Molly’s Visit to the Tate Britain

As part of her work placement with London Fine Art Studios, Molly spent the afternoon at the Tate Britain this week to familiarise herself with the work of artists we admire here at the studios, particularly John Singer-Sargent.

This week I had the opportunity to visit the Tate Britain for the first time. For a little context, I am currently a final year Graphic Design student, so fine art is a little out of my comfort zone. I am pleased to say, however, that I am having a really great time at the studios so far, and loved my visit to the gallery!

Upon arrival, I was immediately struck by the beautiful architecture of the building, and I couldn’t wait to explore the art inside. Walking through the Tate, I felt like I was in some sort of artistic maze than spanned centuries.

I went to the Tate to specifically see the recently opened Sargent room, but took the scenic route. Even the stairs leading towards the main collection were absolutely stunning, a great example of architectural design. As a design student, I have always been drawn to where art and design crossover, and the architecture of the Tate is a fantastic example. Finding the connections between the two areas can only help strengthen my own practice.

The firsts exhibit I came across on my way to the Sargent room was a spotlight exhibit called ‘After Industry: Communities in Northern England 1960s – 1980s’. This display was of personal interest, as it depicted scenes from very close to where I grew up!

I hadn’t actually ever associated photographs with a space like the Tate Britain, so my visit has very much helped me redefine and understand what an art gallery is. As a creative, I find it is so easy to get caught up in our own practice that we don’t clock what is happening around us, or what has come before. This rich art history so well curated by the Tate is an incredible source of inspiration.

The next room I came across with covered wall to wall with beautiful Pre-Raphaelite paintings. I had never seen anything like this. The way the artists had captured the figures, and the way they painted with such realism, was immensely striking. Painting at this skill level is unsurprisingly something that needs to be refined and practised, as encouraged by London Fine Art Studios.

Considering my mission was to see Sargent’s painting, I was pleasantly surprised to come across his ‘Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose’. I can see why everyone is mad about him, indeed, as I studied the painting, other viewers would comment how beautiful and elegant the work is. Even the frame was incredible.

Eventually I ended up in the new Sargent room, dedicated to his portraits of the Wertheimer family. Here, you can see all of the portraits together for the first time. These works were donated to the National Gallery by the patriarch of the family, Asher Wertheimer. The were then displayed in the gallery from 1923 to 1926.

The Wertheimers were a wealthy Jewish family, and it was the father Asher who commissioned Sargent to do the works. The latter built a strong relationship with the family over the years, a familiarity which is perhaps most evident in his Portrait of Ena Wertheimer: A Vele Gonfire, 1904.

Set against a striking red backdrop, the paintings are accompanied by a marble bust of Mrs Wertheimer, made by James Harvard Thomas.

During my time at the studios so far, I have been starting to learn how and why artists chose to paint following the atelier method. Seeing Sargent’s work in the flesh allowed me to fully appreciate his alla prima technique, as well as his sheer mastering of the medium.

I definitely recommend a visit to the Sargent room – not to be missed!

Molly Grey

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