Pandemic Pondering#172


What a wonderful word. So much more exciting than Varnishing Day

I’ve received an email with the instructions for a Winter Exhibition that I will submit some paintings to.

Instead of a Private View the exhibition will have a Varnishing Day.

Each exhibiting artist will be able to take a friend/relative/Patron/collector to see the exhibition a day before the opening of the exhibition to the public.

It is an old tradition, associated with the Royal Academy in London, revamped for the Coronovirus era. Vernissage is the French word for Varnishing Day. A day when artists would visit the exhibition and varnish/finish paintings in situ and show their friends and patrons the new seasons work. Ultimately Varnishing Day turned into the more contemporary Private View so it is intriguing that with Coronovirus restrictions the only way to allow artists the opportunity to see the lay out of an exhibition is to revert to a more controllable format.

Not that Varnishing Day was always controllable in history. The Royal Academy in London saw Turner deliver paintings that required more than finishing off and his spot off with Constable is a notable art moment when he added with a flourish a red buoy to a seascape. Constable had taken 15 years to paint his picture painstakingly and felt the snub of Turner’s swift embellishment.

Knowing the cattiness and ill concealed competitiveness of the art world Turner and Constable cannot have been the only disagreeable moment in the Royal Academies long history of Varnishing Days. Nothing is recorded, it seems what happens at Varnishing Day stays at Varnishing Day.

Literature and in particular novels about real or imaginary artists portray Varnishing Day as a far more hedonistic event, which seems more likely given the heady mix of artists, wealthy patrons and hangers on. The proximity of The Royal Academy to Piccadilly, the pleasure centre of London for centuries makes it unlikely that Varnishing Day was ever a sedate affair.

Plymouths own Joshua Reynolds the very first President of the Royal Academy was known for leading quite a colourful life of excess. He probably preferred the word Vernissage too.

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