Galleries - January 2012

including The Lacemaker – a masterpiece of rapt, enigmatic intimacy borrowed from the Louvre, and never before shown in this country –the survey in- novatively extends to some of Vermeer’s Dutch contemporaries portraying women’s occluded interior lives. The subtle chiar- oscuro of Gotfried Schalcken’s Man Offering Gold and Coins to a Girl helps evoke a bedside encounter of beguiling moral and sensual ambiguity. Samuel van Hoogstraten’s immaculately heightened View of an Interior (c.1654-62) is uninhabited yet charged with mysteriously allusive domestic artefacts (discarded slippers, a leaning broom, keys dangling conspicuously) leading to a silent private chamber. Gerard ter Borch’s depictions of subjects such as a woman aloofly peeling apples (before an ad- orably attentive young girl) and Woman Washing her Hands (her maidservant pouring water from a pewter jug, while the mistress’s white satin dress ripples in mira- culously conveyed gradations of light), are highlights of the show. The sublime harmonies, poign- ancies and mysterious beauties of Vermeer’s paintings here are beyond compare. Philip Vann Building the Revolution Less than half a century ago the extraordinary story of Soviet Revolutionary Art was virtually unknown, either in the West or within Russia itself. Then, thanks to the work of pioneering art his- torians such as Camilla Gray in the late 60s and John Bowlt in the 70s and 80s, working very much against the grain of Soviet in- difference or downright hostility, a picture of tantalizing richness slo- wly began to emerge. In the 20 years since the fall of the Soviet Union that slow unfolding of understanding has morphed into a full-tilt gallop, all, it would seem, with the exception of the period’s architecture. As this extraordinary exhibition of photographs, draw- ings and paintings at the Royal Academy makes plain however, the architecture was no less rad- ical than the art and design with which it shared a common pur- pose and creative origins – viz the furtherance of the social and pol- itical goals of Leninist Comm- unism. One of the main problems, apart from current Russian lack of interest, has been its accessibility and visibility to the world at large. Now, thanks to the tenacity of art historian and photographer Rich- ard Pare, this has all changed and the result is a revelation, the clarity of thought and purpose apparent in the work of figures like Mel- nikov, Ginsburg and the Vesnin Brothers moving to a degree. Let’s hope it encourages Russia now to take more care of its remarkable – and remarkably neglected – archi- tectural heritage. NU Flower of Scotland Scotland boasts of having given the world most of its important in- ventions – from television to tar- mac. A less well known Scottish innovation is the portrait gallery, instigated in 1889, when under the influence of Thomas Carlyle, his- tory was thought of as memorable heroes doing worthy deeds for the Nation. Now after over a century of piece-meal alterations Row and Anderson’s Victorian cathedral to the Great and the Good has been given a major £17.6m renovation to bring it up to the demands of the 21st century visitor. A range of new galleries has been created to give 60% more exhibition space for a collection of over 3,000 paint- ings and 25,000 works on paper. Each important era in Scottish his- tory – from Reformation to Con- temporary – will now have its own display area. The Scottish Na- tional Portrait Gallery will also house a National Photography Gallery with its holdings of 38,000 works, and, of course, there will be a much larger café where you can eat the Scots scone! Bill Hare Enigmatic Intimacy ‘Vermeer’s Women: Secrets and Silence’, at the Fitzwilliam Muse- um, Cambridge (until 15 January), is a brilliantly curated survey of genre paintings of 17th century Dutch women absorbed in domestic tasks and pleasurable pastimes. Containing four paint- ings by Johannes Vermeer – 10. GALLERIES JANUARY 12 From left: R ichard Pare ‘Shabolovka Radio Tower’ 1998 (© Richard Pare) at at the RA. ‘The Great Hall’ of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery photo John McKenzie. Gerard ter Borch ‘Woman Washing her Hands’ at the Fitzwilliam PUBLICEYE