Sunday, February 19, 2006

tim marlow on the bowes museum
I always try to watch Tim Marlow’s broadcasts on Channel 5 because he has the gift of talking about art in plain words – due I like to think by being taught English at Denstone by my brother-in-law. His presentation is natural and unpretentious unlike another Courtauld graduate of an older generation Brian Sewell. Sewell is very clever and extremely knowledgeable but his accent and mannerisms grate with me and I’m never sure if they are natural or cultivated to enhance his public persona. Anyway Tim Marlow is like a breath of fresh air in the art world where pretentious language prevails all too frequently.

I watched Tim Marlow’s broadcast about the Bowes Museum yesterday. The first picture that caught my attention was a lovely portrait by Goya – his small portraits are masterpieces. I first got to love them when I visited a major exhibition of Goya’s work in the Musée des Beaux Arts in Lille. The exhibition had a small gallery of these works sensitively hung with the heads at eye level. All the heads were drawn sight size so the faces gazed out and really engaged with the viewer.

Goya also gives his heads room inside the frame – something which many portrait painters neglect. I was with a group of friends once looking at a portrait of a young woman in one of our local arts society exhibitions. The head was close cropped inside the frame so that the figure was cut off just above the sternum. I commented that the head should have been given more space because she looked as if she was gazing out of a prison cell window. Nobody else could see anything wrong with this so I didn’t labour the point except to say go and look at how Goya paints.

Goya: Juan Antonio Melendez Valdes

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