There have been many many reviews written about the Royal Academy’s Charles I: King and Collector exhibition, pretty much all of which boil down to “you're not going to see the likes of this again, some waffle about a new perspective on King Charles, it's good, bloody well go and see it”
And I concur.
I've already shared some of the comics I drew after my visit, but now here's the view from a punter, who knows about art mainly thanks to the content on BBC iplayer, and a brief stint of asking people to not touch things in a gallery.
Better value than a trip to the cinema.
I'd not intended to see the exhibition, but then found myself in London, with time to kill. Having heard so much about the it, and recently seen Andrew Graham-Dixon’s BBC series about Royal art collecting, it was in my mind, so I decided to indulge myself.
At £20 a ticket, unless you qualify for some form of concession (which I did), it may feel steep, but I figured that if I managed an hour, hour and a half, OK, it would cost more than a cinema trip, but it was to see a collection of art in exceptional circumstances, which made it seem worthwhile. As it turns out, I effortlessly lost two hours, and would have happily managed another 40 minutes or so had I not had a friend waiting to meet me.
Armour, tasteful boobs, cherubs, urns.
For followers of classical art though, or people with even a broad glancing interest, the individual pieces are each remarkable, and the ability to see them side by side heightens their beauty and enables you to appreciate Charles’ canny collecting skills.
The real highlights for me were some of the smaller treasures which are gathered together. These delicately painted miniatures and smaller figures are the kind of items Charles would have taken time to show to those who he favoured. Holbein's sketches drew me back multiple times, finally seeing for myself something quite a few art programmes have teased me with on the screen.
I might have looked like I was casing the place planning to steal them.
Finally, I try to sound like I understand Exhibition Design.
Interpretation is just right, enough to provide some context about the Royal family as collectors (“oh, she had that in her private rooms she liked it that much?”) and the artists themselves, but without pouring too much in your brain given the quantity on display. The gallery map/notes you receive on entry contain a useful timeline of Charles’ life and events, so you can place the collection against the backdrop of his disastrous handling of his position.
So although I can't tell you much about painting techniques, or the hidden meanings and symbology in the paintings, or what the collection reveals about the psychology of Charles, I can say that you won't be able to see a collection of masterpieces like this for a long long time, and it's well worth a gander before its final day on April 15th.