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Thomas Girtin and Lucien Freud
at Tate Britain

A review by Malcolm Moseley

I recently attended Tate Britain [the original Tate Gallery on Millbank] to visit the exhibition of Thomas Girtin's watercolours: a major display of his life’s work. Girtin, who died aged only 27 (1775-1802), was a contemporary of Turner and of whom Turner said "I would have starved if Tom had lived longer", such is the style and power of the work. The show is very well put together with examples of papers, paints and techniques, which features all the great, late landscapes from Yorkshire and Wales. He is one of the most inventive and adventurous of painters in watercolour and it highlights the range of his subject matter within landscape and architecture. He really is worth looking at in depth as he is also a hero of the later Norwich School of watercolourists and is the equal of Constable and Turner, but often overlooked. (Ends September 29th.)

I was taken by surprise by how magnificent the Lucien Freud exhibition is: also showing at Tate Britain. I have to admit that I have never enjoyed his work, nor had a particular interest in figurative paintings produced in such a stark and realist style. However, the show is absolutely stunning with several rooms showing the progression from very early 1950s paintings right up to this year. As Iwalked around I began to realise that here was a master of composition which he uses with complete authority and adventure. I have never seen figurative work like this, where he continually challenges the notion of what composition is. So, overcoming my ignorance of his work in depth, I would recommend this show as a fantastic tribute to a great traditional painter whose obsession is in depicting our vulnerability through really powerful and memorable works.

--Malcolm Mosely
August 2002

 
 
 
For more information about Lucien Freud vist the Tate Britain website, also click here for info about Thomas Girtin