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Spirit of An Age, 19th Century Paintings from the Nationalgalerie, Berlin- NATIONAL GALLERY LONDON - until 13th May 2001
Reviews

From: Borghese
Category: Exhibitions
Date: 11 March 2001

Review

Spirit of An Age, 19th Century Paintings from the Nationalgalerie, Berlin- NATIONAL GALLERY LONDON - until 13th May 2001

The Sainsbury's Wing downstairs gallery has no natural light, not actually a problem for most paintings, but it makes the space a bit cellarish. The rooms were crowded with the usual tourists and middle class gawpers wearing their walkmans and pausing only long enough to sound out the words on the labels or note some "well painted"detail of representation that seemed strange to them.

I liked this show although I didn't look at much of it. Hummel's detailed depictions of unusual reflections and surfaces in a slightly na´ve style arrested me, and opened mouth I puzzled over how he had painted granite so well. Friedrich is pleasing in the same way. You like the smoothly painted delicate tree branches and luminous skies. The skill factor is high but not in your face, and the subjects aren't bible stories or battles you never heard of, or unnaturally naked women. It is easy to appreciate them because the same sort of style and subject exists in contemporary painting (David Rayson etc), they don't annoy you or look old-fashioned like the paintings of Menzel. Menzels's big factory picture has too much naff texture and diagonal composition and obvious social narrative. It is showing off too much. Awkward stillness is better for now than bravura energy. Do we only like what we know? But then how does anything change? People get bored.

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