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The 100 best paintings in London: 30-21

Leading artists, gallery owners, curators and critics pick the best paintings to be seen in the capital

By Time Out London Art |
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30
An Allegory with Venus and Cupid, Bronzino
© The National Gallery, London 2014

'An Allegory with Venus and Cupid' - Bronzino

WHEN? 1545
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? National Gallery
I LIKE IT 
See also 'Cupid Complaining to Venus'

Charles Eastlake, the National Gallery’s first Keeper, appointed in 1843, sometimes let his moral zeal get the better of him. He has been held responsible for altering Agnolo Bronzino’s ‘Allegory’, covering up bottoms and breasts and vaginas here and there, all of which were unearthed when the painting was restored to pubic glory in 1958. But Eastlake did have a point. Venus is Cupid’s mum, although let’s not forget this is an allegory – and a pre-Freudian one at that. So what’s the idea? Alongside the Oedipal overtones, supporting figures embody a whole slew of emotions related to love: anger, jealousy, joy, and that girl angel at the back just looks a little bit bored.
29
IKB 79, Yves Klein
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2014

'IKB 79' - Yves Klein

WHEN? 1959
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? This painting is part of the Tate collection but currently not on display. CheckTate Modern or Tate Britain to see when it will next be on show.
I LIKE IT See also 'Abstract Painting No 5'

Lying on the beach in his native Nice at the tender age of just 19, Yves Klein looked up at the perfect blue of the Côte d’Azur sky and decided that that’s what he should paint. It was a precocious idea, and one that defined his whole career. He’d go on to develop his own colour and colour application system – a vivid aquamarine that he named International Klein Blue. He was the master of the monochrome and his single-colour canvases buzz and shake before your eyes. With just one colour and no shapes except the rectangle of the canvas edge, he conveyed more than most artists manage with all the colours and figures of the world.
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28
The Weeping Woman, Pablo Picasso
© Succession Picasso/DACS 2014

'Weeping Woman' - Pablo Picasso

WHEN? 1937
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? This painting is part of the Tate collection but currently not on display. CheckTate Modern or Tate Britain to see when it will next be on show.
I LIKE IT See also 'The Three Dancers'

Given his tendency to mistreat his mistresses, Picasso could have made a career out of paintings with this title. But although this terrifyingly distressed cubist female’s features were based on those of his lover Dora Maar, it is Franco rather than Picasso who has caused her eerily profuse tears. Painted in 1937, she is the mother of a baby killed by the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War, and a continuation (one of a series) of Picasso’s great depiction of that atrocity. She is also, however, all women – ‘machines for suffering’ as Picasso called them – and none: Maar, the model, was unable to have children.
27
Mont Sainte-Victoire with a Large Pine, Paul Cezanne
© The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

'Mont Sainte-Victoire with a Large Pine' - Paul Cézanne

WHEN? 1887
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? Courtauld Gallery
I LIKE IT See also 'The Card Players'

French post-impressionist Paul Cézanne was obsessed with this beautiful mountain near his Aix en Provence home and studio. Over and over again, he returned to it, painting it from different angles, in different ways. It was a constant in his otherwise turbulent life. In this view of it, you see the roots he was planting for the cubists who would be so influenced by him. A mixture of small, quick marks and big blocks of colour in a neat, intense composition – it may not seem edgy now, but back in the nineteenth century this was the very pinnacle of the avant-garde, and it was beautiful.
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26
The Death of Actaeon, Titan
© The National Gallery, London 2014

'The Death of Actaeon' - Titian

WHEN? 1559
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? National Gallery
I LIKE IT See also 'Diana and Actaeon'

Probably never completed to Titian’s satisfaction, this masterpiece of his late period is nevertheless one of the most dramatically violent paintings in western art ­– not just in its portrayal of the hunter Actaeon being savaged by his own dogs, but in its stormy depiction of nature as a whole, and the dark, roiling energy of Titian’s expressive paint handling.
25
The Citizen, Richard Hamilton
© The estate of Richard Hamilton

'The Citizen' - Richard Hamilton

WHEN? 1993
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? This painting is part of the Tate collection but currently not on display. CheckTate Modern or Tate Britain to see when it will next be on show.
I LIKE IT See also 'Electric Chair'

Having pipped the likes of Andy Warhol to the post in 1954 with his proto-pop collage 'Just What Is It That Make Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?', Richard Hamilton could have rested on his laurels, happy in the knowledge that his place in history was assured. But Hamilton wanted more than to bathe in history's glow: he wanted to mine its most intense images – like Mick Jagger and the art dealer Robert Fraser handcuffed together after a drugs bust in 'Swingeing London 67' (1968), or this painting of IRA prisoner Hugh Rooney standing beside his shit-daubed cell walls – and coolly reflect them back at us. ‘The citizen’ revisits one of Hamilton’s great subjects, a figure in an interior. Yet here he divides the picture in two, separating the dignified (perhaps almost Christ-like) figure from the self-created squalor of his surroundings. The work is one of three paintings Hamilton made about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The other works, ‘The Subject’ (1988-90) and ‘The State’ (1993) show respectively a loyalist Orangeman marching and a British soldier on patrol in Northern Ireland.
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24
Bacchus and Ariadne, Titan
© The National Gallery, London 2014

'Bacchus and Ariadne' - Titian

WHEN? 1520
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? National Gallery
I LIKE IT See also 'The Death of Actaeon'

These days, saucy unsolicited Tinder messages are about as good as romance gets. But back in ancient Greece, and Titian’s renaissance-era Italy, gods were approaching abandoned fillies on deserted islands, and throwing their crowns into the sky to create new constellations. That’s what old Bacchus is doing for Ariadne in this standout National Gallery painting by the Italian master. Ariadne looks a little freaked out here, but the legend goes that they were soon married. When was the last time someone did that for you on OkCupid? Romance may be dead, but it lives on forever on the walls of our museums.
23
The Nativity, Piero della Francesca
© The National Gallery, London 2014

'The Nativity' - Piero della Francesca

WHEN? 1470
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? National Gallery
I LIKE IT See also 'The Baptism of Christ'

Be they animals, angels, or men: everything in ‘The Nativity’ offers a different kind of awed reverence to the baby Jesus. Even the magpie, well-known in Piero della Francesca's native Tuscany for its ceaseless squawking, is left silent. The painter-cum-mathematician’s depiction of Christ’s birthplace – often contentious ground – reflects his serene Italian hometown with extraordinary clarity.
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22
The Rokeby Venus

'The Rokeby Venus' - Diego Velázquez

WHEN? 1647
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? National Gallery
I LIKE IT See also 'The Water-Seller of Seville'

‘The Rokeby Venus’, so-called because it was first hung, in England, at Rokeby Park, depicts the Roman goddess of love, Venus, with her boychild/cherub Cupid. This may be a languid chamber scene, but the picture has a rather tumultuous past. Thought to be a private commission – nudity was a bit of a Spanish Inquisition no-no – the painting eventually made its way to the National Gallery, where it was slashed by Mary Richardson in protest of the Government’s treatment of fellow suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. This is the only surviving female nude by the Sevillian artist with the jaunty moustache who had a penchant for painting little people (both adults and children).
21
The Fairy-Feller's Masterstroke, Richard Dadd
© Tate, London 2014

'The Fairy-Feller's Masterstroke' - Richard Dadd

WHEN? 1855
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? This painting is part of the Tate collection but currently not on display. CheckTate Modern or Tate Britain to see when it will next be on show.
I LIKE IT See also 'Ophelia'

Detailed beyond reason – and unfinished after nine years of graft – Richard Dadd’s diminutive painting isn’t just his masterpiece: it’s the perfect summation of his predicament. A troubled genius, committed to Bethlem Royal Hospital after stabbing his father to death, Dadd here creates an escapist fantasy populated by characters from Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ that somehow manages to be crystalline yet claustrophobic: too much detail, too little perspective. When it comes to tipping reality into unnerving hyper-reality, Dadd really is the daddy.
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