February 10, 2017

Three exhibitions for 2017

So, we're now a whole month into 2017 and it's reaching that point when resolutions start to slide and gyms return to normal capacity (so I'm told anyway). It's also the time when I start planning out what museums I'd like to visit and exhibitions I want to see. It's always a very long list, but I thought in this post I'd mention some that have really struck a note with me:

America After the Fall: Painting in the 1930's

The Royal Academy has staged some spectacular blockbusters of late and I doubt their big showcase on the art of the Russian Revolution will be an exception to that rule. I tend to prefer their smaller exhibitions, the topics of which are wide ranging and always intriguing, examples of which include their recent Ensor show, and the first UK retrospective of American painter George Bellows.

The next show in the Sackler Wing, America After the Fall ([^1]) promises just to be as intriguing, bringing together 45 works created in the decade between the Wall Street crash and the opening of the Second World War. It will chart the evolution and many routes explored by artists searching for their own vision of an artistic and cultural identity for a modern America; working against the backdrop of the Great Depression, the shift towards industrialisation and the international and domestic political issues of the time.

Charles Sheeler, American Landscape 1930. Image © 2016. Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence.

Amongst the works is Grant Wood's iconic American Gothic, one of the most recognisable pieces of American art. Having never left the US before, it is joined by paintings by several others who were practising their art in the midst of this tumultuous and defining time in American history. It promises to be an intriguing show, especially in the parallels that can be drawn between their world and our own recent history.

Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites

271 years after the final defeat at Culloden, the National Museum of Scotland will stage a major exhibition on the fateful 1745 Jacobite rising and the charismatic prince who led it, Charles Edward Stuart. ([^2]) Bringing together objects from their own collections, as well as a number of loans from across the UK, it's sure to be a hit; especially for the Outlander fans...

Andrew Gower, as Prince Charles Edward Stuart. Image from scotlandnow.com, via the depths of Pinterest

However, I wouldn't expect it to play too much to the myths and folklore spun over the last few centuries. The curator is quoted as wanting to "strip back the romantic notions" letting the collections themselves take the lead in telling the story of this complex period in British and European history.

Allan Ramsay, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, 1720 - 1788. Eldest Son of Prince James Francis Edward Stuart 1745. Also known as the 'lost portrait'. Image: Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Given that the truth can be just as, if not more dramatic than the legends, I doubt it will disappoint historically or visually. (the rich artistic iconography of the Jacobite cause is as equally fascinating, which I've talked about in a previous post.

Monochrome: Painting in Black & White

We're often told that life isn't black and white, and generally, art exhibitions tend to focus on all things colourful. However, a tradition of painting in grisaille has been practised from the middle ages right up to the work of modern and contemporary artists.

Andrea Mantegna, Samson and Delilah, About 1500. National Gallery, London, image licensed CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0

This exhibition, to be staged at London's National Gallery at the end of the year will present an overview of the technique through the ages and the effects it was used to create. Although scant on information just now, it looks to me to be an interesting take on the story of European art.