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Exhibitions at the National Gallery 2011

Issued July 2010

Bridget Riley: Paintings and Related Work

24 November 2010 – 22 May 2011
Sunley Room
Admission free

Sponsored by Bloomberg

Bridget Riley (b. 1931) is one of the most significant and original painters of our time. This Sunley Room exhibition focuses on her most recent paintings and will enable visitors to investigate how Riley’s work relates to the National Gallery Collection.

Two of the artist’s works will be made directly onto the walls of the exhibition space. 'Composition with Circles 7' is a wall-drawing that Riley and her studio will create especially for the longest wall of the Sunley Room. A version of her wall-painting 'Arcadia' will also be on view, which was last seen at Riley’s major retrospective exhibition of 2008 at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris. At the National Gallery the painting will be recreated on a larger scale to relate better with the space.

While committed to abstraction, Riley has always had a deep interest in the Old Masters, looking at and learning their uses of colour, line and composition. The National Gallery has long held a special place in Riley’s imagination: one of her first endeavours as an emerging artist was to copy the Gallery’s 'Portrait of a Man (Self Portrait?)' (1433) by Jan van Eyck. Riley’s copy forms part of the exhibition and highlights that for her the past is not cut off from the present but is rather a live source of inspiration. At her request, two paintings from the Gallery’s collection will be included in the show: Mantegna’s 'Introduction of the Cult of Cybele to Rome' (1505–6) and Raphael’s 'Saint Catherine of Alexandria' (about 1507).

The elegant serpentine forms of Raphael’s saint and the dynamic processional rhythms of the Mantegna provide a historical precedent to Riley’s most recent large-scale works on canvas. Examples of these paintings, which have introduced exciting new curvilinear rhythms and movements into her work, will also be exhibited, together with some of her earlier work and a selection of works on paper that will help visitors to understand her development and working process. An accompanying film will be shown in the Sunley Room cinema, in which Bridget Riley will discuss her lifelong artistic relationship with the National Gallery’s collection.

Major exhibition

Jan Gossaert's Renaissance

23 February – 30 May 2011
Sainsbury Wing
Admission charge

Jan Gossaert, a native of Flanders (active 1503; died 1532), was one of the most startling and accomplished artists of the Northern Renaissance. Working for wealthy and extravagant members of the Burgundian court in the Low Countries in the first three decades of the 16th century, he was especially noted for his sensuous nudes painted to evoke the sheen of marble and his stunning illusionistic portraits in which he plays intriguing spatial games.

The first Northern artist to draw directly from antiquity in Italy during a visit to Rome in 1508–9, Gossaert was nonetheless a peerless exponent of the illusionistic properties of oil paint as practised by his countrymen from Jan van Eyck (active 1422; died 1441)  onwards.

'Jan Gossaert’s Renaissance 'is the first exhibition dedicated to the artist for over 40 years, and presents the results of a complete re-examination of his work, including new technical discoveries. The exhibition features over 50 works, including many of the artist’s most important paintings ('Virgin and Child', 1527, Prado, Madrid; 'Hercules and Deianeira', 1517, Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham), drawings and contemporaneous sculptures of the Northern Renaissance.

The National Gallery has one of the largest and finest collections of Gossaert’s paintings in the world – a highlight being 'The Adoration of the Kings' (1510–15) – and the exhibition allows them to be set in the context of the full range of the artist’s work, from the fruits of his early visit to Rome to the unusually erotic presentation of the nude in his Adam and Eve series.

The exhibition is organised by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (where it is on display from 5 October 2010 to 17 January 2011) and the National Gallery, London.

The exhibition is supported by the Flemish Government. 

Forests, Rocks and Torrents: Norwegian and Swiss Landscapes from the Lunde Collection

22 June – 18 September 2011
Sunley Room
Admission free

This landmark exhibition will display what is arguably one of the most complete collections of 19th-century Norwegian and Swiss landscape paintings outside their respective nations. The exhibition will introduce a British audience, well aware of its own considerable landscape tradition including the work of Constable and Turner, to skilled and innovative practitioners of landscape from the same period who enjoyed great reputations elsewhere in Europe.

The 45 works displayed demonstrate the similarities of the Norwegian and Swiss traditions, but also the differences that climate, character, national temperament and political regimes impose on art. Norway was engaged in a long struggle for freedom from Sweden and was poor, isolated and dependent for survival on its natural resources; Switzerland had been proudly independent for centuries and was prosperous, cosmopolitan and an early centre of industry. How, the exhibition asks, are these realities implicated in their respective painting traditions?

The exhibition includes works by Johan Christian Dahl, who, in a sense, invented Norwegian landscape painting; his student Thomas Fearnley; and Alexandre Calame, the father of the Swiss tradition. It aims to expand our understanding of the vital role national landscape painting played in European culture 150 years ago.

Asbjørn Lunde, an American of Norwegian extraction, has spent some 40 years as a distinguished art collector in several fields. Nowhere else can Norwegian and Swiss landscape painting be compared so directly and in such depth as in his collection that will be on show at the National Gallery.

Devotion by Design: Italian Altarpieces before 1500

6 July – 2 October 2011
Sainsbury Wing
Admission free

As part of the programme of summer shows drawn from the National Gallery’s permanent collection, 'Devotion by Design' explores the function, the original location and the development of Italian altarpieces during the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance.

These objects furnished altars in churches and were not originally intended to hang in a gallery as we see them today. Instead, they were created for a specific sacred context, forming the focus of devotion for worshippers. Using the Gallery’s own collection of altarpieces, this exhibition investigates their formal, stylistic and typological development by examining not only the evolution of their physical structure but also their relationship to their frames and to the monumental architecture that surrounded them.

A small section of 'Devotion by Design 'will be dedicated to altarpiece fragments, explaining the role different elements of altarpieces played in the overall ensemble. The exhibition examines the reasons why altarpieces came to be dismembered (often with the dissolution of religious institutions in the 18th and 19th centuries) and the methods that art historians now use to reassemble them.

'Devotion by Design' showcases altarpieces by well-known artists such as Piero della Francesca, but includes many which are less familiar. It revisits works in the National Gallery Collection in a fresh and innovative light, drawing on the wealth of scholarship undertaken in this field in recent years.

Art for the Nation: Sir Charles Eastlake at the National Gallery

27 July – 30 October 2011
Room 1
Admission free

This exhibition illuminates the life and work of the Gallery’s first director, Sir Charles Lock Eastlake (1793–1865), a man described by one contemporary as ‘the Alpha and Omega’ of the Victorian art world.

Eastlake was trained as an historical painter and initially had ambitions to revivify the English school of painting. Having spent his formative years in Rome, where he developed ideas about the practice and theory of painting, he returned to London in 1830. He first made his mark as a painter of genre scenes, idealising portraits and religious subjects. He was elected President of the Royal Academy in 1850, and helped modernise the institution. Yet Eastlake’s most important contributions came as a writer,
translating and editing seminal art-historical texts, and as an arts administrator, in which capacity he rose to become Director of the National Gallery from 1855 to 1865.

During this time he transformed the running of the Gallery and established policies for the acquisition and display of paintings, many of which are still in place today. His purchase of an astonishing 139 masterpieces, mostly acquired during his annual continental tours, include some of the Gallery’s best-loved Italian Renaissance pictures, such as Piero della Francesca’s 'Baptism of Christ' (1450s, pictured) and Raphael’s 'Garvagh Madonna '(about 1509–10). The exhibition features material from the National Gallery’s archive shown alongside some of Eastlake’s key acquisitions for the collection.

'Art for the Nation' coincides with the publication of Eastlake’s travel notebooks to mark the centenary of the Walpole Society, and a biography of Eastlake and his wife, in which their lives and work are reassessed. The latter is co-authored by Dr Susanna Avery-Quash, Research Curator in the History of Collecting at the National Gallery, and Dr Julie Sheldon, Reader in Art History at Liverpool John Moores University.

Major Exhibition

Leonardo Da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan

9 November 2011 – 5 February 2012
Sainsbury Wing and Sunley Room
Admission charge

Sponsored by Credit Suisse

'Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan' is the most complete display of Leonardo’s rare surviving paintings ever held. This unprecedented exhibition – the first of its kind anywhere in the world – brings together sensational international loans never before seen in the UK, including 'La Belle Ferronière' (Musée du Louvre, Paris), the 'Madonna Litta' (Hermitage, Saint Petersburg) and 'Saint Jerome' (Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome).

While numerous exhibitions have looked at Leonardo da Vinci as an inventor, scientist or draughtsman, this is the first to be dedicated to his aims and techniques as a painter. Inspired by the recently restored National Gallery painting, 'The Virgin of the Rocks', this exhibition focuses on Leonardo as an artist and in particular on the work he produced during his career as court painter to Duke Lodovico Sforza in Milan in the late 1480s and 1490s.

Benefiting from his salaried position, Leonardo had the freedom to explore ways of perceiving and recording human proportion, expression and anatomy and the myriad forms of plants and animals. These investigations fed into his extraordinary paintings: marvellous combinations of the real and the ideal, the natural and the divine.

Featuring the finest paintings and drawings by Leonardo and his followers, the exhibition examines Leonardo’s pursuit for perfection in his representation of the human form. As a painter, he aimed to convince viewers of the reality of what they were seeing while still aspiring to create ideals of beauty – particularly in his exquisite portraits – and, in his religious works, to convey a sense of awe-inspiring mystery.

The final part of the exhibition features a near-contemporary, full-scale copy of Leonardo’s famous 'Last Supper', on loan from the Royal Academy. Seen alongside all the surviving preparatory drawings made by Leonardo for the 'Last Supper', visitors will discover how such a large-scale painting was designed and executed.

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