Hello friends, Firstly I wanted to apologise how late this post was published. I intended to post it live much earlier than anticipated, in-between travelling to Kent and Leicester I fell ill twice!
So I do sincerely hope you like this new format and illustrated exhibition review.
I was invited to the Bloggers Evening view of Rubens and his Legacy at the Royal Academy and I want to share my thoughts of the exhibition with you.
I’ve never had seen much of Rubens’ work for myself beyond the BBC4 Documentaries and Art Encyclopedias.
When I saw his works of art, albeit via online and in articles, I loved his painting of the flesh. The gorgeous flesh of the curves of the female body we now call ‘Rubenesque.’
It’s not surprising that I admire Rubens’ ideal female figure, is it? I can relate to it. If you have seen me in the flesh, I have a tall and curvaceous physique.
I am honest to say, all I know of Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
is of his paintings of naked ladies, strong men and his large-scale religious depictions.
This exhibition, Rubens and His Legacy, at the Royal Academy of Art was an opportunity to know more about the talented painter who I so admire. (Yes, for painting full bodies ladies).
Not only that, one of my passions in illustrations is drawing people and figures. Rubens’ is renowned for dynamic compositions, forcing your attention to the chaos of war and orgies.
One of the first paintings I noticed was Constable’s landscapes. The first room introduced me to the exhibition fierce fully reminds me that this is equally Rubens’ and the legacy he has left for artists; four centuries after his death.
The exhibition is divided into six themes: Poetry, Elegance, Power, Lust, Compassion and Violence. The theme encompasses who Rubens is, which word beats with drama and anticipation.
Poetry consisted of idyllic wistful landscapes, meadows and skies with the likes of the British painters; Thomas Gainsborough, John Constable and J W Turner who clearly have admiration for the earthy tones and autumnal tones and brushstrokes. But it’s clear to see that the British painters mastered the genre of landscape paintings.
Ah Love! I thought this room was brilliantly curated merging Poetry with the theme of Love and Romance. The light olive green walls set the scene of long awaited season of spring.
The majestic large scale painting of “The Garden of Love” surrounded by Rubens’ studies and sketches is a lovely decision by the curators. I am a fan of seeing the sketchbooks and intimate studies alongside the final piece. Personally it spurs me to draw and hone my draughtsmanship.
I quietly laughed to myself and sketched the cherub who is pushing the couple together.
On the other end of the spectrum, Violence was the room filled with artworks I could not keep my eyes off of. The horror of the atrocities and the aggression from nature, animals and humans. It’s a constant battlefield. I even wonder why William Blake is not in this room along with the Old Masters.
I was told once that is it much easier to portray beautiful imagery than to create an uglier one.
I am not one to turn away. This room is filled with testosterone. The spears piercing the flesh, the detail gone into the dogs growling frighteningly, I have to look closer and see the bigger picture.
The painting here is not ugly in the sense of disgust and deformity. The ‘ugly’ is the battlefield, the struggles and the rampages.
Rubens’ “Tiger, Lion and Leopard Hunt” is the one you cannot turn away. Its large-scale, chaotic and dynamic composition, bold vibrant reds and cool tones demand your sight. This is the Battle between Man and Animal or is it? The story unfolds through the whole canvas, but who is fighting who? There is so much going on, there is no uniformed battle formations. When you run into the killing fields, your vision is thrown into disarray, nothing but your strength and wit can keep you alive. That is what I got from this painting.
Before the exhibition ends, there is an addition gallery exhibition, “La Perengia: Looking to Rubens,” curated by Jenny Saville RA. The title derived from the name of the world’s famous pearl, which was owned by ruling families of Europe and was last owned by Elizabeth Taylor.
The exhibition consists of influential 20th-century artists including Lucian Freud, Sarah Lucas, Cy Twombly, Rebecca Warren, Picasso, De Kooning, Francis Bacon and many more.
It is a nice addition to include modern artists’ to Rubens work. Most artwork forces the correlation between themselves and Rubens. Nevertheless, I had to look closer to see, not only the pearlescent skin and flesh, I saw violence, aggression and compassion.
The exhibition introduced me to Jenny Saville’s works of art, I had not paid much attention before.
The exhibition met my expectations and I am thankful to see, and yearning to see works from Artists I really had no recollection of.
Lust finished the exhibition with the promise of buxom nudes and voluptuous women with skin of ivory pearls. It was a nice touch to include my favourites nude paintings by Cézanne and Renoir to the exhibition. But there is only a minute selection on display.
I will visit again with my husband, and gather his thoughts on the exhibition. But I am sure that he will be pleased, after all he loves tigers.
So this exhibition won’t have as many Rubenesque ladies as I would have like to have seen. One day I would love to see an exhibition of that calibre but despite that minor criticism, I’ve gotten a chance to look at other artists’ works and gained so much inspiration out of it.
In summary: this exhibition might be repetitive for the art aficionados but if you are an admirer of Rubens, classical paintings, with a hint of drama; it’s worth a visit.
Open now to the public until 10 April 2015
Opening times 10am – 6pm daily (last admission 5.30pm) Late night opening: Fridays until 10pm (last admission 9.30pm)
£16.50 full price (£15 without Gift Aid donation); concessions available; children under 16 and Friends of the RA go free.
For more information, click here to the Royal Academy official website.
Images courtesy of the Royal Academy. The sketches and Illustrations created by me.
Quick question I have to ask is, what do you think of this new format for my Exhibition Reviews?
Comment below and let me know! Thank you so much for reading ❤️
Lovely to meet you at the RA. I ended up popping in to see the Rubens exhibition! The Tiger,Lion and Leopard is so arresting in the flesh. Fab illustrations – such a fresh perspective on a review.
Hello! Lovely to meet you at the RA too. Glad you managed to pop into Rubens! What did you think of Diebenkorn?
I was expecting more pieces. Middle period was my favourite, Gordon liked the still lifes. I don’t think I should have seen it straight after the Rubens as too much to digest.
I totally agree with you there. Sometimes, going to two exhibitions soon after is quite jarring.