9 November 2010

Glasgow Boys and Gauguin

I am ‘out of area’ for a few days and have been to a couple of excellent exhibitions: The Glasgow Boys at the Royal Academy and Gauguin at Tate Modern.

Pioneering Painters: The Glasgow Boys 1880 – 1900, to give it the full title, shows works by the group of about 20 young painters who, the RA says, created a stir at home and abroad in the final decades of the nineteenth century. They were the first significant group of British artists after the Pre-Raphaelites and “by the turn of the century the Glasgow Boys were acknowledged as the only British painters of international standing”, according to the curators of the exhibition.  The Gallery Guide at £2.50 is poor value, particularly in comparison with the educational guide at £4.50 (while stocks last). The exhibition runs to 23 January 2011, £9 max per ticket.

I now realise how much the Glasgow Boys had come under the influence of pre-Impressionist French painters like Millet and Bastien-Lepage. Whereas Gauguin, their contemporary (1848-1903), started as an Impressionist and eventually was selected by Roger Fry as one of the original Post-Impressionists in 1910.

Gauguin: Maker of Myth is a 'must see' exhibition with many of his major works and so, unsurprisingly, very crowded. Curators currently seem to favour captioning works in very small print and sometimes at a considerable distance (up to 2 metres!). Perhaps this is to boost the sale of audio guides, but does nothing to ease the crush. Gauguin runs to 23 January 2011, £13.50 max per ticket, free brief guide.

Down below, Tate Modern's Turbine Hall was given over to Ai Weiwei's Unilever Series commission, Sunflower Seeds, which consists of 100 million porcelain replica seeds, no longer to be touched or walked on. The Tate thinks that the sight “invites us to look more closely at the ‘Made in China’ phenomenon and the geo-politics of cultural and economic exchange today”. The artist has just been released from recent house arrest and is urging David Cameron to raise the issue of human rights on his current visit to China (BBC News).

Outside, it was a cold, grey, wet London November day, nothing like Tahiti.

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