Starting from 1540s through to present day, you can see paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture from all the great British artists of the past half-millennium. On of my favourites that I always look for in the Tate is “The Cholmondeley Ladies”; Besides the lovely palette, and skilful rendering, I always play “Spot the Difference between the two portraits” and I’m up to 11 right now.
I really went to the Tate to see the new staircase…
And this staircase is something to behold, that’s true. After I’d recovered from its sublime beauty, I blinked a few times, took a deep breath and began my tour of BP’s Walk through British Art. Really, I wanted to find two things: firstly, a painting that adeptly illustrates Orientalism in art, and secondly, something amazing. Or uplifting.
This piece by Turner Prize winner Martin Creed, a seemingly empty room until the light flicks on then off again, is not either of those things to one visitor, an older woman 50-60-something, who noted to her companion with a mildly haughty sniff, “What a waste of a perfectly good gallery.”
Perhaps the lady would prefer a room filled with oil paintings like this one in Room 1930:
Hoping to find one of Holman Hunt’s pictures from his trips to the Holy Land, I keep wandering room to room, and still haven’t found a painting that adroitly captures an imperialist (or colonial view) of Orientalism. I suspect I’ll find it somewhere around the 1800s.
Yep, just what I was looking for: Rossetti’s picture of young blonde Virgin Mary getting a sewing lesson from her mother, with her pet dove succumbed in a golden bubble, watched over by ginger Gabriel guarding a stack of books in the corner. Because we all know that sewing is better than reading for young girls, and all the blonde people are good and holy when seen in the lands of brown people.
But then it gets weirder than a fair Mary and book-hoarding copper-haired heavenly messengers…
In Glyn Warren Philpot’s version of the Jesus, Mary and Joseph’s run to Egypt to escape Herod’s decree, scary pagan creatures encroach with wanton sexuality on the Holy Family in the middle of their night’s sleep. (Room 1910)
Creepy and weird. I’m still not uplifted yet. Maybe something by Francis Bacon would make my soul sing.
Emotive? Definitely. But somehow a Henry Moore piece is more to my liking today…
Per Tate’s website, this beech wood sculpture is “…what a reclining woman would look like if flesh and blood were translated into the stone before him [Moore]
That’s exactly what I wanted to see today; Moore never disappoints with his elegant simplicity wrapped in beautiful workmanship.
Truth be told, there’s bound to be something for everybody’s tastes in the hundreds of works on display in the circuit of Tate’s BP Walk through British Art. But don’t stop with these 10 or 15 rooms; art lovers could spend a whole day at Tate Britain.
And don’t forget to enter by the front entrance on Millbank. In a dictionary, the word “grandiose” would be accompanied by a picture of this foyer and its spiral staircase. See also, “eye catching” and “wowzers”.
More links and information
Exhibition details: BP Walk through British art is on at Tate Britain, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG, daily. Free admission