Galleries - May 2016

and, not unlike the RA show, then places him in the context of the artists he went on to influence. As the show’s sellingslogan, quoting Cezanne – “We all paint in Delacroix’s language” – seeks to convey, Delacroix was, in a sense, the medium through whom the language of the Old Masters was made accessible to modern art – one look at his ‘Lion Hunts’ and you get it immediately. Time was when queues would form round the block for the lamented Agnew’s annual watercolour show – treasure troves of largely English watercolours and drawings of such quality that collectors couldn’t keep away. Dealer Martyn Gregory seems to have taken up their mantle over the last decade or so, his annual ‘British Watercolours and Drawings 1750- 1900’ servinga not dissimilar function. With works by Gainsborough, Rowlandson, Turner, Cox, De Wint, John Varley and Thomas Girtin amongthe promised company, as is often the case in his shows, it can be the less familiar names that also particularly entrance the eye. Nicholas Usherwood three of those six on show here. These works, two male portraits and the National Gallery’s beautiful landscape ‘Il Tramonto’, are then used to form the starting point of an intriguing investigation into just what it was that defined his genius. Soft, sensuous colour lies at the heart of his achievement, something Titian was to develop on an increasingly larger scale, along with an elusive poetic approach to his subject matter, whether in the portraits or the landscape, that reflected a new kind of patronage, that of the cultured and sophisticated connoisseur who was coming to demand profane as well as sacred themes for art. It was also this colouristic (as opposed to linear) approach to painting that then formed one of the central traditions of European art over the next four centuries. Rubens and Watteau are part of it and, of course, Delacroix, still that most neglected of the great 19th century artists. Delacroix’s crucial ‘hinge’ position between the great colourists of the past – Titian, Rubens et al – and the great explosion of Impressionist/Post Impressionist experimentation with colour and light that followed just after he died, has made him easily overlooked somehow. Forget all that though and just go and see the superb show currently at the National Gallery which tackles this nowadays rarely shown figure en masse British watercolours the typically Japanese work current up to the end of the 19th century – the art of the Edo period and earlier. All of which makes the Japanese-based exhibition Minerva-2016 , with some 300 contemporary Japanese painters, ceramicists and calligraphers, selected by a competitive process, showing over two London venues this month ( Menier Gallery 17 to 21 and Mall Galleries 24 to 27), such an important opportunity for a British audience to see exactly what’s going on. If last year’s show at the Mall Galleries is anything to go by it is one not to be missed. Giorgione can perhaps best be thought of as the ‘dark star’ of Venetian Renaissance painting, celebrated for the magnetic influence that he had on the course Titian and others were to take through the rest of the 16th century. As for the few small, intensely lyrical works that survive today following his early death aged 30 in 1510, of only six generally agreed on by art historians, ‘The Tempest’(La Tempesta) is perhaps the most famous of these and, almost for this reason alone, could not be included in the Royal Academy ‘ s focused survey of the period ‘In the Age of Giorgione’. But they have not done badly otherwise with some Giorgione & Delacroix MAY 2016 GALLERIES 9 from left G iorgione ‘Portrait of a Young Man’, Royal Academy of Arts Roger Hilton ‘Untitled 1974’, Porthminster Gallery François Morellet ‘Contresens n°2’ 2015, ed 2/3, Annely Juda Fine Art