Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Joshua Reynolds: Experiments in Paint

Regular visitors to the salon will know that I have long nursed a love of the work of Joshua Reynolds, so it was with no small measure of excitement that I took myself along to the Wallace Collection to view Joshua Reynolds: Experiments in Paint. A trip to the Wallace Collection is always a treat but this was a particularly special occasion as it combined one of my favourite galleries with my artistic hero!


Self portrait, 1776
Self portrait, 1776

The exhibition is the culmination of a four year research project headed by Wallace Collection director, Christoph Vogtherr, and brings together twenty works by Reynolds to demonstrate Reynolds's skill, innovation and experimental approach to painting in terms of both technique and composition. This free exhibition runs until 7th June 2015 and is, I think, a must-see!

By utilising techniques including infrared imagine and x-ray, the curators of the exhibition have been able to peer behind the pigment to see how these iconic works of art were developed and, telling, how Reynolds refined and finessed his work throughout the process. Famed portraits reveal tantalising glimpses of other paintings beneath, which Reynolds has painted over, or that what have become celebrated works of art once looked cry different, sometimes down to something as small as the position of the subject's arm!



Kitty Fisher and Parrot, 1763/4
Kitty Fisher and Parrot, 1763/4

By taking the visitor on a journey through Reynolds's processes, we are able to see the deterioration of pigment and better understand the sometimes subtle differences it can make to a painting that was once vibrant, as well as learn something of the conservation techniques employed to halt any further deterioration. Paintings including the portrait of Nelly O'Brien can be viewed in breathtaking close-up, the brushstrokes placed there by Reynolds visible today, a truly amazing experience for a fan like me!



Miss Jane Bowles, 1775
Miss Jane Bowles, 1775
Reynolds is sometimes dismissed as a rather fussy, fancy painter but by bringing his technical innovations to the fore, this exhibition lends a new depth to our understanding of his work. Among all the grand canvasses, what really stood out for me was the canvas on which he had collected an archive of paint, each one accompanied by his own notes regarding how a particular colour was mixed. This small, apparently insignificant item is at the heart of his artistic achievement and shows his deep understanding of the importance of innovation; one must keep moving forward, trying new things and noting what worked and, of course, what didn't. Nowhere is this clearer than in the fate of William Douglas, 4th Duke of Queensbury, whose grand portrait has lost much of the pigment in its face, leaving him a deathly pale phantom among ruddy-cheeked ladies.

If you are able to get along to the exhibition before it closes, I heartily recommend that you do so, it is a revelation and a lovely oasis of the 18th century in the heart of the city.


Find out more at http://www.wallacecollection.org/collections/exhibition/114


To see more by Reynolds, please click here

6 comments:

Carol McGrath said...

I too love The Wallace Collection. I also love the restaurant there.

Monica Hall said...

Did you see the Fragonard, Girl on a Swing?

Sarah said...

I am a fan of Reynolds too. I wish I could get there

Catherine Curzon said...

It is lovely!

Catherine Curzon said...

I did; going back again in a couple of months!

Catherine Curzon said...

It's well worth a trip!