26th June- 26th August
Opening hours: Daily 11 am- 8 pm
Admission: 12,000 won
I have a limit to how many traditional landscapes I can take in at any one time. They’re mostly pretty ‘safe’ paintings; pastorals, old oaks bent over streams under blue skies and clean unadulterated countryside, painted mostly by men, often with double barreled family names. However, it was a joy to be transported back geographically and in time, to these idyllic landscapes of my mother country at the current exhibition, ‘The Collection of British Landscape Paintings,’ at Seoul Arts Centre. No neon lights. No apartment blocks. No ajuma’s elbow-ing you in the back to make sure they get on the bus first. Just wholesome, Victorian, British countryside.
I think I might have given a little squeal as I set my beady little eyes upon two works by my favourite Glasgow Boy, Edward Atkinson Hornel. ‘Spring’s Awakening,’ 1900, and ‘A Summer Idyll,’ 1908, both portay rosy cheeked, white aproned and bonneted young girls frolicking amongst blossoms. Admittedly, they are guilty of very twee subject matter. However, it’s the paint handling that I love so much. It stands out boldly from the canvas in defiant marks and it’s difficult to decipher where the girls end and the negative spaces between them begin. The air is portrayed as physically as the subjects themselves. These paintings are more than representational, tantalising to all of your senses, not just your eyes. He seems to be celebrating the simple pleasure of paint on canvas.
Hornel’s blocky brushwork was something that obviously the Impressionists explored even further and there are examples in this exhibition. There’s a Pierre Bonnard, ‘Palmiers as Cannet,’ 1924, which also portrays physical shadows. There’s helpings from the two Pissarros; Camille and Lucien, and Paul Gauguin. However, the majority of works on display are by British painters.
A few more of Turner-esque stormy scenes would have been ideal. There were only three small Turners exhibited, none of which contained his remarkable mastery of storm clouds. However, there were a few notable stormy contributions by Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding, for example, ‘Coast Scene,’ 1834 and William Clarkston Stanfield’s, ‘The Mouth of the Texel,’ 1855.
So, go treat yourself to some respite offered in these harmonious, mossy green landscapes of fair Brittania. It really is worth the 12,000 won entry fee. Then it’s back out to these vociferous, sharp elbowed ajumas.