We had a wonderful visit to Tate Britain on Sunday. First, there was a fascinating little exhibition of Sylvia Pankhurst’s gouaches. Sylvia was the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst’s second daughter. A trained artist, she designed emblems and china for the Women’s Social and Political Union and used her skill as a painter to record the miserable working lives of female workers in the Potteries and elsewhere.
She wasn’t a scintillating talent, but the images are more powerful than her technique. Then we wandered through some of the main galleries. I’m in two minds about the new fashion for not overburdening the visitor with information.
I like it in principle. Reading somebody else’s opinion is easier than looking and forming one’s own, but perhaps it’s better not to be tempted by interpretative labels. However, couldn’t the curator have told us something about the buildings that Samuel Scott shows us through An Arch of Westminster Bridge in about 1750? And what is the globe in a flaming heart that William Style of Langley points at in his portrait of 1636?
Mind you, one would rather not have some of the interpretation offered. At the feet of the 17th-century Irish chieftain Sir Neil O’Neill is a suit of Japanese armour, apparently there to remind us that oppression in the world was not only visited upon Catholics. Come off it.
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