Galleries - August 2011

ALTAR EGO This summer Le Marche is cele- brating the brothers Crivelli with a series of exhibitions centred on the delightful town of Sarnano. Many of the works on show are parts of altarpieces, the missing pieces scattered around the world after the upheavals of the nine- teenth century. The National Gallery’s exhibition, ‘Devotion by Design’, dovetails nicely with the Italian initiative. Using, in the main, works in its own collection, it examines the context, function, structure and making of Italian altarpieces between 1250 and 1500. A pleasing and fascinating mixture of detective work, social history and aesthetic enjoyment. DOWN IN THE FOREST Also at the NG, ‘Forests, Rocks and Torrents’ focuses on 19th C. Norwegian and Swiss responses to their, broadly similar, dramatic national landscapes. Based on the collection of Asbjørn Lunde, this exhibition should introduce to a wider audience names which have been unfairly eclipsed over the years. For the Norges the fount of inspiration must be Johan Christian Dahl, for the Swiss François Diday and Alexandre Calame, but Fearnley, Baade, Balke, Steffan and Wolf keep the flag flying high for both countries, united not just in landscape but in a rugged individuality that has stood them in good stead to the current day. Sarah Drury TWO WAY MIRO “Form is never something ab- stract: it is always a sign of some- thing . . . always a man, a bird, or something else” Miro insisted. What that something else might be is one of the intriguing subtexts of the Tate’s magisterial show, by far the largest and most significant exhibition of his work I can recall in the UK. The curators, by foc- using primarily on three crucial periods, 1918-25, 1934-41 and 1968-75 and concentrating the catalogue essays on historical and biographical issues, make implicit suggestions as to what this might be, though curiously, Miro’s complex relationship with the Franco dictatorship – a lifelong hatred that didn’t stop him living as an ‘internal exile’ in first Mall- orca and then Barcelona for much of it – is still not perhaps made quite as clear as it might be. For Miro’s work is always intensely political in character and not always with a small ‘p’ either, so just how did he always manage to paint with the freedom he did without any Francoist interfer- ence? That said, his work is about a great deal else too: “I do not dis- tinguish between poetry and painting” he once observed and Miro’s engagement with Surr- ealist ideas – not so much the use of hallucinatory imagery but more as a means of giving exhilarating visual realisation to the pre- conscious world of emotional feeling – makes him, above all, a profound humanitarian. NU TWOMBLY TIME Taking as its starting point Cy Twombly’s observation that he would like “to have been Poussin”, Dulwich Picture Gal- lery ’s intriguing ‘Twombly and Poussin: Arcadian Painters’ show has now become, sadly, with his death announced just after its opening, something of a mem- orial as well. There could not be a better place to explore the idea (and credentials) of Twombly’s powerful wish for his art to be seen as that of a contemporary artist working within a painting tradition, as much European and Classical as American and Abs- tract in character. Does it stand up? Nicholas Cullinan, the Tate curator drafted in to make the case, has no difficulty with the abstractness of Poussin – well established by now perhaps – but struggles to convince (me, at least) the other way round, invok- ing the literary and biographical correspondences of the two lives, but somewhat circumventing the knottier issues around the nature of artistic abstraction. Is Poussin more abstract than Twombly? In any case, it’s a stunning show – go and see what you think . . . Images from overleaf: T homas Fearnley ‘Fisher- man on Derwent Water 2 August 1837’ from Norwegian & Swiss Landscapes at the National Gallery. Yankel Feather drawing at Zimmer Stewart. Simon Redington ‘Ten Courts of the Kings of Hell’, (detail) from BITE at the Mall Galleries. Images this page: George Stubbs A.R.A. ‘Gimcrack on Newmarket Heath’, (detail), sold for £22,441,250 at Christie’s, King Street. Joan Miró Still Life with Old Shoe at Tate Modern 8. GALLERIES AUGUST 11 PUBLICEYE