My day out in London – Rembrandt/Schiele/Turner

by martin davis artist

Had a week or so since my exhibition-aholic trip to London. So I’ve had time to digest what I saw at the Rembrandt/Schiele/Turner shows.

Standing in front of a Rembrandt masterpiece is quite a humbling experience, even when you know what to expect. I don’t think if I had a hundred years to think about it I could come up with a suitable response. But even though I love to gaze in wonder at the iconic stuff, in fact I am always left with a sneaking admiration for the smaller “sketches”, some of his ink works and gouache pieces, which seem to be dashed off almost as an afterthought..and with such perfection, precision and economy! Now emulating that would be something. Nearest I have come to being happy at something I have attempted like that is this one called “Louise” (after the life model I drew) – pencil on paper.


Still happy with my effort but where’s the magic I see in his “weeping young woman” – ink & gouache? such poise and confidence….if only!!

Schiele on the other hand was much more edgy and, in some pieces, tentative. I love to see an artist developing so looking at this panoply of nudes was fascinating. How can an artist see so much in one subject? and deliver it with such raw power and energy? Some artists’ influence you can feel seeping into your bones over the long haul but with this guy (it’s the first time I had ever clapped eyes on an original work of his) it’s there with immediacy and some force! Don’t think I will ever think about, or visualise, the human form in quite the same way again.

Perhaps I was tired by the time I got to Turner at the Tate but somehow I just can’t respond to him with much enthusiasm – my problem not his I am sure. I do like some of his seascapes and blockbuster paintings (Fighting Temeraire etc) but I find I get visual indigestion very quickly when I’m faced with a room full of his pale and insubstantial works, particularly those based on mythology – not my cup of tea. But he was clearly a genius – just not one that I can appreciate as much as perhaps I should.

However maybe the old guy works in mysterious ways, I am presently engaged in working up aa kind of landscape with huge sky….and I can’t help but think about Turner while I am doing it and wondering how he would tackle the same piece. Influence and inspiration I suppose come in many forms. Promise to post a picture of this work, along with a description, in my next post – or when I finish it.

Looking forward to my next “day off” when I can explore a few more galleries and exhibitions!