Mary Beale (1633-1699) Sketch of the Artist's Son, Bartholomew Beale, Facing
George Stubbs Mares and Foals in a River Landscape c.1763-8
Sir Joshua Reynolds, Three Ladies Adorning a Term of Hymen 1773
Putting the Stubbs next to the Reynolds brings out interesting underlying similarities between the two groups. Rich patrons in Britain were as keen to have portraits of their families as of their horses. Stubbs became a master in arranging horses in a composition that moved beyond the mere portrait to acquire the status of high art. Both of these paintings arrange figures in the landscape rather like a frieze. The arrangement of dark figures next to pale figures and particularly of a white figure against the dark echo each other in terms of their arrangement and they also speak of the English propertied classes.
Sir Charles Lock Eastlake, The Colosseum from the Esquiline 1822
William Dyce, Madonna and Child c.1827-30
Both these pictures in different ways bring out the importance of Italy for British artists. Both of them use the low, horizontal landscape line in the background to set off their views and both are imbued with a warm Italian light. Although Eastlake is looking at the Colosseum and Dyce is imagining a very different religious scene, they go wonderfully well together in terms of their colour range and background.
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema A Favourite Custom 1909
Walter Richard Sickert La Hollandaise, c.1906
Surprisingly, arranging works of art in the order in which they were made rather than by traditional art historical categories accentuates points of departure and innovation. The radicalism of Sickert's depiction of a naked woman in a cheap iron bed in a seedy Camden bed-sit is all the more striking when one sees the idealised fantasy of a Roman bath that Alma-Tadema painted three years later.
Gwen John, Nude Girl 1909-10
Eric Gill, Ecstasy 1910-1
Gwen John's Nude Girl speaks to Eric Gill's Ecstacy in terms of contrast as well as similarity. Both of these compositions seem to represent thin, almost emaciated figures that are at once isolated, but also drawn together. There is a desperation both in the single woman, as there is in the couple and while she seems to draw us towards her plight and yet ignore the viewer, the couple are completely immersed in each other.
Arnold Machin St John the Baptist c.1944
Eileen Agar Angel of Anarchy 1936-40
The relationship here is, most obviously, one of contrast. The Machin is traditional in both its subject matter and treatment while the Agar uses an unorthodox process of wrapping and covering up for her 'angel of anarchy'. Because of their dates, these two works sit in a room with paintings and sculptures that both depict and express reactions to the second world war. The aesthetic contrast here echoes, perhaps, widely ranging differences in emotional responses to the war.
Frank Bowling, Mirror 1966
Peter Blake, Portrait of David Hockney in a Hollywood Spanish Interior 1965
The 1960s was a period of social as well as artistic change. In a statement of rebellion and aspiration, Bowling shows himself both swinging rebelliously over, and gently descending from the staircase that linked the anarchic Royal College of Art to the established serenity of the V&A Museum as a symbol. In the same year, Blake painted Bowling's colleague David Hockney in front of a Michael Cooper photograph of a young man in tight shorts lingering on another staircase, an image of sexual rebellion in a world where homosexuality was still illegal.
Richard Hamilton, The Citizen 1981-83
Mona Hatoum Performance Still 1985, printed 1995
Both Richard Hamilton and Mona Hatoum speak obliquely about the oppression of one political regime upon another. They both use previous histories to talk of martyrdom and slavery in the ways that they invoke Christian imagery and use the body more or less vulnerable to represent their political subject each speaks strongly to the other.
Keith Coventry East Street Estate 1994
Bridget Riley Nataraja 1993
One of the nice aspects of this hang has been that we can put young artists next to senior artists. Normally senior artists tend to be represented only when they first emerge, but of course they continue to work throughout their lifetimes. Here we have two works which on the face of it speak to each other in terms of their geometric forms, but whereas Bridget Riley is concerned to let the eye dance across the canvas in the way that she organises her interwoven strips Keith Coventry is using the ground plan of a London housing estate to make a painting which talks both about urban London and about the abstract tradition.
Brit Sch., Allegory of Man 1596 or after
+ Brit Sch., The Cholmondelely Ladies. c.1600
'The Cholmondeley Ladies' is a Tate icon: it is a real favourite with our visitors, almost constantly on display, and has for may years been one of the best-selling postcards in the shop. Its popularity may lie in its linearity and simplicity which gives it a very 'modern' appearance. Portraiture dominates British art of this period, and the painting has previously been shown in displays of Tudor and Stuart portraiture. The new hang enables us to bring it together with the 'Allegory of Man' which was produced at around the same time. This is a very rare survival of a religious painting produced in Britain in this early period - a time of deep suspicion of religious imagery and of outbreaks of iconoclasm. The juxtaposition allows us to demonstrate the different type of art that was being produced at this time - the ever popular portraiture recording family and dynasty of the higher social classes, as well as highlighting an art form that would come under great scrutiny and of which much has been lost.