EXHIBITION: ‘Painters’ Paintings’ – National Gallery London, Aug 2016
Another thought-provoking exhibition from the National Gallery, London.
“Why do artists acquire the work of other artists?” This was the question underlying the assembly of the paintings chosen for this exhibition. The exhibition looked at all aspects of the collection of paintings by artists: how they were bought (sometimes almost bankrupting the artists), given or exchanged. It also examined how the artists used the pictures they bought, uncovering their technical secrets and repeatedly using motifs, posers and subject matter. The exhibition contained paintings by Freud, Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, Degas, Manet, Leighton, Corot, Lawrence, Raphael, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Van Dyck, Poussin,, Rembrandt, Bellini, Delacroix, Titian.
Having the opportunity to see this collection of wonderful paintings was an experience! Because of the subject of the exhibition the paintings were very diverse in all respects and gave you an insight into an element of the painter which is not usually obvious. It occurred to me that collecting the work of other artists was in many instances the only way open to artists to learn and to develop their own individual creative voice. I guess its ‘contextualisation’ on a grand scale.
As I view these exhibitions now I’m looking for examples to illustrate the research I’m doing in my own work. Having just read the chapter on Space in ‘Art and Visual Perception’ by Rudolf Arnheim, I spent some time in front of Matisse’s painting of ‘The Inattentive Reader’, at how the subject had been treated and in particular the way that Matisse had used the space. There is little attempt to represent each object in the room realistically, so that nothing appears to be anchored to the floor or surfaces. The figure itself seems to hover over the chair rather than sitting in it. The surface seems flat and all of this adds to the sense of insubstantiality, of lack of focus, of dreaminess. The treatment of the subject is consistent with the subject of the image. I can really see this now in studying this painting.
The painting was displayed alongside one of Matisse’s acquisitions, Degas’s ‘Combing the hair’…another favourite painting of mine. Although there is not record of him displaying this painting, yet there is definite evidence of the influence it had on his radical use of colour, his interest in textiles and his fascination with the representation of women caught up in their own thoughts and actions, largely oblivious of those who observe them.