What to watch: Picks for Summer 2014 by AHA alum. Catriona Grant

Art Everywhere

Art Everywhere has launched again after its huge success last year. Billboards across the country are being filled with posters of artworks from our national collections. Over 38,000 public votes produced the shortlist of 25 works which will be found across 30,000 poster sites in cities, towns and villages throughout the UK.

Enjoy #arteverywhere for the next 6 weeks – the largest outdoor exhibition in the world! You can donate to the project via its website (http://arteverywhere.org.uk) and receive rewards in the shape of limited edition prints, posters and postcards.


Summer Exhibition 2014

The ever-popular Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy is in its final few weeks. For almost 250 years the same concept has directed the exhibition – submission is open to all, and is judged by a panel of leading contemporary artists. The result is a plethora of artworks of wide-ranging styles, with amateurs hung on equal terms alongside Royal Academicians. Sometimes you stumble upon new works by much loved artists, and always you leave feeling inspired at the range and quality of previously unknown artists.

This is a particularly great opportunity for busy art lovers to stay up to date with developments in contemporary art and practicing artists, and according to the curating team ‘everything you’ll see at the Summer Exhibition represents what is happening in the art world right now.’


Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House

This year marks the tenth year of the open air cinema screenings at Somerset House – the ‘cinema under the stars’. For 2 weeks (7th-20th August) a variety of films are projected in the Neoclassical surroundings of one of central London’s most iconic buildings.

From new releases such as French drama ‘Two Days, One Night’, to well known classics like ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’, ‘E.T’, and ‘Annie Hall’, there is something to suit everyone’s taste.


House of Illustration

The House of Illustration opened this summer in King’s Cross, London, as the first permanent exhibition space for international illustrators, with an extensive education space at its core.

Its collection contains illustration ‘in all its forms, from adverts to animation, picture books to political cartoons and scientific drawings to fashion design’. Its initial exhibition is Quentin Blake: Inside Stories, and runs til November this year.


Cambridge Shakespeare Festival

Throughout the summer, Shakespeare’s timeless plays entertain audiences in the beautiful gardens of the ancient collegiate university. Try swapping the Globe for a genteel picnic and performance of Twelfth Night in St John’s College Gardens, Othello in Trinity, The Taming of the Shrew at Homerton, or The Merchant of Venice in the grounds of Robinson.

American Impressionism at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Until October there is a chance to throw the spotlight onto the American contribution to the Impressionist movement. Whilst the likes of Monet, Renoir and Pissarro may have dominated the canon of Impressionist art, many well travelled American artists engaged with the style and spread its influence back to the United States. The exhibition features the work of artists such as Theodore Robinson, Frank W. Benson, and Mary Cassatt.

Pick of the week: a mini guide to London’s artistic eateries – by Helena Roy

Food and art have a long and illustrious history (think Caravaggio’s ‘The Supper at Emmaus’, or Van Gogh’s ‘Apples’ or ‘Crabs’) – and ever more cafés, restaurants and bars are adding to that tradition in London. A recent post detailed the artistic work of Taylor St Baristas – not a gallery, but a coffee shop.

Van Gogh's 'Apples' (c. 1885)

Though I have yet to find an Italian example (I’m at a loss as to why given a) my obsession with pasta and b) the Italian love of art – any suggestions would be greatly appreciated), one discovery led to another, and thus here are a couple more artistic eateries in London…

Koshari Street

Koshari is a delicious and speedy traditional Egyptian street food: a hearty combination of lentils, rice and pasta topped with a spicy tomato sauce and garnished with caramelised onion, boiled chickpeas, dried herbs and nuts. Koshari Street is a new restaurant (read: cramped but cosy alley that bursts onto the street) serving the dish from St Martin’s Lane, just off Trafalgar Square.

Inside you’ll find the stark black and white street art from Egyptian artist Samir M. Zoghby. A self-taught artist, Zoghby works with a modest felt pen and acrylics. Born in Egypt, he completed his education in the USA and served with the US Government. Zoghby says, ‘my work conveys no message but simply looks at the world through the changing prism of earthy humour.’ His signature is all clear lines, blank monochrome and traditional forms; a nadf style mostly influences by his Arab and Czech roots, and experiences in Africa and America. He has designed stamps for UNICEF and the World Food Program.

Koshari Street and the work of Samir M Zoghby


A slice of Bombay in London, Dishoom is a tribute to the old Bombay cafés – or Irani cafés – a tradition which Dishoom believes has been ‘lost in the frantic rush of progress’. A myriad of hot spiced, salty and sweet tastes, Dishoom offers Indian cuisine with a twist. Dishes are moderate in size but big in zest: packed to the brim with a heady mix of flavours. Their Shoreditch branch is a charming, idiosyncratic blend of warmth and bare decoration.

Dishoom in Shoreditch

Dishoom’s art is of the DIY variety: nostalgically reminiscent of the paint-your-own pottery cafés of childhood. Their plate-wallah is a project whereby customers can note their memories of Irani cafés down online, and the best ones (crazy and unusual anecdotes encouraged) are displayed at Dishoom. The more personal the stories, the better. Umbrella-shaped text on a creamy plate tells stories of discovery on rainy days, while jagged strips of words convey incomprehension after the Mumbai terror attack in November 2008.

Dishoom's Plates


Of course, there are some gorgeous locations for a drink and a nibble in galleries across London. On a Friday evening in the summer, the Royal Academy’s sunlit courtyard is packed with people sipping Pimm’s amongst posters and sculptures. The Tate Modern bar offers a minimalist interior, with spectacular skyline views across the Thames to St Paul’s; as does the National Portrait Gallery’s restaurant over Trafalgar Square.

Food and art are two of the best ways to get to know the soul of a culture. What makes these eateries so unique is not necessarily the food or drink – though it is fantastic. It’s the sense of a different, original atmosphere which brings comfort and escape. The art infinitely contributes to that in telling the cuisine and café’s story. It brings warmth and fullness to the material comfort of sharing a meal.

With thanks to Koshari Street and Dishoom for photos.

Have a go at Sensing Spaces at the RA, by AHA alum Annie Gregoire


Eduardo Souto de Moura's concrete installation

When you hear the word ‘architecture’, your mind probably conjures images of the shapes of buildings, their facades, interiors, materials and ornament. But hopefully it will also lead you to consider feelings, to think about light, scent, texture, comfort, space, and everything else that is architecture in addition to its aesthetic. This is the principle of the Royal Academy’s recently opened exhibition Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined, and is one that everyone should be urged to consider.


The RA has devoted the grand spaces of its main galleries to architectural installations created by 7 architects. Those chosen to exhibit stretched to every corner of the globe, from Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Japan, Ireland and Portugal. It is refreshing to visit n exhibition turning away from the ‘big dogs’ that tend to dominate the British architecture scene. In a setting in which the art lover is so accustomed to just looking, you are now invited to touch, smell, spin, sit, wander, at any pace you choose, and absorb your surroundings.


On top of the Portuguese architects' 'Blue Pavillion'

This time, there is no designated route by which to visit each room. As I entered, however, it was  hard to miss the enormous wooden structure designed by the Chilean couple  Mauricio Pezo and Sofia von Ellrichshausen. Its bold geometry contrasts starkly with the classical interior of the gallery itself in an exciting and arresting way. A little investigation will lead you to the foot of four spiral staircases – choose any one and it will take you to a raised platform. Looking out from the top of this edifice offers a novel and interesting perspective on the space, highlighting the design and ornamentation of the gallery ceiling that you may have never noticed, or certainly will have never seen this close. The installation is enjoyable to explore, and for me its success lies not in creating a space for you to sense but a platform upon which to sense the exhibition space itself.



Inside Li Xiaodong's hazel labyrinth

Next I found myself transported by the all-surrounding work of Chinese architect Li Xiaodong who creates walls of hazel twigs assembled in a fun but sometimes disorienting maze. The two installations designed by the Grafton Architects from Ireland also totally dominate and transform the spaces they are in, creating fantastic effects by playing with straight lined designs and the interception and transportation of light.


Tailored light in an installation by the Grafton Architects


Kengo Kuma's magical network of scented bamboo

Scent constitutes an important part of place, experience and memory and this is addressed by the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. He has devised two dark rooms in which stand floor-lit lattices of thin bamboo sticks omitting scents that vividly recall his childhood. The final installation is enjoyable and the smell is certainly pleasant, however I found the exploration of scent and memory perhaps a little too obvious in this instance and found myself craving another layer of meaning. In these rooms the viewer must also walk around the sticks which are placed in the centre in an arrangement which confuses the idea of the exhibition a little – the construction operates less as a creation of architectural space and more as a sculpture or piece of installation art. Perhaps this was a deliberate intention to explore the line between architecture and sculpture.

Diébédo Francis Kéré's honeycomb lattice with straws installation
Visitors can contribute a straw to Kéré's installation

The Architect Diébédo Francis Kéré has created a bright and fun tunnel made of honeycomb lattices, very enjoyable to wander through and with the addition of reclining chairs that allow you to stop and consider the space from a different perspective. Kéré, coming originally from a remote village in Burkina Faso, is interested in community and creating architecture that everyone can contribute to and feel part of. He emphasises this in the exhibition by leaving a box of bright coloured plastic straws and inviting visitors to interact with the installation by adding one or two to the lattice. The experience reminded me of contributing a twig or two to a forest stick house (to which any child of the countryside might be able to relate). Kéré’s ideas are engaging and thought-provoking but perhaps more could have been done to add to the visitor experience in this instance.

The exhibition concludes with a video that introduces the figures of the exhibition and runs through a series of their meditations on architecture with a backdrop of film of their work outside of Sensing Spaces (it is a great feature of the exhibition that the installations are accompanied by very basic labels and fantastically little supplementary information that could get in the way of your physical and personal exploration of the spaces) . The video provokes some interesting thoughts on the subject of our environment, as well as demonstrating that the architects featured are indeed exceptional, and have created some of the greatest and most interesting buildings of today.

Sensing Spaces is n innovative and exciting exhibition, though I have to say I was a little disappointed. I think I visited in the hope of being swept away into other dimensions but I was always conscious of being in the gallery. Perhaps this was in part the point of the show – to explore architecture within architecture. The most fantastic element for me was that each visitor is able to respond differently to the spaces; you can wander them alone and reflect on how your environment makes you feel, or use them as a platform for discussion with others. This exhibition explores something I have not encountered in a gallery before,  and if it is encouraging people to think more broadly about architecture and experience then it is a great success.


Experience many interesting thoughts on architecture at 'Sensing Spaces'


Visions of Paris: Helena Roy reviews Daumier at the Royal Academy

Today we have become so used to the unadulterated mocking of politicians, that direct insults and impersonations are unabashed and abundant. What we find less and less is fantastical caricature and unreal analogy. Daumier’s notorious political satire – currently on display at the Royal Academy – offers a soaring vision of the origins of satirical portraiture, through his uncompromising caricatures of the political elite and bourgeoisie.

Daumier chronicled every day life in nineteenth century Paris with shameless precision – pushing every grimy detail into the spectator’s view. The stars of his portraits come from the margins of society: laundresses, street entertainers, farm workers. He reduced Paris from its dreamy, stony architectural grandeur to its viscous, sordid streets. Working from memory, his figures are harrowingly blurred and distorted – with warm pastels overrun with ribbon-like outlines.

‘The Third-Class Railway Carriage’ (1862-64) was (according to a contemporary commentator) ‘a profoundly expressed observation of working class patience and fortitude.’
'The Laundress' (1861-63)

An unexpected idiosyncrasy is Daumier’s brilliant skill in portraying contemplation, and isolation. Amidst the bustle of city scenes there are voids – blank windows, shadows or walls – which bring out the paradoxical solitariness of city life. Lone figures are common: at the end of the exhibition, there is a peaceful portrayal of artistic beginnings, with light streaming through a window onto a canvas to suggest creative potential (‘The Artist Facing his Work’, 1860-63).

'A Man Reading in a Garden' (1866-68)

The political elite, by contrast, were satirised in a fantastical, grotesque world; mimicking their own misunderstanding of the reality they presided over. Daumier’s process began with cartoonish sculptures in seedy tertiary colours, from which is modelled his distorted figurines. He aimed for high-profile targets; his lithographs moving with all the violence and changeable nature of politics at the time. Monarchy is detailed as a corpse in a coffin, with the sarcastic caption ‘Meanwhile, they keep insisting she has never been better.’ (1872). By the 1870s his satire was intense, powerful and prescient: censorship laws had by now relaxed with the fall of authoritarian rule.

'Rue Transnonain, 15 April 1834' portrays a father crushing the corpse of his little child in a cold, poor attic - all silence and death. Daumier thus condensed the events of riots 13-14 April 1834, where protesters were massacred by government troops.

Faces are gaunt – with pale pink flesh cut under black bone structures. Appalling realities such as cholera epidemics are analogized to fairytale figures. Raw violence is shown in gaunt form. ‘Madame is moving, transferring from the cemeteries. Hurray! The dead are going fast!’ (1867) is an instance of the recurring theme of mortality towards the end of Daumier’s life. Rejected by the censor three times, it is Tim-Burton-esque, correlating the death (the Grim Reaper) with industry (a steam engine) and military armament.

Les Divorceuses (1848)

Daumier separates these two sides of Paris – the laughable and the horribly real – but meshes the mediums and styles in ‘Ecce Homo’ (1849-1852). Daumier was opposed to religion, and though this scene is biblical, it is more a general depiction of protest than an outright illustration of the moment Jesus is condemned to crucifixion. It offers a traditional way of demonstrating the easy manipulation of crowds. Though unfinished, its size is exceptional, its movement animated but skeletal.

‘Ecce Homo’ (1849-1852)

The editor Pierre Véron commented ‘I could never understand how Daumier, so assertive, so revolutionary when holding a pencil could be so shy in everyday life.’ Perhaps he made up for a reclusive personality with an inimitable intensity in his art and its message. He refused to pursue more lucrative mediums such as portraiture, landscape and book illustration, but the truth and skill in his work inspired artists from Picasso to Francis Bacon and Quentin Blake. Daumier thrived on his political indignation. His visions of Paris are – whether fantastical or deleteriously real – as truthful and moving a portrait of an era as can be found.

‘Daumier: Visions of Paris, 1808-1879’ is on at the Royal Academy until 26th January 2014. For more details, visit http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibitions/daumier/.

Revolution: AHA alum Helena Roy looks at the RA’s latest exhibition and Mexican culture’s growing presence in London…

Mexico fever has taken hold of London. In July it celebrated MexFest – a three-day event offering tasters in Mexican film, architecture and music. The modish La Bodega Negra is being chased by its edgier sister, Casa Negra; whilst Wahaca has become the go-to restaurant for anyone looking for a great last-minute evening. One of the world’s largest and fastest-growing economies, Mexico has a culture backdrop to match: its daring and colourful art, architecture, food, film and music may just prove its most successful export yet.

Evidence may be the Royal Academy’s ‘Mexico: A Revolution in Art, 1910-1940’ – an exhibition showing the artistic reaction to a thirty-year period of political and social change, which gave Mexican art a place on the world stage. Revolution in 1910 brought years of instability, and flowered a cultural renaissance that included some of the seminal figures of the 20th century.

'Man Seated on a Trash Heap' (1926-7) by Francisco Goitia

Mariano Azuela said ‘How beautiful revolution is, even in its savagery!’ The exhibition shows that euphoria. Unlike the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, there was little state interference in the arts. Yet every inch is political – containing a unique social interpretation. It was a time of mass destruction and death, but exciting and intense reform. The artistic outpouring the revolution inspired is passionate to behold.

Nor was the movement populated solely by Mexican artists. Many foreigners were intoxicated with its lifestyle. Henri Cartier-Bresson said Mexico ‘is not a curiosity to be visited, but a life to be lived’. Josef Albers pronounced it ‘truly the promised land of abstract art.’ D. H. Lawrence and Malcolm Lowry were both attracted there. Englishman Edward Burra painted watercolour and gouache masterpieces. ‘El Paseo’ (c. 1938) has a sense of film noir, and exposes the huge tension between light and dark in Mexico. ‘Mexican Church’ (c. 1938) displays a pained, organic body in ornate surroundings. It is a faintly pagan depiction of a Catholic scene.

‘El Paseo’ (c. 1938) by Edward Burra

Mexico’s Aztec and natural heritage also inspired artists. The movement is streaked with native elements – more exotic and untouched than American art. Tertiary colours are drawn from its landscape, sometimes slyly blending into spiced shots of primaries. For example, Marsden Hartley’s ‘Earth Warming’ (1932), or Dr Atl (Gerardo Murillo)’s ‘Landscape with Iztaccihuatl’ (1932). Block shapes, clear curves and colour exude the fertility and diversity of Mexico. Forms are larger – hair flows in strands and locks; trees blow in ropes, not leaves.

'Earth Warming' (1932) by Marsden Hartley

Mexico mixes the macabre and the carnival-esque. Its imagery is at once bright and violent: bombastic, nationalist and brutally realistic. Francisco Goitia’s ‘Zacatecan Landscape with Hanged Men II’ (c. 1914) shows branching trees lowering bodies to the ground. The ferocious image is utterly organic, and the sun-bleached desert has its own deathly beauty. The motif of a grimacing (often dancing, moustached or sombrero-ed) skull is peppered everywhere – even in José Chávez Morado’s lively ‘Carnival in Huejotzingo’ (1939).

‘Zacatecan Landscape with Hanged Men II’ (c. 1914) by Francisco Goitia
‘Carnival in Huejotzingo’ (1939) by José Chávez Morado

Revolution brought a sense of realism in art – propaganda was out, toil and poverty was in. Thus, photography is just as important a medium as paint. A brutal triple execution is laid out stage-by-stage in picture postcard form. Journalism is mixed with art as freedom of speech was a thrilling novelty.

'Workers Reading El Machete' (c. 1929) by Tina Modotti

Heavy socialist views permeate the works in this exhibition. Many portraits have faceless subjects – either blurred by paint or hidden by shadow. They are the unidentifiable worker who props up the country. José Clemente Orozco’s ‘Barricade’ (1931) shows hard, physical work in earthy colours, juxtaposed to the silver of a knife and the red of a revolutionary flag. Bullets blend into muscle and flesh, and contorted shapes hint at the artist’s time as a political cartoonist.

‘Barricade’ (1931) by José Clemente Orozco

A reward at the end of the exhibition is a tiny self-portrait by Frida Kahlo. André Breton, the founder of Surrealism, was the first foreigner to recognize Kahlo’s talent. He labelled her a surrealist, and though she disliked the tag, it brought her prominence. Married to the equally talented Diego Rivera, she had an affair with Trotsky, and her introspective, Mona-Lisa-like portraits became iconic.

But, the artistic epitome of this period are murals in Mexico, particularly those by Rivera. His epic depiction of Mexican history on the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City is a masterpiece. This is what the RA’s exhibition lacks. Murals were the people’s medium. They were a way to communicate with the largely illiterate population – much as biblical works in Renaissance churches. Firstly political, secondly artistic, they culturally embody their time. The mural movement in the US, (especially in Chicago in the 1960s) was inspired by what had happened in Mexico.

'Dance in Tehuantepec' (1928) by Diego Rivera
'Dance in Tehuantepec' (1928) by Diego Rivera

Tensions between earth and humanity, nature and industry, concrete and the organic, the religious and the pagan, all expose Mexico’s varied chaos. There is a saying that we should ‘pity Mexico, so close to the USA and so far from God’. This view is not only changing economically, but culturally. The RA’s exhibition shows the power with which Mexico inspired art in the past, and the creative energy it has to offer the world in the future.

With thanks to the Royal Academy and the Guardian for photos.

‘Mexico: A Revolution in Art, 1910-1940’ is on at the Royal Academy until 29 September 2013. Details can be found at http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibitions/mexico/.

Manet: Painting Life. A review by AHA alum Emma Greenlees

“Painting begins with Manet” is the proclamation that faces the entrance to a jam-packed Manet: Painting Life on a cold winter Saturday. The hype so often a prerequisite for top London exhibitions is evident even before we reach that stage; the queue for tickets stretches the whole length of the square at Burlington House. But is the hype correctly directed? Is this an exhibition which looks to the successes of Manet as an homage to him, or as a historical map of his achievements and of the role of painting in his contemporary Paris?

Split into 8 rooms –  The Artist and His Family, Music in the Tuileries Garden, Manet’s World, Manet’s Cultural Circle (I  and II), Manet’s Status Portraits, Manet’s Models and Victorine Meurent – we get a very clear idea of that it is that is meant by ‘Painting Life’: it is Manet’s life and not everyman’s. Born to a wealth Parisian family in 1832 and mixing with Paris’ elite later in life, Manet was, far from painting the lives of the proletariat, depicting his own surroundings and his own friends. Dedicating an entire room to “Music in the Tuileries Gardens” (1862) underlines the variety and number of Manet’s influential circle. Not only that, but it makes clear the influence that the painting of his wife’s heritage had upon his work. By painting a group portrait of many around him who shared his values, Manet is engaging with a 17th Century Dutch tradition, as well as mirroring Baudelaire’s belief that music is the highest form of art.

By painting such a clear image of those who surround the artist, the exhibition echoes Manet’s own reluctance to paint self-portraits. What we see here is what he saw and the way that he saw it. It’s extremely easy to forget (and just as important to remember) how rapidly that world was changing. Manet lived in a moment of transition; the time of Modernity. He was born just seven years before the invention of the first photographs (Daguerreotypes) and yet grew up in a culture which still observed the tradition of the Paris Salon. He lived in a Paris of change; from Second Republic to Third Republic, through Prussian Occupation; a Paris of modernity but which still held the Salon up as the pinnacle of artistic achievement. It was a world of contradictions, which was simultaneously clinging onto the past and running tirelessly into the future. What Manet did so expertly was to navigate and pioneer his way through this moment of transition into the full swing of modernity. He fused the genre painting with the portrait at the same time as marrying modernism and realism. He was echoing his contemporary surroundings in his work: his portraits coincided with the photographic portrait’s growing popularity, and the curator has placed a number of Cartes de Visite alongside Manet’s work to make this clearer.

And so, to see the exhibition as a retrospective of Manet’s work would be a mistake. If it were just an examination of his canon, then it would be missing certain very key pieces: Olympia is not here, for starters. Nor is the Dejeuner sur l’herbe (only a study hangs here). The sad thing about an exhibition of this type is that it does seem to be perceived by many of the gallery-goers as precisely this sort of retrospective. Manet is a well-known name, and so going to the exhibition at the RA has become a task to check off the list, while the Mariko Mori exhibition has been relegated to Burlington Gardens, around the corner.

What we do see is an impressive selection of Manet’s portraits, and particularly the blurred line between Manet’s portraits and the tradition of genre scenes, which is perfectly encapsulated in “The Luncheon” (1868). It is very effective in foregrounding the progress of Paris in the late 19th Century, and the changes in artistic trends (both photographically and in painting).

What this exhibition does is to map out the progress of modernity in late 19th Century Paris. As a history of modernising Paris, it is very successful; as an exhibition of Manet’s work, it is not.

Review! From Paris, A taste for Impressionism at The Royal Academy, by Marie Naffah

The Royal Academy is renowned for its prestigious exhibitions, with artists ranging from Van Gogh to Hockney. This month, and until September 23rd you’ll find an array of Impressionist works, celebrating the artists who broke away from the conventional ‘Salon’ of Paris in the 19th Century, and who painted with looser brushwork, manipulated light and used colour in new and evocative ways.

The exhibition is thoughtfully displayed and clearly explained, and the choice of pastel blue walls successfully compliments the works, especially those which contain an abundance of blue tones, such as the landscapes and boat scenes in rooms 2 and 3. I found the works that stood out most were those hung separately from the rest, especially one by Pissarro’s in room 2. I think that perhaps the exhibition could have benefited from fewer paintings, or indeed, a larger space, allowing the viewer to have more time to ponder on each piece separately. Arguably, the display of similar works on each wall allows viewers to observe common characteristics of the Impressionist movement, such as the broader strokes of paint applied with a palette knife for the first time.

Edouard Manet, Moss Roses in a Vase, 1882

The exhibition is organised by genre, beginning with Still Lifes by artists such as Manet (Moss Roses In a Vase – 1882) and ending with Portraits, notably those by Degas and Renoir. One room is dedicated to The Female Figure, including pieces by Renoir, Stevens and Morisot. This room was one of my favourites, as there were only a few paintings occupying each wall, allowing the viewer to connect with the subject on a more intimate level. The portrayal of women as curvaceous and delicate beings was reminiscent of some Italian artists depictions, such as Botticelli’s Venus in Birth of Venus (1486) or Bernini’s Daphne of Apollo and Daphne (1622).

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Apollo and Daphne, Museo Villa Borghese, Rome

The exhibition text reveals that Renoir had indeed visited Italy in 1881 and consequentially, was exposed to the works of Italian masters. One can see that the tighter brushwork in “Blonde Bather” (1881) is akin to the smooth, highly polished finish of Italian sculpture, or perhaps the soft rendering of form evident in some of Raphael’s works.

Pierre Auguste Renoir, Blonde Bather, 1881

Furthermore, the compositional arrangement of the single figure echoed Renaissance trends in portraiture.

The exhibition allows us to witness the exploration of new techniques and priorities in 19th Century art and I would certainly recommend it.

‘From Paris: a taste for Impressionism’ is on at the Royal Academy until 23rd September