Friday, 7 February 2014

And Another...

The big art world story today is that our National Gallery (my favourite of all the larger galleries) has 'acquired its first US artwork'. It is George Bellows' 1912 painting Men of the Docks - a handsome piece of work indeed, but does it belong in the National? Wouldn't it look more at home in Tate Modern? After all, the National's policy is supposedly to represent as best it can British and European painting from the Renaissance to the end of the 19th century. Bellows' picture fits none of those categories, and there's little in the National Gallery with which it would very happily sit, despite its obvious French influence - it doesn't really fit the narrative of the National's collection. If the gallery is to start buying American, it would make more sense, I'd have thought, to concentrate on the great 19th-century landscape tradition, with its roots in Claude and Poussin, in the English romantic tradition, the Brabizon painters and the Dusseldorf school. It seems, actually, that this might once have crossed the National's mind, as the gallery does in fact already possess a fine landscape by George Inness of The Minnesota Water Gap - that's it (or most of it) above. We could do with more like that in the National - and leave the 20th century to Tate Modern. Meanwhile, they could at least take the Inness out of storage and hang it on the wall.

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