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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 – All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life at Tate Britain from 28th February to 27th August 2018

Tate Britain presents an exhibition entitled All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life which showcases around 100 works by some of the most celebrated modern British artists featuring many works by Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. 

The exhibition explores how generations of British artists began to explore some of the boundaries of figurative painting in the 20th century. Central to the exhibition is the work of Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon who began to present more honest depictions of models of all shapes and sizes.

Both Freud and Bacon were following a theme going back to artists like Walter Sickert and Chaïm Soutine in the early 20th century.  The first room in the exhibition features work by Sickert, Soutine and Stanley Spencer.

The next room pairs together a series of works by Francis Bacon alongside a sculpture by Giacometti which explores the themes of alienation and isolation.  

The exhibition highlights the teaching of William Coldstream at the Slade School of Fine Art and David Bomberg at the Borough Polytechnic who were considered influential in the encouragement of later artists like Michael Andrews, Euan Uglow , Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff .

All these artists developed their own particular style and the exhibition features Auerbach’s and Kossoff’s fascination with London’s streets and public spaces, F.N. Souza’s spiritual and symbolic figures, and Michael Andrews’s and R.B. Kitaj’s interest in group scenes and storytelling.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is the room entitled Lucien Freud: In the Studio in which has a number of the artist’s works including Sleeping by the Lion Carpet 1996 and David and Eli 2003-4. In the preview, two of the models for the paintings were present to come face to face with their representations.

Freud is often associated with Francis Bacon and the next room explores how Bacon often worked from photographs, John Deakin’s portraits of friends and lovers were often the starting point for some of Bacon’s work.

The exhibition also explores how women artists have developed in the traditionally male-dominated field of figurative painting. The works of Paula Rego explores the roles of women in society such as in The Family 1988.

Later Contemporary artists like Cecily Brown, Celia Paul, Jenny Saville and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye began to find ways of taking the painting of figures in new directions.

This fascinating exhibition provides plenty of evidence of the ways that British figurative painters found new and interesting ways to capture life on canvas throughout the 20th century.  Many of the artists moved beyond the superficial to explore some of the deeper elements of the human condition. As the exhibition illustrates, these sometimes expose some of uglier elements of human nature. Artists like Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and others influenced by the often tragic and dramatic events of the 20th century, perhaps developed more honest depictions of the different sides of human beings.

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.
To find out more visit the website
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All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life at Tate Britain – 28th February to 27th August 2018

A landmark exhibition at Tate Britain next year will celebrate how artists have captured the intense experience of life in paint. All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life will showcase around 100 works by some of the most celebrated modern British artists, especially Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. The exhibition brings together major works by Walter Sickert, Stanley Spencer, Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, R.B. Kitaj, Leon Kossoff, Paula Rego, Jenny Saville, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and many others.

Key paintings spanning Freud’s career will explore his studio as both context and subject of his work and will show how his unflinchingly honest depictions of models became more sculptural and visceral over time, in works such as Frank Auerbach 1975-6 and Sleeping by the Lion Carpet 1996. In contrast to Freud’s practice of working from life, the exhibition will look at Bacon’s relationship with photographer John Deakin, whose portraits of friends and lovers were often the starting point for Bacon’s work, including Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne 1966. Earlier works by Bacon like Study after Velazquez 1950 will be shown alongside a sculpture by Giacometti, both artists having explored the enduring presence of isolated figures.

Looking to earlier generations, the exhibition will show how this spirit in painting had been pursued by artists like Walter Sickert and Chaïm Soutine. This generation’s work encompassed a wide variety of subjects, from Auerbach’s and Kossoff’s enduring fascination with London’s streets and public spaces to F.N. Souza’s spiritual and symbolic figures, and from Coldstream’s and Freud’s focus on the body in isolation to Michael Andrews’s and R.B. Kitaj’s interest in group scenes and storytelling.

The exhibition will also shed light on the role of women artists in the traditionally male-dominated field of figurative painting. Paula Rego explores the condition of women in society and the roles they play over the course of their lives, while always referring to autobiographical events, as in The Family 1988. Her work underwent a particularly profound change in the late 1980s and 1990s when she returned to working from life. The exhibition will also celebrate a younger generation of painters who continue to pursue the tangible reality of life in their work. Contemporary artists like Cecily Brown, Celia Paul, Jenny Saville and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye work in dialogue with this tradition while also taking the painting of figures in new directions.

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.
To find out more visit the website
here