A Celebration at the Hayward Gallery: A Century of Rescued Art

By Bruce, Donald | Contemporary Review, January 2004 | Go to article overview

A Celebration at the Hayward Gallery: A Century of Rescued Art


Bruce, Donald, Contemporary Review


UNDER the dramatic title of Saved! the National Art Collections Fund has mounted an exhibition, impressive even in the drab purlieus of the Hayward Gallery, of some of the most notable works it has helped to retain in Great Britain during the past hundred years.

One celebrates the dedication and achievement of the Art Fund; certainly not the Hayward Gallery. During its long unregretted closure one hoped that the Hayward Gallery was being pulled down, to make way for a less brutish edifice for the display of art. Sadly, it is still there in its unyielding ferro-concrete ugliness: a jumble of heavy makeshift cubes topped with glass cones and crowned with an incongruously flimsy, flashing-neon stepladder. The only significant change is that the foyer may now be entered through one of a globalised chain of coffee shops. As before, a Piranesi prison lurks inside, with its ramps, winding stairs and huge grim cells. Aptly a heavy door creaks open and slams shut on Rodin's Burghers of Calais, tethered on a flat roof, big-footed, gesticulant, with the winter rain coursing along the overflows of bronze that stream down the casts. Within the barn-like galleries, divided by screens and glass cases, there are backless varnished pine seats modelled, in a functionalist manner, on rows of upturned tea-chests. Unkindly, there is nowhere for the attendants to sit, although they are on duty for long shifts. I saw them rubbing their legs. In keeping with the primitivism of the 1960s, the rough cement walls are thinly brushed with colour, although that distracts one less from the pictures than patterned hangings would. Stark walls have proved an asset at the Grand Palais in Paris and in the Sackler Wing at the London Royal Academy; but should the brush-marks be visible?

The first gallery welcomes us with the best-known works the Art Fund helped to acquire from Velasquez's Rokeby Venus in 1906 to Canova's Three Graces in 1994. We are met by the three Graces, although they reserve their straight-nosed classical smiles for each other. Their expressions are rapturously sentimental, almost like those of El Greco's angels. Their intertwined arms and their shoulders are less fragile than those of The Rokeby Venus (National Gallery) alongside them. The Rokeby Venus was bought for [pounds sterling]45,000. Today it would fetch at least nine million pounds. Even so, the dealer's price was met only when King Edward VII contributed the final [pounds sterling]8,000. The Three Graces was bought, to be shared between the Edinburgh National Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum, for [pounds sterling]7,600,000. Paul Getty, junior, and Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza contributed munificently to the purchase.

In contrast with the lissom Graces are the squat wrestlers of Epstein's Jacob and the Angel (Tate Gallery, Millbank) carved, in another contrast, from the deeply coloured veins of a block of alabaster rather than from almost spotless marble. In spite of the theological doctrine that angels are asexual, Epstein was decidedly of the opinion that they are male. As they grapple, the angel regards the hitherto errant Jacob with a fierce compelling stare. To wrestle can also be to embrace. Equally massive is Jordaen's St Christopher, bought for the Ulster Museum in Belfast, a gallery which recently disgraced itself by planning to sell off its nineteenth-century pictures to buy modern works by local artists. St Christopher, rubicundly muscle-bound (outdoing and overdoing Michelangelo) wades on under the prodigiously increasing weight of the Christchild. There is a look almost of impishness on the infant Jesus's face.

Chirico's Uncertainty of the Poet (Tate Gallery, Millbank), juxtaposed to The Three Graces, reminds us that 'youth's a stuff will not endure'. Chirico was a delineator of melancholy and the long shadows of the declining sun. In the centre of his picture is the severed bough of a banana palm prolific with fruit. Alongside the bough is a broken classical torso, flaccid with age, as the fruit will become.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Celebration at the Hayward Gallery: A Century of Rescued Art
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.