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Details & Cataloguing

Modern & Post-War British Art

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London

Sir Peter Blake, R.A.
B.1932
THE VENUSES' OUTING TO WEYMOUTH
signed, titled, dated Feb.2004 and inscribed Begun 1994 - Completed 2004 on the canvas overlap
oil on canvas
68.5 by 124.5cm.; 27 by 49in.
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Provenance

Waddington Galleries, London, where acquired by the present owner in 2006

Exhibited

London, The National Gallery, Now We Are 64, Peter Blake at the National Gallery, 25th September 1996 - 5th January 1997, un-numbered catalogue, illustrated p.21 (in progress), with tour to The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester;
Liverpool, Tate, Peter Blake: A Retrospective, 29th June - 23rd September 2007.

Literature

Natalie Rudd, Peter Blake, Tate Publishing, London, 2003, cat. no.80, illustrated p.95.

Catalogue Note

‘One of the dreams I have had over the years as a painter, has been to return to that innocent state of being a student, of going in to the art school and spending long days just painting, with none of the worries which appear later. Being at the National Gallery has been like that…’
(Peter Blake, Introduction to Now We Are 64, Peter Blake at the National Gallery, exh. cat., 1996, p.9)

In 1993, Blake was invited to become the third Associate artist at the National Gallery in London. The aim was straightforward: to produce new work in response to the collection and secondly, to have an exhibition of work after his two-year residency. As David Hockney put it in his Foreword to the exhibition catalogue, Blake was the perfect contemporary artist to do a residency at the National Gallery, holding both Elvis Presley and Hans Holbein in equal esteem. The first thing Blake did was to walk through the sixty-six rooms of the gallery journeying past each and every painting. After this three hour wander, many ideas emerged including bringing together the gallery's Venuses on the beach at Weymouth Bay, the setting for John Constable's canvas from 1816-17 looking west over the beach with Jordon Hill and Furzy Cliff in the background. Blake's initial reaction was that he might prepare a small exhibition of perhaps 10 paintings but when he moved into his studio at the gallery in August 1994, the effect was electric, and surrounded by the nation's treasure trove of art history, a plethora of ideas sprang onto canvas and he started close to 50 paintings, experiencing a period of creativity unmatched since his student days at the Royal College of Art.

The present work is central to the National Gallery project. Taking John Constable's Weymouth Bay: Bowleaze Cove and Jordon Hill (1816-17, fig.1) as the backdrop, Blake has assembled some of the most famous Venuses in art history by the likes of Botticelli, Velazquez, Giorgione, Titian, Correggio and Lucas Cranach the Elder, parading them revelling along the beach front. In the background, a handful of cupids are playing cricket with Folly from Bronzino’s Allegory with Venus and Cupid ditching his handful of roses in favour of a cricket bat. Colin Wiggins, Special Projects Curator at the National Gallery, remembered that when the public came to visit Blake's studio, this was the one picture they found genuinely funny. Indeed, Blake deemed the Old Masters quite resilient enough to have some fun poked at them. But the picture has an important message; the setting is not just a whimsical fantasy, Weymouth Bay was near where Constable spent his honeymoon after a difficult relationship with his future father-in-law. Here, the tour bus in the background has brought together art history’s most well-known goddesses of love for a triumphal day trip to the seaside.

Modern & Post-War British Art

|
London