Lady Jane at the National Gallery

In Museums on April 13, 2010 at 1:13 pm

I went today to see the current exhibition in the Sainsbury Wing at the National GalleryPainting History: Delaroche and Lady Jane Grey. As per norm, it’s an impeccably turned out exhibitions with sensitive lighting and a real attention to detail. In fact I was particularly impressed with the deisgn concept of a truly theatrical space with luscious curtains and dark wooden seating.

The show takes as its starting point the painting of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche, which normally hangs in Room 41 (one of my favourites in the NG). Although we don’t meet the picture of Lady Jane on her way to be executed until the fourth room of the display, we are introduced to the themes and background to the painting’s conception in advance, helping to build some tension and expectation.

In the most part the text is informative and flows nicely (apart from the occasional panel or label) and tells a story as we move through the space. But, again as per norm, the text is far too small even for me. For some reason the NG have stopped handing out free guides to the exhibition with all or some of the exhibition copy – that would’ve been nice.

But other than that, I now see a picture I’ve never really contemplated all that much before in a new light, which is a real success for an exhibition, I reckon.

It’s part of what is becoming known as a ‘dossier exhibition’ which is when museums or galleries take pieces from their collection and explode all the art history they can into one exhibition, focussed on a single work. There are plenty of loans-in to this exhibition, but using a NG centrepiece manages to keep the costs down in a recession. Clever thinking.

It’s open until 23 May. Drop me a line if you’ve also seen it. I’d love to hear what you think.


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