Friday, 9 November 2012


Hedgerow (New Forest) 2003 lightjet print mounted on aluminium 122x155cm © The Artist, courtesy Anthony Reynolds Gallery, London

The Cornfield 1826 John Constable, oil on canvas 143x122 © The National Gallery, London
The picture at the top of a shining golf course  beyond a serpentine path, framed and held by a wreath of dark foliage, is shown beside none other than The Cornfield, the purpose being to find out  'how photographers use fine art traditions to explore and justify their work.'

The National Gallery has mounted its first major exhibition in photography, Seduced by Art, using work from the mid 19 century onwards to illuminate some of its Old Masters. Hedgerow (New Forest) is the work of one of our most exciting contemporary artists, Richard Billingham. People may recall first encountering his stark, painful, sympathetic and unforgettable photographs in the 1990s when he pictured his parents and brother in their domestic environment.

Death of Sardanapalus 1827 by Eugene Delacroix

Hedgerow and The Cornfield are in Room 34 and the pair are used as a taster to invite you downstairs into the Seduced by Art exhibition which I cannot include because you have to buy a ticket (half price on Tuesday afternoons). This blog is about free art. I should mention that the National Gallery is open and free (except for special temporary exhibitions) for 361 days in the year.

Seduced by Art has had mixed reviews but at its best it is magnificent. In the first room is this work by Delacroix. It comes to life with  the great late Tom Lubbock's review in The Independent 02.07.2010. He described a scene of 'beautiful chaos', where there is 'rich fabric and gorgeous colours' among 'turbulence, cruelty, opulence, ruin, decadence, slaughter... a masscre coming to its end'. Beside it in the exhibition are three contemporary photographs: Jeff Wall's Barbaric Destruction, Tom Hunter's single figure at a bedside and Sarah Jones' sheet slipping from a plinth. You may find the juxtoposition  overwhelmingly powerful.

© The Artist, courtesy Anthony Reynolds Gallery, London

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