Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Impressions and Revelations

Today I went to the Impressionist Interiors exhibition at the National Gallery, running until 10 August 2008. It is a small exhibition, intimate, as its subject suggest but it loses nothing for this. When we think of the impressionists it is true to say that we are very used to exteriors, plein air techniques, effects of light on water, Waterloo Bridge by Monet, or the façade of Rouen cathedral. We do not immediately think of interiors, which is why this is a welcome opportunity to reflect. The exhibition is well curated, it is small (only 44 works), judiciously selected. Startling and strange is Gaughin's Interior of the Painter's House, rue Carcel; and the Morisot portraits are just marvellous, delicate and telling and sophisticated. While in the NGI, I took a quick whizz around the Revelation exhibition in the Print Gallery and it was excellent (runs until 28 September 2008). On display are twenty-nine commissioned works from the Graphic Studio alongside some other pieces in the print collection. It is small, possible to take in in a quick visit and well worth it. One of my favourites is Brian Lalor's Glendalough print.

With printing on the brain, I headed across town to the Chester Beatty Library to see Rembrandt: Etchings from the Rembrandthuis, Amsterdam. I was not disappointed. Rembrandt's prints have always fascinated me, and again this is one of those small and intimate exhibitions with not many pieces. This is just as well because once you start to look at them you get completely lost in the impossible lines and could spend the whole day there. Highlights include the famous Hundred Guilder Print, depicting Christ in a gesture of benediction, indicating to a woman and child to come forward. It is a dramatic composition, complex and rich. The figures on the left are brightly illuminated, over-illuminated really, and apparently it has been suggested that this part of the print was unfinished. However, Rembrandt sold the print as it is, so if it wasn't finished, he was happy with it. The title refers to the price of the print when it went on the market originally: it was highly prized by collectors immediately and apparently Rembrandt had to pay 100 guilders to buy a copy back. Fascinating too in this exhibition are all the prints that were subsequently tinkered with and 'improved', as well as the very interesting print work of Capt. William Baillie (1723-1810). Go.

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