Charlotte Courthold goes in search of paintings
When was the last time you visited an art gallery? For many of us it may be a rare outing but the pleasure that can be had for a small admission fee, or even, in some cases, for nothing, is worthwhile.
The number of visitors to the UK’s major museums and galleries fell by nearly 1.4 million last year, the first decline in almost a decade according to a report by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
There are suggestions that the increased terrorist threat has curtailed visits but is it more that we have forgotten how to appreciate the art that is available?
I note that as I visit the homes of my children and the younger generation it is rare that I see a painting hung on the wall or a piece of glass or pottery exhibited just for its beauty. What passes for home adornment seems to be a wooden carved plaque that says HOME or FAMILY, or stickers that cover a wall implying that you need to be told to be kind to each other.
I recently went to a few galleries in Cornwall and was delighted by the exhibitions available, featuring both traditional and modern art. We visited the Tate in St Ives which did not encourage me to want to own any of its displayed work but was still interesting to see. We also went to the Penlee House in Penzance which shows paintings of traditional fishing boats and scenes by Stanhope Forbes, and the Falmouth gallery which has more paintings of this genre, my particular favourites by Charles Hemy.
My own house is filled with paintings both originals by local artist and friends, and prints of scenes and portraits that bring me pleasure. I often stop at the bottom of the stairs to enjoy my “relaxing lady with a red hat” or smile when I remember being given the numbered print of Poole Harbour to remind me of my time in Dorset.
Fashion in art is ever changing as in every walk of life. You must remember the ubiquitous image of the Chinese Girl in a 1952 painting by Vladimir Tretchikoff. It became one of the world’s most popular paintings when made into prints in the 1950s and 1960s, and is one of the world’s best-selling art reproductions of the twentieth century. Prior to this there cannot be many homes that did not display one of John Constable’s prints, probably ‘The Haywain’.
The Victorians went in for elaborate, often mawkish, canvasses of children and pets, and from visiting country houses you will see the pride in the walls of landscapes and still life that adorn the houses of the rich. No self-respecting gentleman would not have portraits of his family and ancestors hanging along the staircase or over the mantelpiece.
Having visited one of our greatest modern galleries dedicated to the Salford born artist, L.S. Lowry several times I have realised the power than can be felt from standing in front of the original. Lowry painted the people for the people and showed us that reality can be distorted yet still engrossing.
I urge you to get out and visit local galleries and enjoy what is on offer. You may find that you fall in love with a picture and want to have a copy on your own wall to bring pleasure rather than a mass manufactured sign.
Do you have pictures, paintings or prints in your home? What are your favourites? I should love to know.
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