Monday, 15 November 2010

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Ask Me No More by Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Lawrence Alma Tadema has been a favourite painter of mine for as long as I can remember. I've always loved the work of Millais and Waterhouse as well. For a long time it was considered in quite bad taste to say that you liked the Victorian painters — a bit like saying you thought Constable's "The Haywain" was great art (which apparently shows a person to be completely unsophisticated).

For years I remember that Stubbs was only spoken of with a snigger, now his "Whistlejacket" dominates the National Gallery in London and his work is highly sought after. Recently, Alma Tadema's painting, "The Finding of Moses" sold for $32m (£20.9m). It's not my favourite of his works, but it is still encouraging to see his artistry recognized. Twenty years ago you could have picked up his paintings for a song.

It's fashion that converts an artist's work from a guilty pleasure we won't admit to, to something that allows us to bask in it's reflected glory. So how do the cogniscenti decide that an artist's work can come out of the wilderness? Why do we relegate them there in the first place? How can someone transition from hating and mocking a body of paintings to singing it's praises almost overnight? Are they really seeing the value of the work, or is it a speculative fad? At the moment I can only be happy that Alma Tadema's work has found its way back and that narrative art, exquisitely painted and offering us something truly beautiful to behold, has found its way back from the wilderness.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful that you have a blog now Lesley!
    I love the Victorian painters also and agree wholeheartedly with your comments. Tragic that someone like William Bouguereau should have been so denigrated after his death but wonderful to see his work recognised now. Sadly I think it all comes down to money and those who speculate in art. Therefore, all the more reason why artists should believe in what they do. I look forward to seeing more of your lovely work, and maybe some work in progress, on here :) Lesley H.