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Indepth Arts News:

"Five New Painting Galleries to Open"
2003-11-26 until 2004-01-31
Victoria and Albert Museum
London, , UK

The VandA will display 200 works from its extensive paintings collection in a new suite of five galleries. These galleries were originally built to house the Museums paintings collection during the 1850s and will showcase works given by John Sheepshanks and other collectors between 1857 and 1901. On display will be Constables revolutionary oil sketches donated to the Museum by the artists daughter, landscapes by Constable, Turner and Gainsborough, and famous works by Blake, Landseer and Millais. One room will be devoted entirely to the collection of Constantine Ionides, a leading Victorian collector and friend of Rossetti who collected European Old Masters and nineteenth century paintings.

The V&A has remarkable collections of eighteenth and nineteenth century British landscape paintings and watercolours (the national collection of watercolours is held at the V&A). Three galleries will focus on the image of landscape in Britain as interpreted by Constable, Turner and their contemporaries, featuring oil sketches and full-scale exhibition landscapes. The exhibits will include Gainsboroughs experimental showbox with its back-lit landscapes. There will also be an extensive selection of Constables extraordinary oil sketches including views of Hampstead Heath, Brighton and the artists beloved Suffolk. These are drawn from the largest single collection of the artists work given to the Museum by his daughter Isabel in 1888. Works on display will include Turners Lifeboat and Manby Apparatus going off to a stranded vessel (1831), Constables Brighton Beach, with Colliers (1824) and his Boat Building Near Flatford Mill (1815), the first painting to be completed entirely out of doors.

The fourth room will celebrate British paintings by such masters as Blake, Landseer and Millais, densely hung in the Victorian manner, reflecting the nineteenth century passion for pictorial story-telling. The display will include Fuselis dramatic Fire King (1801-10), Landseers Stonebreaker and his daughter (1830) and Millais theatrical Pizarro Seizing the Inca of Peru (1846). These paintings , first displayed in the Museum in 1857, comprised the first national gallery of British art.

The final room is devoted to the magnificent bequest of old master and nineteenth century paintings given by Constantine Ionides. It will evoke the passions and interests of a leading representative of progressive Victorian taste. Ionides was a friend of Rossetti, Legros and Watts. His collection includes paintings by Botticelli and Tintoretto as well as important works by Burne-Jones, Ingres, Delacroix, Millet and Degas. To mark the opening of the new galleries, the National Museum, Liverpool is lending one of the greatest pre-Raphaelite paintings, Isabella (1848) by Millais. The painting, once part of the Ionides collection, will be on display until the end of January 2004.

These paintings will be complemented by French sculpture, Oriental ceramics and a spectacular decorated piano designed by William Morris. Together they will recreate the feeling of the rooms of a great Victorian collector. Works on display will include Degas Ballet Scene from Robert Le Diable (1876), Botticellis Portrait of a Woman (1470s) and Burne-Jones sumptuous The Mill (1870-82). Degas Ballet Scene was the first painting by a French Impressionist artist to enter a British national collection.

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