Worth Talking About: Before and After Zoffany

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on December 2, 2009

Buckingham Palace offers an immensely satisfying show anchored by Zoffany (works include the The Academicians of the Royal Academy and The Tribuna of the Uffizi). From the website of the Royal Collection:

The Conversation Piece: Scenes of Fashionable Life
Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, 27 March — 20 September 2009
Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace, London, 30 October 2009 — 14 February 2010

The Conversation Piece: Scenes of Fashionable Life is now on view at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace. The exhibition presents a fascinating insight into high-society fashions, interiors and manners from the time of Charles I to the reign of Queen Victoria. While a portrait primarily records the sitter’s appearance, the Conversation Piece depicts their way of life, often conveying the impression that the subject has been caught off-guard. Typically a work shows a family group or a gathering of friends participating in informal activities. The genre was popular amongst Dutch painters in the seventeenth century and was subsequently developed in England. It is best known through the work of artists William Hogarth and George Stubbs during the eighteenth century and Sir Edwin Landseer in the nineteenth century. The exhibition brings together outstanding paintings by the greatest exponents of the Conversation Piece. The centrepiece is a remarkable series of portraits produced by Johan Zoffany for his royal patron George III, including the artist’s masterpiece The Tribuna of the Uffizi, 1772-7. The exhibition is accompanied by the catalogue The Conversation Piece: Scenes of Fashionable Life by Desmond Shawe-Taylor, the first publication on the subject for over 30 years.

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An informative exhibition microsite accompanies The Conversation Piece. In the London Times and Sunday Times, the show is reviewed by Anna Burnside, Rachel Campbell-Johnston, and Waldemar Januszczak, while Richard Cork supplies a summary for The Financial Times.

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