Even if most painters are foreigners, the style associated with continental Europe will aim to show that it existed in the United Kingdom.
Surely British art and architecture of the years 1660 to 1714—covered in Tate Britain’s forthcoming show British Baroque: Power and Illusion—is too understated to merit such a dashing description? When in 1968 James Lees-Milne entitled his volume in the Country Life series on English country houses simply Baroque 1685-1715, he stated: “Its connotation should perhaps be understood chronologically rather than stylistically.”
The Tate exhibition will not haver about definitions. Its time runs from Restoration to the death of Queen Anne. This Baroque is foremost a style of London and the court. It is mostly on a generous, sexy, colorful and sometimes flashy scale. The scene is set by the Victoria and Albert Museum’s swagger marble bust of Charles II by Honoré Pelle, probably carved in Genoa.
Primarily a paintings exhibition, almost all the painters are foreign-born. Peter Lely, trained in Haarlem, is included in delicious quantity. But less familiar figures – such as the French portrait painter Henri Gascar, the Italian painter Benedetto Gennari, and the Flemish painter Jacob Huysmans – are equally distinctive and arresting.
Antonio Verrio’s The Sea Triumph of Charles II, painted in about 1674 to demonstrate his talent. Thornhill’s creative process is demonstrated through the spectacular Drawing Hall at Greenwich Hospital. Especially with the painting painted on the ceiling of Charles II’s Whitehall Whitehall bed Astraea back to earth by John Michael Wright.
Dutch artists Samuel van Hoogstraten and Edward Collier have delusional views and trompe-l’oeils through A very different Baroque pigeon. Flowers by the French artist Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer and birds by the Hungarian Jakob Bogdani accompany “beauties” by the German Godfrey Kneller and the Swede Michael Dahl.
Dahl’s Petworth Beauties portraits have been recently restored to their full lengths, after being reduced to three-quarters of their original size in the early 19th-century on the orders of George Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont.
Gennari’s spectacular The Annunciation (1686), painted for Whitehall Palace Chapel. However, the Ringling in Florida, will stop the show, as no doubt will the enormous Equestrian Portrait of a Lord Mayor of London (around 1695-1705) by the German painter John Closterman, on loan from the Banque de France, and the even more colossal conversation piece. The Whig Junto (1710) by the Flemish artist John James Baker, acquired by the Tate from Ombersley Court in 2019.