One of the artists to catch my attention during my recent visit to Tate Britain was George Clausen (1852-1944), an English painter, who was born in London, and was the son of a decorative artist. He studied design in South Kensington from 1867 to 1873 and later went on to Paris to study under two rather traditional artists, William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Tony Robert-Fleury. Despite their conservative approach, Clausen would have learnt from them the importance of technical skills. However, while in Paris it was perhaps inevitable at the time that he would also come under the influence of the impressionists who completely rejected the academic style propounded by Clausen’s teachers.
George Clausen’s paintings concentrated on peasant figures and landscapes, though, as with the French impressionists, his real concern came to be the rendering of light in open air settings or in the shady shelter of a barn or stable. His portrait of a young peasant girl, entitled Brown Eyes, painted in oils on canvas in 1891, is an absolute delight. On the one hand it presents a perfect classical triangular composition, in which the girl’s white blouse dominates: however, the girl’s intense expression adds real depth and energy, and one wonders what has caught her attention as she looks out from the canvas over the shoulder of the observer. The field in the background provides a beautiful natural contrast, delicately captured with fine brushstrokes. So don’t delay, get down to Tate Britain and see for yourself the magic of this portrait, which is just one of the many treasures held in the permanent collection.
One final observation, although it is always well-attended, possibly because of its location in Pimlico, Tate Britain is not swamped by crowds in the way that other galleries can be. So if you’re looking for a leisurely, unstressed Sunday afternoon but want to appreciate some true artistic masterpieces, I can highly recommend the venue.