|From Under the Sea, James Clarke Hook, 1864|
|A Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach, Stanhope Forbes, 1885|
The curator is a young PhD student and I got rather frustrated by her catalogue which heroicises the workforce and relegates the art to mere labour-history painting. I don't think for a second that the artists considered themselves to be Amongst Heroes or gave a stuff about the fish fags other than as picturesque subjects who inconveniently fainted when you painted them on freezing cold beaches in winter. Forbes thought Newlyn was 'a dirty hole'; Dod Procter had been known to wallop street boys who plagued her when she was painting outdoors in Brittany, and I don't suppose Newlyn boys were any less pesky. And the proper Methodist locals would have been scandalised by the artists' wilder shenanigans.
Never mind ... what I was really there for was a chance to be inside that magnificent building and I sat for a while in the hall just looking. And I love the idea of bringing paintings from provincial galleries for an outing to London. There was one that hasn't been seen in public since it was attacked by Suffragettes (though I'm not sure why the Suffragettes took exception to it.)
Do try to get to see this if you're in London between now and April 14, because the building is simply stunning - and it's free to get in. It also gets my vote for the best art gallery tea in town. (Lavender scones. Blood orange polenta cake. Miles better than you'll get from ubiquitous, chain bakers Peyton&Byrne at the Manet exhibition.) Maybe I should start a Campaign for Culture and Cake. CamCak?