RAPHAEL TO RENOIR
Master Drawings from the Collection of Jean Bonna
NATIONAL GALLERY COMPLEX
The Mound, Edinburgh Gallery
0131 624 6200
Open daily, 10am-5pm. Thursdays until 7pm
June 5 until September 6
Admission £4 / £3 concession
Often, while wandering around a public gallery and viewing paintings of the old masters dating back centuries, it can feel like wading through mud.
You know that these paintings are expertly composed and beautifully, if painstakingly rendered, yet there is often be a lack of freshness and vitality in these frozen scenes that leaves you drained and artblind after a few rooms.
As an antidote, the 120 drawings, watercolours and pastels about to go on display at the National Gallery Complex in Edinburgh make for as sweet a summer treat as you can muster.
This body of work by European masters dating back some 500 years has come directly from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art for its only European showing and has been drawn from the collection of the Swiss art benefactor and collector Jean Bonna.
Bonna, a retired banker, who has close links with the Metropolitan, has been collecting drawings by old masters for the last 20 years. His first love was books and he built up a significant private library during his working life. Inspired, in part, by book illustrations in this library, he developed an interest in old master prints and from that point, he moved on to collecting drawings.
The Bonna collection now comprises some 400 drawings, the best of which have been selected for this exhibition, all displayed in period frames.
As many of these drawings reveal, the first cut is the deepest. Endless refining can rarely improve upon an initial sketch, when the artist was most inspired and this collection brings together the biggest hitters in terms of draughtsmanship from the high renaissance period until around the start of the 20th century.
According to Aidan Weston-Lewis, chief curator at the National Gallery of Scotland, there is something here for everyone to enjoy.
“There is a really good range of mediums,” he explains. “From watercolour, pastel, gouache to pen and ink and more, the quality across the board is very high. Some of the highly finished pastels by the likes of Chardin. Renoir and Redon are like paintings.
“A lot of people like drawings because you are having a closer relationship with the artist through their gestural handling of the medium. You can see their idiosyncrasies and style – much more so than in oils. In a sense, you have a closer commune with the artist.”
Certainly, the exhibition presents a rare opportunity to view outstanding examples of European drawings. The principal strength of the collection lies in the Italian and French schools, including celebrated artists such as Raphael, Andrea del Sarto, Guercino, Claude Lorrain, Canaletto, Watteau, and, from the nineteenth century, Ingres, Degas, Manet, Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin and Redon.
One of the joys of the exhibition from Weson-Lewis’ perspective is the fact that two of the Bonna drawings ¬ Antoine Watteau’s Three Studies of Female Heads (ca. 1718-19) and Paul Gauguin’s Two Tahitian Women (ca. 1899) – are preparatory drawings for paintings in the National Gallery of Scotland’s permanent collection.
Other highlights include extraordinary drawings such as Raphael’s Study of Soldiers (ca. 1515-16), Parmigianino’s The Holy Family with Shepherds and Angels (ca. 1523-24), Hans Hoffmann’s beautifully rendered watercolour A Wild Boar Piglet (1578), an atmospheric Woman in a White Bonnet (ca. 1882-85) by Georges Seurat, and a vibrant pastel, La Barque (ca. 1900), by Odilon Redon.
LESLEY BANKS: 25 YEARS OF PAINTING
The Park Gallery, Callendar Park, Falkirk
www.falkirk.gov.uk and www.lesleybanks.com
Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm, Sun, 2pm-5pm
Until June 21
With the kind of ill-fated timing that can happen in art as well as life, Lesley Banks’ mother Isobel died just weeks before her daughter’s retrospective exhibition took place in Falkirk.
There is no doubt that Mrs Banks would have been a proud woman two weeks ago as viewers packed into the compact Park Gallery to hear the Provost of Falkirk, Pat Reid open Lesley Banks: 25 Years of Painting.
Banks, who was raised in nearby Denny, was approached by Gillian Smith of the local authority-run Park Gallery last year, to see if she would be interested in holding an exhibition to tie in with the council’s Homecoming 2009 celebrations.
The fact that the acclaimed Glasgow artist just happened to be marking 25 years since her graduation from Glasgow School of Art, added extra value.
A few months back, The Herald carried a feature in which she asked people who had bought her work to come forward. “The response was amazing,” says Banks. “I was really moved by some of the replies and many volunteered stories on what my work has come to mean to them since.”
There are around 50 works from every stage of Banks’ career, including a version of ‘the 39th Week’, which is owned by Kelvingrove Art Gallery. Her most recent work, large studies of Venice glimpsed through an open bedroom window, revel in her masterful handling of oil paint and set against one entire wall, create an instant impact.
The consistent themes of Banks’ work set our interior world at odds with the world at large. Seeing the work as one body, it’s clear Banks is a true painter who is not afraid to lay her fragile soul on the line.
JOLOMO AWARDS FOR SCOTTISH LANDSCAPE PAINTING 2009
Lloyds TSB Scotland 120, George Street, Edinburgh
Today and tomorrow (May 30 and May 31)
In just under two weeks time, one artist will be announced as the overall winner of the second Jolomo Awards for Scottish Landscape Painting and £20,000 better off, with a further £10,000 being awarded to the runners-up.
The list of seven artists in the running for this major painting prize, which is organised by the Jolomo Foundation, a charity run by the hugely popular Scottish landscape artist John Lowrie Morrison, was announced early last month. If you are interested in viewing a selection of their work in the flesh, their work is on display this weekend at the headquarters of one of the main partners of the event, Lloyds TSB, in Edinburgh.
All seven artists live and work across Scotland and are aged from 22 to 49. They are; Rosanne Barr (27) from Invergowrie, Dundee, Toby Cooke (22) from Port of Menteith, Stirling, Jack Frame (25) from Helensburgh, Maurice Forsyth-Grant (45) from Cyrus, Angus, Claudia Massie (31) from Forgandenny, Perthshire, Keith Salmon (49) from Irvine, Ayrshire and Alastair Strachan (49) from Glasgow.
With a wide variety of approaches to interpreting the landscape, these artists all show that the art of responding to your surroundings through the medium of paint, is definitely not dead and buried.
If the success of 2007 winner Anna King is anything to go by, the springboard offered by winning this award should bounce the career of the 2009 prizewinner into orbit.
The Jolomo Awards 2009 winners will be announced at a presentation dinner at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, Glasgow on Friday June 12.
THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
Inchmore Gallery, Inchmore, nr Inverness
Tuesday – Saturday, 10am-5pm
Until June 20
This clever idea for an exhibition highlights a great debate in the art world: the battle of digital prints V handcrafted printmaking.
Inchmore Gallery’s resident artist Gwen Black is a fine exponent of original printmaking and the gallery she co-owns with her husband Fred, has traditionally shied away from all things digital.
Fred Black explains: “We always stood by the ethos that we would only ever show ‘truly original’ art works here at Inchmore. That meant not accepting digital works – the inevitable offering of giclée prints as ‘originals’ or other PC manipulated works.
“But Michael Stuart Green, a nationally respected artist-printmaker and former lecturer at Edinburgh College of Art, set us the task of organising this exhibition to show the extent of artistic talent that can be released by using the combination of a fully competent artist and digital craftsmanship.
“With this exhibition we hope to ensure informed debate is generated and offer an opportunity to appreciate the exhibited works as an accepted art media.”
Michael Stuart Green has developed a unique style by creating digital imagery and overlaying this with traditional wood cut, linocut, etched lino and collograph printmaking with the end result having a distinct hand rendered surface.
Nigel Sandeman works in the opposite way by firstly creating work with paint and pastel and then using digital techniques to leave the final finished pieces with only the digitally printed surface while Fiona Cameron presents quirky and enjoyable stop frame animation in DVD format.
- The story so far
- I'm an arts journalist & PR consultant living and working in Scotland. I've been a journalist for more than 25 years. I write a regular column for Scottish quality newspaper, The Herald. I deliver a PR service with an arty bent and work on a consultancy basis with arts organisations, including Scotland's leading creative industries festival, XpoNorth & broadcast support body, ScreenHI. I am currently co-writing a book about the celebrated Scots artist, George Wyllie, with his daughter Louise. Instrumental in making a celebration of his life's work happen in 2012. For more information, see www.georgewyllie.com When I'm not being a mum/working, I talk to my dog. He laps it up. Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org (All work © Jan Patience)