Azara Blog: Palmer, Persia and Rousseau exhibitions in London

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Date published: 2006/01/04

As usual, lots of nice exhibitions are on in London. At the British Museum there are two exhibitions that are soon to finish. One (finishing 22 January) is on the nineteenth century British painter, Samuel Palmer. (The exhibition will then go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.) Palmer was a wunderkind (exhibiting at the Royal Academy Summer Show at age 14), but in his lifetime (and since) never seemed to reach superstar status, perhaps because much of his work veered a bit too much to the "chocolate box" variety. But this retrospective shows a good collection of his work and is worth seeing.

Also on at the British Museum is an exhibition on ancient Persia entitled "Forgotten Empire" (finishing 8 January). Not surprisingly, this mainly contains artifacts from the British Museum itself, although there are also significant pieces from both the Louvre and the National Museum of Iran (so it's good to know that in the world of culture there are some worthy relationships between the UK and Iran, even as the leader of the former seems to want to edge towards war and the leader of the latter just seems to be an out and out nutter). Unfortunately this exhibition had poor signage which often made it difficult to figure out what was what. And the cramped space with the large crowd did not help.

Meanwhile at Tate Modern there is an exhibition of work by Henri Rousseau (finishing at the Tate on 5 February, followed by stints at the Grand Palais in Paris and the National Gallery of Art in Washington). Apparently Rousseau did not really start painting in a big way until he was in his 40s, and was mainly self-taught. So there is hope for everyone. But this is also probably why his work is so naive. Of course his most famous pieces are his "jungle" ones, and the exhibition had a good selection of those. But the exhibition also had many of his more pedestrian (one would say "suburban") paintings, and if it were only for those he would not be remembered at all. The one "non-jungle" painting of note was called "War". It was in definite Rousseau style, and just showed a generic battle scene with dead men everywhere. Of most note is the wild-haired woman riding bareback on a horse, which dominates the scene, with the horse being a worthy precursor of Picasso's Guernica horse.

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