Art Notes: Travelling Light at the National Gallery

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The touring exhibitions of pictures arranged by the London National Gallery are trebly useful. As well as letting more people see some of the national collection, they rouse regional galleries less admirable than those at Bristol and Newcastle to their duty to display rather than store their works of art; and they bring unfamiliar pictures from the provinces to London.

The introductory painting on the latest tour, tersely called Light, is by the Victorian painter G. F. Watts, undervalued nowadays because of the simple moral symbolism of many of his pictures. His After the Deluge (Watts Gallery, Guildford) is almost abstract, like some of Turner's late meteorological studies. Light explodes over the waning waters. The veiled face of God may be discerned in a Sun fringed with dispersed clouds: 'Like God's own head/The glorious Sun uprist'.

As may be expected from John Martin, in his Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Laing Gallery, Newcastle on Tyne) a hyperbolical cascade of flame, augmented by thunderbolts, crashes upon the toppling, improbable palaces of the two cities. Lot and his daughters pick their way through heaped rocks and stray flames, the daughters resourcefully carrying wine-jars. …