Sunday, 2 October 2011

Got my dates wrong

Yesterday I wrote about the first time I saw Pre-Raphaelite paintings in a real gallery. I remember being quite dazzled by them, seeing them in the flesh so-to-speak and it caused my little heart to flutter. This was because I'd been introduced to the movement having watched a tv drama about them on the BBC and wasn't prepared for a real life encounter with them.

I wasn't 17 as I wrote yesterday, I was in fact 18 years old. At this stage in my life I was old enough to get married without permission, vote in an election and serve in the armed forces for my country. Quite the adult you might say except I was so ignorant about art history it took the BBC to teach me about the Pre-Raphaelites. I have discovered on Wikipedia that the series was called The Love School if you want to go and check it out and it was broadcast in 1975.

Just a couple of weekends ago I had the chance to go to the Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery for the first time. It was built in 1885 and it has a huge collection of paintings, silver work, cast iron work and it is also home to the world's largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite art.

By the time I had navigated my way to the galleries where they were hung I had enjoyed watching some short films about how artists make their art, wandered around the building taking in the architecture and read any number of small notices naming and describing artworks. So I was feeling a bit wan by the time I had stumbled across Burne-Jones.

Now I am no longer 18 years old I can view these paintings a bit more dispassionately than I could more than 30 years ago. My heart doesn't go pitter patter and I find some of the subject matter a bit cloying but I continue to be impressed with the standard of draughtsmanship. It was like a master class in understanding perseverance given the scale and detail of some of the works. It's always tempting to imagine that famous artists had numerous apprentices to help them do the grunt work but that may not be the case at all.

When I left the museum I felt in need of a lie down. Now, with hindsight, it is the quality and quiet presence of the art that remains with me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was about the same age as you when I saw Millais' Ophelia at the Tate Gallery and yes, I saw the same drama series. I still think these paintings are magical even if they are bit chocolate boxy. So are lot of impressionist paintings However, I would love to have learn to paint like that. Instead we were left to teach ourselves. Am I bitter, a bit.

I don't remember going to Art Galleries when I was younger even though we were surrounded by National art galleries. I suspect art galleries were a very quite affair then unlike these days. Having volunteered for the Blanton, I know that school kids are viewed with as mixed blessing,not because of the kids but the teachers and helpers that accompany them. Children will follow rules, even teenagers but for some reason adults feel they are not subject to these same rules.