Galleries - December 2014

ambitious Scots, Strang moved to London, studying at the Slade and becoming an assistant to Alphonse Legros, who had a lasting influence on his printmaking. This exhibition at The Scottish National Gallery will show a wide range of Strang’s work on paper, from his Victorian social realist images such as Despair (1889), to his highly imaginative allegories like Grotesque (1897) – which is clearly linked to the European Symbolist movement. He was also a fine illustrator, for example of such writers as Cervantes and Kipling. Furthermore, he was a powerful portraitist as seen in his insightful self-portraits and his celebrated rendering of Thomas Hardy. The show (until February) undoubtedly will be a revelation to those still unaware of the superb technical and creative skill of this strikingly original artist/printmaker. Bill Hare Political Landscapes There is a good argument for saying all landscape is political, as much for what it doesn’t say as for what it does, though surprisingly enough, this doesn’t seem to be a critically much discussed issue in the context of all of the three big landscape shows currently dominating the London scene: ‘Late Turner’ at Tate Britain, Constable at the Victoria & Albert Museum and Anselm Kiefer at the Royal extraordinary just what they have found and brought together – from the original International Brigade banner produced by the AIA (Artists’ International Association) and the Chamberlain masks and horse’s head produced by F.E. McWilliam and Julian Trevelyan for the 1938 May Day protest march, via the work of artists such as Felicia Browne (killed in 1936) and Clive Branson who participated in it, to those artists, like Ursula McCannell whose vivid paintings depicted the terrible plight of the tens of thousands of refugees it produced – some 4,000 Basque children came to a camp outside Southampton in 1939 before being dispersed to ‘colonies’ around the country. There is even a room of work of later artists including R.B. Kitaj and Terry Frost whose work was inspired by what has been described as the ‘last great cause’. It is, above all though, a show in which artists first reminded the modern world that no man is an island; an old lesson, post-Iraq, of which we still need to be reminded . . . Strang Reminder The now neglected generation of Scottish printmakers of the 19/20th centuries were then important international figures – especially ‘The Big Four’ –- comprising D.Y. Cameron, Muirhead Bone, James McBey and William Strang. Like many 16 GALLERIES DECEMBER 2014 ANTENNAE Visual Aid With all the current attention on the centenary of the First World War, little notice has been taken of the fact that 2014 also marks the 75th anniversary of the end of a conflict that profoundly shaped the ideas and imagination of a whole generation – out of all proportion to its apparent size or relevance to strictly national interests: the Spanish Civil War. Familiar to most people now through the remarkable range of literary and poetic achievement it inspired – Orwell, Hemingway, Auden, David Gascoyne, John Cornford and many others not only wrote about it but, in many cases, volunteered for the Republican cause – it is often seen, in Stephen Spender’s famous phrase, as the “poets’ war.” However true this may be it is also completely to overlook the astonishingly wide range and depth of the contribution made by visual artists in not only raising public consciousness and opinion for the war – via posters, demonstrations, protests and exhibitions – but in participating in the fighting and recording their feelings and experience of it. Remarkably (shamefully?) this has never been properly documented in exhibition form until now, with Pallant House Gallery ’s large, beautifully researched and profoundly moving show, ‘Conscience and Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish Civil War’. It is