Modern art from the twentieth century is my favourite type of art, mostly because there is such a huge variety of styles and mediums that are now considered art. So I was really excited to see the Ulster Museum’s ‘Highlights of the Modern Collection’ as the museum has such a vast collection of art and the majority of it is hidden away in stores. The first section of the exhibition was artworks purchased from the Robert Lloyd-Patterson bequest – he left the museum his collection of Victorian paintings, which they sold and used the proceeds to focus on 1920s and 1930s British artists.
This painting by William Roberts called ‘Sawing Wood’ immediately reminded me of the style of John Luke, although the colours are more muted. I like the simple curved outlines of the shadows and the strong, clean shapes in this artwork. Another artwork I liked from this section, that was very similar to ‘Sawing Wood’ in style was William Patrick Roberts’ ‘Les Routiers’ . As Belfast is the starting point for the Giro d’Italia next month the Ulster Museum is offering you the chance to help them make an installation piece based on this artwork in Discover Art between 2nd and 10th May.
The next section covered the middle of the 20th century, where artists used texture to give meaning to their artwork. Increased use of paint textures in artworks gave a heightened sense of energy and presence to paintings. This ‘Portrait of Cesar’ by Karel Appel in the exhibition is a great example of the use of paint to give texture and emotion, you can see every thick brush stroke standing in front of the artwork, and it didn’t surprise me to learn that Appel later worked on painted sculptures.
The final section consisted of more recent pieces from the 1970s onwards, when political and social issues found their way into artworks, and other forms of media , such as photography, were integrated into the modern collection. There were some lovely portraits of Northern Irish figures, such as Jack Crabtree’s portrait of playwright Brian Friel.
I particularly liked that there was photography in this section of the exhibition, my favourite being Paul Seawright’s photograph from the Invisible Cities collection comments on settlements in post-colonial Africa. I thought that capturing this image, where the sky is almost as grey as the water and there are only a couple of people visible in the scene gives it an air of empty desolation, even though the photograph was taken in a large city.
Photo courtesy of http://www.paulseawright.com/invisiblecities/
The exhibition showcased the range of the modern collection at the Ulster Museum, and demonstrated the development of art through the twentieth century. There’s something for everyone in it, from portraits of recognisable local figures to bright colourful paintings, through to more abstract pieces, and being arranged chronologically makes it easy to see how the differing styles developed. “Highlights of the Modern Collection’ is on at the Ulster Museum until 21st September so you’ve got plenty of time to see it!