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Tony Grist

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The Painted Hall At Greenwich [Mar. 28th, 2019|10:18 am]
Tony Grist
The Painted Hall at The Royal Greenwich Hospital has just reopened to the public after a £8,000,000 restoration.

The PR people are selling it as Britain's Sistine Chapel- which both undersells and oversells it. On the one hand the Hall is a more distinguished piece of architecture than the Chapel- which is just a glorified shoebox- but on the other hand when it came to painting the walls and ceiling Michelangelo was no longer available.

The architects were Wren and Hawksmoor who are acknowledged as great masters- and the painter was James Thornhill who was popular with the 18th century establishment because he was a protestant Englishman. He doesn't figure prominently in the history of art, but show me another British painter who could have carried off such a huge decorative scheme with anything like the same panache. It happens that he was Hogarth's father in law- and teacher. Hogarth was the more original artist but you wouldn't have asked him to do you a mural with lots of glorified royals and bouncing cherubs. His attempts to perform in the big bow-wow manner at which Thornhill excelled are feeble.

The Sistine Chapel is the Pope's private chapel. The Painted Hall is the dining room of a retirement home for sailors....

Here are some examples of Thornhill's work. I love how confident it is. Individual passages have real charm. He was also a fine colourist. The second image shows allegorical personages making offerings to the children of George I.


[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2019-03-28 11:43 am (UTC)
sigh. How lovely!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2019-03-28 12:41 pm (UTC)
It was the first week since the hall re-opened- and I was surprised there weren't more people there.

Mind you, they charge a £12 entry fee.
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[User Picture]From: pondhopper
2019-03-28 02:51 pm (UTC)

We were there many years ago before the restoration. I can see it's magnificently done! What a place to dine.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2019-03-28 03:35 pm (UTC)
I never saw it before the restoration. We dropped by a couple of years back and they'd just closed it because work was getting underway.
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[User Picture]From: puddleshark
2019-03-28 02:55 pm (UTC)
Oh, my goodness! That is absolutely stunning!

I've always liked Thornhill's work.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2019-03-28 03:37 pm (UTC)
When he's working on a small scale he's not particularly impressive but give him a big room to decorate and oh my!
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