2017 at the National Galleries of Scotland

Read all about some of the highlights of our 2017 exhibition programme.

The bad boy of seventeenth-century Italian art, who revolutionized painting overnight, the untold story of a remarkable generation of British realist painters working in the 1920s and ’30s, and the pioneering Scottish photographers who created one of the most astonishing bodies of work in the history of the medium, are among the subjects to be explored in this exciting and varied programme.

Other highlights of next year will include an exploration of the male image, identity and appearance from the 16th century to the present day and an alternative survey of avant-garde work made by leading and lesser-known Scottish artists in the period from 1900 to 1950.

For a first taste of what to expect in 2017 here is the trailer for our summer programme:

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610) was a radical and revolutionary artist whose work had a transformative impact on art in Italy and beyond during his lifetime and in the decades following his premature death. He is one of very few ‘old master’ painters who enjoy genuine, broad popular appeal today, remembered not only for his brilliance, but also his challenging, argumentative and violent nature. Our image of Caravaggio’s work is inseparable from his tumultuous personal life; in 1606 he murdered a man after a quarrel over a game of tennis and spent the last four years of his life as a fugitive, producing his most profound and moving works during this time. 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio The Taking of Christ 1602. On indefinite loan to the National Gallery of Ireland from the Jesuit Community, Leeson St., Dublin who acknowledge the kind generosity of the late Dr Marie Lea-Wilson. Photo © The National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.

Beyond Caravaggio, which opens at the Scottish National Gallery on 17 June, will be the first exhibition of works by Caravaggio and his followers – the so-called Caravaggesque painters – ever to be shown in Scotland. Caravaggio’s dramatic lighting and compositions, and his radically new approach to subject matter, exerted a huge influence on a host of contemporary artists from all over Europe, many of them painters of the very highest calibre, such as Gentileschi, Ribera, Valentin and Ter Brugghen. 

Only four years after the invention of photography was announced to the world in 1839, two Scots had mastered the new medium and were producing works of breathtaking skill, in extraordinary quantities. A Perfect Chemistry: Photographs by Hill & Adamson will explore the uniquely productive and influential partnership of David Octavius Hill (1802-1870) and Robert Adamson (1821-1848), which lasted a few short years from 1843 until early 1848. 

David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson Edinburgh Ale: James Ballantine, Dr George Bell and David Octavius Hill 1843 - 1847

These stunning images, which belie the almost unimaginable technical challenges faced by the duo, are arguably among the first examples of social documentary in the history of photography. The National Galleries of Scotland has the largest collection of Hill and Adamson works in the world. This exhibition will feature a selection of around 100 photographs (consisting of original paper negatives and salted paper prints) which will demonstrate the profound significance of their achievement.

True to Life: British Realist Painting in the 1920s and 1930s will be the main summer exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. The first ever survey of this fascinating subject, the exhibition will demonstrate the breadth and depth of the art of the period, bringing together some 70 paintings by a generation of hugely talented artists whom art history has tended to sideline, as the figurative tradition they represent has been overshadowed by the more dominant abstraction of Modernism. 

Harold Williamson Spray 1939 © Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum. Photo credit: Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum

Realist art of the period is easier to identify than to explain or categorize. It had no generic name, no coherent artistic group to promote its practice, and it embraced a number of different styles. Its chief characteristics are fine drawing, a tendency towards classicism and an aversion to Impressionist brushwork and movement. True to Life will focus in particular on the hard-edged style of artists such as Gerald Leslie Brockhurst, Meredith Frampton, Harold Harvey, Bernard Fleetwood Walker and Dod Procter, who were major figures in the 1920s and ’30s. In the last decade these artists have begun to re-emerge from the shadows, and their extraordinary work is now ripe for rediscovery.

Another significant collaboration will be centred upon Sir Anthony van Dyck’s magnificent, final self-portrait, which was acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2014. Looking Good: The Male Gaze from Van Dyck to Lucian Freud, which opens at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery on 24 June, will bring together key works from both collections to explore the male image in art. Around 30 paintings, photographs, drawings, sculptures and miniatures will be on show, reflecting the evolution of male fashion styles, and men’s self-image, through the centuries.

2017 will come to a close at the National Galleries of Scotland with Scottish Avant-Garde Art 1900-1950, a major exhibition which will offer an alternative version of the history of modern Scottish art, challenging the accepted view of the dominance of the Scottish Colourists and the influence of France, by examining the most progressive work made by leading and lesser-known Scottish artists. 

William Johnstone A Point in Time About 1929/1937

Over 80 works by some 50 artists will be on show, drawn from the National Galleries’ holdings and other public collections throughout the UK, as well as from private collections. Surprising creations by some of Scotland’s artistic giants, including F C B Cadell and William McCance, will feature alongside rarely displayed works by more unfamiliar artists, such as Margaret Mellis and Benjamin Creme. 

Keep visiting nationalgalleries.org in the future, as we will keep revealing more details about next year's world-class programme over the coming months.

1 April 2017