Rome is your friend!

The latest ‘blockbuster’ exhibition at the National Museum of Australia is ‘Rome’, something of a novelty for those of us who live far away from the marching legions. The exhibition is from the collection of the British Museum.

Head of Faustina

Luckily for us the British Museum has packed up plenty of booty and sent it down under. The sculptures are the most impressive elements of the show. I was particularly intrigued by the decorative detail on the armour of Hadrian.

A view of the central section of the exhibition.

I had lots of fun trying to capture those details with my pencil. The watercolour background was added in while we were having lunch in the cafe.

My sketch of the statue of Hadrian.

A more poignant statue was a commemorative work of a woman holding a bust of her, presumably dead husband. A nice touch was a small figure at her left shoulder, which is carved like the end of a sofa (see the photo below), which concealed a vase for placing flowers.

Funary monument of a woman holding a bust.

I was interested to see that many of the pieces in the exhibition were excavated in the British Isles, which was a bit different from what I had expected. Many visitors were particularly taken by the coin hoardes and the legionary’s helmet.

Carved end of a sofa.

The fun will continue until 3 February 2019. Until then signs on our local roadways are reminding us that ‘all roads lead to Rome’.

Drawing the Exhibition – Ruebens, Painter of Sketches

One of the current temporary exhibitions at the Museo del Prado is Reubens, Painter of Sketches, by which they mean oil sketches, works on canvas or panel made in preparation for other finished works.

Reubens did, of course, use other drawing media for preparatory works. I struggle with the high finish of his completed canvasses, so the lively brushstrokes he employs in these compositional studies proved much more to my taste.

One of the Victories, part of a sketch on the unity of England and Scotland intended for the Guild Hall, London

His figures, particularly those suspended in mid air, such as the Victory above, or other contorted poses, provide a demonstration of his mastery of human anatomy and are excellent models for copying. I doubt even the most skilled life model could pull this pose off.

It was also a lovely touch for me to see Reubens quoted talking about drawing antique statues. “Artists should use Ancient statues as models, but the figures based on them should be painted to look like flesh not stone.” Included in the exhibition is a study for Prometheus, based on pen and ink studies he made of the Farnese Hercules.

The works on display show a range of ‘finish’. A series of very small studies for decorations of a house (a pretty palatial one) at the end of the exhibition particularly caught my eye. In the Triumph of Bacchus, 1636, the rather corpulent god is supported by a faun while he gropes a nearby young lady.

The Triumph of Bacchus, 1636, oil on panel. My sketch graphite on paper.

I was genuinely engaged by this exhibition and would recommend it to anyone who will be in Madrid before it closes on the 5th of August 2018. NB temporary exhibitions are not accessible during the free access hours at the museum.