Saturday, 19 April 2014

German Art in London

Royal Academy- "Renaissance Impressions", chiaroscuro woodcuts from the collections of Georg Baselitz: see RA website.

British Museum - "Germany Divided", works by Baselitz and his generation from the postwar Germanies.

National Gallery - "Strange Beauty", German Renaissance art at the National Gallery.

German art has perhaps enjoyed a, er, Renaissance in Britain, as shown by a fine survey of nineteenth century works from the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin on loan to the London National Gallery in the 1990s (?). (I remember visiting this with a friend after returning from Berlin where the Gallery was under renovation).

The fact of three parallel exhibitions of works, from Renaissance times through to the post-World War Two Germanies, must be a sign of increasing awareness of specifically German contributions to Western Art across the centuries.
German artists at one point apparently took their lead from the more popular Dutch.
Altdorfer, Grünewald produced fascinating individual work sometimes criticised for "ugliness", and Albrecht Dürer of course is a major figure from any viewpoint with superb detail and precision of anatomy and nature.
Holbein was adopted by Britain in the same way we took on Handel / Händel in music two centuries later. His painting of fabrics in his portraits really is stunning, how can this not be "beautiful".

The double billing for modern artist Georg Baselitz involves woodcuts and prints he collected with those he produced himself alongside works by contemporaries from the 1960s on. The British Museum has the latter, with an enjoyable contrast of earlier Chinese landscapes in a neighbouring room. Edgy, anxious drawings of strange figures and and not comfortable viewing but they do give a feel for a kind of state of mind of that generation of artists.

The light-and-shade chiaroscuro wood blocks in the Royal Academy show Baselitz's interests, and while quite grim in some cases - Hercules clubbing a hapless figure to death - the detail and skill is striking.

Location:London, UK

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