibition of art from Hitler’s Germany there would rightly be an outcry. Yet the art of the Russian revolution is just as mired in the mass slaughters of the 20th century.

I'm very much looking forward to seeing the exhibition. I'm fascinated by socialist realism (now there's an oxymoron), and regular readers will know that AHN is also partial to a bit of 'dictator art'. But that doesn't mean we approve of the people who promoted such art, or their motives. I think most of us are grown up to make the objective judgements about this kind of art that Jones thinks he needs to warn us about.

'Once in a lifetime' Picasso show at Tate

January 31 2017

Image of 'Once in a lifetime' Picasso show at Tate

Picture: Guardian

Tate Modern is planning a new Picasso blockbuster, for 2018. 

"Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy" will start at the Musée National-Picasso in Paris, 10 October 2017 to 11 February 2018 and then come to Tate Modern, London, 8 March to 9 September 2018.

More here.

Leiden Collection goes to Paris

January 6 2017

Image of Leiden Collection goes to Paris

Picture: Louvre/Leiden Collection

I'm looking forward to seeing this - the Leiden Collection (of Dutch Golden Age works put together over the last decade or so by the US financier, Tom Kaplan) is sending many of its treasures to the Louvre. Above is a portrait of a boy by Jan Lievens. The collection (numbering some 200 works) also includes pictures by the likes of Dou and Vermeer, and is the world's largest private collection of works by Rembrandt. Remember that when people grumble about the 'lack of supply' in the Old Master market these days.

The show opens on February 22nd and runs until May 22nd. After that it goes to the Long Museum in Shanghai, then the National Museum in Beijing, and then finally to the Louvre Abu Dhabi. How wonderful that such important Old Masters are being shown to new audiences in China. We need more of this. It's telling that it's taken a private collector to do it first.

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