|The 1840 room|
|Self Portrait Gwen John|
|Seated Nude Philip Wilson Steer|
|The Mirror William Orpen|
The positioning of the paintings worked well as they tonally complemented each other and were all pictures of young, attractive women but as your eye traveled across the base of the pyramid to the top, the last woman you saw was Gwen John, not only the model but also the maker of her image. Hers is not a passive, male-gaze-centric image of womanhood, but a self-portrait and that bump made the viewing experience awkward. It felt disrespectful to John to have her atop a pile of ladyflesh, female vanity and weakness.
|1840 room wall detail|
My main problem with the rehang is this: The reasoning from the Tate site for the rehang is 'you can see a range of art made at any one moment in an open conversational manner.' I think this underestimates the power of movement in art, that your art may have absolutely nothing to do with what your neighbouring artist is doing that day. By hanging The Girlhood of Mary Virgin next to a painting about the South Sea Bubble by Edward Ward I learn nothing about that year (or couple of years) only that one person was thinking about religious icons and one person was thinking about the South Sea Bubble. I ended up feeling a bit cheated by the Tate, that they had hung art Tetris-style in a form that would fit together neatly. There is little or no interpretation offered on the labels, only name, medium, date and artist.
I felt there were two especial victims of this hang...
|Lament for Icarus Herbert James Draper|
|Come on, I'm not labelling this for you|
Okay, so what did I like? I loved the art. Tate Britain has an astonishing collection that is endlessly fascinating. Even their most familiar works are so fresh when you see them in real life. They have always championed the Pre-Raphaelites, housing the room full of their works in a period where the reputation of the movement was dodgy and bringing us the astonishing exhibition last year. This is why I have such a problem with what they have done. I always get the sneaking suspicion that the Tate are embarrassed by the Pre-Raphaelites or at least have the luxury not to exploit the popular resource that they have nurtured all these years. As someone who works in heritage I find this incredible, and as someone who studies the Pre-Raphaelites, I find it frustrating. We have entered a golden period of Pre-Raphaelite appreciation, why dismantle one of the most brilliant focuses of our adoration?
It's free to get into the Tate's permanent exhibition and you can read more about it here.