Monday 12 October 2009

Discovery of Spain - British Artists and Collectors: Goya to Picasso

I finally made it through to Edinburgh to see the 'Goya to Picasso' exhibition. It's been on since July and it takes me till the last day of the exhibition, in October, to make it through but hey, at least I made it. It was definitely worth the wait, though I actually wish I'd gone sooner as I could definitely have done with more than one visit to take it all in.

There was so much to see that I'm just going to mention a few things that really stood out for me. Velázquez's 'An Old Woman Cooking Eggs' was stunning, having seen it in books and on postcards it was completely different to see it in real life. The details, colouring and shadows are all amazing and I could have looked at it for ages, but I didn't get there till about 3.30 and I knew I didn't have all that long till it closed so I moved on. I think my favourite artist, whom I didn't already know a lot about, was Arthur Melville, a Scottish painter who worked with and was an influence upon, The Glasgow Boys. I can't name a favourite of his as I loved them all, though there are two that particularly stick in my mind , 'The little bullfight 'Brave Toro!'' and 'The Contrabandistas' (1892). 'The little bullfight 'Brave Toro'!' is filled with bright colours expressively indicating people and movement, the dust swirls around the bull in the ring, and the overall effect of movement and energy is wonderful. 'The Contrabandistas' is such an unusual work, the figures are in the centre of the composition but are small and seem overwhelmed by the swirl of trees and hills around them and the vast expanse of sky above.

Arthur Melville, The Little Bull Fight, "Bravo Toro!", late 19th Century

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The other artist I discovered who I hadn't heard of before was John Frederick Lewis. There were a large number of his works in this exhibition but the ones that really impacted on me were his drawings of buildings and street scenes, the colours are muted and give the impression of the heat of the Andalusian sun, the detail is wonderful and the angles and viewpoint are often unusual. The only one I can remember the name of isn't one of these though, it's a wonderful vibrant painting 'Spanish Fiesta' (1836). I realised I must have heard his name before though as he features in one of the best books I've read in the past few years 'The Map of Love' by Ahdaf Soueif. Reviewing an exhibition 'The Lure of the East' at the Tate Britain in 2008 Soueif says of his paintings
"I find Lewis's work so attractive that it became a source of sustenance for the heroine, Lady Anna Winterbourne, of my novel The Map of Love: recently widowed, Anna visits the South Kensington museum and takes pleasure in "the wondrous colours, the tranquillity, the contentment with which [Lewis's paintings] are infused"... Lewis's truth, expressed in colour and brushstrokes, was a truth about the spirit of the place."
Soueif, Visions of the harem, The Guardian, 05/07/09

There were a number of versions of Picasso's 'Weeping Woman', which have a tremendous force and emotional intensity about them. Knowing more about the events surrounding their creation, after a visit to Malaga and the Picasso Museum earlier this year, I found seeing these again incredibly moving.

I am now looking forward to visiting the National Gallery in London to see 'The Sacred made Real'. This exhibition looks at work religious art works created in Spain in the 17th century, and includes the work of at least two of the artist in 'From Goya to Picasso' - Diego Velazquez and Francisco de Zurbaran. For the first time these painting are going to be shown alongside polychrome sculptures from the same period.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you made it through to Edinburgh for this brilliant exhibition before it closed.

    I hope we can fit in a trip to 'The Sacred made Real' on our tip to London.

    We had an Arthur Melville in an exhibition here last year.

    Z x