Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Lady Lever Art Gallery (Overview)

I originally visited the Lady Lever for the Whistler Etchings exhibition on loan from Glasgow University, but in retrospect, the gallery as a whole was more rewarding than the two Whistler rooms, despite their Whistlerian brilliance.

I found the gallery layout rather confusing which can sometimes impact overall impression and enjoyment of a gallery. I think that sometimes, it is forgotten that the space is as important as what it contains. The gallery itself is a very personal collection, having been compiled lovingly by Lord and Lady Lever, but what it lacks in diversity, it makes up for in quality. I particularly appreciated the extensive collection of Wedgewood and Chinese furniture, but my particular favourites were the five re-created rooms. Though small in scale, these elements in exhibitions definitely enhance the appreciation and understanding of the images, items and artefacts when observed in contexts that display their primary functions.

The Lady Lever has an extensive collection of Millais and a spattering of William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti due to the Levers being particularly enamoured with the work of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. In keeping with the nature of the early Brotherhood, their works are all contained in the same room, which feels like an appropriate homage to their history and context of creation. Like many others, in the works of the Pre-Raphaelites, I appreciate their contempt for formulaic compositions and their incredible attention to detail. Whilst total naturalism isn't a quality I find suitable of effect in art at all times, I am aware of its importance. The Pre-Raphaelites love of nature and its impact on life, however, is something I can subscribe to as, for me, it conjures the image of Lord Byron sitting atop a mountain scribbling about the sublime.

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