Azara Blog: China, Munch and Rubens exhibitions in London

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Date published: 2005/12/03

London again has lots of good exhibitions on. The most important one is probably "China: The Three Emperors: 1662-1795", about the early Qing dynasty, on now until 17 April 2006 at the Royal Academy. This contains an absolutely stunning collection of art from that period, including wonderful scrolls and wall hangings. A definite must see exhibition for anyone getting anywhere near London before the exhibition closes. In some ways it's amazing that this art still exists, and is in such great condition, having somehow survived some extreme regime changes. The Royal Academy must have friends in very high places in Beijing to have managed to get all this stuff out of China.

Also on at the Royal Academy, in its final days, is an exhibition of self-portraits by the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, almost all from the Munch Museum (Munch-museet) in Oslo. What a screwed up man Munch was, especially about women. And the overtly and overly sexual Madonna (1894-5) must have caused some commentary in the Church. But at least he could paint when he wanted to, and several of his self-portraits were quite good (generally the ones where he didn't drown too much in self-pity).

Meanwhile over at the National Gallery there is an exhibition (until 15 January 2006) of early Rubens work. This exhibition was surprisingly relatively quiet, you could actually see the paintings without having to stare over ten people. Perhaps Rubens is out of favour. Perhaps the National Gallery has not gotten its marketing act together. Perhaps the China exhibition at the RA is taking precedence. Perhaps there is so much Rubens around Europe that people do not get that excited by an exhibition of some of his work. (Indeed, the National Gallery has a large collection of their own, later, Rubens paintings in their main gallery.) Rubens has some problems with anatomy, but he is definitely a powerful painter.

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