There’s something to see all over the UK in this month’s collection of ten unmissable exhibitions, including two shows on Henri Matisse.
1) Blood Royal: Picturing the Tudor Monarchy
This exhibition at the Society of Antiquaries is only open Monday-Friday, which is a bit of a shame, but it will be open late (6 – 9pm) on the 11th and the 25th of August. It focuses on the contemporary public image of the Tudor monarchy, which it tackles by following four themes: ‘Legitimacy and Succession’; Magnificence at the Tudor Court’; ‘Royal Power and the Court’; and ‘Loyalty and Dissent’. Tudor trinkets and documents are used to contextualise the Society’s collection of royal English portraits – the largest outside the National Portrait Gallery.
Showing at the Society of Antiquaries, London, from 24 July to 25 August 2017.
2) Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!
Grayson Perry likes to place unlikely things side-by-side, bringing elements of ‘low’ or ‘popular’ culture into his work in ceramics, printmaking, sculpture and tapestry. He does this to measure cultural distance. ‘Nothing pleases me more than meeting someone at one of my exhibitions from what museum people call ‘a non-traditional background.’ The new works I am making all have ideas about popularity hovering around them. What kind of art do people like? What subjects? Why do people like going to art galleries these days?’
Showing at the Serpentine Gallery from 8 June to 10 September 2017.
3) Sea to Shore: Paintings by Alfred Wallis and Christopher Wood
This small exhibition in a corner of the Fitzwilliam offers a chance to compare the cultivated naïveté of Christopher Wood with the real thing; the paintings of the untutored Cornish mariner Alfred Wallis, whom Wood met in 1928. The selection is weighted towards Wallis, but it features two moving works by Wood, ‘Ulysses and the Sirens’ and ‘Building the Boat, Tréboul’ (1930). The latter is the image at the top of this article, in which an old green-skinned skeletal Breton woman cradles a plank of timber like a baby, pitied by gossiping women and ignored by eager shipwrights. Jim Ede wrote that the painting showed “skeletons of ships in process of being built, which foreshadow the skeletons of the fishermen who would take them out to sea and not return. Wives and mothers, who had sent their husbands and their sons, help a younger generation to build new ships of death. I see this in his [that is, Wood’s] thought since he wrote of it in a letter.”
Showing at The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, from 1 April to 27 August 2017.
4) Hampshire Open Studios 2017
There will be more than 250 artists, galleries and studios open to visitors across the county of Hampshire in the week leading up to the August Bank Holiday on the 28th.
Showing across Hampshire from 19 to 28 August 2017.
5) Fahrelnissa Zeid
Fahrednissa Zeid’s life story reads like a glamorous, sad and rather fantastic novel. She was born in 1901 into an aristocratic Turkish family which would be ripped apart by patricide twelve years later. Her uncle had been the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire from 1891 to 1895, and she didn’t cook a meal for herself until 1958, by which time she had married into the last surviving branch of the Iraqi royal family. During these years she lived in London, Paris, Berlin and Istanbul. I’m not exactly sure what I would expect from an artist with a life story like that, but certainly not huge, fragmented abstract works in startling technicolour.
Showing at Tate Modern until 8 October 2017.
6) True to Life: British Realist Painting in the 1920s and 1930s
This exhibition focuses on Realism, an artistic tradition which has largely been left out of accounts of 20th century British art history written since the Second World War.
Showing at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art until 29 October 2017.
7) Summer / Haf
This exhibition at Ten Gallery, Cardiff features some large woodcuts and vibrant, almost-neon watercolours by John Abell, alongside some layered acrylic paintings by Elfyn Lewis and more work by Sarah Poland, Susan Phillips, Catrin Llwyd Evans and others. Be aware that the gallery is opened for appointments, so you will have to plan your visit ahead.
Showing at Ten Gallery + Viewing Space from 24 July to 20 August 2017.
8) Looking Good: The Male Gaze From Van Dyck to Lucian Freud
This stupidly-titled exhibition is not actually about the way Western art depicts women or presumes connoisseurs are male. It is about male fashion, male grooming, and conceptions of masculinity. The main reason for going is to see the van Dyck portrait from 1640 which was bought for the National Portrait Gallery in 2014, and which boasts a remarkable contemporary frame in gilt oak.
Showing at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery from 24 June to 1 October 2017.
9) Matisse: Drawing With Scissors
This touring exhibition of late works by Henri Matisse is stopping at Arts University Bournemouth until the middle of August. The works featured are lithographs, rather than the cut-paper collages themselves, though they do include such crowd-pleasers as ‘The Snail’ and ‘Blue Nude II’.
Showing at Arts University Bournemouth from 29 June to 16 August 2017.
10) Matisse in the Studio
This exhibition places a number of paintings by Henri Matisse beside objects from his studio, including old-fashioned hot chocolate pots, North African textiles and Venetian chairs. Many of these objects featured in Matisse’s still lives, or were used as props or backdrops in his portraits. They were mostly not expensive, museum-quality pieces; on the contrary, Matisse often valued them for their simple design, their character, their typicality within a culture or artistic tradition, or their redolence of cultures outside Western Europe. The reviews for this show have been mixed, but it will certainly make interesting viewing, whether you end up thinking of them as treasures, trifles, or kitschy colonial booty.
Showing at the Royal Academy from 5 August to 12 November 2017.
The image at the top of this post is ‘Building the Boat, Tréboul’, by Christopher Wood, featured in the Kettles’ Yard/Fitzwilliam Museum show ‘Sea to Shore: Paintings by Alfred Wallis and Christopher Wood’.