All Too Human: Tate Britain

According to the Tate website All Too Human celebrates the painters in Britain who strove to represent human figures, their relationships and surroundings in the most intimate of ways. I was interested in seeing the whole exhibition as it contains work by a number of great artists, but I specifically wanted to look closely at some of the landscape paintings.

In one of the first rooms I saw David Bomberg’s Toledo from the Alcazar, I was intrigued by the composition of the painting. Obviously the painter was viewing the scene from a high vantage point, but my attention was drawn straight away to the strong diagonals in the image. Most notably the line running from lower left to upper right, below which is the town and above which is the countryside beyond. There is also a path running almost in parallel above this line which emphasises it. The roofs and the streets of the town provide further strong diagonals, as does the way Bomberg has painted the countryside just beyond the town. The overall effect giving a strong dynamism to the painting, when you view it you can almost feel the movement in the town.

This use of diagonals was something that I noticed about other landscape paintings in the exhibition. In another room were paintings by Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossof in fact that room had the title The Cityscape of London.

I was intrigued by Kossof’s Christ Church, Spitalfields, Morning, in particular the way in which he had twisted perspective and painted the scene with the building slanting away from the viewer. In the same room Auerbach’s Chimney in Mornington Crescent – Winter Morning had equally strong diagonals and playing with perspective. The guide booklet issued with the exhibition ticket states “Both Auerbach and Kossoff display great sensitivity to the conditions of light, convey the dynamism of city life and reflect the mood of a specific moment”. It also states that “they went on to develop highly distinctive approaches, representative of different ways of looking and engaging with reality”. This is perhaps something that I could work on in my own practice and try to develop a more personal approach.

But for a study of the patterns of a cityscape and of light, it would be hard to better David Bomberg’s Evening in the City of London.

Tate (n.d.) All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life – Exhibition at Tate Britain. At: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/all-too-human (Accessed on 27 March 2018)