“The mind of a master” was supposed to be the title of my review of the new Raphael exhibition at The Ashmolean, except that I forgot to include it when I sent the review, so they gave it a different title. Live and learn.
I don’t really know anything about Raphael, Renaissance Art or Renaissance anything apart from the fact that I don’t much like it and can’t see what the fuss is about. Add to this that most of it is Christian art, which I don’t like much either and you might wonder why I bothered to go in the first place. I suppose the answer is “because it was there”.
So I went and looked and took notes (I always do) – but could I write a review? And could I write a review that would pass muster with the sort of people who would read it – people who probably know quite a lot about Renaissance art? I certainly knew that there was no point trying to bluff.
It should be possible to review something from a non-expert viewpoint both without pretending to understand (“the king’s new clothes” approach) or dismissing what you don’t understand (the “my five year-old could do that” approach – though good luck to you if your five-year-old can knock of something that would pass as the work of a Renaissance master).
The first step was to listen to a review on Radio 4 and compare it with my notes. This revealed that I’d picked up some of the key points, so I started writing to see what happened. There’s this wonderful thing about writing – a moment when some sort of order and meaning emerges from apparently random jottings – a bit like Moses emerging from a lump of marble beneath the hand of Michelangelo (I am not, I hasten to add comparing myself to Michelangelo – or Moses – or a lump of marble).
Anyway, I managed to turn out a respectable review without, I hope, being pretentious or making a complete idiot of myself.
You can read it on Daily Info – you’ll have to scroll down – it’s underneath another review by somebody who does know what they’re talking about.