Review – The Sacred made Real @ The National Gallery

While passing through London for the Carter gig we decided to visit the National Gallery for “The Sacred made Real” exhibition. The exhibition is being shown in the Sainsbury wing in the 6 rooms downstairs

The exhibition tries to explore the connection between Spanish religous painting and Sculpture during the 17th Century. The Catholicism prevalent in Spain at the time seemed to encourage a wish to share with the passion of Christ or the saints, so there was a ‘demand’ from religious orders and wealthy patrons from objects to contemplate/venerate. Many of these tried hard to convery the pain and brutality that the subject had undergone. These look very graphic (the head of John the baptist as you enter the first room is a prime example, the artist has gone to great lengths to show all the viscera in the cut neck, or the image of the Dead christ where the opening in his side from the spear seems to still be oozing) compared to many other religious artworks.

The lifelikeness of the wooden sculptures had a big affect on the painters as well. The artists could now work from a very realised model who wouldn’t move and could be lit as needed. This ability to light the models shows through in many of the paintings where they’ve been painted as though the light was coming through the windows in the room they were intended for. There’s a wonderful example of this in the exhibition where the painting was designed to be hung between 2 windows, and the artist has taken care to show this in the subject (and the gallery has lit it based on the original room) and the effect is wonderful. I do like the way that the figures in the paintings seem to emerge from the dark (an effect I like in photography as well, so seeing it down with oils is very pleasing).

There’s also a good documentary in the small video room about the development of the movement, covering the process of making the sculptures and their impact on the paintings.

A very good exhibition, very glad we went along.

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