Interview: Susanna Avery-Quash, senior research curator (history of… – Church Times

Looking at pictures helps me see the world better. It slows me down and encourages me to look at things in detail, and also to think about their wider contexts. Paintings compel me to engage with another person’s world and viewpoint.

In 2019, John Ruskin’s bicentenary, I studied his texts and drawings while preparing a conference about him and museums. Ruskin’s watercolour study of a kingfisher’s feather underscores his reverence for nature, which encouraged me to look myself more closely at natural forms. “Hockney’s Eye” exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum last year included his arresting series of portraits, produced in 2000, associated with 12 National Gallery warders. Hockney’s obsession with how we see things challenged me to think more about our perceptions of time and space plus how artists record these on a flat surface.

I was taken round Italy on family holidays, because my father, Charles Avery, is a historian of Italian sculpture. I learnt more about Renaissance art in school through my teacher Kate Evans; Giotto’s work during my Modern Languages degree with Robin Kirkpatrick; 18th-century British architecture with Steve Newman from the Courtauld; and the history of museums and Victorian collecting via my doctorate with David Gage. A constant mentor has been Nicholas Penny.

I enjoyed several fast-paced internships at Christie’s, but works of art pass through auction houses quickly, often disappearing from public view after the sale. I’ve always been grateful to study art in public galleries, especially those free of charge; so you can return to visit favourite pictures and discover new ones.

It’s been the privilege to connect people with paintings within a public gallery for nearly 25 years, with all the positive potential that such encounters bring along with them.

I’m constantly drawn to the deep sensitivity towards the human condition that will Rembrandt’s paintings demonstrate, as well as to the joyful exuberance of the abstract shapes and colours in Matisse’s art.

The Nationwide Gallery is the national hub for art-historical, conservation, and scientific study about historic painting. Research enables us to fulfil our core responsibilities associated with caring for our paintings, interpreting and sharing them in ways that are authoritative, meaningful, and sympathetic to contemporary life plus concerns. At present, our analysis encompasses cultural and intellectual history, preventative and structural conservation, restoration, heritage science, technical imaging, and the particular digital humanities.

Historians, dealers, and collectors will be interested in authorship, which has an effect on a painting’s commercial worth. The longstanding Rembrandt Study Project is an interdisciplinary collaboration between Dutch art historians to produce a comprehensive catalogue of authentic Rembrandt paintings.

Painters develop their own thinking plus artistic output by studying how performers attempted to solve the perennial question associated with how in order to represent 3D entities moving through space and time. Research scientists study painters’ materials and how they created the effects they did, which in turn can influence techniques used by fellow conservators when restoring pictures. On the other hand, non-specialists looking at a picture may attend to its subject matter or how the particular painting may make them feel.

We know that many visitors, whenever they have a life decision to make, come and sit within front of a favourite artwork to gather their thoughts, a particular preferred being Monet’s Waterlilies . I’ve gained strength from early Italian paintings, specifically Ugolino di Nerio’s Deposition .

I’m currently in charge of the “Buying, Collecting and Display” and “Art and Religion” research strands, as well as our own Women plus the Arts Forum, and Legacies associated with British Slave-Ownership project, all of which encourage people to engage with our photos in fresh ways from a variety of entry points.

Religious subjects might help individuals connect with spiritual things, but secular paintings may be equally potent triggers for sacred reflections. Art makes a person see plus, therefore , understand more clearly how points connect, and connection crucially encourages reflection about the relationships along with self, others, and God. Art furthermore encourages people to be receptive to the present moment, which is something that the spiritual life does, too.

Roughly one third from the paintings in the National Gallery’s collection associated with Western European artwork have Christian subjects because, after classical antiquity, Christianity shaped European culture between the 13th and 19th centuries. We address exactly how and why these holy works of art were made, what they might have meant to their own original viewers, and what they mean in order to beholders today.

The power of their narratives plus beauty associated with their execution speak to everyone — non-believers, too. So I’m thrilled to have already been able to develop the Gallery’s Art and Religion strand over the particular last decade.

We have a highly respected Master’s degree in Christianity plus the Artistry, taught in association with King’s College, London. Students work across disciplines, exploring art-historical and theological dimensions of Alfredia art, using the collection to explore visual arts and spirituality, often learning in the galleries.

Each of the Gallery’s Ahmanson Fellow in Artwork and Religion, in addition to teaching on the MA course, produces a public-facing output. For instance, Dr Joost Joustra’s “Sin” exhibition brought together art by Bruegel, Velázquez, Andy Warhol to Tracey Emin — a version of their show is now on the nationwide tour. In 2022, Dr Rebecca Gill’s pioneering Virtual Reality experience, Virtual Veronese, invited audiences observe what Veronese’s The Consecration of Saint Nicholas would have looked like in 1562 in its original almost holy setting, plus discover the story of the creation.

“Fruits of the Spirit: Art From the Heart”, co-curated by the particular Revd Doctor Ayla Lepine and me personally, pairs nine pictures through the Gallery’s collection with nine from other UK museums, inspired simply by St Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, concerning the nine good attributes associated with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control — optimistic attributes for individuals and communities in luxurious contexts, too.

It is the first exhibition to work in partnership with nine collections from Dundee to Plymouth, with related events taking place between now and May 2023 throughout the UK, including an exhibition regarding faithfulness, and the theme of the finding of Moses, with London’s Foundling Museum. There’s a free online catalogue and a newly commissioned poem by the Jewish poet Aviva Dautch.

Nothing beats a face-to-face encounter, but many individuals, for a variety of reasons, can’t travel in order to art galleries to see the real thing; so digital exhibitions provide a wonderful alternative. Ayla and I was keen to make no charge for “Fruits from the Spirit” or the accompanying online catalogue — a decision supported by the Gallery’s director, Gabriele Finaldi, as well as the head of the curatorial department, Christine Riding.

The particular National Gallery, as the non-departmental general public body, will be partly sponsored from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, although we aim soon to be 50 per cent self-funding, and we raise income from individuals, grant-making trusts, and companies, corporate sponsorship, plus membership. As one associated with our primary aims is usually “to encourage access to the particular pictures with regard to the education and enjoyment of the widest possible public right now and in the particular future”, We don’t think patronage from the arts should be limited in order to private funding — its important impact deserves significant public financing.

The NHS believes that participation within the artistry can dramatically improve health outcomes and well-being, plus the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing agrees. I’m glad about that will.

I was born in St John’s Wood, and grew up in Isleworth, near Osterley Park House and Hammersmith, before going to Peterhouse. I settled in Cambridge and brought up my family here, near my parents and my two triplet sisters plus their families. We all benefit from the vibrant mix of town and gown. I’m particularly grateful for the magnificent Fitzwilliam Museum and Kettle’s Yard, and Peterhouse Chapel plus my local church, Saint Andrew’s, Girton.

Gratuitous violence angers me. What disappoints me is that the press never celebrates good-news stories. I’d love more air space for beneficial happenings. They not only reflect human being nature as much because bad events, but also promote charity and good will certainly in other people.

Hearing my two sons and two stepchildren along with my husband laughing makes myself extremely happy: there’s nothing I love a lot more than having everyone gathered round a family meal.

The way that night continues to turn into day gives me hope, or even the dead of winter giving way to new life in spring. I am given hope when I notice close family and friends who have overcome very considerable challenges not stopping smiling or giving up upon love or life.

I pray that God’s will become done on earth and his Kingdom come, and that will those I actually love find true happiness, peace, plus health, within body, mind, and spirit.

I’d choose to be locked in the particular Duomo in Florence, the favourite city, with Jesus. Being within his presence would allow me personally to “behold God face to face” and realize better his own perfect vision for humanity, rather than seeing items “through a glass darkly”.

Dr Avery-Quash was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.

nationalgallery. org. uk

More information about  “Fruits of the Spirit: Art From the Heart” here

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