Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Early work

We went to the Courtauld Gallery in London on Monday.  I haven't seen the collection in a long time and my son had never seen it.  There is a lot of work there, but not so much that it becomes overwhelming.  Somerset House is worth the visit on its own, with its terrace overlooking the Thames (although the Embankment has robbed it of its river frontage and the river gate it once had is now redundant).  It is a reminder of the time when this stretch of the river was home to great mansions and the river was vital for transport.

More and more, when I visit galleries with a mixed collection like this, I find myself detained longest by the early work.  Admittedly, some of that interest comes from a patina accrued by age and damage, a texture and distressed surface never intended by the artist, but often I just find the imagery and the way in which the image is designed, more appealing.  I love the restraint and stillness in Renaissance - especially Northern Renaissance - portraiture.  Above all, I think I admire the clarity.  It is the opposite of what we have come to accept as 'painterly', but all that shows is how restrictive and biased that term is.

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