Reubens, et. el.

Much like my post about my Ajanta-Ellora visit back in April 2013, writing about my morning stroll along a few walls lined with 17th century Flemish art was not easy. Their documentation of a time in the past, their maintenance, their precision and detail was so remarkable, I kept looking for other references to club with the subject and write in my sort of meandering style, connecting them all to make melody out of the notes. Alas, this too, was too beautiful to be spoken about in any plural form.

'Winter' in Bombay, is more a pleasant time of year meant for sweatless walks out in the open, not so much about bringout out your fall-winter collection. It begins with art. Public walls being repainted by kids or graffiti artists, contemporary displays at Jehangir or even at the Kala Ghoda Festival and travelling exhibitions from across the world. The latest to take Bombay by storm, is a phenomenal collection of Flemish paintings at the Prince of Wales Museum (Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalay for those who care more about bloody political correctness than the enchantment that is this heritage building itself) on its first visit to India. My friend from Pondicherry, Dirk first posted a link to the Hindu Business Line story and Mumbai Boss did another short piece later too.

I asked my faithful culture explorer friend, Anuj to accompany me and he said yes right away! He made for the best part about the walk - patiently waiting for the school-kids visit to get out of the way and see each piece quietly, unlike the noob art critics who can't zip their opinion. A big rooter of the Art-For-Art's-Sake school of thought, I steered clear of those and wisely so. We did a leisurely late Sunday morning visit to the museum and weren't disappointed.

The first three paintings that greet you, as if with a gentle, pious, pristine 'hello...', are Reuben's. Angels sometimes peeping from, and sometimes making, the clouds. It was the Van Dyck steed, that despite its slightly distorted proportions, impresses with its sheer magnitude. And the museum guys have placed a little settee strategically in front of it for those who'd care to be wowed by it in peace.

Like all things ancient, these paintings instill an instant sense of awe - of being able to see a piece of such exquisite art at such close quarters, all these centuries later. It is much like watching teacher and disciple in tandem. Like having heard Abida Parveen and Sanam Marvi in a span of barely a few weeks a couple of years back. The graduation, evolution and encouragement to rise above norms is clear. And while I may be jumping the guns to some extent, sauntering past Tenier, Wautier, Coques, Gysel, Lytens and Francken's evolving styles made for an excellent insight into what probably graduated to Impressionistic art in France is not entirely hard to make, especially Lytens' Winter Landscape.

For me, the oils on panel were a personal discovery and so were the engravings. The latter, a fine example of how the printing press might have had some history in the painstaking detail of hand-engraved copper plates used to print multiple copies of certain scenes from the Bible and Greek mythology (look out for the Samson & Delilah piece at the fag end of the display). There are some brilliant landscapes - easily classic even in our times and where we live, especially scenes from Antwerp's town squares that show vivid movement (including a pair of canines humping).

It is little wonder then, that the exhibition of the 28 exclusive paintings from the collection of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp and 25 engravings of the print room of the Plantin-Moretus museum, opened by Princess Astrid of Belgium from November 27 should be on your next weekend list of things not to miss! For those short on time, plan a visit in the month to come, since it's on only till Feb 8th. Gift yourself this visit first thing in the New Year.


Parth said...

Hey, just dropping in a line to say hi :) What is happening in Aamchi Mumbai?

Priyanca Vaishnav said...

Kala Ghoda Fest!!!!!!!!!!!!

Parth said...

Nice. Looks like my previous comment disappeared. Anyway, maybe we should get in touch on some social networking platform. I have heard this FaceBook thing is, as certain American kids all it, 'sick' :)

Parth said...

Done. Wrote to you.