Millais at the Tate Britain and the Dennis Sever’s House Christmas Tour

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These events are both “art” events, though since the Dennis Sever’s house is kind of a theatrical still life I think it deserves to be included here …

The Millais exhibit up at the Tate was was a good way to spend the afternoon, at least if you are a Millais fan. The first two rooms were mostly filled with the paintings of his I’ve seen a million times before – Ophelia, Mariana, Christ in the House of his Parents, The Order of Release, Autumn Leaves – the really pretty paintings I’m so fond of but …. well, let’s be honest, which occasionally have a touch of schmaltz to them. (I still like many of them quite a lot, and enjoyed seeing new works I’d not seen before, such as “Love,” pictured, and the studies for many of the paintings I was very familiar with.)

The “schmaltz” factor seemed to more and more take over as the exhibit wore on. I was happy that he found love in Effie Ruskin (whose portrait he painted many times), but once he had eight kids to feed, I guess he threw artistic purity out of the window in favor of commercial success. Sappy sweet kiddie portraits, random decorative romantic “scenes,” society portraits … the middle three rooms (“The Boyhood of Raleigh,” “The Ruling Passion,” bleah!) were full of what looked like the kind of crap you need to crank out to keep the bills paid.

That said, the last room was full of lovely Scottish landscapes that he painted when he ran away from London society and went to live “the life of an English gentleman,” which apparently involved a lot of hunting and fishing and hiding in little huts for seven hours a day painting water pouring over volcanic rocks. Unfortunately I was a bit too tired by this time to really appreciate this art and just wanted to sit down and have some more tea and recover a bit.

Afterwards, off we went to Liverpool Street Station to meet Spikeylady and enjoy a christmas tour through the Dennis Severs house. All of the house was lit by candlelight and in each room it appeared the occupants had just left – leaving behind a half eaten softboiled egg, a whiff of perfume, some overturned crockery, etc. I found it all quite charming but felt like a little bit of it was passing me by! Apparently the whole house was the artistic project of Dennis Severs, who died some years back, but like my last trip to see a Punchdrunk production (in this case Faust), I felt like I was just a little bit behind getting what was holding it all together. But it was neat, anyways. I’d like to do it when I’m feeling not the least bit worried about whether or not other people are finding it interesting, or perhaps even during the rest of the year, when it’s open at lunchtime and such and not filled full of Christmassy things. The neighborhood itself is also very interesting – just a tiny nubbin of what used to be there and frighteningly dominated by the various shiny bank buildings just a block away. I must go back and just take a stroll after the holidays are over.

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