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Exhibition Review : Van Gogh and Britain at Tate Britain from 27 March to 11 August 2019


Tate Britain presents a major exhibition about Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). The exhibition entitled Van Gogh and Britain explores Van Gogh’s relationship with British art, literature and culture and how Van Gogh’s work inspired British artists like Walter Sickert, Frank Brangwyn, Matthew Smith, Jacob Epstein, David Bomberg and Francis Bacon.

The exhibition includes over 45 works by the artist from public and private collections around the world which is the largest group of Van Gogh paintings shown in the UK for nearly a decade. Van Gogh and Britain is the first exhibition of the artist’s work at Tate in over 70 years, when a blockbuster show in 1947 attracted record-breaking crowds. The exhibition was a phenomenon in London and went on to tour to Birmingham and Glasgow.

Some of the highlights include Self-Portrait 1889, L’Arlésienne 1890, Starry Night on the Rhône 1888, Shoes 1886 and the rarely loaned Sunflowers 1888 from the National Gallery in London. The exhibition also features late works including two painted by Van Gogh in the Saint-Paul asylum, At Eternity’s Gate 1890 and Prisoners Exercising 1890.

Van Gogh spent time in London between 1873 and 1876 and explored British culture during his stay. He admired works by John Constable and John Everett Millais and enjoyed British writers like William Shakespeare, Christina Rossetti and especially Charles Dickens. Despite this influence, his only image of London is the remarkable Prisoners Exercising, from Gustave Doré’s print of Newgate Prison.

The period in London was to influence Van Gogh in other way, his unrequited love for this landlady’s daughter led to change of character from relatively carefree to someone obsessed with religion. Dore’s work and Dickens played a major role in his development as an artist especially regarding subject matter. He wrote that ‘My whole life is aimed at making the things from everyday life that Dickens describes and these artists draw’.

The self portraits created during the 1880s show a man driven to capture the world around him with landscapes like Wheatfield Arles 1888, Autumn Landscape at Dusk Nuenen 1885, Avenue of Poplars in Autumn Nuenen 1884 and Olive Trees, St Remy 1889.

He also began to paint workers including Miners in the Snow Cuesmes 1880 and Loom with Weaver Nuenen 1884.

The Sorrowing old man 1890 gives some indication of the time when Van Gogh is descending into mental illness and ultimately his suicide.

Although Van Gogh died in relative obscurity, the Van Gogh exhibition of 1947 began to illustrate that people and artists attitudes were changing. The art works brightened up post war Britain when people were looking for a new beginning after the tragedy of the war. Modern British artists like Matthew Smith, Christopher Wood and David Bomberg saw new possibilities with their art and Francis Bacon saw himself like Van Gogh, the embattled, misunderstood artist, an art outsider.

This fascinating exhibition is a reminder of the often cruel twist of fate that befall artists. Van Gogh commits suicide because of his lack of success and recognition. Over 100 years later, Van Gogh is one of the most famous artists in the world and his paintings sell for millions. This exhibition provides the opportunity to understand the role that Britain played in that transformation. The influence of Dore and Dickens were considerable but it is the remarkable intensity and dynamism of some of the paintings that generally appeal to a modern audience. The exhibition of 1947 was a turning point for the appreciation of Van Gogh in the UK, this exhibition confirms his status as one of the great artists.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information or to book tickets, visit the Tate Britain website here

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Exhibition Review : Queer British Art 1861–1967 at Tate Britain from 5th April to 1st October 2017

Tate Britain presents the first exhibition dedicated to queer British art. The exhibition explores material that relates to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ+) identities. The show marks the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales, It presents work from the abolition of the death penalty for sodomy in 1861 to the passing of the Sexual Offences Act in 1967.

Themes within the exhibition illustrate the ways that artists found a diversity of approaches to present a wide range of sexual desires, experiences and sense of identity.

The first room provides evidence that despite Victorian strict morals, artists began to use themes from Renaissance Italy and Ancient Greece to portray same sex desires. Simeon Solomon’s Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene 1864, Frederic Leighton’s male nudes and Evelyn De Morgan’s depictions of Jane Hales all used classical mythology to explore modern desires. The Pre-Raphaelites in particular enjoyed producing work that defied convention and living bohemian lifestyles.

If the death penalty for sodomy was abolished in 1861, it was still punishable by imprisonment. One of the most famous cases was that of Oscar Wilde in 1895, his portrait hangs next to the door from his prison cell. Charles Buchel’s portrait of Radclyffe Hall and erotic drawings by Aubrey Beardsley highlight that artists careers could be ruined by charges of obscenity and public indecency.

The room entitled Theatrical Types explores one area where gender identities were often intentionally blurred for entertainment. Music hall male and female impersonation acts were very popular and comedy played a part in exploring different identities. Examples on display include photographs of performers such as Beatrix Lehmann, Berto Pasuka and Robert Helpmann by Angus McBean, alongside stage designs by Oliver Messel and Edward Burra.

In a similar way to the Pre-Raphaelites, the Bloomsbury set delighted in defying convention and entered into a complex network of relationships. The section on the Bloomsbury set and their contemporaries provides intimate paintings of lovers, scenes of the homes artists shared with their partners and large paintings by Duncan Grant and Ethel Walker.

Women in particular began to question their determined role in society and artist’s such as Laura Knight, Vita Sackville- West and Claude Cahun began to produce work that challenged contemporary norms.

London in particular was a magnet for those who wished to live alternative lifestyles. In the 1950s and 1960s, Soho was considered the centre of ‘queer culture’ and attracted artists such as Francis Bacon, John Craxton and Keith Vaughan.

Gradually through the sixties, attitudes began to change which led to the passing of the Sexual Offences Act in 1967 and artists like Bacon and David Hockney began to push the boundaries of what could be depicted in art.

This fascinating exhibition charts the period when the terms ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’, ‘bisexual’ and ‘trans’ had little public recognition. However the restrictive environment did lead to artists finding ways to express taboo subjects or live unconventional lifestyles. But these artists often walked a fine line and many suffered public humiliation and ruined careers for transgressing the perceived social norms. Even as late as the 1960s, Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell are sent to jail for the relatively trivial offence of defacing library books.

Queer British Art 1861–1967 at Tate Britain runs from 5th April to 1st October 2017

Our Video review available here

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information or to book tickets, visit the Tate Britain website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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Exhibition Review – Vogue 100: A Century of Style at the National Portrait Gallery from 11th February to 22nd May 2016

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The National Portrait Gallery present a major exhibition celebrating the  remarkable range of photography that has been commissioned by British Vogue since it was founded in 1916. The exhibition features over 280 prints from the Condé Nast archive and international collections being brought together for the first time to tell the story of one of the most influential fashion magazines in the world.

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Exploring the exhibition, decade by decade allows the visitor to understand the photographs in their historical and cultural context. The early decades featured many ‘society’ women like Lady Diana Cooper who tended to populate the magazines and provide a particular upper class view of British glamour, even if there were occasional photographs of the more ‘exotic’ like the portrait of Josephine Baker.

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By the 1930s and 1940s, films stars became the new ‘beauty elite’ with the rising photography star of British Vogue, Cecil Beaton taking photographs of Marlene Dietrich and Vivien Leigh which are featured in the exhibition. It was at this time that Beaton also began to photograph royalty with his portrait of Queen Elizabeth in 1939.

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The Second World War often saw fashion photographers being used to take pictures of the war effort, Beaton produced a number of these , however his Fashion is Indestructible which features a well dressed model in front of some bombed out ruins seems bizarre and out of touch with the thousands dying in the blitz, perhaps more in touch with the period are the remarkable pictures by Lee Miller.

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In the 1950s, British Vogue seemed to try to recapture the glamour of the 1930s and 40s, but the world was changing and by the 1960s , Beaton and his contemporaries were looking distinctly old-fashioned and were being overtaken by the more modern photographers like David Bailey who documented the ‘swinging sixties’.

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The fashions of the 60s, 70s and to some extent the 1980s tended to dictate the photography which was more naturalistic and informal.

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Remarkably, the late 90s and the 21st century saw the fashion compass move back to glamour but with a modern twist. The exhibition includes the entire set of prints from Corinne Day’s controversial Kate Moss underwear shoot, taken in 1993.

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Fashion designers like Dior, Saint Laurent and McQueen began to define the looks of the later decades and more bizarre fashion shoots were used to get noticed in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

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Vogue 100: A Century of Style includes work by many of the leading twentieth-century photographers, including Cecil Beaton, Lee Miller, Irving Penn, Lord Snowdon, David Bailey, Patrick Demarchelier, Nick Knight, Herb Ritts and Mario Testino. It also includes many of the famous faces of the twentieth century, from Henri Matisse, Charlie Chaplin, Francis Bacon, Marlene Dietrich, Lady Diana Spencer and David Beckham.

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This is an intriguing and entertaining exhibition that explores many of the social and cultural aspects of the last 100 years. Whilst no one would suggest the exhibition is a true reflection of British society, Vogue 100: A Century of Style  illustrates the various periods of style, taste and the arts in British society with many iconic photographs of celebrities and famous people. It is an exhibition that will appeal to a wide range of people not just those interested in fashion and photography. Theatre and opera set designer Patrick Kinmonth has designed the exhibition with a great deal of imagination to present a visually stunning display of remarkable photographs and other visual information.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like more information or book tickets, visit the National Portrait Gallery website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and the latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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Exhibition Review : Frank Auerbach at Tate Britain – 9th October 2015 to 13th March 2016

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Frank Auerbach is one of Britain’s major living artists and  in the artist’s 85th year, Tate Britain presents a major exhibition of around 70 paintings and drawings from the 1950s to the present day. The vast majority of works in the exhibition are from private collections and seldom on public display, therefore the exhibition is  a rare opportunity to see Auerbach important works.

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The exhibition in the first six galleries is chronological and provides the possibility of seeing how the artists work has developed over time. His work in the 1950’s was dominated by portraits and building site, the post war building boom in London saw a city rebuilding after the destruction by bombing. It was a process that fascinated Auerbach who painted a whole series of urban landscapes such as Building Site, Earl’s Court, Winter 1953.

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Even from the earliest paintings, Auerbach’s trademark style of paint very thickly applied is evident, the depth and texture offers an almost 3D quality that gives the works an unusual quality that engages the viewer in unique way. Depending on where you stand determines a particular viewpoint, a very close inspection usually leads to a loss of definition.

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From the dark and often sombre tones of the paintings of the 1950s, those in the 1960s seem an explosion of colour in which North London landmarks and regular sitters are painted again and again. However if the subject matter is repetitive, the paintings always offer something new and different. Large works from the 1960s include E.O.W, S.A.W. and J.J.W in the Garden II 1964 and The Origin of the Great Bear 1967-68, a landscape set on London’s Hampstead Heath.

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Many of the paintings of the 1970s and 1980s follow the same themes but  gained attention and led to Auerbach representing Britain in the 1986 Venice Biennale (1986) and sharing the Golden Lion with Sigmar Polke. If this success was an official recognition of his talents, for the wider public he was not widely known except for his association with Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Leon Kossoff. Sporadic exhibitions and shows over the last 25 years have enhanced Auerbach’s reputation whose lifelong commitment to his own particular style has gained the respect of many contemporary painters.

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Walking through the later paintings, it is clear that Auerbach is one of those painters whose work needs to seen in the flesh, photographs flatten the depth and texture which lessens their dramatic effect. Auerbach is also very difficult to categorise, his work is sometimes considered impressionistic but it seems too loose a title for his particular style. Auerbach’s long term relationship with his location and his sitters brings an intensity to his work developed through constant attempts to get the picture ‘right’.

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Auerbach had considerable input into the first six galleries working in conjunction with the curator of the exhibition and selector of the last two rooms, Catherine Lampert, who has had a long working relationship with Auerbach, and has sat for him in his studio every week for 37 years.

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This exhibition, a retrospective of one of Britain’s most inventive and original artists will introduce Auerbach to a new audience and gives considerable insights into his particular style that has often been very labour intensive, the final picture can sometimes require 30, 50 or perhaps 200 separate versions before the final image suddenly emerges.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like further information or book tickets, visit the Tate Britain website here

Frank Auerbach
Tate Britain
9 October 2015 – 13 March 2016
Adult £16.00 (without donation £14.50)
Concession £14.00 (without donation £12.70)
Under 12s go free (up to four per parent or guardian)
Family tickets available (two adults and two children 12–18 years) by telephone or in the gallery

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and the latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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Exhibition Review : Rubens and His Legacy at the Royal Academy – 24 Jan to 10 April 2015

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As many of London’s high-profile exhibitions are closing, the Royal Academy unleash one of their major exhibitions of the year. Rubens and His Legacy: Van Dyck to Cezanne  brings together masterpieces produced during his lifetime, as well as major works by great artists who were influenced by him in the generations that followed.
One of the aims of the exhibition is to show that Rubens was a more versatile painter than most people realise, in some ways the success of his ‘Rubenesque’ women have obscured his achievements in religious and mythological scenes, landscapes and portraits.

To illustrate his wide range of abilities, the exhibition is centred around six themes; power, lust, compassion, elegance, poetry and violence. Each theme has paintings  and drawings that clearly portray the many influences of Rubens to the following generations.

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The first room considers Ruben’s influence on the English landscape tradition, notably works by Constable  such as Cottage at East Bergholt, (c.1833) can be compared to an idealised Belgian countryside by Rubens Evening Landscape with Timber Wagon, (1630-40.)

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The Poetry and Elegance themes charts Rubens influence through his assistant Van Dyck and into the English portrait tradition especially the works of Gainsborough, Reynolds and  Lawrence.

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One of the highlights of the show is Tiger, Lion and Leopard Hunt, (1616), it is a painting that is awash with violence and action which demonstrates the struggle between life and death is often brutal and cruel. In the same room, Edwin Landseer’s The Hunting of Chevy Chase (1825-6) plays out a similar drama and the works of Delacroix show the Rubens influence in the type of composition and the sense of action.

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The exhibition moves from action and violence into Contemplation with a religious Triptych, Lamentation ‘Christ in the Straw’  which influenced the  religious art of Murillo and Delacroix, and Love with The Garden of Love, (c.1633) . This painting greatly influenced many French painters of love and intrigue in similar settings especially Watteau, Boucher and Fragonard.

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Although the exhibition illustrates the often direct influence of Rubens onto 18th and early 19th century art, within the Lust theme we see influence into rather more unexpected areas. There is no doubt that Rubens is one of the great painters of the nude incorporating a lustiness and eroticism that have seldom been bettered. It was this art of the flesh that especially appealed to the Impressionists of the late 19th, early 20th century, most notably Renoir, Manet and Cezanne. The exhibition also show two similar depictions of Roman martyr St Cecilia, one by Rubens and the other by Gustav Klimt.

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Rubens talent was recognised by the most influential people of his time, he worked for the Kings of England and Spain and the Queen of France. His original works, prints and reproductions were in huge demand and there is little doubt in his time, he was one of the most famous artists in the world.

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He also exercised considerable power with numerous connections to people of influence, his iconic ceiling for Banqueting House in Whitehall is said to have brought about the peace between England and Spain. He was certainly held in high regard being knighted in both England and Spain, his drawings for the Banqueting Hall and Marie de Medici are shown in the exhibition.

Rather strangely, considering his influences, Rubens towering reputation was attacked in the 18th and 19th century and it become fashionable to knock the great artist. Lord Byron, William Blake and Ingres seemed to have been the main culprits leading to  pro and anti Rubens factions.

This exhibition reminds us, not only that Rubens was a great artist but his wide range of influences to other artists from seventeenth century right up to the present day has often been underestimated. Rubens is the core thread that brings all the various schools together within the exhibition and provides a show of surprising variety and vitality.

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There is also a gallery curated by Jenny Saville RA  called La Peregrina, a response to the exhibition that pays tribute to Rubens’s influence right up until today. Alongside new work by Saville herself are paintings by Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, Sarah Lucas, Lucian Freud and more.
This will undoubtedly be one of the must see exhibitions of 2015, and there will a number of events celebrating Rubens and others in the exhibition.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more details of the exhibition and to book tickets, visit the Royal Academy website here

 London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January, we attract thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website
here