We went to Monochrome at the National Gallery, an intriguing subject.   I didn’t know quite what to expect, since there is no immediate reason to replicate the characteristics of drawing, a black-and-white medium, in oil paint.   It starts with a piece of grisaille stained glass from the V&A, discovered to have come from the St. Louis chapel in St. Denis;  the Donne Triptych (painted for Sir John Donne, a Welshman) left ajar to show the Virgin and Child between the shutters;  and a grisaille set of indigo cloths used as an ephemeral chapel in Genoa and assembled for the first time in the exhibition.   Of course, I realise that black-and-white painting is often used like black-and-white photography as a way to explore and emphasise the characteristics of a composition.   There’s a staggering Dürer drapery study from the Albertina and a Beccafumi St. Matthew from the Met.   Amazing to have been able to borrow the van Eyck Saint Barbara from Antwerp, where the fields in the background are drawn in metalpoint and the construction workers are on the parapet of the cathedral.   I hadn’t seen the Peder Balke, acquired recently.   The exhibition uses the collection of the National Gallery interestingly, placing it within a long and unexpected way of looking and ends with a wonderful abstract room before the Eliasson.   A Christmas treat.


2 thoughts on “Monochrome

  1. This is not in reference to the National Gallery exhibition but I just wanted to tell you that being an opera fan, I went to the exhibition at the V&A and was highly impressed with it. Its chronological layout and appropriate accompanying music, paired with significant works of art, worked beautifully and I came away emotionally exhausted but happy.

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