Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice is the current big exhibition at the National Gallery in London and I saw it last weekend and it is excellent. I was sceptical for many reasons and I was basically wrong on every count. In purely practical terms, blockbuster exhibitions are usually hell. It's great that everyone in London is so apparently keen on art but the recent Lucian Freud, David Hockney, Van Gogh etc. exhibs have been hell. Amazing exhibitions, wonderful art but absolutely packed to the gills - awful people crammed in so tight that you can't even see the paintings. I don't know if it was our timing (11am on a Saturday), the size of the National Gallery or the subject matter but it totally wasn't that busy. It wasn't empty but there was plenty of room to move about, double back and get up close and personal with the paintings without feeling bumped or overcrowded. It was a revelation.
The other reason I didn't originally rush to the exhibition was that I have seen sooooo much Veronese in my time. You can't move in Italy for all the Veronese's - the man was prolific. And loads of it is in situ and how is a London gallery supposed to rival an Italian church as a setting for Renaissance art? Well, I suppose it can't but it can offer you a new perspective. Plus, it can let you get closer to paintings and they can be better lit. Of course, altarpieces look great in churches (no duh) but often they're fenced off and dark and musty or miles off the ground. All of the paintings at the National Gallery, and they're a wonderful selection, are at ground level and beautifully illuminated. You get all the immaculate details and wonderful colours and clever composition right up in your grills.
Veronese can't compete with Titian for my love but, truly, he is a great painter. His colours and tones are luminous; indigo, verdigris, carmine, they are so rich and vibrant. Man, he gives good texture, velvets and furs and jacquard silks, you want to reach out and touch. I also want to wear half of the clothes he paints but that is another story. There is a nice mixture of portraits (my favourites) and biblical scenes. The National Gallery have put together and curated a beautiful collection of beautiful paintings. If you're in or passing through London and you have any interest in Renaissance art or, ya know, beauty I would def recommend checking it out.
(the colour on this isn't great so you'll have to go see it in person)
(the detail isn't great either but look at the monkey and the puppy - so many good dogs in this exhib - and the sisters in their matching dresses and the classical architecture)
(this isn't ideal either - go see the original!)
(look at her dress... phwoar)