Our pick of this week’s art events: 18 – 25 March

Published 18 March 2016

From an eccentric exhibition of cartoonist David Shrigley’s work to a rare display of Russian portraiture, we pick the week’s best art events.

  • Russia and the Arts: The Age of Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky

    National Portrait Gallery, London, until 26 June

    This exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery is set to be one of the most significant displays of Russian portraiture to take place in a British Museum. In paintings loaned from the State Tretykov Gallery, Russia’s most venerated cultural figures take centre stage, including the likes of Chekhov, Dostoevksky and Tolstoy. The works on show, dating from the 1860s up until the First World War, illustrate the vastly different approaches to portraiture over the ages, as evidenced by comparison between the uncompromising honesty in Ilya Repin’s realism and Mikhail Vrubel’s whimsical symbolism. This rare opportunity to stand before some of Russia’s greatest treasures is not to be missed.

  • Ilya Repin, Modest Mussorgsky

    Ilya Repin, Modest Mussorgsky, 1881.

    Oil on Canvas. 69 x 57 cm. ©State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

  • Bonheur de Vivre

    Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London, until 27 May

    This is an impressive selection of 16 works by some of the most important names in 20th century art. The show’s objective is to trace the revolution in art that stemmed from Matisse’s painting, Bonheur de Vivre (1906-1906), from which the exhibition takes its name. It celebrates the modernist love of colour, expressive brushwork and light. In particular, the light permeating Matisse’s depictions of the South of France mark a significant moment of departure from the chiaroscuro style that had dominated painting traditions of previous centuries. Representational paintings are linked to abstract works by Calder, Motherwall and Miro through their similar use of bold colours. One senses the sheer exhilaration all of the artists felt in the new found freedom to approach art with playfulness and imagination.

  • Henri Matisse, Jeune fille à la mauresque, robe verte

    Henri Matisse, Jeune fille à la mauresque, robe verte, 1921.

    Oil on Canvas. 66 x 55 cm. Image courtesy Bernard Jacobson Gallery.

  • David Shrigley

    Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, until 23 April

    David Shrigley’s idiosyncratic drawing style reveals a thoughtful, humorous and frank perspective on society. For all their deadpan honesty, Shrigley’s drawings dare to say the things we’re all secretly thinking – which means that even the most reluctant gallery goers can relate to his art. Although most famed for his monochrome doodles, in new works Shrigley experiments with brightly-coloured paint whilst still retaining his characteristic fluidity of line through use of the oil stick. In these pieces, the artist turns his satirical eye to Op Art, parodying and undermining its illusionary effects by rendering the forms in a seemingly haphazard manner. Shrigley is a truly unique artist who shuns pretence, and this exhibition is sure to appeal to a wide audience.

  • David Shrigley, Untitled

    David Shrigley, Untitled.

    Image courtesy Stephen Friedman Gallery.

  • Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century

    The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, until 3 July

    Paul Strand’s ability to uncover the beauty in diverse everyday subjects, from street portraiture, to urban and rural life, affirms his role as a pioneer of fine art and documentary photography alongside other modernist greats like Edward Weston and Alfred Stieglitz. This presentation of 200 photographs takes us through Strand’s extensive travels, from his native New York to the far reaches of Morocco, Ghana and Romania. Captured with powerful juxtapositions of light and dark, Strand’s photographs demonstrate his profound eye for scenes which communicate the human condition.

  • Paul Strand, The Family, Luzzara (The Lusettis)

    Paul Strand, The Family, Luzzara (The Lusettis), 1953.

    ©Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation.

  • Grace O’Connor: One Day in June

    Paul Stolper Gallery, London, until 22 April

    Grace O’Connor’s lyrical painting series records an afternoon the artist spent with an unnamed musician she had admired since childhood. These reproductions of fanciful memories imply that subtle and seemingly arbitrary moments in time are often the ones that resonate the most. The hazy imprecision of the brushwork and often muted palette reflects the uncertainty of these memories, which often veer into the realm of imagination. O’Connor takes both loaded and mundane gestures (from a hand on a hip to the pulling up of a sock) as her subject, giving them equal weight in a narrative which blurs the line between reality and unreality.

  • Grace O'Connor, A brain, a heart... the nerve

    Grace O'Connor, A brain, a heart... the nerve, 2016.

    Oil on Canvas. 25.4 × 30.48 cm. Image courtesy Paul Stolper Gallery.