British Baroque: Power and Illusion at the Tate Britain

Category:

Though mention of baroque usually conjures up images of gloriously over-the-top European courts – personified by the Sun King himself, Louis XIV – a new exhibition at Tate Britain, the first of its kind, showcases baroque art and culture in Britain. Covering the later 17th century, from the restoration of Charles II in 1670 (his father Charles I had been executed in the aftermath of the English Civil War) to the death of Queen Anne in 1714, it explores the overlap between art and power in this often-overlooked era.

Tate Britain

In times of societal transformation and upheaval of entrenched institutions, baroque art was used to construct a renewed, magnificent vision of monarchy. Hence, lavish portraits of Charles II and the splendour, colour and vivacity of the Restoration court. Surprisingly (or perhaps not, given the king’s well-documented promiscuity) royal mistresses are included: portraits by Lely, including Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland with her son, as the Virgin and Child 1664, were used to illustrate the important position held by royal mistresses. Meanwhile, works by Jacob Huysmans, such as Catherine of Braganza c.1662-4, shaped the independent visual identity of the Queen consort.

Tate Britain

In the early 18th century, war and politics dominated the reigns of William III and Anne. This too is reflected in the exhibition’s display: heroic equestrian portraiture, panoramic battle scenes and accompanying propaganda are showcased, as well as portraits of Whig politicians, representing the growing power of the new political elite. Mythological mural paintings, which frequently carried contemporary political messages, were designed to overwhelm spectators and impress upon them the power, taste and leadership of their owners.

Some of the most recognisable British buildings were also constructed during this period, St Paul’s Cathedral, Hampton Court Palace and Blenheim Palace among them. The profound visual impact and drama of baroque architecture is therefore be represented with designs, prints and models of works by the great architects of the age: Christopher Wren, Hawksmoor and Vanbrugh.

sponsored
Editorial
Editorial
Our editorial staff includes people with different professional backgrounds who share a passion for writing and who want to create and develop a dialogue with their readers and with the world.

Related Posts

Christie’s supports black art with Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud)

The fight against racism requires listening, understanding, and taking action. What better way to achieve this than by exhibiting? Inspired by this idea, and aiming to effect a radical change, Christie’s has launched an online selling exhibition dedicated to 22 emerging and established black artists from Africa and the world, in collaboration with talented curator Destinee Ross-Sutton and The Harlem Arts Alliance

Gulla Jonsdottir: Design in Harmony

Gulla Jonsdottir is an Architect Designer known for creating unexpected and marvellous, modern designs from her studio in Los Angeles

Life Beyond Plastic: public sound art for the environment

Life Beyond Plastic, the competition for ideas on the theme of environmental sustainability was won by the artist Matteo Vettorello with an interactive sculpture, operated by two voices, in harmony in a square in Milan: an invitation to ecological action