Michelangelo & Sebastiano Exhibition

15 March – 25 June 2017

During a recent trip to the National Gallery, sparked by a love of Renaissance art, we booked tickets for the Michelangelo and Sebastiano exhibition.  Quite honestly, though hearing Sebastiano’s name in passing commentary, neither of us had any idea of the great artist he really was.  Interestingly, listening in on passing conversations in the queue to enter the gallery, neither had anyone else and having seen the amount of recent publicity surrounding the exhibition and judging by the amount of people in the queue this lack of notoriety may now be a thing of the past.  [1]

The exhibition was based upon the great friendship between both Michelangelo and Sebastiano and the great works of art the two collaborated on to produce.  Both from very different artistic traditions; Michelangelo’s compositions were prepared in advance with the utmost clarity and precision, through detailed anatomical drawings, whilst Sebastiano was an accomplished painter who preferred a more improvisatory (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Improvisatori) method of painting, rich in colour, expressive and bold.

It became clear that this was no ordinary friendship, their collaborations created the most striking pieces of artwork, applauded at the time they were created and still admired today, as some the greatest works of art.

The exhibition largely focused on their relationship and demonstrated through their art and their own personal correspondence, the journey of their relationship, from mutual admiration and respect to bitter acrimony. “Dearest friend, dearer to me than a father, greetings…….  Their friendship which roughly lasted 25 years, began as a ploy by Michelangelo as he sought to create an alliance with Sebastiano to thwart the artist Raphael, whom he detested, though, their sentimental and heartfelt correspondence clearly shows a genuine respect for each other.  This being unusual since Michelangelo was severely temperamental and not one to hold friendships for very long.  Though rivalries were often encouraged and fuelled in Renaissance Italy, to encourage the creation of outstanding works of art.  “…because I do not want Raphael to see mine until he has delivered his, (with reference to the artwork, Raising of the Lazarus). [2]Sebastiano_del_Piombo,_The_Raising_of_Lazarus_(cropped5)

As fascinating as the story is, for me, the star of the show is still Michelangelo, the exhibition seemed a little thin on the ground when it came to presenting his works, probably because the theme was predominantly about the relationship between the two artists.  No one can deny after looking at the Masters’ great drawings how incredible he really was.  The detail and delicacy of his sketches are tantalising to look at and its breath-taking to consider that these preparatory drawings on show, were just the beginning to greater works of art.

[1] Art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon exploring the Michelangelo and Sebastiano exhibition at the National Gallery in London,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlFwI85M9H0

[2] The National Gallery Michelangelo & Sebastiano Exhibition Notes

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The art of frustration

Although this fails as an article on art in the regular sense of the word; it’s my artistic view of the frustrations this week, which I can only see as strings of colour depending on my mood, these I envision emanating and dancing from my head in a form that only I can see or appreciate.  I often use art as a way of calming the senses.  I suppose it’s my way of dealing with the stresses of the day, by painting the obstacles as free-flowing strands of colour gives me complete artist satisfaction and helps ease the burden of whatever is troubling me.  Call me mad, but at least I have an outlet for the strains of life, it’s either this or screaming!

Last week saw an inevitable peak in the stress levels, it happened to be a triple whammy.  The kids moved out of their University accommodation, the country was in the middle of election fever and the penultimate problem…… my laptop caught a cold.  This being the only way of describing the system failure, because even the IT technicians couldn’t give me an answer as to what had happened; frankly, I blame cyber terrorism! It resulted in just over a week without a PC, but the week previously had involved a great deal of difficulty, whilst I tried to deal with the meltdown.  In hindsight, why didn’t I deal with the problem earlier?  But quite honestly, I have come to rely too heavily on my PC and the thought of having to be without it, pained me terribly.  I am sure most of us have the same problem, in our modern age, our world revolves around our connections to the world, we need our phones, tablets and PC’s for our work, our shopping, our social interactions and our media enjoyment.  I was lost without this connection and felt cut off from the world.  How did we all become such PC needy people?  When did this happen?  It arrived so gradually I didn’t even see it coming.  So, the art of my frustrations have been imperceptibly created this week; with each discussion over what could be done to save my data, or how long the recovery of the data would take and finally, how long following the rebuild before I’d be up and running again, I created the most colourful display of strands, mostly in shades of red which danced gloriously from my head and feeling the need to contrast this with a calmer palette I chose a few shades of blue, in appropriate tones to complement!  Curiously calmed by this display, I concluded I had to be patient and wait it out, eventually all problems would get resolved.

As a result, the kids having dumped their belongings are now off enjoying the many festivities the summer had to offer, the General Election fever is over, though politics still dominate the landscape, but thankfully, my laptop is now returned and almost back to complete functionality.  The great piece of invisible art created by my frustrations, is now gone for the time being, it’s likely to be replaced soon, with the next stress or strain of life, but it’ll be every bit as colourful!  

Art Snobbery

Art takes many guises, in its simplest of forms it is an expression of ourselves. It can be a means of developing a visual documentation of a moment in time, or a declaration of aesthetics, it can be a notion of politics or simply a happy marriage of random elements. Whether the art form is visual or auditory or performing, it is our emotions and imagination that lends itself to create such incredible works of art and the longevity of this creativity, which spans all of time, tells us tales of history in all its glorious technicolour.

Art should be enjoyed by all, but I often witness a huge amount of snobbery. We recently visited a local gallery, full of modern art and featuring some modern masters such as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.  It was hugely expensive to get in and whilst I understand that galleries are costly to run, why not do discount Wednesday’s or local incentives?

All around us visitors were talking in hushed tones, akin to a library and children seemed frowned upon.  How do we create the next generation of artists or art appreciator’s, if we do not encourage our children to come and have a dabble? Where were the posters for instance, saying, “Come and paint your own interpretation of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers”, encouraging our children to be creative?

To add insult to injury, whilst appraising a Henry Moore sculpture, I was hollered at from the opposite end of the gallery to move myself away from the art. Isn’t art supposed to be appreciated?

The final blow came whilst overhearing a guide talk to a group of visitors, the comments were so alarming it was all I could do, to stay quiet.  The said guide, a lady who by her comments had obviously worked for the gallery for some years, chose to declare the value of the paintings rather than discuss the artist, or history, or any detail, which would have been of interest and proceeded to tell tales of the owners and their so-called wealth.  I would have liked to have given this guide the benefit of the doubt and surmise that her talk improved after we moved away, but I’ll never know, because I made it may business to avoid the small group throughout the rest of my tour. This is art snobbery in its finest form and its rather put us off visiting the gallery again.

I choose not to give the name of the gallery because one visit is not enough to do the place a disservice.  A second strike though and all will definitely be revealed.

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As a post note I would add, that for years as a family we visited Compton Verney in Warwickshire, a fabulously restored stately home which is now run as an art gallery for all to enjoy.  It regularly has events for all the family and children particularly are very much encouraged to play.  I would say that my days here probably developed the enthusiasm I have for art today and I cannot speak highly enough of the place.

Though the beginnings of my art journey originate from my Mother, always a painter, who continues to explore and experiment with her passion for art and never falls prey to art snobs, even when they deem to criticise!

http://www.comptonverney.org.uk/