fri 24/01/2020

Visual Arts Reviews

Best of 2019: Visual Arts

Florence Hallett

Notable anniversaries provided the ballast for this year’s raft of exhibitions; none was dead weight, though, with shows dedicated to Rembrandt, Leonardo and...

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Caravaggio & Bernini, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna - high emotion in 17th century Rome

Florence Hallett

It doesn’t matter where you stand, whether you crouch, or teeter on tiptoe: looking into the eyes of Bernini’s Medusa, 1638-40, is impossible. The attempt is peculiarly exhilarating, a game of dare made simultaneously tantalising and absurd by the sculpture’s evident stoniness.

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Dora Maar, Tate Modern review - how women disappear

Katherine Waters

In one of Dora Maar’s best known images, a fashion photograph from 1935 (pictured below), a woman wearing a backless, sparkly evening gown appears to be making her way backstage through a proscenium’s drapes. The star of the show exits the limelight, cheekily concealing her face behind a six-pointed star snatched, maybe, from the star-spangled scenery.

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Eco-Visionaries, Royal Academy review - wakey, wakey!

Sarah Kent

As I write, I’m listening to Clara Rockmore intoning The Swan by Saint-Saëns. Her melancholy humming also welcomes you to Eco-Visionaries along with a globe suspended in the cloudy waters of a polluted fish tank. This simple installation by artist duo HeHe neatly pinpoints our predicament; our planet is suffocating.

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Charlotte Salomon: Life? or Theatre?, Jewish Museum London review - rallying against death

Katherine Waters

For a loved one to die by suicide provokes both pain and hurt. Pain, because they are gone. Hurt, because it can feel like an indictment or a betrayal. For Charlotte Salomon, the suicides that ripped holes in her family were also foreshadowings which provided the structure for her monumental cycle of narrative paintings Leben? oder Theater? (Life?

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Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh, Saatchi Gallery review - worth its weight?

Katherine Waters

In 1922 Hussein Abdel-Rassoul, a water boy with Howard Carter’s archaeological dig in the Valley of the Kings, accidentally uncovered a step in the sand. It proved to be the breakthrough for which Carter, on the hunt for the final resting place of King Tutankhamun, was looking.

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George Stubbs: 'all done from Nature', MK Gallery review - a glorious menagerie

Katherine Waters

Artist George Stubbs liked horses. The MK Gallery’s exhibition “all done from Nature” will try to convince you that he also cared about people. He did, to an extent; the commissions came that way. But about half way through the exhibition, the diminutive Study for Three Hunters and Two Grooms Waiting in a Stable-Yard, 1765-70, gives pause for thought.

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Lucian Freud: The Self-Portraits, Royal Academy review - mesmerising intensity

Sarah Kent

Lucian Freud died in 2011 after a career spanning some 70 odd years. Over the decades, he painted and drew himself repeatedly, creating a fascinating portrait of a man who spent an inordinate amount of time scrutinising himself and others.

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Bridget Riley, Hayward Gallery review - the thrill of seeing

Florence Hallett

“People collect diamonds because they sparkle; or they sit on a bench in Cornwall and look out to sea”. At the Hayward Gallery for the opening of her retrospective, Bridget Riley speaks of such uncomplicated pleasures with evident delight.

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Pre-Raphaelite Sisters, National Portrait Gallery review – a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes

Sarah Kent

Focusing on twelve women who played a key role in the lives of Pre-Raphaelite painters like Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt, this timely exhibition begins with a whimper and ends with a bang. First up at the National Portrait Gallery is Effie Gray whose marriage to art critic, John Ruskin was annulled after six years for non-consummation.

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