Picture of the Week
Paternal Love (c1775). By Etienne Aubry (1745-81). Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham University.
The idea that fathers should invest time and emotion in their young families may be topical, but it is by no means new.
It was certainly current in Enlightenment France, where the writer and philosopher Diderot heaped praise on this painting when it was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1775.
The picture, which is possibly the short-lived Aubry's masterpiece, was lent to the Salon by his patron, the Comte d'Angiviller, director of Royal Buildings to King Louis XVI.
The painting shows three generations of a family in their spartan home, with such domestic details as the cat asleep on the mantelpiece. The proud father reaches to embrace his small son while an older man, presumably the children's grandfather, looks on.
As in the paintings of Sir David Wilkie, Aubry's positive presentation of the virtues of the poor but respectable class seems to lay down a formula which became more familiar - and hackneyed - in Victorian painting.
This painting is one of seven from public collections around the country which has recently been chosen for this year's Woodmansterne Art Conservation Award. The scheme, launched in 1995 to assist conservation of works in public galleries, is funded by sales of Woodmansterne fine art greetings cards.
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 0121 303 2834: Connecting Threads. Ambitious survey of textiles and costumes from the museum's collections, spanning different centuries and cultures. Ends tomorrow (also incorporating displays at Soho House, Aston Hall, Sarehole Mill and Museum of the Jewellery Quarter until Sep 17). Four Recent Print Donations. New additions to the print collection featuring A S Hartrick, Robert Gaudy, William Gear and Michael Rothenstein. Until Aug 6 (Mon-Thu/Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12.30pm-5pm). Gas Hall: Kingdom of the Soul: German Symbolist Art 1870-1920. The only showing in Britain of a major international exhibition, also showing in Frankfurt and Stockholm, devoted to a period of German art little known here. This is turn-of-the-century Symbolism with a German accent with highly romantic, sometimes morbid, and often erotic images from artists ranging from Arnold Bocklin and Franz von Stuck to the little known Hans Thoma, Ludwig Van Hoffmann and Hans von Marees. Until July 30 (Mon-Thu/Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12.30pm-5pm. Admission pounds 5 (pounds 3.50) family pounds 14).
Ikon Gallery, Brindleyplace 0121 248 0708: Richard Billingham. The largest exhibition so far devoted to the Birmingham-born photographer whose documentation of his own dysfunctional family in the book Ray's a Laugh earned him instant fame and notoriety when it was published in 1996. Until July 16 (Tue-Sat 11am-6pm).
Barber Institute, Birmingham University 0121 414 7333: Masterpiece Loan: Peace and Plenty Binding the Arrows of War by Abraham Janssen. …