Azara Blog: More art exhibitions in London

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Date published: 2007/01/07

As usual, the National Gallery in London has some good exhibitions on. Closing today is one entitled "Cézanne in Britain". Well Cézanne apparently never visited Britain, so this exhibition was not about paintings he made in Britain but rather about paintings he made that are held in collections in Britain. There were just over forty works in the exhibition and apparently that is just over half the total number held in Britain. The exhibition blurb promoted Cézanne as one of the world's favourite artists, which seems stretching the point a bit. About the best, and most famous, of the works on display was one version of the Card Players. Also of note were a couple of landscapes of Provence in the typical Cézanne style.

Finishing in two weeks, on 21 January, is the National Gallery's major exhibition on at the moment, on Velázquez. Of course the most important part of his works are in Spain (mostly at the Prado in Madrid) and the National Gallery somehow managed to get eleven works from there (eight from the Prado), out of the forty six on display. Now any exhibition on Velázquez could soon become a boring list of portraits of Philip IV (the king of Spain) and family. The National Gallery did a great job avoiding this potential pitfall, and the exhibition was truly magnificent, with a broad and interesting selection of work. And the catalogue is very good too. Unusually, the exhibition was not in the basement of the Sainsbury Wing but in part of the normal galleries. Presumably there would just not have been the space to do the exhibition justice in the Sainsbury Wing. As it was, the exhibition was fairly crowded, although never so bad as to make the viewing dreadful.

Instead of that exhibition, downstairs in the Sainsbury Wing was an exhibition entitled "From Manet to Picasso", on until 20 May. This is not a real exhibition in the normal sense of the word, but just the usual National Gallery collection of late 19th and early 20th century French paintings rearranged in this temporary location. (And there is no exhibition catalogue, just a book which shows about half the works, and also some other related works from the National Gallery collection.) The world's favourite painter is not Cézanne, it is Van Gogh, and the National Gallery has half a dozen of his works, and they were getting the most attention. But of course the National Gallery also has a good collection of Manet, Monet, Renoir, etc. In the four rooms of the exhibition there must have been over a billion pounds worth of paintings. And to think they let the general public just go in there and get so close.

Meanwhile over at the Royal Academy the place was pretty quiet now that the Rodin exhibition has finished and the next one has not yet taken its place. Up in the Sackler Gallery was an exhibition entitled "Chola: Sacred Bronzes of Southern India" (on until 25 February), which is enough of a minority interest not to by itself attract many visitors. And, although the bronzes are quite good (and many over a thousand years old), you would have to be a real enthusiast to get that worked up over this exhibition.

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