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Friday, 10 April 2015

Our pick of exhibitions to see this spring

From Francisco Goya’s ghoulish drawings at the Courtauld Institute to revealing portraits of the Duke of Wellington at the National Portrait Gallery, here is our pick of exhibitions to see this spring:

Self: Image and identity- self-portraiture from Van Dyck to Louise Bourgeois

Turner Contemporary, Margate, until 10 May 2015

The remarkable legacy of Van Dyck’s last known Self-portrait is the starting point of this unique exhibition, which explores the rise of self-portraiture through work by renowned artists including JMW Turner, John Constable, Tracey Emin and Lucien Freud.

The show explores the diverse ways in which artists have recreated their own image from the 16th century through to the present day through the lens of six key themes: history, celebrity, collecting, gender, mortality and contemporary responses. We have been inspired to organise our own exhibition dedicated to self-portraiture, which will open in June.
Self-portrait by Sir Anthony van Dyck, 1640-1, © National Portrait Gallery, London

Goya: The Witches and Old Woman Album

The Courtauld Gallery, London, until 25 May 2015

Francisco Goya’s vivid imagination is bought to life in this show, which reassembles the sketchbook entitled Album D that was made between 1819-23. Filled with the artist’s nightmarish drawings of witchcraft and old age, images of grotesque humour are immortalised on the page with meticulous precision.

Some figures laugh, while others appear demonic and it is this intriguing mix of the comic and macabre that gives a fascinating insight into Goya’s inner world, revealing his obsessions with superstition, madness and decay at a time when he was confronting his own death.
Francisco Goya, Regozijo (Mirth) 'Witches and Old Women' Album (D), page 4, c. 1819-23, Brush, black and grey ink with traces of red chalk and scraping, © The Hispanic Society of America, New York

Inventing Impressionism

National Gallery, London, until 31 May 2015

This major exhibition pays homage to the revolutionary art dealer and first supporter of the Impressionist painters, Paul Durand-Ruel. Considered a forebearer of the international art market, Durand-Ruel’s ground-breaking business strategies promoted much-loved artists including Monet, Pissarro, Degas and Renoir at a time when they faced great financial difficulties and hostility from the art establishment.

The show brings together several of Impressionism’s greatest masterpieces, including five works from Monet’s ‘Poplar’s’ series, rarely seen portraits of the dealer and works from his private collection.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Dance at Bougival, 1883, Oil on canvas, © 2014 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions

National Portrait Gallery, London, until 7 June 2015

Marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, we are given a rare insight into the Duke of Wellington’s personal life through portraits of him, his family and friends. Showcasing royal commissions, satirical prints and souvenirs, highlights on display include Francisco Goya’s well-known portrait of the Duke and Thomas Lawrence’s iconic military painting, made in the same year as the Battle of Waterloo.

Focusing on Wellington’s legacy of heroism, the exhibition spotlights the important role that portraiture played in his, at times controversial, private and public self-representation and aims to give a more nuanced impression of the ‘man behind the myth.’
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1829, © On loan to National Portrait Gallery by kind permission of Mr. & Mrs. Timothy Clode

Liberating Fashion: Aesthetic Dress in Victorian Portraits

Watts Gallery, Guildford, until 7 June 2015

Photographs, journals and portraits by artists including James Tissot, Frederic Leighton and Edward Burne-Jones chart the story of the Aesthetic Dress Movement, which rejected widely accepted garments such as corsets in favour of a more flowing, natural styles.

The exhibition focuses on the impact of the movement on perceptions of beauty and health, while also featuring contemporary cartoons that satirised it.
James Tissot, The Gallery of HMS Calcutta (Portsmouth), c. 1876, Oil on Canvas, © Tate, London

Defining Beauty: the body in ancient Greek art

British Museum, London, until 5 July 2015

This exhibition thematically explores the Greek’s captivation with the beauty of the human form at a time when the body was symbolic of both mortal and divine experience and the naked form was representative of athletic and military excellence.

Showcasing prehistoric figurines, marble statues, terracotta bronzes and portraits that embody the remarkable realism mastered during Alexander the Great’s reign, works on display include six Parthenon sculptures and the classic sculpture Herakles, with Michelangelo’s drawing of Adam for the Sistine Ceiling hanging beside it.
Michelangelo, Studies of a reclining male nude: Adam in the fresco 'The Creation of Man' on the vault of the Sistine Chapel. c. 1511 Dark red chalk over some stylus underdrawing (left calf and elsewhere). © The Trustees of the British Museum

Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden

The Queen’s Gallery, London, until 11 October 2015

The garden has appealed to the imagination of artists as early as 6th century BC, including Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt. Synonymous with ideas of Eden, earthly paradise, social status and domestic harmony, the exhibition charts its rich and varied history through religious manuscripts, literature, royal landscapes and botanical drawings.

On show is the earliest and rarest surviving records of plants, the first recorded glimpse of Henry VIII’s magnificent garden at Whitehall and the first known 16th century portrait of a professional gardener.
Edwin Landseer, Windsor Castle in Modern Times, 1841-3. c. Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

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