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Friday, 25 September 2015

Our pick of exhibitions to see this winter

Drawing in Silver and Gold: Leonardo to Jasper Johns

British Museum, until 6 December 2015
'Head of the Virgin', Rogier Van der Weyden, Metalpoint on prepared paper, mid 15th century
This exhibition is the first to recount the technical and artistic development of metalpoint through work by renowned masters ranging from the Renaissance to the present day, including Rogier van der Weyden, Petrus Christus, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Albrecht Durer, Rembrandt, William Holman Hunt and Jasper Johns. 

Metalpoint is a challenging technique that uses metal stylus often made of silver, which traces the metal left and allows for exquisitely detailed drawings. The exhibition documents metalpoint's impressive variety as well as its revival during the 19th century when there was a renewed interested in the Renaissance.

Simon Schama's Face of Britain

National Portrait Gallery, until 4 January 2016
Simon Weston, by Nicola Jane ('Nicky') Philipps, 2014 - NPG 6984 - © National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG 6984) Commissioned jointly by the National Portrait Gallery and the BBC, 2013
'Simon Weston', Nicky Philipps, Oil on Canvas, 2014 © National Portrait Gallery, London 
NPG P490(16)
'Winston Churchill'. Yousuf Karsh, 1941, © Karsh/ Camera Press
'Nicky Philipps' portrait of the Falklands veteran Simon that rare thing: a good contemporary portrait in oil.' - Bendor Grosvenor

In partnership with the BBC, historian Simon Schama's exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery brings together British art and history in order to explore the development, nature and significance of portraiture over the centuries. Working closely with curators, this exhibition gives us for the first time the opportunity to view the genre of portraiture through the themes of Power, Love, Fame, People and Self.

Goya: The Portraits

National Gallery, 7 October 2015 - 10 January 2016
'Self-portrait before an Easel', Francisco de Goya, Oil on Canvas, 1792-95 © Museo de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid 
This landmark exhibition showcases the development of Goya's skilfully arresting portraits from his first commission, aged 37, to paint the Spanish Prime Minister, Count Floridablanca to his later, more private works painted during the 1820's when he was in France during a 'self-imposed exile.'

During his extensive career, Goya secured commissions from across Spanish society, including the royal family, politicians, military figures and aristocrats. Following a bout of serious illness in his mid-40's, Goya became deaf. Nevertheless, his portraiture excelled and his ground-breaking abilities makes him one of Spain's most admired painters and highly respected by artists such as Delacroix, Degas and Picasso. 

Bridget Riley, Learning from Seurat

Courtauld Gallery, until 17 January 2016
Bridge at Courbevoie
'Bridge at Courbevoie', Georges Seurat, 1886-87, The Samuel Courtauld Trust  © The Courtauld Gallery, London
When Bridget Riley painted a copy of Seurat's Bridge at Courbevoie in 1959, it represented a momentous development in her artistic exploration and marked a new awareness of colour and perception. This intimate exhibition brings together Seurat's painting with a variety of Riley's early works and showcases how she became inspired to produce the abstract paintings characterised by repeated geometric patterns for which she is most well known today. 

Jean - Etienne Liotard

Royal Academy, 24 October 2015 - 31 January 2016
'Julie de Thellusson-Ployard', Jean-Etienne Liotard, Pastel on vellum, 1760, Museum Oskar Reinhart. Rodolphe Dunki, Geneva; acquired 1935 Photo SIK-ISEA. Photography; Philipp Hitz
Jean-Etienne Liotard was an outlandish and unique portraitist who vividly captured the splendour of the Enlightenment. Liotard was a master of self-promotion as well as an extensive traveller; known as 'the Turk' following a voyage to the Ottoman Empire during which he wore Oriental costume, he painted expatriates as well as what he saw around him. At the height of his power, Liotard painted members of the royal family from Britain, France and Austria and created alluring portraits in his trademark of pastels on parchment. 

Frank Auerbach

Tate Britain, 9 October 2015 - 13 March 2016
Frank Auerbach Head of J.Y.M ll 1984-85
'Head of J.Y.M II', Frank Auerbach, Oil on Canvas, 1984-85, Private Collection © Frank Auerbach

'This part of London is my world. I've been wandering around these streets for so long that i've become attached to them and as fond as people are to their pets.' - Auerbach
Auerbach has lived in Camden Town, London, for 50 years and it remains a focal point of his work. Painting daily, Auerbach abandons his work, scraping back to the canvas surface and starting again, repeatedly, until the painting comes together in a few hours. This show brings together paintings and drawings from the 1950s to the present day to emphasise the artist's acute perception of depth, texture and space and to highlight how his remarkable paintings can be viewed in isolation, documenting a process whereby the artist paints the same sitters or locations in a continual cycle. 

Masters of the Everyday: Dutch Artists in the Age of Vermeer

The Queen's Gallery, 13 November 2015 - 14 February 2016 
'A Lady at the Virginal with a Gentleman', 'The Music Lesson, ' Johannes Vermeer, Oil on Canvas, 1662-5, Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015
Displaying 20 masterpieces from the Royal Collection by artists including Pieter de Hooch and Johannes Vermeer, the exhibition celebrates how Dutch artists painted everyday life - eating, drinking, domestic tasks, music recitals, family games - with extraordinary and meticulous skill, producing dazzling paintings that often insinuated a deeper meaning or contained moral messages recognised by the contemporary viewer. 

Friday, 18 September 2015

Female selfies in the National Portrait Gallery, London

Angelica Kauffmann, by Angelica Kauffmann, circa 1770-1775 - NPG 430 - © National Portrait Gallery, London
Angelica Kauffman, Oil on Canvas c. 1770-75 © National Portrait Gallery, London
Kauffman's self-portrait was one of many that celebrated her identity as a female painter. Depicted with the tools of her trade, Kauffman's modest but nonetheless self-assured pose asserts that her professional status is in keeping with the righteousness deemed appropriate for a woman. Kauffman's international reputation was such that in 1768 she became one of the Royal Academy's founding members. 

Laura Knight was the first artist to be made a dame and the first woman to become a full member of the Royal Academy. Knight had not been allowed to attend life drawing classes at art school, which she found deeply frustrating. Nevertheless, this seminal  self-portrait emphasises her skill at depicting the nude figure. The vibrant red tones and sophisticated composition visualise the freedom and courage she found after joining the Newlyn school in 1907, an artistic community in Cornwall. 

Self-portrait, Dame Laura Knight, Oil on Canvas, 1913 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Nicky Philipps tells us about the greats that inspire her landscape painting

To coincide with Nicky Philipps's first solo exhibition of landscape paintings, 'Travels with my Paintbox', which opens at Fine Art Commissions on 7th October, we asked who inspires her work:

J.M.W. Turner

'I love Turner's wild brushstrokes and the amount of paint he used. He painted with huge freedom and energy and discovered the romantic in every view.'

'Rain, Steam and Speed,' 1844 © The National Gallery, London
'Margate (?) from the sea', 1835-40 © The National Gallery, London
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

'Corot is one of the few painters who made sense out of green. It is an impossible colour to work with but instead of the heavy sap greens of summer, his are very gentle, greyish hues that still appear true to life.'

'Dardagny, Morning', 1853 © The National Gallery, London
'The Leaning Tree Trunk', 1860-65 © The National Gallery, London
Edward Seago

'Edward Seago spent much of his early life on his back for medical reasons observing the clouds and is a master of skies. Sometimes I will wake up and think  'that is a Seago sky', so instantly recognisable are his colours. I think it is a testament to his ability to capture an exact moment in the day: the pink sirrus clouds of a balmy July evening, or the yellow sky that appears just before a November thunderstorm.’ 

'Evening Haze, Thurne Dyke, Norfolk', © Seago Estate, courtesy of Portland Gallery, London. Photo Credit: Norfolk Museums Service.
'The River at Earlham, Norfolk', © Seago Estate, courtesy of Portland Gallery, London. Photo Credit: Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia.