Posts made in April, 2018

Art as Truth – really?

Posted by on Apr 9, 2018 in Discussion | 0 comments

Art as Truth – really?

Going to the King and Collector Exhibition made me think again about the idea that art is a truthful  occupation. Not invariably I would say. Sometimes it can be a way of constructing a very deceptive front.   King Charles I’s own collection of artwork, commissioned by him, conjured up an image of a rich, peaceful kingdom governed by a serene monarch. Nothing in fact, could be further from the truth. A bitter civil war was in prospect or actually taking place during reign, he was a poor ruler and constantly raising money for ill-thought out campaigns. If we had only his private art collection we would consider his time on the throne to be serene, surrounded by a beautiful and accomplished wife and attractive children, the landscape untroubled by any  clouds of foreboding.  It reminded me of the uses of social media, where by posting appropriate photographs and texts a ‘curated’ life can be presented which is very much at odds with reality. One which can elevate social position and standing or be of use in ‘networking.’ Ultimately things ended very badly for Charles I – his death was violent and horrible. I wondered whether he had ever considered the possibility that his actions were stirring up such hatred and anger.  I have even read some articles that have drawn parallels between Brexit and the Civil War, there are a few about by historians and journalists  and there certainly seem to be some similarities – though I obviously hope they stop at voting patterns and strength of feeling, and that we are able to settle differences more peacefully. The repercussions are likely to be as long-lived.  The three pictures in one portrait of Charles I were meant to help Bernini create an accurate sculpture of the king – even to have a sculpture made required the permission of the Pope. I guess they had a very clear understanding of the powerful impact of image....

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Textiles and prints : King and Collector exhibition at the RA

Posted by on Apr 7, 2018 in Discussion | 0 comments

Charles King and Collector  – Exhibition at RA I visited the wonderful and thought-provoking exhibition of the royal art collection of Charles I, soon to end at the Royal Academy, much of it reunited for the first time since the sale of the collection after the King’s death. A good way to see beautiful art and brush up (or learn) history. It was surely a seismic event for the king to be beheaded and then, only eleven years later, for the new king to be installed, the monarchy restored, yet now this tumultuous and painful period in history can be summed up in a couple of lines. Would his older brother Henry – apparently ‘brilliant’ and ‘charismatic’ have made a better fist of things?  Charles I was  a weak and capricious king – now it’s hard to understand how he could be so consistently dim and utterly incompetent, endlessly provoking Parliament unnecessarily. The Duke of Buckingham seemed to be able to make crass mistake after crass mistake without the king realising what a liability he was. George Villiers (named in a number of roads round London) was eventually assassinated. Whatever his limitations as a king, Charles had  a deep appreciation of art and had a sophisticated strategy to collect great pieces. He was inspired by a visit to the Court of Spain during some protracted and ultimately futile marriage negotiations, to emulate his host and start collecting in earnest. He then took on professional advisers and bought discerningly and well.  Charles’  collection ranged from tapestries to miniatures. There are some wonderful Hans Holbein portraits  – drawings and paintings. The faces are full of character and individuality,  you feel they could easily break into speech and possibly have life beyond the paper or wood.   Charles was well served by his court painter, Anthony van Dyck. There is not even a hint that things were not well with the monarch and his realm from the serenity of the paintings. It was sad to see that Van Dyck died so young – his last self-portrait again betrayed nothing of the nearness of his death – he looked carefree and healthy. He clearly had an eye for the commercial (good for him) and focused on portraiture because it was so much better paid than, for example, printmaking. Apparently his plates were used and copied for many years after his death. Like all blockbusters, the exhibition was quite crowded but the size of the rooms at the RA lessens the impact of this and enable the huge pieces – like the Mantegna ‘Triumph of Caesar’ – to be shown in a way that trumpets their magnificence.  Go quickly – it ends soon.     ...

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