Must See: Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision, Courtauld Gallery, London WC2
Portraits by the artist as a young man in pursuit of pleasure
The Independent’s former comment editor, Adrian Hamilton writes a weekly column largely on international affairs with particular focus on the Middle East, Iran and foreign policy issues. Before joining the paper he was deputy editor of the Observer newspaper.
Saturday 10 November 2012
Of all the foreign artists who came to Britain, Peter Lely made the greatest name for himself and the biggest fortune.
As official painter to Charles II, he became synonymous with a style of full-busted, fresh-faced women, standardised pictures that could be produced with repetitive ease.
But an intriguing exhibition at the Courtauld shows us a different painter, with wider artistic ambitions, who set off from the Netherlands to London as the Civil War broke out in 1643.
This was a young man with a desire to show off a full range of subject matter, including religious subjects, pictures from mythology and portraiture.
His portraits from this time make up some of the finest pictures he did. He continued during the period of war and the Commonwealth with his "subject paintings" of biblical subjects and of Arcadian landscapes, works of romantic sentiment and no little eroticism. What unites them is a youthful sense of pleasure in the flesh and joy in life.
(020 7848 2526; courtauld.ac.uk) to 13 Jan
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