This week I continued to enjoy the reopening of museums with visits to the Barbican for the Dubuffet exhibition, to the Wallace Collection for the unification of the two famous Rubens landscapes and to the Pallant gallery for Degas to Picasso.
The Barbican, with its architecture of bleak concrete and ambience of lost space, or – to be more accurate – space you get lost in, is a perfect context for Dubuffet.
The painter’s career path was unusual as although he studied in the prestigious Academie Julien, comparable to the Slade where Henri Matisse amongst others studied, Dubuffet did not last the course and returned to the family wine business.
Aged 41 in 1945, he returned to art with a series of graffiti linked to the resistance.
After that he moved to art sauvage which explored mental anguish.
He then produced abstract expressionism in the style of his contemporary Jackson Pollock before a final phase of collage and movement.
By chance I visited the Guggenheim in the 70s and bought a poster of his exhibition there which accompanied me on various moves till it became totally worn.
I left the exhibition with mixed feelings as, whilst admiring his originality and influence on artists like Banksy and Jean Michel Basquat, I could not empathise with much that I saw.
The Wallace collection had the two Rubens landscapes, the Rainbow Landscape and A View of Het Steen, his country house south of Mechelen, clearly painted as a pair in 1636 but divided now for 200 years.
One was acquired by The Marquis of Hertford and passed into the Wallace Collection, the other is in the National Gallery.
Of the two I preferred Het Steen with its detailed but animated representation of figures and animals from poacher to a lady in her finery – in the foreground – to the immensity of the landscape behind.
I still had time to see the rest of the Collection of many fine works from the Dutch Golden Age including Rembrandt’s Portrait of his son Titus, some exquisite Canalettos and Fragonard’s naughty picture of a woman on a swing with her admirer looking up her skirts.
I enjoyed my hour there not least for the diversity of the collection.
The Pallant gallery in Chichester is another which punches well above its weight.
From Degas to Picasso began with a Braque and Picasso and, in the first room, drawings by Cezanne and Degas and a wondrous Vuillard.
There was time to admire their modern collection of Patrick Caulfield, Peter Blake, Rod Hamilton, Keith Vaughan and Lucian Freud
Big blockbuster exhibitions turn me right off.
Too many people crowded around a picture and not enough variety.
Covid’s restrictions have thinned the crowds but I still both prefer and admire the Wallace or Pallant which are more collections than exhibitions.