A couple of weeks ago, I’d never heard of Howard Hodgkin – sorry, Sir Howard Hodgkin – but, whilst he hasn’t exactly taken over my life, he’s certainly shaping it’s direction.
Since retiring, I’ve spent a lot of time in museums and galleries, which has included the occasional art exhibition. OK – look – I became a Friend of the Ashmolean a few years back and started going to their art exhibitions partly because I could and partly out of a northern, working class obsession with getting my money’s-worth.
It’s been mostly a case of liking (English Drawing – lots of nice cows) or disliking (Titian to Canaletto: Drawing in Venice – yawn), but somewhere along the way I’ve started to learn (Degas to Picasso, just finished). Andy Warhol (2016) repaid repeated visits – I started to “get” this superficially superficial artist and was even inspired to a little creativity along Warholian lines.
More recently, I was to surprised to find something thought provoking in Raphael: The Drawings – although I’m not sure that I like them exactly – in fact I’m pretty sure that I don’t.
Over the last bank holiday, I randomly borrowed a DVD about American art from the library and followed this up with a book about Edward Hopper (also, helpfully, from the library). To be fair, I’d had some exposure to American art – Audubon’s Birds of America and George Catlin’s American Indian portraits (Birmingham, 2013), but these were more about being interested in the period and the subject matter. On reflection, both works have a lot in common – an attempt to capture worlds on the verge of extinction.
This business of “liking” or “knowing what I like” is an odd one. I’ve never disliked all art – it’s mostly European art – “posh people’s” art- “snobby toffee nosed” art. I’ve always liked the more accessible stuff – Constable and Turner; Wright of Derby, nice cows. I “like” Eastern art – the Chinese, Japanese and Indian pictures in the continually changing gallery 29 at the Ashmolean or the exquisite Visions of Mughal India exhibition (2012).
But I digress – back to Howard (sorry, Sir Howard).
Raphael: The Drawings is at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford until 2nd September 2017