Blue sky thinking for the country’s paintings | Letters
Readers respond to an article outlining two radically different plans for civic art collections; what inspired Hockney and where his work should be displayed; and the ‘lost’ Caravaggio
It is a sad irony that Hertfordshire county council should place the bulk of its art collection under the hammer (The big question: how many paintings can you fit on a wall?, 2 March) two days before an exhibition (Barbara Hepworth: artist in society 1948-53) opens in St Albans to celebrate her connection with the county.
Some of her works are at schools and colleges there, but now the council is flogging off her delightful sketch of a theatre nurse. This picture was owned by the county’s pioneering director of education, John Newsom, who gave it to the collection he established in 1949 for lending to the county’s schools. He would surely be dismayed by the philistine action of the current council.
Hertfordshire should emulate Rochdale council which, as your report explains, is celebrating its magnificent collection rather than using it to make quick buck after years of neglect.
• Rochdale borough council does not have enough wall space in the Touchstones gallery for all its pictures. It could use empty shops and market stalls in the Butts, Exchange, Wheatsheaf and Riverside centres, in Yorkshire Street and Drake Street, little-used rooms and corridors in the town hall, and empty cotton mills and other industrial buildings. I visited last summer and am tempted to visit again to see this collection.
• So sad that David Hockney has given his east Yorkshire masterpiece The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate to the Pompidou Centre, rather than making it the centrepiece of a potential new Hockney foundation gallery in Bridlington or Scarborough (Cigarette and cup of tea revive Hockney after artist got stuck in a lift, 1 March).
Although his wonderful paintings of the east Yorkshire landscape are often on show at Salts Mill, they really should be brought together in a permanent collection and displayed in the area they were made. This would be a useful generator of art tourism, which these towns so badly need.
• David Hockney’s account of being inspired by the rich blue skies at the Manchester Van Gogh exhibition in the 1950s is very helpful. As a representative for Eccleshill council, I regularly walk along the street in Eccleshill where Hockney lived while learning his craft. It has some of the steepest urban gradients in Bradford, offering superb sky views across the Aire Valley, which I had assumed made an impact on young Hockney. I had forgotten that Bradford then was mainly “grey and black” – which it certainly isn’t now.
Cllr Geoff Reid
• A painting recently found in an attic and now on display in London is claimed to be a Caravaggio (Eyewitness, 1 March). But if a Caravaggio, what kind of a Caravaggio? A former leading Caravaggio authority, the late Sir Denis Mahon, once attributed two paintings of the same subject – The Taking of Christ – to the artist. In 1993 he had said of the first, which had passed all technical tests, that its quality proved it must be by Caravaggio and the artist had demonstrated his own hand “with a few strokes of the brush”.
In 2004 a second Caravaggio Taking of Christ emerged and again, after passing all technical tests, was said by Sir Denis to be the original version on account of its many painted revisions or, “serious afterthoughts, as was Caravaggio’s wont”. When challenged on this double attribution of two radically differently made paintings, Sir Denis insisted that both were the originals. That was, he said, because Caravaggio produced two types of his own original paintings, one being his “originale” – the first to be executed – and the other his “originario” – a second version made to provide for the model and template for many subsequent copies by other artists.
Director, ArtWatch UK
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This article was originally published at TheGuardian.com