Welcome to Art in the City, the first in a new monthly culture column where Irene Caswell will be offering a quick round-up of the best exhibitions and other art-related events in London.
This month, museums and galleries in London reopened after a long period of closure, and there are more not-to-be-missed exhibitions than you can shake a stick at.
The Wallace Museum, Rubens: Reuniting the Great Landscapes
View two great landscape masterpieces by Flemish artist, Peter Paul Rubens, and dating to around 1636. On loan from the National Gallery the extensively restored A View of Het Steen in the Early Morning is displayed next to The Rainbow Landscape from the Wallace Collection. The companion paintings, separated at auction after his death, are now exhibited together for the first time in two hundred years and possibly how the works were hung in Ruben’s own home.
The first thing of note is the astounding size of these famous works. They are perfectly matched in scale and ambition and almost identical in dimension. To give an idea of size, each painting is made on complex composite panels comprising almost twenty oak boards. Scientific examination has revealed that Rubens developed their compositions incrementally as the work took on an inspirational life of its own.
This ethos is also evident in the intricacy and infinite wealth of detail. The depth of perspective in each of the sweeping panoramic landscapes is created in part by the bands of colour from darker in the foreground to the early morning sunlight reflecting on the clouds in the far distance. In addition, the compositions are mirror images in that one corner is depicted in shadow and opposite the never-ending horizon is bathed in light.
Here the two paintings are hung facing each other reminiscent of a room with picture windows either side. It would be interesting to see the paintings placed side by side with the effect of a combined perimeter in dark shadow and a blaze of ethereal light in the centre.
Rubens: Reuniting the Great Landscapes at the Wallace Museum: 3 June to 15 August. Free with a suggested £5 donation. www.wallacemuseum.org
The British Museum, Nero: the man behind the myth
The Latin biographer, Suetonius, hilariously recounts that the infamous Emperor Nero liked to sing in public and would allow no-one to leave during his recitals. Women in the audience gave birth and men, so bored with listening and applauding, would sham being dead “to be carried away for burial”. This exhibition at the British Museum promises to shed new, more tolerant light on the ‘cruelty, debauchery and madness’ for which Nero has been known for centuries.
Nero: the man behind the myth runs until 27 October. Tickets from £20 adult. www.britishmuseum.org
The Orangery at Kensington Palace, Royal Style in the Making
A new temporary summer exhibition will explore the relationship between fashion designer and royal client. On show for the first time in 25 years will be the unforgettable wedding dress of Diana, Princess of Wales designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel.
Royal Style in the Making runs from 3 June to 2 January 2022. Tickets £23 adult. www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace.
All tickets for exhibitions mentioned in Art in the City require pre-booking. Opening dates and times are subject to government guidelines so please check the relevant website for updates before visiting a museum or gallery.
Main Art in the City image: Peter Paul Rubens The Rainbow Landscape c. 1636 © Trustees of The Wallace Collection London.