We were dying to visit Somerset House and did so just before Christmas. If you don’t know, Somerset House is a spectacular 18th century house on London’s embankment. Famous for its ice rink at Christmas but also featuring the magnificent Courtauld Gallery with its permanent collection of old Renaissance greats and modernist 20th century painting. The Gallery is particularly renowned for its unrivalled collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, including masterpieces by Monet, Van Gogh, Kandinsky and Gauguin, and the largest collection of Cézannes in the UK.
They are currently hosting two small, intimate exhibitions and we went to see both of them: works by renowned artists, Bridget Riley and Peter Lanyon.
|Close-up of ‘Bridge at Courbevoie’|
Bridget Riley’s exhibition focuses on a really interesting angle of her work, about how it started and how she found inspiration from French post-impressionist painter, Georges Seurat (well known for his Pointillist technique). Bringing together seven of her earliest paintings alongside Seurat’s ‘Bridge at Courbevoie’ you can see how she explored his concepts of colour and perception. Riley worked continuously to make copies of Seurat’s famous painting until she made her early 1960’s breakthroughs of repeated geometric forms – a transformation of his marks. Riley then reintroduced colour with her stripe paintings, radically extending Seurat’s approach.
Meanwhile Peter Lanyon (1918-64) sought to create a new vision of landscape painting for the modern era following the Second World War. During the 1950’s he produced radical, near-abstract paintings of the tough coastal landscape of his native West Cornwall.
What I like best about Lanyon is his ability to find a language of painting that expressed his direct experience of the landscape rather than just simply looking at it. He was fuelled by a desire to experience that landscape as completely as possible. Gliding freed him from a land-bound perspective and he poured his new gliding experiences into his art. You can see his thrilling encounters with the land, sea and air, encapsulating multiple perspectives of his flights into each new painting. You can also make out the character of the air – its different movements, textures and forces. Not simply happy using paint he also incorporated found materials in his paintings and sculptural objects.
Here are some photos from my time at the Courtauld Gallery but not as many as I would like of the Lanyon exhibition (photography wasn’t allowed!). View more on my main blog at www.illustratinganartylife.co.uk…