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Exhibitions at the National Gallery 2010

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Exhibitions at the National Gallery 2010 [PDF 239k – opens in a new window]


Text only (issued: July 2009)

Major Exhibition
Painting History: Delaroche and Lady Jane Grey
24 February – 23 May 2010
Sainsbury Wing
Admission charge

Paul Delaroche was one of the most famous French painters of the early 19th century, with his work receiving wide international acclaim during his lifetime. Today Delaroche is little known in the UK – the aim of this exhibition is to return attention to a major painter who fell from favour soon after his death. Delaroche specialised in large historical tableaux, frequently of scenes from English history, characterised by close attention to fine detail and often of a tragic nature. Themes of imprisonment, execution and martyrdom were of special interest to the French after the Revolution.

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey (National Gallery, London), Delaroche’s depiction of the 1554 death of the 17-year-old who had been Queen of England for just nine days, created a sensation when first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1834. Monumental in scale, poignant in subject matter and uncanny in its intense realism, it drew amazed crowds, as it still does today in London.

This exhibition will, for the first time in the UK, trace Delaroche’s career and allow this iconic painting to be seen in the context of the works which made his reputation, such as 'Marie Antoinette before the Tribunal' (1851, The Forbes Collection, New York). Together with preparatory and comparative prints and drawings for 'Lady Jane Grey' on loan from collections across Europe, it will explore the artist’s notion of theatricality and his ability to capture the psychological moment of greatest intensity which culminated in 'Lady Jane Grey'.

The exhibition will also demonstrate how French and British artists such as Cibot, ('Anne Boleyn at the Tower of London, immediately following her Arrest', 1835, Musée Rolin, Autun) continued to work in a manner directly inspired by Delaroche’s pioneering depiction of subjects from 16th-century history.

Christen Købke: Danish Master of Light
17 March–13 June 2010
Sunley Room
Admission free

This is the first monographic exhibition of paintings by Christen Købke (1810–1848) ever to be shown outside Denmark. Købke was a pre-eminent painter in his country and arguably one of the greatest talents of Denmark’s Golden Age. With the exception of one journey to Italy, he spent almost his entire life in and around the Citadel in Copenhagen, which was where he found the principal themes of his art.

The exhibition features around 40 of Købke’s most celebrated works, spanning a variety of genres, and includes landscape, portraits of many of his family and closest friends and charmingly oblique depictions of Danish national monuments.

Giving an overview of Købke’s achievement within its cultural context, the exhibition emphasises his exquisite originality and experimental outlook while focusing on the most innovative aspects of his work – including outdoor sketching, his fascination with painterly immediacy and treatment of light and atmosphere.

Købke’s work demonstrates his ability to endow ordinary people and places and simple motifs with a universal significance, creating a world in microcosm for the viewer. The exhibition is organised with the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, where it will follow from 5 July–3 October 2010.

Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries
Works from the National Gallery’s collection
30 June – 12 September 2010
Sainsbury Wing
Admission free

This exhibition explores the vital contributions of applied science and connoisseurship to the understanding of Old Master paintings in the National Gallery. A world leader in its field, the Gallery employs advanced techniques in scientific examination, conservation and art historical research to investigate the physical nature of paintings.

As part of this work, Gallery experts can uncover the true origins of paintings with disputed authorship or authenticity, ranging from straightforward period copies to modern forgeries. For instance, scientific analysis now confirms that a painting thought to be 15th-century when it was acquired in 1923 was actually created in the 20th century using materials not available in the 1400s and techniques intended to give the appearance of great age.

At points in the Gallery’s history, some works were enthusiastically acquired on mistaken attributions to iconic artists. As this exhibition demonstrates, advances in scholarship and technology can reveal the misunderstandings and preconceptions of earlier times. An Old Man in an Armchair entered the collection as a Rembrandt but is now attributed to an unidentified follower of the great master. Sophisticated analysis of the materials used and close study of the artist’s handling of paint indicate this work was created in Rembrandt’s studio but is not by his hand.

By carefully analysing pigments, brushstrokes and individual stylistic traits, experts can begin to understand complex studio practices, often involving the contribution of more than one artist in the completion of a single painting.

The Gallery also owns paintings that have previously been modified to satisfy changing tastes or interpretations. An anonymous portrait might be transformed into the image of a saint, or a risqué image might be sanitised to appeal to more conservative sensibilities. The exhibition additionally highlights important discoveries made as a result of cleaning and conservation, and presents a number of tantalising unsolved conundrums.

In addition to conundrums, copies and forgeries, the exhibition includes several fascinating examples in which scientific examination, conservation and art historical research have joined forces to raise the status of a painting.

This exhibition is supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Frederick Cayley Robinson: Acts of Mercy
14 July – 17 October 2010
Sunley Room
Admission free

Frederick Cayley Robinson (1862–1927) is one of the most distinctive and yet elusive British painters of the early 20th century. Essentially a British Symbolist, Robinson created a striking variety of mood and atmosphere in his paintings to evoke complex emotional responses.

Executed between 1915 and 1920, Cayley Robinson’s masterpiece, 'Acts of Mercy', comprises four large-scale allegorical works commissioned to adorn the new Middlesex Hospital, rebuilt 1928–1935. Combining modernity with tradition to remarkable effect, the artist emulates the spiritual integrity and methods of artists encountered in the National Gallery, such as Piero della Francesca, Botticelli, Giotto and Michelangelo.

The four paintings form two pairs, titled ‘Doctor’ and ‘Orphans’. In the former, one panel represents the traumatic effects of conflict on patients sent back from the First World War. Wounded soldiers and sailors gather in silence at the entrance to a hospital, juxtaposed by the looming presence of an equestrian martial statue. In its companion piece, a doctor is thanked by a kneeling mother – echoing traditional images of the Adoration or Crucifixion – and the daughter he has treated.

The panels titled ‘Orphans’ depict the refectory of an orphanage, under the patronage of the hospital. In one picture, girls sit at a table reminiscent of Leonardo’s Last Supper, while their stillness and steady gazes recall Dutch 17th-century painting.

Taking the form of a modern allegory or history painting, 'Acts of Mercy' memorably explores the positive forces of the human spirit in the face of destruction. All four works were displayed in the entrance hall of Middlesex Hospital until 2007. Subsequently purchased by the Wellcome Trust, they are usually on public display in the Wellcome Library in Euston.

Frederick Cayley Robinson: Acts of Mercy is a National Gallery Sunley Room exhibition created in collaboration with Tate Britain.

Major Exhibition
Venice: Canaletto and his Rivals
13 October 2010 – 16 January 2011
Sainsbury Wing
Admission charge

This exhibition presents the finest assembly of Venetian views, by Canaletto and all the major practitioners of the genre, to be held since the much-celebrated display in Venice in 1967. Remarkably, considering the dominant role of British patronage in this art form, 'Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals' is also the first exhibition of its kind to be organised in the UK.

Bringing together approximately 55 major loans from public and private collections of the UK, Europe and North America, the exhibition highlights the rich variety of Venetian view painting, representing Canaletto alongside major rivals such as Luca Carlevarijs, Gaspar van Witell, Michele Marieschi, Bernardo Bellotto, and Francesco Guardi. Also represented are less well-known painters such as Antonio Joli, Pietro Bellotti, Francesco Tironi and Giambattista Cimaroli, each responding to the market driven largely by the British Grand Tour.

Featured works span the 18th century, from the first accurately datable Venetian view by Luca Carlevarijs in 1703 to the death of Francesco Guardi in 1793 and Napoleon’s invasion and the fall of the Republic in 1797. In each room, major works by Canaletto are juxtaposed by those of his rivals and associates, to demonstrate their different approaches to the same or similar views of the city.

The exhibition features many of Canaletto’s greatest masterpieces, including 'The Riva degli Schiavoni, looking West', 1736 (Sir John Soane’s Museum, London), The Stonemason’s Yard, 1727–28 (The National Gallery, London), and four of the finest works from the Royal Collection.

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