Wednesday 20 May 2015
The Dulwich Picture Gallery
Linda and I went to the Dulwich Picture Gallery partly because Linda had to be home in good time, so it was convenient, but mostly to see the Ravilious exhibition. Photography is not allowed in this special exhibition, but you can see copies of a number of those that were in the gallery here, as well as a biography of the artist here.
We thought it was a wonderful exhibition: curated by theme rather than by date, his prewar pictures hung alongside his war work. This meant that his farm interiors sat beside his remarkable studies of submariners at work and at leisure; his pictures of the coast, with bathing machines and beach huts at Aldeburgh were next to pictures of coastal defences; his Still Lifes (Still Lives?) included a set of bomb disposal tools, and his many pictures of boats were paired with pictures of warships, leaving Scapa Flow, or in harbour in Norway. His apparently 'natural' views are all carefully composed, often as if made with a wide angle lens, and the gentle colours often contrast with the stark subject matters.
Our only disappointment was the limited selection of postcards in the shop, given that we can't have the pictures themselves. We also thought (as we so often do at special exhibitions) that we could have gone to the Imperial War Museum, or elsewhere, any day of the week to see these amazing watercolours, drawings and engravings. In fact I met a lady on the bus afterwards who had been pleased to see the work that lives in her home gallery in Aberdeen.
We then had a quick look around the impressive permanent collection of the Gallery. We have to say that after the clean lines and crisp observation of Ravilious, we found the old masters less alluring than we might otherwise have done. There was a room full of Dutch 16th and 17th century rustic scenes, with cows, shepherds and such, and including a couple of Cuyps. We then saw a pair of paintings by the 18th century Tilly Kettle. I naively thought this might be a female artist, but he was a man, normally making his living by working amongst the expats in India.
An area full of Rubenses reminded us (as does watching any film with Marilyn Monroe, incidentally) that there was a time when being a beautiful woman did NOT entail a stick insect shape: some of these Graces and Goddesses were, to say the least, chubby.
We very much admired the Rembrandts, including a picture of a girl at a window, as well as one of his son Titus as a young man. The gallery has a number of van der Veldes and Ruisdaels as well: clearly the various collectors and benefactors liked Dutch paintings.
We enjoyed watching a couple of charming Primary School groups behaving impeccably. The whole school seemed to have arrived, since some were in the education area, some looking round and some being shown interesting details by the in-house educators.
We noted a couple of small Raphaels, and some Veronese too, but perhaps the most enjoyable pictures were some by Murillo, small boys and a girl with flowers: a pleasure because they were glowing and easily visible, unlike the in-need-of-a-clean Murillo works we had squinted at a couple of weeks ago at Apsley House
All in all, it is a remarkable collection, and we enjoyed it a great deal; but as we headed off, it was the Raviliouses which glowed in our minds. Do go if you possibly can.
Oh yes, and their next special exhibition will be about Escher, so that will merit a revisit.