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The National Gallery 2020 spring and summer exhibitions

Issued December 2019

Room 1:

Sin

15 April – 5 July 2020
Admission free

 

Conversations with God: Copernicus by Jan Matejko
29 July – 15 November 2020

Admission free

 

Sin

15 April – 5 July 2020

Room 1

Admission free

 

The first exhibition in the UK exploring sin in art will be staged at the National Gallery next spring.

 

'Sin' will bring together paintings from across the National Gallery’s collection with modern and contemporary works by Andy Warhol, Tracey Emin, and Ron Mueck.

 

 

Image: Bronzino, 'An Allegory with Venus and Cupid', about 1545

Sin is defined universally as a regrettable fault, offence or omission, which everyone can relate to. It is a concept that pervades human life and history. Although sin’s origins lie far further back, Christianity considers sin a transgression against divine law. Many of the world’s major religions have similar concepts.

'Sin' will provoke people to think about their own definition of sin, and explores this problematic and ambiguous concept through art. It will show how sin is fundamental to our visual culture, and permeates our lives. An idea of sin is universal, yet its specifics are highly personal.

Even a brief walk through the Gallery confirms that sin is an omnipresent theme in the history of art, but that its story has never been coherently told. In its broadest sense, sin has been on artists’ minds almost continuously. 'Sin' brings together paintings that explicitly explore complex theological ideas – the story of Adam and Eve and the fall of man, to ideas of Original Sin, redemption, atonement, the seven deadly sins, the Immaculate Conception, and confession – but also implicit depictions of ‘sinful’ everyday behaviour that blur the boundaries between religious and secular art.

Sin will include paintings by Jan Breughel the Elder, Hogarth, Gossaert, Velázquez, Jan Steen, Bronzino, Holman Hunt, and the Gallery’s recently acquired Venus and Cupid by Lucas Cranach the Elder.

Conversations with God: Copernicus by Jan Matejko

29 July – 15 November 2020

Room 1
Admission free

A 10-foot picture of the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, sitting awestruck on a rooftop against a starry sky, by the 19th-century painter Jan Matejko, will make a rare visit to the National Gallery next summer, the first time it will ever have been seen in the UK.

The large painting, which rarely leaves its home in the senate chamber of the Jagiellonian University, Kraków, will be part of a new exhibition introducing many visitors to the work of Jan Matejko (1838–1893). Despite being largely unknown outside his homeland, this highly original and distinctive artist is widely regarded as the national painter of Poland.

 

Image: Jan Matejko, 'The Astronomer Copernicus. Conversations with God', 1873; Jagiellonian University, Kraków © Photo courtesy the owner

Matejko, (pronounced Ma – tay – coe), is revered by fellow Poles for his huge, teeming, minutely detailed depictions of key moments in their nation's history. This work celebrates the achievements of Copernicus (1473–1543), the first astronomer since the ancient Greeks to realise that the sun rather than the earth stands at the centre of our planetary system and that we rotate around it.

The monumental canvas was painted to mark the 400th anniversary of the astronomer’s birth in 1873. Rather than depicting Copernicus at the moment of his discovery of heliocentrism - his chart of the heavens is already there by his side - Matejko chose to paint him on a rooftop in his home town of Frombork discussing the matter with God. Unlike Galileo, some 73 years later, who reached similar conclusions but who alienated the Catholic Church, Copernicus was never excommunicated for challenging the Deity; indeed, enlightened clerics of the day celebrated his breakthrough.

The exhibition will include a copy of Copernicus’s 'De revolutionibus orbium coelestium', published in 1543, which marked a turning point in human understanding of our place in the universe, together with early photographs of the night sky of a kind that influenced the artist in his luminous depiction of a starry night, 16 years before Van Gogh’s 'The Starry Night' (The Museum of Modern Art, New York).


For further information and images please contact the National Gallery Press Office on 020 7747 2865 or email press@ng-london.org.uk