Review Round Up: British Baroque: Power and Illusion, Tate Britain

We take a closer look at what critics have been saying about Tate Britain’s latest exhibition.

John Closterman, The Children of John Taylor of Bifrons Park, 1696
National Portrait Gallery, London.

Evening Standard: ***** “This isn’t just a show to do with aristocratic and regal display. There are stunning architectural drawings of great houses and palaces. There’s a reminder of scientific advances with a close-up of a flea from Robert Hooke’s Micrographia, as well as fabulous Dutch still lifes, brilliant trompe l’oeils — including the Chatsworth violin, which you’d try to lift off the canvas — and a peep show.”

The Guardian: ** “Tate Britain’s survey of this pungent age is more a sniff of disdain than a blockbuster. It sucks out every last drop of drama, character and energy, let alone narrative clarity. It misdefines its subject and seems to have no sympathy for the people of the era or their art.”

Time Out: **** “There’s not a lot of great art here, but it’s a hypnotising show: a pretty exhibition of ugly paintings. The thing that elevates it is the way it makes the rich and powerful people look so silly. The monarchy uses art to show how beautiful, wealthy and influential it is, but all it shows is that inbreeding is regrettable, and power is temporary.”

The Telegraph: “it’s impossible to understand the splendour of Charles II’s court without considering what came immediately before: the dreary, barren years of the Interregnum, when art was something idolatrous, fit only for smashing up.”

iNews: *** “There is some frivolity: a lovely room devoted to illusion and trompe l’oeil, which includes a famous door painted with a hanging violin by Jan van der Vaart, borrowed from Chatsworth house. But for an era filled with intrigue, scandal and naughtiness, British Baroque feels curiously dry.”

Londonist: **** “There’s enough variety here for visitors to be fully immersed in all the extravagance of Stuart Britain — it’s the kind of exhibition I’d expect Tate Britain to nail, and it does. This pomp and glory isn’t for everyone, but for anyone who loves a good period drama and its costumes, this will be a flamboyant hit. Just don’t get any ideas of commissioning a painting of yourself trampling your enemies underfoot.”

British Baroque: Power and Illusion is on display at Tate Britain until the 19th April.

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