Painters’ Paintings: From Freud to Van Dyck

  • Art
Painters’ Paintings: From Freud to Van Dyck


Fri, 01/07/2016 - 10:54


30 June, 2016

AN inventory of artworks owned by Sir Anthony Van Dyck, drawn up soon after he died, lists no fewer than 19 of the 37 were by Titian.

Sir Joshua Reynolds had Giovanni Bellini’s extraordinary painting The Agony in the Garden, from about 1465, though when he owned it, thought to have been by Bellini’s brother-in-law Andrea Mantegna.

Henri Matisse had Edgar Degas’ famously red Combing the Hair; and Paul Cézanne’s landmark Three Bathers which, when he bought it in 1899, was a major financial drain but about which he wrote 37 years later “…it has sustained me morally in the critical moments of my venture as an artist; I have drawn from it my faith and my perseverance”. 

Degas, “almost obsessive” about acquiring works, collected Eugène Delacroix, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Edouard Manet and more.

The National Gallery’s new show, Painters’ Paintings, is all about connections and illustrates their enduring importance to the artistic process. Up the road at the Royal Academy, an exhibition of 83 new portraits by David Hockney, for example, opening on Saturday, includes other artists, family, friends, acquaintances but even the 11-year-old son of a fellow RA who just happened to visit his studio.

But back to Van Dyck and his Titians. Show curator Anne Robbins says these works dominated his collection and it is clear his own oeuvre and image owed a lot to the Venetian master.

At the heart of this show are paintings from the National’s own collection (44 of the 87), which may be a weakness for those familiar with them. Yet many high-profile loans go a good way to complementing these and putting them into context. 

The gallery’s given running order for the show, which includes self-portraits, starts with Lucian Freud before moving to Matisse, Degas, Frederic Lord Leighton, George Frederic Watts, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Reynolds, then Van Dyck.

A first inspiration for the show was Jean Baptiste Corot’s Italian Woman, which hung in Freud’s sitting room for 10 years and was acquired in lieu of tax after his death in 2011 and allotted to the gallery. Either side of the Corot, in Freud’s room, had been a Degas bronze and birthday card from his friend, Camden Town artist Frank Auerbach. They’re here and from Freud’s collection we also see a Cézanne and a John Constable but, alas, none of the many other Auerbachs he held.

Some works are modest in size but punch above their weight, notably Rembrandt’s The Lamentation over the Dead Christ (Reynolds’s collection); and Raphael’s small oil on poplar Vision of a Knight (Lawrence’s). 

Highlights of the loans include, from New York, Pablo Picasso’s Portrait of Dora Maar, 1942, which he gave to Matisse.

Best of all, perhaps, and highlighting what Anne Robbins refers to as the almost “tribal exchange” by artists over time, there is a small Cézanne study, Bather with Outstretched Arm, once owned by Degas but now by none other than Jasper Johns.

Images: Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Dora Maar, 1942, oil on canvas, 61.6 x 50.5cm, courtesy The Elkon Gallery, New York City © Succession Picasso/DACS 2016 Photo courtesy of the owner

Right: Paul Cézanne, Bather with Outstretched Arm (study), 1883-1885, oil on canvas, 33 x 24 cm Collection Jasper Johns
© Photo by Dorothy Zeidman


• Painters’ Paintings: From Freud to Van Dyck is at the National Gallery, until September 4.

Add comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.