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Archive for March, 2010

She became queen of England at 16, and ruled for 9 days. Then she had to convert to Catholicism, or die. The choice was hers.

LadyJaneGrey

The execution of Lady Jane Grey

This picture was painted in 1834, by the French artist Paul Delaroche. (Click on the image to enlarge)

It was one of the most loved pictures in the Tate, until a flood in 1928 (coincidentally the time when Degas, Monet, Waterhouse, Gerome, and other great artists died in oblivion, many of them having stopped painting in despair).

The ‘damaged’ painting was rolled up and put into the cellars not to be seen until 1973, when it was found – surprise! – in perfect condition.

It has since been moved to the National Gallery, where it is regarded as the most popular picture, often surrounded by crowds of admirers, and on 24 February, it became the centerpiece of a major exhibition of his life’s work, including sketches and studies for this picture.

It is interesting that Modernist critics, even today, refuse to enjoy the picture. Here are a few quotes:

‘Cecil Gould, the Keeper of the Gallery who first put the painting back on show, wrote in 1975 that Delaroche “is regarded, when the 20th century thinks of him at all, as something of a charlatan who merits his present obscurity”.’

And: ‘Delaroche… has falsified the historical account the better to appeal to his contemporaries. Lady Jane Grey… was in fact executed out of doors… She could not have worn a white satin dress of nineteenth-century cut with a whalebone corset, and her hair would have been tucked up, not streaming down over her shoulders.’

All debatable, but this is a picture, a work of art, which needs to be judged in artistic terms, not documentary. Imagine discussing Guernica along these lines.

Paul Delaroche has been restored to his rightful place; but like Lady Jane Grey, Modern academics still demand that artists convert to the Modern Manner or perish. The choice is ours.

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