Last week the National Gallery opened an exhibition on Goya’s portraiture, which features works from both public and private collections. I have an unexpected love of eighteenth and nineteenth century portraiture, and of Spanish painting, so naturally I had to visit.
I’ve been wanting to go to the National Gallery since we arrived in London, both for the artwork, and to see the controversial architecture of the Sainsbury Wing (where the Goya Exhibition is being held). I first saw the wing in an architecture class shortly after we’d read a book by Venturi and Scott Brown, the building’s architects, and loved the way the building acts in a sort of dialogue with the space around it, referencing the old while remaining rooted in the modern. To me it seems to represent a way forward in a city full of history.
The Goya exhibition features works of both public and private portraiture spanning the artists long career. Featuring 70 different works in a few different mediums it was fascinating to see how his portraiture evolved, and the differences between his portraits of friends and family in conversation with his works commissioned for aristocrats and the royal family. One of my favourite parts of Goya’s paintings, seen specially in his in commissions for aristocratic portraits, is his handling of paint in the garments. His brushwork, oven somewhat loose and quick, makes the silks and satins shimmer from within with an incredible feeling of life. This, combined with his powerfully captured expressions make his sitters almost photographic, which I think is especially true of some of his smaller, quarter or half length portraits.
Walking through the exhibition was a really lovely study break, and allowed me to do a bit of reconnecting with my art history degree, which was nice as my Masters is much more focussed on contemporary issues. This next weekend should be even busier, as I’m set to go to both the Frieze Masters, and the Frieze art fairs, and am planning to try to squeeze in a few others before the end of the weekend.