Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Landscapes of despair: Salvator Rosa

Had the good fortune to go to the Dulwich Picture Gallery and the latest exhibition there, Bandits, Wilderness and Magic.
It is a major exhibition of the work of Salvatore Rosa (1615 -1673), the Neopolitan master. There are some witches and a lot of wilderness, but not many bandits. Indeed far far more philosphers, rooms of them.
But is not for his semi portrature that he was best known. Much more what we see are what Horace Walpole described as
"Precipices, mountains, torrents, wolves, rumblings -- Salvator Rosa."
And they are all here, mountains and dark places, the opening of the romantic mind a hundred years before the same mind reached the literary world.

It in these generally smaller pieces (though not only the smaller pieces that he is at his best, cramped and full of dark meanings,figures crawl out of the dark often in tortured poses or in fearful moments.

It is not a big exhibition, but to my mind it could do without at least a room of large, confusingly constructed allegories. Confusing not because of my ignorance of the symbolism, but just the way in which each symbol seems plonked rather than part of a greater whole.

None the less an exhibition well overdue and a reintroduction to an artist of immense power.

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