Wednesday, 8 August 2012


The second exhibition of the day, called Migrations: Journeys Into British Art, held so much promise for me. Described in the blurb as exploring the impact of migration on British art, I was left with the misunderstanding that this exhibition would showcase colonial art.
My mistake, as I cast only a quick glance.
As you may know from previous blog postings, I do love anything British Empire and Colonial, so I was a little excited, especially given that the Tate is known for housing such pieces.

Johan Zoffany, Colonel Mordaunt's Cock Match, c 1785

Alas, 'twas not to be. The true theme had been the impact on British art of artists migrating to Britain through the ages, which although conceptually interesting, did not excite and challenge me in quite the same way as the Picasso exhibition had. Despite its being a natural extension of the theme of the Picasso exhibition, going so far as to celebrate the contribution of foreign artists to British art

Obvious, and of course beautiful, examples can be seen in the influence of Dutch, Flemish and other continental painters on portaiture from the Renaissance and beyond.

Hans Holbein, Anne of Cleves, c 1539
Anthony van Dyck, Charles I, 1636 

My most notable reaction was the realisation that all the 'foreign' names in British art were so entrenched in the annals of British art history that their 'foreignness' went unnoticed.

And the two works that I liked the most were paintings whose origin I would have unidentified incorrectly were it not for the catalogue.

Tissot, Portsmouth Dockyard, c 1877

James Tissot was French born, of Italian heritage, and mainly worked in France, where he lived and died. But both these works show English harbour scenes in Portsmouth, and although showing a decidedly French style, reminiscent of Manet and Toulouse Lautrec, also display the easy wealth of the American bourgeoisie so frequently displayed in American art of the period.

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