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Book Review : Painters’ Paintings by Anne Robbins (National Gallery)


This book accompanies the exhibition, Painters’ Paintings: From Freud to Van Dyck at the National Gallery which opens in June and closes in September 2016. The simple premise of the exhibition and the book is why do artists acquire the work of other painters? The author of the book, Anne Robbins in the first section, Possession explores some of the ways that owning paintings may have influenced the artist’s own creative process. Robbins considers that ‘ Painters have always owned paintings ; artists naturally see and are exposed to more art than anyone else , and the pictures frequently reflect the development of their own artistic search.’

The National Gallery has been the recipient of a number of painters collections since its creation and the book and the exhibition investigate eight artists collections which include 80 paintings. In the section before the more detailed look at the collections, the author considers some of the reasons that artists may acquire paintings. Perhaps one of the main reasons is that painters frequently receive pictures as gifts or exchanges with other artists. Another reason is tied into availability and motivations, financial security may lead to surplus money spent on collecting and availability may depend on the general and political climate. Other reasons suggested by the author are Collecting as homage, The desire to possess, Teaching tools, Legacy, Painters’ paintings at home, Emulation or rivalry and finally Stimulation and inspiration. All these valid reasons provide a starting point but it is within the collections themselves that provide some of the evidence to unpick some of the connections.

Looking at Lucien Freud’s collection, his painting Afternoon in Naples by Paul Cezanne 1876-77 acquired in 1999 provided inspiration for Freud to embark on a series of Cezanne type paintings including After Cezanne 1999-2000 and  After Breakfast 2001 that replicates the way Cezanne painted his nudes in the original painting. Cezanne also provides a focus in the next collection, Matisse acquired the artist’s Three Bathers 1879-82 at considerable financial cost and became gradually obsessed with what he considered was a talisman for his own career, he wrote in 1936 ‘ In the thirty-seven years I have owned this canvas… It has sustained me morally in the critical moments of my venture as an artist; I have drawn from it my faith and my perseverance.’

The next collection of Edgar Degas illustrates how the artist was inspired by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Jean Baptiste Camille Corot and Eugene Delacroix and collected a number of their works, however he collected a number of contemporaries paintings including Pissarro, Sisley, Manet, Gauguin and Cezanne.

Whereas the French artists seemed to be content to collect from contemporaries, British artist collectors seemed to more concerned with  the past.  The collection of Frederic, Lord Leighton also features works by Delacroix and Corot together with a number of Old Master paintings. Leighton’s collecting influenced his friend and neighbour, George Frederic Watts  who acquired his Knight of S. Stefano (after 1563)  when Watts was learning his artistic trade in Italy. Sir Thomas Lawrence was another British painter who looked to the past, however his independent wealth did mean he could build up a vast collection that included many drawings that was the envy of many institutions.

Joshua Reynolds reputation as an artist and as the first president of the Royal Academy of Arts led him to consider his collection as a reflection of his standing and a useful resource for his teaching. Works by Bellini, Bassano, Rembrandt, Anthony Van Dyck and Poussin reflect Reynolds status, however it is the painting of  Girls with Pigs 1781-82 by Thomas Gainsborough that suggests Reynolds may have acquired his rivals painting for less than honourable reasons.

One of the oldest collections is that owned by Anthony Van Dyck which features a number of works by Titian, whilst this is clearly an homage to the Venetian master, there were suggestions that Van Dyck displayed his work with the Titians which suggested to future patrons that he considered himself as one of the great painters of his age.

This fascinating and entertaining book with a large number of attractive illustrations explores the many motivations behind artists collecting habits, no artist works in a vacuum and are exposed to a number of influences both from the past and the present. The author explores some of the multi-layered connections between works owned and works painted, these connections often provide real insights into the various artists creative process and how various factors related to the paintings can have a considerable effect on their own artistic development.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information, visit the National Gallery website here

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Exhibition Review – Painters’ Paintings : From Freud to Van Dyck at the National Gallery from 23rd June to 4th September 2016


The National Gallery presents an exhibition that explores great paintings from the perspective of the artists who owned them. The eighty works on display span over five hundred years of art history and allows visitors a rare opportunity to enter the private world of these painters and to try to understand the motivations of artists as collectors of paintings.


The National Gallery since its creation has acquired a number of important paintings which once belonged to celebrated painters: Van Dyck’s Titian; Reynolds’s Rembrandt, and Matisse’s Degas among many others. For the exhibition it was decided to bring together a series of case studies each devoted to a particular painter-collector. The artists included in the exhibition are Freud, Matisse, Degas, Leighton, Watts, Lawrence, Reynolds, and Van Dyck. Works from these artists’ collections are juxtaposed with a number of their own paintings, highlighting some of the connections between the artist and the art they possessed.

Half the works in the exhibition are loans from public and private collections, from New York and Philadelphia to Copenhagen and Paris. A number of them have not been seen in public for several decades.


In the first room is the painting that provided the inspiration for this exhibition, Corot’s Italian Woman, was left to the nation by Lucian Freud following his death in 2011. It was the interest that surrounded this painting when its was acquired by the National Gallery that provided the focus on the many connections between artists.

Other Lucian Freud’s work in the room illustrate how the artist used some of his collection to explore his own work, most obviously if you compare Cézanne’s (Afternoon in Naples, 1876–77) with Freud’s After Breakfast (2001). Perhaps a surprise is this particular room is the Constable portrait (Laura Moubray, 1808).


Henri Matisse started acquiring pictures long before he had encountered success and his collection includes many gifts and exchanges with fellow artists. He exchanged pictures with Picasso and the exhibition features Picasso’s Portrait of Dora Maar (1942). One of the works by Cézanne, Three Bathers (1879–82 ) which had a huge significance for Matisse who kept it for 37 years and regarded it has one of the great pieces of art. Dominating the Matisse room is the remarkable Degas’s Combing the Hair (about 1896) whose rich and vivid colours provided inspiration for Matisse’s own work.


Edgar Degas was considered one of the greatest collectors of his time, buying paintings from artists he admired from the past including Ingres and Delacroix. He also bought from his contemporaries especially Manet collecting the dispersed sections of The Execution of Maximilian (about 1867–8,) after the death of his friend.


Whilst the French painters in the exhibition were happy to buy work from their own time, the British painters tended to look to the past especially the Italian Renaissance. Frederic, Lord Leighton and George Frederic Watts were well-known figures in the British art establishment, Leighton in his Holland Park house assembled of pictures and objects he had purchased. Among them were Italian Renaissance painting , Jupiter and Semele ( possibly by Tintoretto about 1545). Watts, Leighton’s friend  had his own striking Renaissance painting, Knight of S. Stefano (probably Girolamo Macchietti, after 1563). Sir Thomas Lawrence was one of the leading British portraitist of the early 19th century and built a vast collection, once again he tended to look to the past with Carracci’s A Woman borne off by a Sea God (?) (about 1599 ), Raphael’s Allegory (about 1504) and Reni’s Coronation of the Virgin, (about 1607).


Sir Joshua Reynolds was the inaugural President of the Royal Academy and was one of the most significant figures of the British art world in the 18th century. His collection was formed as a resource for his teaching and supported his ideas about what constituted great art. Works by Van Dyck, Giovanni Bellini, Michelangelo, Poussin and Rembrandt all reflect the high status of Reynolds, however a painting from his rival Gainsborough’s Girl with Pigs (1781–2) suggests a competitive streak to his nature.


Sir Anthony van Dyck was England’s leading court painter in the first half of the 17th century and had worked in the studio of Rubens. Van Dyck built up an impressive collection of Italian pictures, his real passion was the work of Titian whose Vendramin Family (1540–5) and Portrait of Gerolamo (?) Barbarigo (about 1510) dominate the final room.


This is a fascinating exhibition that features a number of remarkable works from artists that span five hundred years of art history. However it is often the intriguing stories behind the painting that illustrates the many ways that art can inspire other artists. Artists are susceptible to many influences from the past and the present and it is often possible to trace moves in their own artistic development from the works of art they possessed. This exhibition offers a unique perspective into the multi-layered connections between artists and the how collecting pieces of art can often provide a wide variety of financial and artistic reward.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

Opening hours

Daily 10am–6pm (last admission 5pm)

Fridays 10am–9pm (last admission 8.15pm)


Full price                                                                                          £12.00

Senior/Concession/Disabled visitors (carers FREE)             £10.00

Job seeker/Student/Art Fund/12–18s                                       £6.00

Under 12s (ticket required)                                                           FREE

Members go free           

For more information or to book tickets, visit the National 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 latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, 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

Exhibition Review – Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse at the Royal Academy from 30th January to 20th April 2016


Centred around the work of Claude Monet , this exhibition examines the relationship between gardens and art from the early 1860s through to the 1920s. Monet is considered one of the most important painters of gardens in the history of art, however other artists fascinated with the horticultural world are featured in the exhibition including Renoir, Cezanne, Pissarro, Manet, Sargent, Kandinsky, Van Gogh, Matisse, Klimt and Klee.


Gardens in art before this period were generally used as a backdrop to figures or related to the huge gardens developed for royalty and the wealthy. The exhibition explores the emergence of the modern garden which begins to become a subject matter for artists during a period of great social change and new movements in the arts.

The first gallery entitled Impressionist Gardens illustrates that in a period of rapid industrialisation, the garden represented a way of connecting with nature even within the largest city. Monet , Pissarro and Renoir all had a different taste in gardens and that transmitted into their work with the gardens becoming outdoor studios.


This interest was not just confined to France, in the International Gardens gallery, other artists in Europe and the United States were making the connection between art and gardens. Works by John Singer Sargent are shown with a number of Scandinavian artists including Laurits Tuxen. German Impressionist Max Liebermann, Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla and American painter Childe Hassam all illustrate that the ‘garden movement’ was widespread.


For all the international interest in the ‘garden movement’, it was Monet who was to develop his own particular style especially when he moved to Giverny. In 1890, Monet developed the gardens at Giverny and inspired by a water-lily garden he had seen at the Paris Universal Exhibition and Japanese Woodcuts began to produce a series of paintings of water lilies and a Japanese Bridge.


Whist Monet was occupied by his gardens, other artists began to explore other aspects of gardens including when they are places of silence or reverie. Works by Santiago Rusinol and Joaquin Trinxet suggest gardens as otherworldly, places full of mystery.


The tragedy of the First World War affected Monet deeply and in the exhibition is a group of paintings of the weeping willow (Water Lilies with Weeping Willows, 1916–19) which was his response to the carnage. At the end of the First World War, Monet wrote to the French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, proposing to give some of his works to the nation “to honour the victory and peace”. Many of the works were given to the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris, Three of the panels from the original scheme, the so-called Agapanthus triptych, including Water Lilies (1916-26), did not, however, appear in the Orangerie display and were eventually sold separately to three American museums – the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City. These institutions have allowed these great works to be reunited at the Academy as the grand finale of Painting the Modern Garden.


This intriguing and comprehensive exhibition offers an opportunity to explore how art and gardens became intertwined at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. The remarkable work of Claude Monet is put into its historical and geographical context with many other contributions by other well-known and some less known artists.

This is likely to be one of the most popular exhibitions of the year and it may be well worth booking in advance to avoid disappointment.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like further information, visit the Royal Academy website here

Exhibition runs 30th January to 20th April 2016

Saturday – Thursday 10am – 6pm

Friday 10am – 10pm

Main Galleries, Burlington House

£17.60 (without donation £16). Concessions available.

Friends of the RA, and under 16s when with a fee-paying adult, go free

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  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.
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Exhibition Review : Richard Diebenkorn at the Royal Academy – 14 March to 7 June 2015


This exhibition features Richard Diebenkorn who  is considered  one of America’s “finest abstract painters” and will be shown in the UK for the first time in more than 20 years.  Though comparatively little-known in the UK, he is widely considered one of America’s great post-war painters whose work can be found in almost every major US collection, and even hangs in Obama’s personal quarters in the White House.

The exhibition broadly follows Diebenkorn’s career  which can divided into three phases, in the early 1950s,  Diebenkorn enrolled on a course at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and developed his  abstract work.  The Albuquerque series, 1950 -1952 illustrates Diebenkorn’s ability to transform the dramatic New Mexico landscape into expressionist abstract pieces of art.  This ability attracted considerable interest and he secured his first art dealer in 1952 and began to sell his work.


Relocations to Urbana and Berkeley resulted in more abstract works that seemed to be inspired by the new environments, the dramatic New Mexican landscape made way for the more subtle pastels. The Berkeley series, (1953- 1956)  also saw a move to more abstract forms.  These works began to raise Diebenkorn’s reputation at home and abroad, which makes his next move all the more surprising.


By the mid 50s,  Diebenkorn  was recognised as one of the leading Abstract Expressionist artists on the West Coast, however he carried out a dramatic change of direction by becoming a figurative artist.  The large figure paintings often  featured women in sitting and standing in a domestic scene in front of a landscape. In many ways the figures are ill-defined that allows them to blend easily into the environment.


At this time he did produce a number of purely figurative works and some still life paintings and drawings. He also produced some landscapes and cityscapes that produced a realistic yet abstract effect. The best example of this is Cityscape #1 (1963)  the landscape and shadows form geometric figures all over the picture.


In 1966, Diebenkorn  moved to Santa Monica and developed a series of large abstract paintings known as The Ocean Park series (1967 – 88). Although seen as a sharp departure from his figurative work, in many respects it was a return to his early works where he seems to be able to transform the environment into an abstract art form. For many, the Ocean Park series  seemed to embody Southern California with its attractive climate and laid back way of life.


Although Diebenkorn was an  admirer of  a number of European Modern painters especially  Cézanne, Matisse, and Mondrian, he was without doubt influenced greatly by American landscapes and environments. This  connection was recognised by mainly American art dealers and collectors from an early stage of Diebenkorn  career and led to his success over four decades.


These factors probably influenced Diebenkorn not to seek wider recognition outside of the United States, the exhibition notes that he is little known in the UK and Europe. In many ways that is a shame, because  the exhibition clearly illustrates that although many of the painting are rooted in American landscapes, they do have a wider appeal.

This exhibition would interest those intrigued by Diebenkorn’s mix of expressionist abstract and figurative work. His lack of recognition in the UK allows most people to discover his work for the first time and perhaps understand why he is held in such high regard in the United States.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

Richard Diebenkorn at the Royal Academy – 14 March to 7 June 2015
The Sackler Wing, Burlington House

Tickets £11.50 (without donation £10). Concessions available. Friends of the RA and under 16s go free.

If you would like more  information or book a ticket, 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.
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Book Review : Malevich edited by Achim Borchardt-Hume (Tate Publishing)


To complement the Malevich Exhibition at the Tate Modern, Tate Publishing have published a book about Malevich which traces his life and career in Russia against the background of social revolution and political upheaval.

In the introduction to the book An Icon for the Modern Age, Achim Borchardt-Hume seeks to explain how Malevich developed his style of suprematism and why it is important in Modern Art history. The development of the Black Square as a modern icon will baffle many but this section illustrates its importance.
Malevich concluded in 1913 that painting up to that date was different ways of representing reality however to be truly radical you had to literally wipe the slate clean and show the object in its truest light. The Black square in the most obvious way represented this transformation and would allow the viewer to ask questions about what is the true nature of art.
The next section, From Symbolism to Futurism traces Malevich’s artistic journey before he develops his suprematism theory.
Kazimir Malevich was born in Kiev in 1879, however it was not until 1906 when he moved to Moscow to study under Fedor Rerberg that art as a career seemed a possibility. At the time when any promising painter was making their way to Paris, in a strange quirk of fate it was French Art that was making its way to Moscow.
Wealthy Russian collectors Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov had accumulated a large number of paintings by Cezanne, Gauguin, Matisse and Picasso amongst others.
The collections were made available for viewing to aspiring Russian painters and Malevich took full advantage of these offers and the works by Gauguin especially  had a profound effect on the young painters artistic development.
However Malevich did not want to simply imitate the French modernists but rather use the style to illustrate paintings that had a recognisable Russian subject matter.
His modernist paintings of Russian peasants were shown in various exhibitions before he developed a more distinctly cubist approach. It was at this time around 1910 that Malevich was still painting in many styles and borrowed freely from different schools of painting, but in many ways this was also the gestation period where his own ideas were being formulated.
The following section Victory over the Sun and the Black Square show how Malevich’s work on a futurist opera called Victory over the Sun  whose aim was to ‘foster individual creative awakening of the true world of new people’
However the violent reaction of the audience and critics perhaps indicated that the ‘new people’ were not quite ready for such radical works.
These setbacks did not deter Malevich who uses the years up to 1915 to work out his theories that would underpin his new radical approach.
The following section The Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings 0.10. looks closely at the exhibition that introduced the world to Malevich’s theory of suprematism.

In 1915 he chose Petrograd as the location for what later became known among modernists as ‘one of the most important exhibitions of the twentieth century.’ To complement his exhibits, Malevich also gave a lecture and published his treatise From Cubism to Suprematism: The New Painterly Realism.

Underpinning suprematism was the dominance of colour over the object, this view baffled many of his supporters and the reaction to the exhibition was mixed.

Undeterred Malevich pressed on regardless and began to develop and refine his ideas,  the section A new Art : Suprematism  illustrates Malevich”s experiments with form and colour produced a large number of interesting works but little in widespread recognition or financial independence.

By 1919, the offer of a post of teacher in the western Russian town of Vitebsk was attractive on many levels it offered Malevich a regular income and chance to disseminate the theory of Suprematism to the students in the Vitebsk People’s Art School.

The section Teacher/Writer/Architect traces how the idealism of the 1917 Revolution permeates  Malevich ideas and leads him to create an artistic collective called UNOVIS which holds a series of exhibitions.

It was also at this time that Malevich makes the rather startling announcement that ‘Painting is long obsolete and the painter himself a prejudice of the past’.  But the demise of painting as a medium would not be the end of suprematism as Malevich began to apply the systems methods to other media.

Writing and Architecture now became the main mediums in which Malevich pursued his ideas, his creation of architectural models called Architecton  and Planits offered ideas of how living arrangements could be transformed. His ideas were confined to the theory  rather than pursuing any practical application.

At the same time he was undertaking a scientific study of art at the State Institute of Artistic Culture (GINKhUK )looking at the ways  art was being created and breaking it down to its component parts to provide the foundation for new forms.

However, by 1927 the revolutionary zeal for the creation of a ‘Brave New World’ was curtailed by the reality of food shortages. Work such as Malevich was now seen as self indulgent and the GINKhUK department was closed.

The final section of the book Reinventing Figuration charts Malevich’s return to painting and a move into a surprising new direction.

Malevich’s later works are often the subject of considerable debate due to the way he seems to turn his back on suprematism for a new method Supernaturalism which marks a return to figurative painting.

Some argue this was done to enable him to survive in the new political climate whose new artistic orthodoxy  was social realism.

However others suggest this view is far too simplistic and Malevich used his suprematism  as the basis for a new figurative  method.

The second  Peasant Cycle suggest the second view is more likely with paintings of peasants very different from his earlier works often faceless and made up of blocks of geometric shapes and colour.Even his seeming conventional portraits  have realistic faces but clothes made consisting of uniform blocks of colour.

This well written and lavishly illustrated book will introduce many people to Malevich for the first time, however it is not really an introduction but a comprehensive exploration of his work and career.

It has been argued that Malevich was Russia’s most influential avant-garde artist, but this only one facet of an extraordinary career.
As the book clearly charts Malevich art is intertwined with one of the most important political upheavals of the 20th century, although Malevich was not directly political it was the spirit of the revolution that led Malevich to create new art for a new world.
This often means a rejection of the past and Malevich’s suprematism seeks to achieve that very aim, for a short time these ideas were encouraged by the new Russian state who were keen to present themselves as the new world order.
However the state’s early revolutionary zeal for the new was overtaken by a new realism who began to see abstract art as ‘bourgeois’.
In the book a series of essays by leading art historians discuss how Malevich’s incredibly diverse artistic output developed in the maelstrom of the formation of the new Russian state.
It is certainty ironic that you could argue that it was the Russian state that was a huge influence on Malevich but was also responsible for suppressing his work for vast part of the 20th century.

The Tate Modern exhibition and this book will play a major part in raising the profile of one of the most intriguing painters of the 20th century.

This book would have a wide appeal, followers of Modern Art would find much to interest them as would followers of Russian art.
However it would also interest those who are fascinated how an artist develops his theories and ideas over time and how those ideas can often be supported by the wider society but can also at various moments be in conflict with it.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information about the book or to buy a copy , visit the Tate Publishing 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