'In Pursuit of Art: Charles Eastlake's Journey from Plymouth to the National Gallery'
Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery
22 September-15 December, 2012
Three years ago Plymouth celebrated the career of its most famous artistic son in a major exhibition ('Sir Joshua Reynolds: The Acquisition of Genius') and it is entirely fitting that the public's attention has now been drawn to the life and career of another PRA associated with the city, Sir Charles Lock Eastlake. The exhibition was curated by Susanna Avery-Quash, Research Curator in the History of Collecting at the National Gallery, whose extensive researches on Eastlake bore fruit last year with the publication of all 36 of his surviving travel diaries (The Travel Diaries of Sir Charles Eastlake, National Gallery/Walpole Society, 2011), a book co-authored with Julie Sheldon (Art for the Nation: The Eastlakes and the Victorian Art World, National Gallery, 2011) and a small exhibition, Art for the Nation: Sir Charles Eastlake at the National Gallery' (National Gallery, 27 July-30 October 2011).
The National Gallery exhibition was focused entirely on Eastlake's work for that institution, showing five of the Italian works he purchased, together with his small oil copy of Titian's Peter Martyr. The Plymouth exhibition was considerably more extensive, albeit still a select collection of exhibits shown in one room, and was designed to look at Eastlake through a wide lens, embracing his entire career and highlighting his Plymouth connections. It opened with a section 'Eastlake in Plymouth' which explored the art world of the town in the early 19th century, Eastlake's Plymouth patrons and his tutelage there and in London from two Plymouthborn painters, Prout and Haydon, and it closed with a reminder of how the city has commemorated him. This local reference was counterpoised with Eastlake's activities as a painter of landscapes and subject pictures in Italy and, more extensively, with his work for the National Gallery.
Unlike the London exhibition's early Italian focus, at Plymouth examples of Eastlake's acquisitions were more diverse: three later Italian paintings (Jacopo Bassano's Good Samaritan, Gerolamo dal Libri's Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Giovanni Battista Moroni's L'Avvocato) were exhibited alongside Jacob van Ruisdael's Waterfall in a Rocky Landscape and Gerard ter Borch's Portrait of a Young Man. This selection was effectively contextualized by placing nearby Eastlake's 1864...