sun 09/08/2020

Visual Arts Reviews

Camille Silvy: Photographer of Modern Life, 1834-1910, National Portrait Gallery

Judith Flanders

Camille Silvy may be the least recognised of all the great photographic innovators of the 19th century. After a decade of almost ceaseless technical innovation, and astonishing output as the society portrait-photographer of the 1860s, he abruptly closed his London studio, aged only 34, returned to France, and, after a brief stint in the garde mobile in the Franco-Prussian War, spent much of the rest of his life in and out of asylums.

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Sargent and the Sea, Royal Academy

Fisun Güner

There’s a little-known side to the 19th-century American artist John Singer Sargent, and it is as far removed from the razzle-dazzle of his glittering career as a high-society portraitist as you can imagine. The artist who was famously described by Rodin as “the Van Dyck of our times” started his career emulating that great master of the seas, J M W Turner. He diligently honed his craft by painting dramatic seascapes, gentle coastlines and noble fishing folk. And if the 20-year-old Sargent...

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Paula Rego: Oratoria, Marlborough Fine Art

Sarah Kent Paula Rego: 'scenes of debauchery given a carnivalesque air'

I must admit that I enjoy killing things and, since the target of my murderous instincts are clothes moths, fruit flies and, occasionally, rats or mice, society condones my bloodthirsty instincts. But while I get some satisfaction from my exploits, the women in Paula Rego’s drawings and prints appear to go about their murderous business with a mixture of resignation and detachment. These things have to be done, their world-weary faces seem to say, let’s expedite them with as little fuss as...

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The The Things Is (For Three), Milton Keynes Gallery

Mark Hudson '1... 2': Has this artist chosen anonymity out of protest, or is it an act of suicidal perversity?

It’s not often you find yourself in an art gallery with the business end of a bullwhip whizzing inches from your nose. Wielded by a disconcertingly slight, black-haired woman who can barely be half its length, the terrifying instrument defines the dimly lit space with its whirling undulations and earsplitting crack, sending the gaggle of spectators cowering into adjacent rooms. Why there is also a grand piano present is probably only entirely known to the unnamed artist who brought this...

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Alice Neel: Painted Truths, Whitechapel Gallery

Fisun Güner

What a troubled life Alice Neel led.

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Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries, National Gallery

Judith Flanders 'Dead Soldier' by an unknown 17th century artist was once thought to be a Velázquez

When is a fake a forgery? When is it a mistake? And when is it simply not what it appears? The National Gallery’s second summer exhibition to focus on its own collection here examines the questions of attribution, using the latest scientific resources to back up – or contradict – tradition, connoisseurship and curatorial decisions, good and bad. The gallery is putting its own mistakes on show, and over the 170-plus years of its existence, there have been more than a few.

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BP Portrait Award 2010, National Portrait Gallery

Fisun Güner 'Lila Pearl' by Thea Penna: 'a disarming and entirely empathetic portrait'

Last month, the National Portrait Gallery unveiled a huge, new portrait of Anna Wintour. Painted by Alex Katz, the celebrated New York Pop portraitist, American Vogue’s scary editor-in-chief is shown with famous helmet bob intact, but minus her trademark dark glasses. The picture depicts Wintour, whose icy blue stare could run a chill through you (she's known as Nuclear Wintour), against a sunny yellow backdrop –  which looks like an attempt to raise the temperature of that...

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Sally Mann: The Family and the Land, Photographers' Gallery

Sarah Kent 'At Warm Springs' from Mann's controversial series Immediate Family

Last week I watched a tiny tot being photographed by her father, on a beach in southern Turkey. There was no girlish giggling or splashing about in the sea; rather than a show of carefree happiness, she delivered a studied pose. She assumed an expression of supreme indifference and, with hand on hip and weight on one leg, twisted her body into a seductive coil. The four-year-old was imitating a supermodel! I didn’t see the pictures, of course, but I would still classify this kind of premature...

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Wolfgang Tillmans, Serpentine Gallery

Judith Flanders

It takes a lot of work to make a show look as unconsidered and chaotic as this one: thought and care and time and attention all have to be paid before something so random can be achieved. But as so often with Tillmans, the nagging questions persist: is randomness, are the offhand and the casual, valid as ends in themselves? Because Tillman’s über-hip affectless cool has become very tiresome indeed. Even worse, it’s becoming predictable and dull.

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Imagine: Art is Child's Play, BBC One

Fisun Güner

It took Picasso four years to learn to paint like Raphael, but it took him a lifetime to paint like a child, or so he said. For Brancusi it wasn‘t a case of relearning childhood, but of being careful not to lose it in the first place. “When we are no longer children we are already dead,” he said.

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