I went to see an exhibit of 19th century paintings at the Thyssen-Bornemisza called Alma-Tadema and Victorian Painting in the Perez-Simon collection. This is the kind of traditional realist art that makes a modernist/conceptual/abstract expressionist aficionado´s lip curl along with a simultaneous retina-detaching eye-roll. I thought it was gorgeous.
From the website:
After being shown in Paris and Rome, the exhibition Alma-Tadema and Victorian Painting arrives at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in June 2014, offering visitors the chance to discover the aesthetic sensuality of some of the most celebrated 19th-century English artists. In their paintings Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Sir Frederic Leighton, Albert J. Moore and Dante Gabriel Rossetti emphasised values that were strikingly different to the moralising attitudes of the day, including a return to classical antiquity, an interest in the nude, rich decorative effects and references to medieval themes inherited from the Pre-Raphaelites.The skin glows, the drapery alternatively clings and floats, the sun dazzles. Masterful technique that sweeps you away to the long ago and far away as conceived by the imagination of Victorians. Anachronisms, paternalism, sexism, colonialism all there, but also stunning draftsmanship, color, and unabashed romanticism.
The exhibition, curated by Véronique Gerard-Powell, Paris Sorbonne University professor, includes a selection of works, among them icons of British art such as The Roses of Heliogabalus by Alma-Tadema; Greek Girls collecting Pebbles from the Sea by Leighton: The Quartet by Albert Moore; and Andromeda by Poynter, have been loaned from the private Pérez-Simón collection, one of the most important in the field of Victorian art.
The pièce de résistance is the enormous The Roses of Heliogabalus, 1888 by Lawrence Alma-Tadema (Dutch!) depicting a Roman (of course) banquet wherein the guests are slowly smothering under a deluge of rose petals. Those petals are all individually rendered, accompanied by the scent of roses wafting through the salon.
I was very much looking forward to Waterhouse´s Crystal Ball, but have to say I wasn´t knocked over. I was more impressed by the luminescent nymph Crenaia.
Virtual tour here.
Informational video here.