Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Day in London 2

Stop 2 in the whirlwind tour of London two days ago was a visit to the newly opened Medieval & Renaissance Galleries in the Victoria and Albert Museum. I only discovered this museum last year, well aware of it before I was put off I think by the Victorian connotations of its name and by its location a little away from the centre.

I was very impressed last year on my first visit. That great central aisle with what appears to be a packed-in jumble of sculpture is very striking. People are sketching works by Rodin, others taking photographs and the atmosphere is much more visitor friendly than in some other galleries and museums.

The new Medieval & Renaissance Galleries are breathtaking and need at the very least a full day for a proper appreciation. But it is a permanent collection so I took a quick tour around to get the flavour. One sad item was a carving from an English monastery or church. It had been badly defaced and reminded one how much art was lost at the time of the Reformation.

Then a visit to the Royal Academy for the Wild Thing: Epstein, Gaudier-Brzeska, Gill sculpture exhibition. Over a period of 10 years from 1905 to 1915, three outstanding young sculptors emerged in Britain; Jacob Epstein, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Eric Gill. The radical impact of their work was to transform British sculpture. The most impressive sculpture here was Epstein's Rock Drill. This is as far as I can see a reconstruction since the sculptor destroyed the original. It, with its shades of Duchamp's found objects, sits strangely with much of the rest of the exhibition with its emphasis on direct carving.

The title of this exhibition is taken from poet Ezra Pound, who remembered meeting Henri Gaudier-Brzeska for the first time in 1913. Pound was impressed by the young Frenchman, and likened him to “a well-made young wolf or some soft-moving, bright-eyed wild thing.” The poet commissioned a bust from the sculptor and the piece is included in the exhibition along with two preliminary drawings. The picture of the bust of Pound (above) is from this webpage.

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