20 November 2013

Two exhibitions in Bath

Last year the Holburne Museum in Bath showed Presence: The Art of Portrait Sculpture which explored whether sculptors pursue realism or idealisation when they create solid portraits. Their lateset exhibition, Characters: Portraits and People from the Arts Council Collection, looks at the parallel traditions of observation and invention in the painting of people, particularly appropriate since the Holburne’s permanent collection includes some fine British eighteenth-century examples of the genre.

The Director of the Holburne, Alexander Sturgis, and his staff have again demonstrated their curatorial expertise when faced with the challenge of selecting a small number of choice works (Sturgis talks about some of their choices here). The range of artists, all British post-War, is indicated in the poster alongside Richard Hamilton’s Hugh Gaitskell as a Famous Monster of Filmland 1964. Frank Auerbach, Lucien Freud (portrait of Lord Rothschild above right) and Euan Uglow (German Girl, 1960s, above left) feature among the painters from life and the works of imagination include studies from Peter Blake and Francis Bacon. I particularly liked Maggi Hambling’s Frances Rose (3) 1973 and thought Jeffery Camp’s Laetitia Picking Blackcurrants 1967 (below, left and right) full of period charm, but everyone will have their own favourites. 

Characters: Portraits and People from the Arts Council Collection continues until 7 January 2014.

William Scott: Simplicity and Subject at the Victoria Art Gallery has now closed. Scott (1913 – 1989), although born in Scotland and spending his youth in Northern Ireland, spent much of his artistic life in the Bath area and was for a time Senior Painting Master at Bath Academy of Art. In his twenties he spent time in France and in Cornwall where he met Laura Knight and her husband. Later influences on his work included Picasso and the New York abstract expressionists – Mark Rothko spent time at his Somerset home. Although Scott was an RA and had contributed to the British exhibit in the XXIX Venice Biennale, his work seems to have become less well-known in recent years, so his centennial seems to have been an appropriate time to rekindle interest. Below are his Still Life with Candle 1950 and the more abstract Slagheap Landscape 1953 (from the Arts Council Collection). During a spell working in Berlin he encountered a blue pigment which led to his All Blue 1964. Another striking abstract was Monotone Still Life 1955 in black white and grey. I expect that the owner of that little gem of a painting, Still Life with Pears c1956, is glad to have his or her picture back!

There is a major retrospective of Scott's work now at the final stage of its tour at the Ulster Museum.

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