Category: Reviews

Reviews of books and exhibitions. See the sub-categories ‘Book Reviews’ and ‘Exhibition Reviews’ for more detail.

Review – Watteau: The Drawings. Royal Academy, London. 12 March – 5 June 2011. David R. Marshall

Watteau: The Drawings Royal Academy, London. 12 March – 5 June 2011 Reviewed by David R. Marshall This exhibition is organized for the Royal Academy and curated by Pierre Rosenberg and Louis-Antoine Prat, and based on their 1996 catalogue of Watteau drawings. In his essay Prat points out that the number of drawings (90) is less than at the big Watteau exhibition of 1984-85, but that the selection is more focused and unproblematic. The bulk of the drawings are from the Louvre and British Museum, but there are a number from other collections not often seen. The drawings are displayed in the Sackler wing of the Royal Academy, already showing its age, with it’s weird open lift shaft between the exterior facades of two buildings, and gallery spaces that work well enough in a routine way. On a Monday lunchtime late…

Review: The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900. Kim Clayton-Greene

Review by Kim Clayton-Greene of The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 The Victorian and Albert Museum, London 2 April – 17 July 2011 Reviewed by Kim Clayton-Greene ‘The Cult of Beauty’, brings together some of the finest objects and works of art produced by those artists and craftsmen who revolutionized late nineteenth-century British art and society.  As the introductory wall text states, these men and women were united by ‘the desire to escape the ugliness and materialism of the age and find a new beauty’. The exhibition begins by demonstrating the way this ‘new beauty’ manifested itself in all realms of art and life by placing immediately opposite the entrance door Frederic Leighton’s sculpture The Sluggard (1851) (Fig. 1), Edward Burne-Jones’s gilded, ornamental A Peacock (1886) (Fig. 2), Thomas Jeckyll’s…

Review – Pioneering Painters – Glasgow Boys: 1880-1900

Review by Kim Clayton-Greene of Pioneering Painters: The Glasgow Boys 1880– 1900 Pioneering Painters – The Glasgow Boys: 1880-1900 Royal Academy, London 30 October 2010—23 January 2011 Reviewed by Kim Clayton-Greene Presenting a relatively modest selection of works, the exhibition Pioneering Painters: The Glasgow Boys: 1880-1900, which recently closed at the Royal Academy, London (the version reviewed here), after an earlier run in Glasgow, still provided much to delight.  The works were rich and varied, at times pale and restrained and then bold and vibrant.  The exhibition, the first showing of the works of the Glasgow Boys in 40 years, showcases the works of the movement’s protagonists: Sir James Guthrie, Sir John Lavery, Arthur Melville, Edward Arthur Walton, George Henry and Edward Atkinson Hornel, and some others. The Glasgow Boys were a loose grouping of about 23 artists who worked,…

Review: Piers Baker-Bates, A Collector’s Eye: Cranach To Pissarro at the Walker Art Gallery Liverpool 18 February–15 May 2011

A Collector’s Eye: Cranach To Pissarro at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 18 February–15 May 2011 Reviewed by Piers Baker-Bates. While exhibitions that showcase a private collection can be the proverbial curate’s egg both in terms of the quality of the works on display and their attributions, this new exhibition is never anything but stimulating and thought-provoking. The works come from what is described as ‘the Schorr Collection assembled by private collector David J. Lewis for his family interests’ which is ‘one of the largest collections of Old Master paintings amassed in England since World War II.’ David Lewis remains an anonymous figure throughout, and the visitor learns nothing about the man himself, but as a patron of art his particular taste is clearly signposted in the thematic notices that divide up the exhibition. Lewis has had a ‘professional’ adviser, Christopher…

Review ‘Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals’

Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals The exhibition finished at the National Gallery, London, on 16 January 2011. It runs at the National Gallery, Washington, from 20 February to 30 May 2011. Reviewed by David R. Marshall Canaletto is synonymous with Venetian view painting, and when you enter this exhibition you can see why: it looks like room after room of Canalettos. But gradually this impression resolves itself into several different painters and manners. Some have lamented the lack of the chronological organisation that informs most recent Canaletto and Bellotto exhibitions, but that would miss the point: this is an exhibition about comparisons, and the curator, Charles Beddington, has set up many interesting ones. However, when I saw it, on a Sunday morning near the end of its run, the crowds made it hard to see many of them: you were…

Review: David R. Marshall – Gustave Moreau and the Eternal Feminine at the NGV

Gustave Moreau & the Eternal Feminine Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria 10 December 2010 – 10 April 2011 Reviewed by David R. Marshall Gustave Moreau (1826-1898) has always been hard to place. To his contemporaries he was an establishment painter distracted by eccentricity, and he did not fit the grand modernist narrative that lead from Impressionism to Modernism. He has settled down to being the precursor of Symbolism, the teacher who showed the way to Redon and the Symbolists but never quite made it there himself. But perhaps what emerges most from this exhibition is less his eccentricity or Symbolism than his obsessiveness. Why did he need to make so many studies, in so many various media and styles? He reminds me of his near contemporary Facteur Cheval (1836–1924), the obsessive French postman who single-handedly built a bizarre fantasy palace at…

Review: Takashi Murakami – The Fun King meets the Sun King

Takashi Murakami – The Fun King meets the Sun King Chateau de Versailles September 14 – December 12 2010 Reviewed byVictoria Hobday. Following the autumn throngs through the royal apartments at the Palace of Versailles one is struck by the diversity of nationalities, the amount of photographic equipment and the irritating background drone of audio-guides tuned to a multitude of languages with the volume cranked up. The self consciously regal decoration of the rooms still impresses with their grand scale and wonderful ceiling paintings, the parquetry in its distinctive squared pattern polished by the tread of a steady army of nike running shoes. In September 2008 Jean-Jacques Aillagon, the director of the Palace of Versailles, organised the first contemporary exhibition within the royal apartments of works by the American artist Jeff Koons [Slide show figure 1] The works created just…

Victus Hobday – Magician of the Palimpsest: William Kentridge

‘Magician of the Palimpsest – William Kentridge’ Cinq Thémes Paris, Jeu de Paume 29.06.10 – 5.09.10 NB:  This exhibition ‘William Kentridge: Five Themes’ is currently on in Melbourne at ACMI, Federation Square until May 27th 2012 – see here for details of the Melbourne Show. The Jeu de Paume is a public gallery situated overlooking the Place de Concorde in a corner of the Tuilleries Garden. From the outside it appears to be a large classical mausoleum for retired double-decker buses or perhaps a large garden pavilion of the nineteenth century that would feature fusty old examples of gilt-framed dark offerings. It is deceptive. Once the home to the Impressionist works that are now housed in the Musee D’Orsay the Jeu de Paume was renovated in the early 1990’s with the new purpose of featuring individual artists and particularly retrospectives.…

David Maskill – Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries

Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries London, The National Gallery, 30 June – 12 September Reviewed by David Maskill This exhibition, currently showing at London’s National Gallery, is one of the highlights of the summer season. As art institutions struggle with the effects of the recession, blockbusters that rely on extensive and costly loans and on the attendant crowds to pay for them have been in decline in recent times. If this exhibition is anything to go by, this may not be such a bad thing. Drawn mostly from the National Gallery’s own collection, the curators have selected forty works and explore their material histories to tell fascinating tales of deception, curatorial blunders and rediscoveries of long lost masterpieces. This is a show that needs the visitor to take time and to look closely at the works on display –…