VISUAL ARTS Modern Art in Britain 1910-1914 Barbican Centre London
Friday 21 February 1997
It is a terrific idea for an exhibition which in other, better-subsidised hands would have been an excuse to gather the key works of the 20th century under one roof for one of the grandest shows of recent times. Instead, the European selection is humble and the focus firmly on Britain. My initial instinct was that this was an opportunity missed, but taken as an exhibition of British painting with a few foreign pointers it is all the better for its modesty. The smaller and sometimes surprising talents of Sickert, Gilman and Gore would have been eclipsed by too many show-stoppers from Van Gogh, Picasso or Cezanne.
That said, it is a shame that two or three other paintings couldn't have been squeezed in. They have borrowed a great Gauguin from the National Galleries of Scotland, but arguably it's the wrong one. If they had included The Vision After the Sermon (also in the collection of National Galleries of Scotland) it could have been hung next to Spencer Gore's delightful record of Gauguins and Connoisseurs at the Stafford Gallery which shows it being admired on its first visit to London in 1911. Likewise, the little view of The Matisse Room at the Second Post Impressionist Exhibition (attributed to Roger Fry, but probably by Vanessa Bell) borrowed from the Musee d'Orsay in Paris shows the incredible depth of the 1912 exhibition but highlights the lack of a great Matisse in the Barbican's 1997 selection.
The oddest omissions are British ones. Where, for example, is Stanley Spencer, whose Apple Gatherers (in the Tate Gallery) is the most complete assimilation of Gauguin by any English artist at the time? Or CRW Nevinson? Acknowledged in the excellent catalogue as the maker of the first British Futurist painting, the only Englishman to be fully absorbed into a modern European movement, but shown in the exhibition by a single work that pre- dates his Futurist tendencies.
These gaps aside, there are some great pictures here and some very pleasing combinations. Roger Fry is shown under the influence of Cezanne, where he looks at ease, and Derain, where he does not; Epstein looks at home next to Modigliani; as does Wyndham Lewis with Picasso; Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell are more confident with Matisse than Kandinsky (their tentative experiments with collage and abstraction don't quite come off) and Harold Gilman successfully blends his admiration for Van Gogh's colour with that for Vuillard's intimism.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable exhibition, well worth the visit to London EC2 and the pounds 4.50 ticket price, which also admits to a beautiful display of work by the potters Lucie Rie and Hans Coper in the Barbican's lower gallery.
To 26 May (0171-382 7105)
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Axe wielding man shot dead after attacking four New York policemen on busy street
- 3 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 4 Jimmy Carr's Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 5 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo
Interstellar: What we know about Christopher Nolan's new film so far
The Apprentice 2014: Nurun Ahmed and Lindsay Booth sent home in double firing
JK Rowling to publish new Harry Potter story online for Halloween
Miranda Hart confirms eponymous sitcom has come to an end as she bows out on a 'high'
Fury, film review: Brad Pitt stars in visceral and brutally ugly drama that reminds us war is hell
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are