This Breathtaking, Bling Baroque Blockbuster Is Coming To Tate Britain

This Breathtaking, Bling Baroque Blockbuster Is Coming To Tate Britain
Antonio Verrio: The Sea Triumph of Charles II c.1674 The Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

The era spanning the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, to the death of Queen Anne in 1714, witnessed a distinctly overblown form of art.

This was a time when it was normal for royals to have themselves depicted surrounded by pudgy winged putti and prone mermaids. When Duchesses posed as the Virgin Mary, sans irony. It was kind of like Oasis's Be Here Now stage.

Edward Collier: A Trompe l'Oeil of Newspapers, Letters and Writing Implements on a Wooden Board c.1699. © Tate, Purchased 1984

Tate Britain's exhibition British Baroque: Power and Illusion explores this bling era of art, showcasing pictures including Antonio Verrio's grandiose The Sea Triumph of Charles II, and Godfrey Kneller's John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough — a moody propaganda piece that casts the duke's warring exploits in a heroic light.

Peter Lely Barbara Palmer: Duchess of Cleveland with her son, as the Virgin and Child c.1664. © National Portrait Gallery

The exhibition — opening February 2020 — shows how magnificence was used to express status and influence, through artists including Peter Lely, Honoré Pelle and James Thornhill. Viewers take a journey through the royal courts, religion and party politics, via breathtaking grand-scale portraiture and trompe l’oeil.

Godfrey Kneller: John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough c.1706. © National Portrait Gallery

Baroque architecture is touched on too, through architects likes Wren, Hawksmoor and Vanbrugh — and buildings such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Hampton Court Palace and Blenheim Palace.

Honoré Pelle: Charles II 1684. © Victoria and Albert Museum

Through all the grandeur and bombast, the Tate's blockbuster considers the use of art to convey power, and the effect this had on Britain's everyman and woman. Just as Instagram chimes in on the social mores of today, so did Baroque art way back when.

John James Baker: The Whig Junto 1710. © Tate, from the collection of Richard and Patricia, Baron and Baroness Sandys

British Baroque: Power and Illusion, Tate Britain, 5 February-19 April 2020. Ticket prices and booking info TBC.

Last Updated 28 August 2019