by Iris Conlay
THAT great big shop window. the Royal Academy. is again filled by shop-gazers who. not so unaccountably when you think of it, also buy numerically a sizeable proportion of all the pictures and sculpture sold in any year in this country. After all, even the Londoner (for the provincial it is out of the question) would have to spend a great deal of time to see even a cross-section of current work spread over the hundred and more commercial galleries. And, on whatever he purchased, he would have to pay the gallery's commission the Academy sells without taking commission.
All this would be fine if the Academy really represented the art of our time or it would be possible if it represented a certain kind of art and rigorously excluded the rest. Either way the public would know where it stood. As it is, modern movements are encouraged, but have never been represented by the hest work. Our major artists do not exhibit and the good work that undoubtedly does hang on the walls is buried under an avalanche of mediocrity.
This year Anne Redpath's poetic landscapes are to be sought out and so are a triumvirate of portraitsRuskin Spear's 'Robin Darwin', Robin I ronside's 'The Hon. Graham Eyres-Monsell' and Hans Schwarz"Dr. Mary Lucy Cartwright'.
Frederick Gibberd's design for Douai Abbey is austerely, but not very excitingly, contemporary and Carel Weight's study for a mural on the theme of the Sermon on the Mount is merely emptily dramatic. The year's puzzle picture, 'Nude Reclining, 1963' by Stuart Harris will intrigue but hardly satisfy and the vast and vulgar Basildon Fountain. centrepiece of the exhibition, is typical of municipal sculpture.
(At Burlington House until Au,g. 18.)
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THE African paintings of Sidney Nolan at the Marlborough gallery are a passionately felt record of a journey into a strange territory. undertaken in spiritual communion with the poet. Rimbaud.
Rimbaud spent eleven years in Africa, most of them as a trader in the desolate country of Abyssinia around Harar. He found life terrible. 'I'm stupefied with boredom, I've had more than enough and yet can't afford to give it up. I've no family. nothing to occupy me intellectually and I'm lost among the blacks.'
That a poet. with the sharpened. sensuous perception of Rimbaud. could have written so vehemently of the isolation which even his imagination couldn't dispel, suggests a world nearest to hell itself.
And Nolan paints a kind of hell. A hell of softest colours melting like snow or burning like fire: so beautiful yet so terrifying. The approach to his remote world is by way of the vast. pale animals who loom out of their background, silently enjoying a paradise in which man ought never to put a foot. Where man does invade the artist sees him screaming in pain or utterly, utterly alone. This is Nolan at the height of his visionary power.
At Marlborough Gallery: May and June.
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THE Leonardo cartoon, set in a box behind invisible glass. is the centre of the National Gal
lery's exhibition of acquisitions between 1953-1962. This exhibition is called 'From Uccello to Renoir'; it deeply impresses the visitor with its quality (and quantity).
In nine years. with no great resources (nothing comparable with US gallery funds) our national collection has enriched itself with two magnificent Cezannes, four fine Gainsboroughs. a (iiorgione of dazzling beauty, an exquisite El Greco. a rare Memlinc triptych, two superb Rembrandts, an early Velasquez and a series of curious and charming frescoes from the Villa Aldobrandini at Frascati by Domenichino.
At the National Gallery: Special exhibition open until October 13.