The exhibition draws on the Royal Academy’s Collection to underpin the shift in landscape painting during the 18th and 19th centuries. From Founder Member Thomas Gainsborough and his contemporaries Richard Wilson and Paul Sandby, to JMW Turner and John Constable, these landscape painters addressed the changing meaning of ‘truth to nature’ and the discourses surrounding the Beautiful, the Sublime and the Picturesque.I was suffering from flu when it opened and then heard that it was disappointing so I'd not rushed to see it. I also avoid all exhibitions over the Christmas break as they are invariably impossibly crowded and hence a waste of time. However my other half was keen to see it and having got over the worst of my second bout of the nasty flu bug(!), we visited the exhibition this morning.
Now visiting an exhibition with the other half means I typically spend a lot less time looking at it which means I often go first and then again with him. He has very clear ideas of what he likes and what he doesn't like. Today I learned that what he does like is proper painting and colour and what he doesn't like is an awful lot of fairly dark engravings - even if they are of paintings by Turner!
|J.M.W. Turner, R.A. |
Norham Castle on the Tweed
1 January 1816
Etching and mezzotint, 17.80 x 26.0 cm
Photo credit: Â© Royal Academy of Arts, London
Many of the artworks in the exhibitions are engravings, etchings and mezzotints of works "after" paintings by artists other than those in the exhibition title. Important European artists such as Claude Lorrain, Salavator Rosa, and Poussin are represented - as are British landscape artists some of whome are better known - such as Richard wilson and Paul Sandby while others are much less well known - such as Michael Angelo Rooker.
If they'd called the exhibition just "The Making of the Landscape" I guess I might feel differently about the exhibition. As it was I found Gainsborough's contribution to be fairly negligible and I missed Turner's paintings of later years.
The star of the show for me was
John Constable - mainly because we had examples of his plein air oil studies as well as worked up studio works. That said, the show is a pale imitation of the Constable: The Great Landscapes exhibition at Tate Britain in 2006.
|John Constable, R.A.|
Cloud Study, Hampstead, Tree at Right
11 September 1821
24.10 x 29.90 cm, Oil on paper laid on board, red ground
Photo credit: © Royal Academy of Arts, London; Photographer: John Hammond
|John Constable R.A., |
The Leaping Horse, 1825
Oil on canvas, 142 x 187.3 cm
Photo: John Hammond © Royal Academy of Arts, London
One of the irritations of the exhibition were the display cases which were lined around the rooms and, in some cases, created traffic jams as being moved around the periphery. By way of contrast, there were cavernous empty spaces in the middle of the rooms which were ideal for such display cases. It would be nice to see display cases placed so they can be viewed from all angles rather than obstructing the view of artwork on the walls. It happens in other galleries so why not in the RA?
Finally, I'm not sure the narrative accompanying the artwork was as helpful as it could be. I think those unfamiliar with the development of landscape painting probably learned more from some of the reviews than they did from the words on the walls.
I'm listing the reviews below for those still undecided as to whether to visit this exhibition in its last week. I recommend you read between the lines.....
- The Finanical Times Natural selection By Jackie Wullschlager
This show is an unfair face-off between the two geniuses of British 19th-century art.
- The Guardian - Constable, Turner, Gainsborough and the Making of Landscape by Michael Prodger Provides the narrative not present in the exhibition. Always worth reading for the comments!
Where this exhibition seeks to differentiate itself is in looking at the role that prints played in popularising the genre and branding the painters.
- The Independent - Must see: Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape, Royal Academy of Arts, London W1 by Adrian Hamilton (who normally writes a column on international affairs!) Hyperventilating title precedes one of the shortest reviews on record.
- The Telegraph - Constable, Gainsborough, Turner, Royal Academy, review by Alastair Smart
Constable, Gainsborough, Turner at the Royal Academy is a thoughtful, yet frequently frustrating, exhibition about the rise of English landscape painting
- New York Times - Royal Academy Works Magic on a Shoestring in Landscape Show (Souren Melkian) - generally positive about what achieved within the constraints of the budget
- The Arts Desk - Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape, Royal Academy
oh for some marvellous bursts of painting to alleviate a seemingly endless procession of beautifully detailed and meticulous prints: they make their point – again and again.
- Nouse - Review: The Making of Landscape Rated 3 stars
- Trivial Pursuits - Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape
I enjoyed this exhibition, but if you’re heading there to marvel at great volumes of work and paintings by the three Masters, you will be disappointed, as one friend I went with announced: “that was the worst exhibition I’ve ever seen”.I'd have liked to read what Brian Sewell thought - but he hasn't written a review.