Sunday 24 February 2013

Patrick George and Others

Well, I finally made it to the Patrick George exhibition during opening hours, and I was not disappointed. I was surprised to find that it's his 90th birthday exhibition - but then, this is a painter whose history goes back to the Euston Road school. However, it was relatively late in his career that he found his metier as a landscape painter, mostly of his home county, Suffolk. The landscapes on show at Browse & Darby include some wonderful work, the products of a long, patient, self-effacing engagement with his subjects. His paintings are - like the landscape he depicts - modest, unshowy and understated. Often they can seem unfinished - until you give them time and close attention, when they gradually reveal themselves. Despite appearances, many of them are the product of years of work and thought and revision. George says simply that he paints what he sees - not what is there; nature cannot be reproduced - but what he sees. Not being a one for self-promotion or for theorising about his art, George is strangely little known, has never been fashionable, and is, IMHO, seriously undervalued. If you find yourself near Browse & Darby (Cork Street) before March 13th, I'd recommend dropping in and having a look for yourself.
  After this, I made my way to Tate Britain and had a quick dash through an exhibition there, Looking at the View - a scrappily thematic selection of landscapes (in the broadest sense) from the gallery's own holdings. No Patrick George here (though the Tate has three), but a few unfamiliar pictures I was glad to see, notably an extraordinary moonlit William Nicholson of The Hill Above Harlech. And then there were two eye-catching pictures by one Annie Louisa Swynnerton, both portraits rather than landscapes, one of them this wonderfully extravagant picture of a Firbankian aristocrat in an Italianate landscape, which actually made me laugh.
 As I went into the Tate, a security van parked outside was repeatedly blaring out the message 'Help! Help! Security vehicle under attack. Please contact police.' No one was taking any notice, and it was still blaring away when I came out. Perhaps it was a work of art.

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