A dual exhibition has opened that is devoted to the art of drawings upon paper — one half devoted to an acknowledged lost genius, and the other half to modern day artists, most of whom can be presumed to want to avoid the same title.
The first half is a display that is more usual for The Queen’s Gallery, being a collection of the Monarch’s collection of drawings by Giovanni Castiglione, a rather wayward genius who was famous in his lifetime, then forgotten.
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This is in fact the first major exhibition of his work in the UK — and most of the Royal collection of prints has gone on display.
Most of what has gone on display was acquired from his workshop following his death in 1664, and there is a fair bit of mystery about most of the works as there seems to have been no preparatory sketches for many of them.
It is as if he painted with thin oils directly onto paper direct from the imagination. A couple of the paintings have been set up in the middle of one room with the backing board removed so you can see straight through the thin paper.
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The display is laid out chronologically based on the rather turbulent life of the artist, who had an artists temperament and often had to flee cities after committing unknown crimes.
He worked right up to the last though, with the later works showing a lack of the flowing hand of his youth, possibly suggesting arthritis in the hands.
For a century after his death, he was a lauded artist, and then he seemed to simply vanish from interest. He once described himself grandly as a genius, and it was his genius with ink on paper that was later lost.
It is paper that unites the lost genius with the second half of the exhibition, of modern art. These are a Jubilee gift from the Royal Academy of Arts, and the sole criteria was that the works had to be on paper.
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This is an eclectic mix that reflects the wide range of artists involved. If you hunt them out, there are all the famous names of modern art here – Tracey Emin, David Hockney, Anish Kapoor, Cornelia Parker and Grayson Perry.
It is interesting to ponder how many of the people who contributed works to the modern exhibition are considered famous today, but could be forgotten in a few decades time — only to reappear as a lost genius in 300 years time.
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The dual exhibition is open until next March.
Entry is £9.50. However, there is also free re-admission to their other exhibitions for a year if you purchase a ticket directly from Royal Collection Trust. That’s quite good, as you can then get into The First Georgians: Art & Monarchy 1714-1760 (April-Oct 2014) and Cairo to Constantinople: Early Photographs of the Middle East (Oct 2014-Feb 2015) for the price of one ticket.
The Queen’s Gallery,