From the death of Admiral Nelson to the violence in Northern Ireland, Tate Britain's summer show Fighting History takes a look at some of the most powerful moments in British history painting throughout the ages.
Tate Britain exhibition 2015
Monumental history paintings have traditionally lined the walls of the Salons and Academies of Europe, the pinnacles of artistic accomplishment. These vast works were revered above other genres of art, particularly still life images which were traditionally left to lesser female artists. History painting gets a new lease of life at the Tate galleries with contemporary additions from Turner Prize 2004 winner Jeremy Deller and Richard Hamilton. Deller's The Battle of Orgreave (2001) re-stages the 1984 protest in South Yorkshire while Richard Hamilton turns his attention to the troubles in Northern Ireland in the late 20th century in The citizen (1981-3). Into the more traditional 18th century works, you'll be awed by scenes of protest against state oppression and heroic acts from John Singleton Copley and Benjamin West.
Other highlights include the newly conserved Amy Robsart (1877) by William Frederick Yeames, which spotlights a historical mystery, and John Minton's tender portrait of The Death of Nelson (1952). British favourite, JMW Turner also takes us back to biblical history with The Deluge (1775-1851), and antiquity is brought to life by Sir Edward Poynter's A Visit to Aesculapis (1880).
Expect exalting heroes and poetic tragedy in this exhibition where monumental history comes to life.
Tate exhibition review:
All the elements of this London painting show are tremendous, from roaring 19th century battle scenes and murders in the night to fascinating interpretations of contemporary history, but whether they work together is another question. You'll leave feeling enamoured by the Tate's collection of stellar British art, but confused over what you've learned about the history genre. The curating is haphazard, making the point that history painting is still very much alive by shoving a Jeremy Deller diagram unceremoniously next to a dark 18th century Robert Edge Pine painting. The question remains, why? Rather than lead through the story of history painting chronologically, the Tate darts between different motifs, from a mini history in Room II to the apocalyptic Deluge at the end. The most exciting moments are the contemporary choices like Jeremy Deller's The Battle of Orgreave (2001), which you can hear a mile away; Richard Hamilton's ferocious portrait of IRA prisoner Hugh Rooney's dirty protest and Steve McQueen's haunting Lynching Tree (2013) photograph, taken on the set of 12 Years a Slave.
You can't deny the sweeping drama of these stories, but together there seems little rhyme and reason. As Tate Britain Director Penelope Curtis prepares to leave her post, this feels like her last battle cry and she's already surrendered.
|What||Fighting History, Tate Britain|
Millbank, London, SW1P 4RG | MAP
|Nearest tube||Pimlico (underground)|
09 Jun 15 – 13 Sep 15, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
|Price||£10.90 adults, £9.50 concessions|
|Website||Click here for more details|