Art Critic – Tom Brown

How many documentaries on art have you watched? How many gallery or museum tours have you walked through? How many books on art have you picked up, and then not finished reading? Today I’m not really talking about the painting, although it does summarise nicely the little moan that I’m going to have.

I have been lucky enough to visit galleries, and museums all over the world, I am infinitely passionate about art, films, symbolism, mythology, and all the other things I write about, and I suspect that art critics, historians and tour guides have that same passion in them, but a lot of them seem to have had the passion beaten out of them.

I want to just say here, I don’t consider myself a critic by any means, nor am I an art historian, or an absolute expert in mythology, but I do study it a lot, and what I bring to you as my audience is simply what I see in anything I present. If it’s a bad film, I’m going to tell you passionately why, if it’s an amazing piece of art, I will do my best to do it justice. So why is it when I hear professionals speak on the subject are they so dull?

This gripe has been a long standing issue of mine, but it has grown more recently. It started to build when I watched a documentary on Goya. I was excited to have found this documentary and eagerly sat down to watch it, only to find that everyone who spoke in it, were drab and lifeless. Almost as if they were reading what they were saying. Every single one of them dressed in clothing that was either too large or too small for them, and not one ounce of passion shone through about the subject. This is such a shame as Goya was a talented and interesting artist. What I found was they were more interested in the brush strokes and less interested in what the painting was telling the audience.

This was enhanced over the weekend. I did a couple of things, one was an urban street art tour around Brick Lane in London, which I will write about another day, and the other was a trip to the National Gallery. These were a dramatic contrast to each other. The street art tour, as you would imagine was vibrant and the guide was exciting and passionate. She couldn’t wait to tell me about each piece of art, she showed a true love and appreciation for every single thing that she talked about. So when wondering past a guided tour in the National Gallery, I couldn’t help but linger and listen as the guide ramble on poorly about the symbolism of a painting that he had an unfortunate group of punters looking at. He was monotone and clearly had learnt a script.

Now, I do appreciate that for these people this is a job, but for anyone who talks on art, I really think it needs to inspire those around, open up their mind to seeing different ways of seeing what is before them and engage them. It’s not good enough to just impart the knowledge on to another like you’re in a dull history lesson.

I find the same with art books. They never give me the detail I want. They never tell me the story behind the painting in full enough detail, and they make for very dry reading.

When I started this blog, I thought about a guide I had when I visited the Hermitage in Russia. She was so colourful when she spoke on the art works, where she had been so quiet on the journey to that stunning site. It literally brought her to life. You could see that this was her calling, to help enliven the art to others. She encouraged interaction and didn’t shy away from questions.

I’m really not having a pop at all art critics or speakers, I am sure that there are many out there who are wonderfully enthused by they job and can present it in a way which can even make a hardened art hater soften to the works, but they appear to be few and far between.

This is why I think this painting by Tom Brown captures my discontentment so well. The critic is created from crude brush stroke (Yes I went there), and can be seen giving a close up look to the painting, regardless to anyone else around him. His hair line, suppose to indicate age and experience, but to me indicates a lost touch of the present time. The whole piece screams to me, this is an art critic who I would not read the review of.

Of course, as I have said many times, art is objective and one Cranky’s bugbear is another persons delight, so perhaps you enjoy how art is presented… why not tell me in the comments how you feel about it. Like this post? Why not share it?

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9 thoughts on “Art Critic – Tom Brown

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  1. It’s quite witty, this idea that art critics block our view and we’re not actually looking at art, we’re looking at them and their interpretation. I share your frustration, art critics are way too pompous. Nevertheless, you’re doing a fantastic job in making art accessible.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have to say, maybe because I’m stubbornly independently minded that I tend not to listen to what art critics have to say, sometimes I might use their phrasing in passing as a reference, so I didn’t see this as the art critic dominating the mind of the viewer, simply the critic just blocking the physical view. Thanks for pointing out that point!! 😊

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes I agree on that point. Also I think artist just find other ways to display their art. I do think they can serve a purpose, as a bad review can bring more to an artist than a good one at times, I wish they just weren’t so pious.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. As you and other commenters have pointed out, his posing is just perfect for a particular interpretation: his body (or critical interpretation) blocking the views of those behind him, while he remains seemingly focused on one corner of the piece. (If not the matting, or frame!) His attention on the detail, not the whole. Why should we share his view? Why won’t he step back and let us form our own opinions? Does he need to be there between us an the art? I suppose him standing in front of a ‘big picture’ would have been too on the nose! (And harder to keep the message intact if too much of the canvas was exposed.) I have to sheepishly admit I do end up in art galleries with my hands held like that behind my back – I am otherwise too tempted to touch things!

    But hey, it’s a rare artist that loves critics!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol, I recently got told off in the National for getting “too close”. Sadly some seem to forget art is there to be looked at and enjoyed. This picture did indeed go with my rant a little too well, and I think the artist has captured the role of the art critic amazingly well. (I just want to point out I don’t consider myself a critic 😂)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A few years ago I was in the Louvre and was a) astonished at how the paintings in some sections were just piled one on top of another on the walls as though it was gilt-framed wallpaper, and b) amazed to get so close to some Leonardo paintings that I could see the brushwork. Everyone staring at/taking selfies with the Mona Lisa, and around the corner I could be nose first into John the Baptist. That was incredible, that and another portrait of a an engmatic woman with a blacked out background that I could admire (alone, untroubled!) so much more than the ML. (I imagined her with the pastoral background of the ML, just for fun!) Paris was a joy of museums and art, but sometimes it was too much! The Orangerie was my favourite though.

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      2. The Paris Lourve is certainly astounding and somewhat differently organised to many other galleries/museums I have been too. The hermitage in Russia is amazing if you ever get the chance to go. I’m also planning a trip to the Abu Dhabi Louvre in December of this year 😁

        Liked by 1 person

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