Magazine article The Spectator

A Look Ahead

Magazine article The Spectator

A Look Ahead

Article excerpt

Even though museums have got themselves into the very strange position of no longer simply purveying culture, but competing with their fellow public institutions for box-office profits to fund increasingly elaborate bureaucracies, 2006 still looks set to furnish us with a richness and variety of visual fare. The National Gallery, disappointed in a poor turnout for Rubens, will hope to recoup on a trio of fine exhibitions, ending with the grand slam of Velázquez (18 October-14 January 2007). Amazingly, it's the first major exhibition in Britain to look at Velázquez's entire career, and will show his religious and mythological works as well as his genre scenes and portraits.

Can't wait. Before that, Americans in Paris 1860-1900 (22 February-21 May) investigates the exiled world of Whistler, Sargent and Mary Cassatt, along with lesser lights such as Cecilia Beaux and Elizabeth Nourse. Look out for Sargent's 'Madame X', and read Gioia Diliberto's intriguing novel I am Madame X (2003) to get you in the mood. Then comes Rebels and Martyrs: The Artist in the 19th Century (28 June-10 September), which deals with the popular romantic notion of the artist as a rebel starving in the attic. Should be fascinating.

Timed to coincide with Americans in Paris is Dulwich Picture Gallery's exhibition Winslow Homer: Poet of the Sea (22 February- 21 May). Many consider Homer to be America's greatest artist, and, although his images do a brisk trade here as greetings cards, there has never been a solo show of his work in a European museum. His watercolours are particularly fine, and he even painted some seascapes in Northumberland in 1880-1. Dulwich's autumn exhibition is devoted to the elusive Old Master Adam Elsheimer (20 September-3 December). A miniaturist who painted on copper, he died far too early (aged just 32), but was deeply influential on a number of artists, in particular Rubens, Rembrandt and Claude Lorrain.


The Tate has a crowded schedule as is usual these days. Tate Modern kicks off with the first big retrospective of the influential German artist Martin Kippenberger (8 February-7 May), while Tate Britain examines Gothic Nightmares: Fuseli, Blake and the Romantic Imagination (15 February-1 May). Tate St Ives begins the year with Ellsworth Kelly (28 January-7 May), a small show only for a major artist rarely seen here. For the Cornish High Season (20 May-24 September), John Hoyland's sophisticated abstracts from four decades will launch the latest monograph on this surprisingly underrated artist. Back in London, another Constable show at Tate Britain (1 June-28 August), hopefully not such a dismal flop as the 1991 exhibition, followed by yet another retrospective of that most overrated of contemporary daubers, Howard Hodgkin (14 June-17 September). Kandinsky at Tate Modern is something real to look forward to, a display focusing on his early years (26 May-3 September).

Autumn brings Holbein in England (28 September- 7 January 2007) to Tate Britain and the American abstract sculptor David Smith (1 November- 21 January 2007) to Tate Modern, ending the year on an up-note.

The Royal Academy, after a bit of a fallow patch, hits gold again with Jacob van Ruisdael:

Master of Landscape (25 February-4 June).

The English do like a good landscape painter, and Ruisdael was certainly that, a master of 17th-century Dutch classicism on an heroic scale. …

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