Exhibition review: David Milne

Dulwich Picture Gallery is currently hosting – for the first in the UK – a major exhibition of one of Canada’s greatest modern painters, David Milne (1882-1953). Never heard of him before? Neither had I – and that’s why, on my latest visit to this beautiful south London art gallery, I decided that I would visit the permanent collection only.
This is an exquisitely rich collection of European Baroque paintings and British portraits from Tudor times to the 19th century, which – with its ornate, golden frames - perfectly complements the elegance of the building.
The Gallery was busier than I expected it to be on a Wednesday morning and I got a glimpse of the reason as the door leading to the David Milne exhibition area was briefly opened to let more visitors in. I knew then, in that quick glance, that I would go back to reception to have my ticket upgraded.
I am not an art critic so I won’t launch myself into a detailed analysis of Milne’s work. I am simply someone who enjoys art. Some art speaks to me, some art doesn’t. In this case, I could have spent hours looking at his paintings.

I loved the bold and bright colours of his earlier New York paintings, as much as I loved the later nature landscapes that originated from his time in the north-eastern US and Canada. I found his work as a war artist in France and Belgium equally impressive - especially the use of blank spaces - but starker and darker, as was befitting.

I couldn’t take pictures inside the exhibition area so here are a few favourites that I collected online. We have Billboards, where with a few expert strokes of his brush he is able to create a wonderfully vibrant picture. I can almost hear the hustle and bustle of the street and feel the warmth of the sun on my skin.
Below we have Bishops’s Pond, which attracted me with its beautiful reflections on water – which seems to be a recurrent theme in Milne’s work – and, again, a new and refreshing use of the colour white. This is a painting I would happily step into – except that I would ruin that feeling of peace that derives from the absence of human figures.
Last but not least, I am a booklover after all and I can’t help but mention that several paintings of his wife portrayed her reading, which obviously pleased me immensely. You can find one example below, titled Reader and Cat.
For more information about the technicalities of the exhibition, which is open until May 7th, please click here to be redirected to the Gallery’s website.

To hear all the interesting insights that I wasn’t able to provide, below you’ll find a short and interesting video about this retrospective.
As ever, I am interested in hearing from you below in the comments or on Twitter.

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