Galleries - April 2013

Catholic Tastes An exhibition ofhuge religious paintings including a vast altarpiece (depicting the Last Supper) may not sound that exciting to some and ifyou include the fact that Frederico Barocci is not one ofthe better known ‘greats’ ofRenaissance Italian art, the incentive to crawl out ofbed at the weekend for this show at the National Gallery may not be that strong. But ifyou can, take an hour or so and wonder, not so much at the biblical set pieces, but at the drawings and studies he made in preparation. They are quite delightfully sensitive and delicate – it seems he drew and sketched obsessively, softly adding colour with pastels to highlight rounded form, wind swept hair, living hands and glowing skin. Boracci came from Urbino (1535-1612) and apart from a few years spent in Rome (where he suspected his poisoning by rivals, from which he never quite recovered) spent much ofhis working life at home. Patronised by Francesco Maria Il della Rovere, Duke ofUrbino (whose glorious portrait also hangs in the exhibition) he worked on predominantly religious subjects bringing, it has to be said, a rather cloying idealogical sweetness to Christianity, along with a new dynamism ofmove- ment and colour, later influencing much ofwhat became known as the Baroque. CM Book Review The Civil War and American Art by Eleanor Jones Harvey. 316pp, 200 ills, Yale UP hbk, £45 The Civil War was the defining event for the United States, a struggle for a vast future, as Lincoln put it. Over 75,000 books have appeared on the subject – that’s more than one a day since the end of the conflict in 1865 – though few on its impact on art. Which makes this splendidly writ- ten, illustrated and presented survey – produced in conjunction with an exhibition at the Smith- sonian American Art Museum – especially welcome. It focuses principally on the transformation of landscape and genre painting, exploring artists’ direct, allusive and metaphorical responses to both the disruption and reunification of the American Republic – notably the work of Frederic Church, Winslow Homer and Eastman Johnson, amongst others. There is also substantial coverage of battlefield photography, then of course in its infancy, and the revelatory images made by George Barnard, Alexander Gardner and Timothy O’Sullivan. NB – Don’t miss ‘Through American Eyes: Frederic Church and the Landscape Oil Sketch’ at the National Gallery , London (until 28 April): 25 works from his extensive travels at home and abroad by the leading Hudson River School painter. AA has always followed a distinctly idiosyncratic and largely unfashionable path, one that, as he puts it, represents a “crossover or fusion of content and aesthetics.” He cites a wonderfully eclectic range of forbears for the haunting and evocative work that results, though the two or three that seem to me to predominate in this new show at Glasgow’s Compass are Balthus, Vuillard and Ravilious. It’s the oddest of mixes in theory but, in reality, given a wonderful sense of unity and subtlety by Thomson’s own, intensely poetic vision. Infinite Variety A pupil of Norman Blamey and Ken Kiff at Chelsea and Peter Greenham and Leonard McComb at the Royal Academy Schools, Michael Sangster had some powerfully figuratively- oriented teachers in his artistic youth and the intense concern with the necessities of observation that their art always displayed is very much at the heart of Sangster’s intense realism. “In studying reality I find it impossible to ignore any aspect of it . . . a banquet of infinite variety and I do not want to miss any part of it” he writes, while the outcome is painting full of a quiet awe and wonder at the sheer richness and mystery of what he is seeing. ( Gallery 27 , Cork Street, 22-27 April.) NU from left: P eter Thomson ‘An Offering’ oil on panel at the Compass Gallery Michael Sangster at Gallery 27 Federico Barocci ‘Studies for the Virgin's Hands’, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin © Volker-H. Schneider, at the National Gallery London 11. GALLERIES APRIL 13