It’s been a while since my last art exhibition so I was thrilled to be invited along to the first ever bloggers event at The Wallace Collection to take a look at the new Joshua Reynolds Experiments in Paint Exhibit. The Wallace Collection is an absolutely stunning building tucked away just behind Oxford Street which I had no idea even existed until I was invited to attend.
Sham on me because this is one of those hidden London gems. It’s like a grand old house with a sweeping driveway which I just loved and inside is even more lovely. I was running a little on the tardy side so didn’t take any pictures of the foyer but given that the entrance to the entire place is completely free of charge AND you are allowed to take photographs – which so many exhibitions don’t allow these days – I’ll definitely be returning to take a look at the permanent collection.
I rather naively had no idea who Joshua Reynolds was so found his history to be quite fascinating. He was the first president of The RA where I have been a few times since moving and a very experimental painter. Conservator Alexandra Gent gave us a guided tour of the admittedly small collection as she was hired to oversee the research and restoration of some of his paintings. Not being an art historian I really enjoyed this personal touch compares to other blogger events I’ve been to in the past.
She spoke with such enthusiasm that I too couldn’t help but be intrigued by his methods. If Reynolds didn’t like his first attempt then he didn’t waste the canvas but instead flipped it over and started again. If fashions in hairstyle or clothing had changed between the time his sitters came in to pose for him and the time of handing over the painting to its purchaser he would update them to be more modern and when he was too popular to paint all of the paintings commissioned by himself he would take the mostly finished painting from one of his students and add his own flair to the finished article.
We know all this because of all the work Alexandra has put in over the last few years, x-raying the paintings and using all sorts of testing methods to determine what materials had been used during conception and what had been added to it later (perhaps in an attempt to preserve it). The most fascinating part of the exhibit for me however was the experimental canvas which is on display where Reynolds would test different techniques and make notes on what had worked well and what had not.
As someone with very little creative talent its fascinating to see the methods used in creating such amazing works of art, and they are amazing.
The exhibit is running until the 7th June so there is plenty of time to see it and while there why not check out the rest of the collection too. I also believe that the restaurant serves an incredible afternoon tea by Peyton and Byrne as well as a well stocked à la carte menu.