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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 janpatience@me.com (All work © Jan Patience)

Sunday, 6 February 2011

French Drawings: Poussin to Seurat (From The Herald Arts section 5/2/11)


Seated Nude: Study for 'Une Baignade' by Georges Seurat (Conte crayon on cream paper)*

National Gallery Complex
The Mound, Edinburgh
0131 624 6200
From today until May 1 (Admission free)

A drawing is as intimate a piece of creation as you will see on a day’s march around an art gallery. It connects you to the artist whose hand created it in an instant; guides you briefly around their thoughts and into their world during the period of time you spend looking at it.

As Picasso observed: “In drawing, nothing is better than the first attempt.” This insight is illustrated superbly in a new exhibition at the National Gallery of Scotland (NGoS) in Edinburgh.
French Drawings: Poussin to Seurat, which opens today, presents more than 60 works from the gallery’s collection of French drawings.

The gallery possesses a fine collection of French paintings, including works by Claude, Poussin, Watteau and many of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, which are familiar to the viewing public. What is not so well-known is that in the last 30 years, the gallery (under the guiding eye of director Michael Clarke) has been steadily adding to its collection of drawings by making timely and judicious purchases, particularly in the area of eighteenth and nineteenth century French drawings.

The above names are all represented in the gallery’s collection of drawings, but within the collection are drawings by names that are not so familiar. Artists such as Louis Roguin (active 1843-71), Etienne Jeaurat (1699-1789) and Joseph-Ferdinand Lancrenon (1794-1874) are all names worth getting to know, as their work represented in the exhibition shows.

The extraordinary Jewish Woman of Algiers by little known artist, Roguin, who lived mainly in Algeria, depicts a young, pregnant Jewish woman wearing a sarma, an extraordinary cone-shaped metal headdress.

French Drawings: Poussin to Seurat, which features drawings from the NGoS collection ranging from the Renaissance to the end of the nineteenth century, was first seen at The Wallace Collection in London at the end of last year. One of the highlights is a preparatory compositional drawing for Poussin’s famous painting Dance to the Music of Time, which is held by the Wallace Collection. The drawing in pen and brown ink and wash, was made around 1634–6.

The exhibition has been curated by Michael Clarke, who has taken time out from his role as director of the National Gallery of Scotland, to devote himself to it, researching and co-writing a beautifully illustrated catalogue.

Clarke, who started out as an assistant keeper with the gallery in 1984, has behind the steady programme of acquisition of French drawings since that time. “This is a great opportunity to show off the collection of drawings,” he states.
“We have spent modest sums and there has been a drip, drip, drip year after year. Some two thirds of the collection has been built up in that time. Some of the work has been given as part of the government’s ‘in lieu’ of inheritance tax scheme.

“These 62 works are just a tiny selection, but for anyone who likes drawing, there is such a range of work and techniques to enjoy, from gouache, to chalk drawing, to pen and ink.”

This incredibly fertile school of drawing showcases several eras in art history. There is the elegance of the sixteenth-century School of Fontainebleau, the playful sensualities of the Rococo period and the contrasting rigour of Neoclassicism in the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century, the stylistic and formal innovations of nineteenth-century artists from the Romantics to the Post-Impressionists are well represented.

Among the many highlights included in the exhibition is a rare example of an oil counter-proof by Watteau in brown oil, produced in the early part of the eighteenth century. Viewers might also be surprised to see work by the early nineteenth century novelist (and famous cross dresser), George Sand represented here. Another must-see is Seurat’s Seated Nude, a conte crayon study for his famous work, Bathers at Asnières.

As Michael Clarke, puts it, even in drawings which are obviously ‘finished’, there is ‘an obvious exposure of the artist’s style and personality’. Some of these drawings might be more finished than others, but there is no denying the sensuous appeal of this subtle exhibition.

(This is an unedited version of the one which appeared in yesterday's Herald arts section)

* The following text on Seated Nude study is taken from the online notes from National Galleries of Scotland's website on the Seated Nude study:

Seurat was an inspired draughtsman. He frequently used conte crayon and made full use of the subtle tones which the medium allowed, as well as exploiting the rough texture of his chosen 'Ingres' brand of paper. This study of the seated nude youth was made from a life model in Seurat's studio. He used it for the central figure in his monumental painting of 'The Bathers, Asnières' (The National Gallery, London). The stillness of the pose was carried over into the painting, where the youth sits languidly on the river bank, cooling his feet in the water.


  1. Hi, I'm enjoying your blog very much and also your writing in Homes & Interiors. If you can shed any light on my query on Jan.22nd I'd really appreciate it. Keep posting!

  2. Hi there caravanartist! (... not sure how to address you) Thanks for your positive comments on blog and Homes & Interiors work. Appreciated. I emailed Joan Hughson, who curated the Margo Sandeman exhibition and she says she asked Jessie Sheeler about Marion Fletcher.
    She replied that Marion died ‘some years ago’ – she’s not sure exactly when. Joan says she can find out more if you are interested. joan.fletcher@which.net

  3. Many thanks for your help. I'll certainly contact Joan Fletcher. Keep up the great blog!

  4. Sorry that should be joan.hughson@which.net!!


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