Snap! National Gallery pairs photography with fine art

Nov 1, 2012

'Seduced by Art' sets a Martin Parr photograph alongside the Gainsborough that inspired him

Martin Parr: Signs of the Times, England

What you need to know
A new exhibition at the National Gallery, Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present, looks at how photographers have been inspired by fine art and old master paintings. The show surveys photographs from the mid-19th century to the present, displaying them alongside historical works of art.

Featured photographers include Martin Parr, Craigie Horsfield, Sam Taylor-Wood, Richard Billingham, Julia Margaret Cameron and
Gustave Le Gray. Key artworks from the National Gallery's permanent collection include paintings by Gainsborough, Constable, Degas and Ingres.

Runs until 20 January.

What the critics like
The National Gallery's "eye-opening" exhibition proposes that photographs aren't "taken", they are created, says Richard Dorment in The Daily Telegraph. The curators zero in on the different ways photographers manipulate images and illuminate the creative processes of both contemporary artists and the old masters. This show takes time, but it "couldn't be better".

Richard Billingham's photography strikes up "a sombre, sensitive conversation" with Constable, says Jonathan Jones in The Guardian. Their shared passion for the beauty of the landscape connects them across time and media and proves that "photography can have a meaningful relationship with great painting".

There are some "wonderfully vivid pairings of old and new", says Rachel Campbell-Johnston in The Times. An elegant Gainsborough (below) is satirically aped by Martin Parr (above); Richard Learoyd's study of a tattooed man echoes the magnificent Greek marble, Laocoön.

What they don't like
It's all a bit too polite, says Jonathan Jones in The Guardian. The show celebrates the more civilised side of photography, the photographs that "aspire to be Art with a capital A", rather than the mugshots or photobooth images of Duchamp or Warhol. The resultis "a cultural cringe before fine art". 

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