Iain Gale on exhibitions

Click to follow
Size, as we all know, isn't everything. Nevertheless, there is a tendency within the commercial sector of the art world to equate quantity with quality. Indeed, some artists seem to be sold by the square foot. It might seem surprising, therefore, that an exhibition at Spinks, that most establishment of art dealers, should serve to set matters straight with an exquisite collection of tiny masterpieces.

What is perhaps most refreshing here is the variety of effects which it is possible to attain given such limited space. Take, for example, the contrast between Peter de Wint's loosely-executed sketches of Lincolnshire harvesting scenes, measuring only some five by 13 inches, and the precision in a landscape by his contemporary, the Scottish artist Patrick Nasmyth. In a similar comparison, Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding's view of Rievaulx Abbey has all the Claudian Romanticism of an early Turner, while George Richmond's similarly sized study of a young girl under a tree is equally successful of capturing the simple aspirations of early Victorian genre painting in miniature.

These are works that we might reasonably expect from such a show. What is more surprising is a painting by the Scottish Colourist SJ Peploe of a Still Life with Books. Here, in a canvas measuring a mere nine by 12 inches, is all the richness of texture and understanding of contrast and light the artist had learned from Velasquez and Manet, and which make his larger works so memorable. For this image alone, this curious and inspired exhibition is worth a visit. Small really is beautiful.

Spink, King St, London SWI (0171-930 7888) to 17 May

Left: detail of Roger Fry's 'Still Life with Apple, Fig, Plums and a Jug', oil on canvas, 1919.

Comments