There are so many inspiring exhibitions to go and see at the moment, but two visits last week really made me very excited. At last here were two shows celebrating painting, and painterly painting at that. With the ever continuing glut of photographic realism being churned out these two exhibitions were a blast of fresh air!
I have been looking forward to the Manet exhibition ‘Portraying Life’ for months and it certainly didn’t disappoint. I had read many mixed reviews, but trying to ignore them all visited the Academy last week. As still rather a long queue was in the courtyard I feared the galleries to be bursting at the seams but thankfully after the first half an hour everyone began to drift off and you could soon get up close and personal with the wonderful paintings and to study the brushstrokes very closely. (I went in around 4pm up to closing time, so as people head home you may be lucky enough to have the run of the gallery by 6pm).
Much has been said about the unfinished nature of many of the Manet portraits, but as a painter, having the privilege of seeing works in this ‘unfinished state’ is a wonderful experience. But like another inspiring painter Degas, Manet had come to the conclusion that a painting may have reached fruition long before it may appear to be complete to the viewer. But as many of these paintings were never exhibited during the artists lifetime, I would like to think that perhaps some were left unfinished or for whatever reason were held back in the artists studio.
One painting which I was unfamiliar with is The Luncheon (1868), this is a compelling and totally absorbing painting and is worth every penny of your ticket alone. Another painting which I found beautiful and couldn’t take my eyes off was Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus (study for the balcony) 1868. Stunning, what else can I say? It should have been no surprise to read that the painter John Singer Sargent bought the painting in 1884. A selection of other favorites from the exhibition can be seen below.
Patrick George has been exhibiting at Browse and Darby for many years now and this current exhibition is an outstanding show. Patrick George trained at Edinburgh and Camberwell, taught at the Slade, and then held the post of Slade Professor following William Coldstream and Lawrence Gowing. The drawings and paintings exhibited date from the 1950’s to the present and we see scenes of Inner London and the Suffolk countryside. In the upstairs gallery there is a touching film in which the now 90 year old artist talks about his practise. My personal favorite is Blue Sky in Pimlico the light and composition of which I have seen in London many times. The paintings have such a strong structure underpinning each composition, along with a beautiful sense of calm, harmony and tranquility.
These two stunning exhibitions are only separated (in distance) by the Burlington Arcade so it’s very easy to visit both while in the area. To anyone passionate about painting I recommend a visit to them both (several times). Do enjoy!
Royal Academy of Arts, until 14th April 2013
Browse & Darby, 19 Cork Street, London
13th February – 14th March 2013