Feature: ArtScene

ArtScene: Louvre, Leonardo, Antigua

By , Columnist

Paris.  Must stop coming here in August. My friends take off on day one and leave the place to the middle-aged in below-the-knee shorts, find-it-if-you-can guide books, and no known French. Du café Wilbur, du café. It’s so easy to be patronizing in August.

Guillaume has a new bicycle so presumably the youth with the prematurely stained teeth is the new lover. I saw them in the Louvre. Loadsa Lorenzo Monaco, Jean Fouquet and Simon Bening. Medieval and Renaissance Illuminations - prints and drawings although I’m thinking it needs to be grander. But then, don’t we all?

Louvre Illuminations.jpgThe Louvre’s getting ready for the London exhibition in November. G says he’s not sure about the Louvre lending The Virgin. Everyone heard about the Poussin that got paint-sprayed last month. Guillaume says Le Banksy ‘ooligan targets French paintings. I point out that the Leonardo is not French. G’s got a new sneer. The lip now curls to the right and twitches his brown mole with the two hairs even further into his cheek. No wonder Armand took off. He says maybe not French but France owns it.

The Louvre is lending Leonardo’s The Virgin on the Rocks for the first time to hang alongside the earlier painting of the same subject that’s in the National Gallery in London. That means eight (almost half Leonardo’s surviving works) will be shown in The National this autumn.  There’s talk that the recently found, Salvator Mundi will be included. If you’re in London this November, you have to get there - even in below-the-knee-shorts. This will be a unique and deeply important exhibition of the Master’s time in Milan.

Imagine: Portrait of a Musician on loan from Milan, Saint Jerome from the Vatican, La Belle Ferroniere and The Virgin on the Rocks from the Louvre and Portrait of Cecilia Gallerant (Lady with an Ermine) from the National Museum in Cracow.

Luke Syson, the curator of the exhibition has done well to bring it all together. The fascinating thing is that we can see the progression of Leonardo as a painter as we compare his earlier paintings on the same subject. And yes, we know how brilliantly interested in life the man was.  Use your library. Find a copy of Leonardo’s Journals then you’ll realise the meticulous way he analysed and documented everything under and far beyond the sun. 

leonardo-exhibition-lady-ermine.jpgBut it really is through his painting that he truly expressed and developed himself as a man. This was what his life was all about.  So book London for November. Even Guillaume’s coming with his latest darling - should it last that long. Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan. The National Gallery, London. November 9 to February 5.

London. I’m back in the studio trying to finish my Antigua Quintet - five canvases of life on the Caribbean island. They have to be done, varnished and stretched all ready to ship out (with me on board) in October.  Then I get a call this morning from my agent to say that the day I’m supposed to be leaving for Antigua is the day my portrait of Prince Michael is being unveiled - be there.  I’m also packing my brushes and mind for a week’s teaching  just outside Florence in September.  And it’s supposed to be the summer holiday.  No wonder Parisians take off in August. Gone means gone.

Here’s an idea: why don’t you all come to the September class in Tuscany; then to the Prince Michael party (there’s bound to be drink) then to Antigua for that unveiling?  We’ll be back for the Leonardo exhibition on November 9. Promise.

ArtScene Quote of the week.

“In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time.” Leonardo da Vinci

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Fiona Graham-Mackay, is London's newest royal portrait painter. She is also recently back from painting in the Pakistan-Afghan border. She studied at London's Royal College of Art, had a studio in Paris before returning to the UK to paint and teach in London, Spain and Italy. Her next assignments are…

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