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The 100 best paintings in London: 70-61

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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70
Portrait of Margharete de Geer, Rembrandt
© The National Gallery, London 2014

'Portrait of Margharete de Geer' - Rembrandt van Rijn

WHEN? 1661
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? National Gallery  
I LIKE IT 
See also 'Self-Portrait with Two Circles'

Created during the last years of Rembrandt’s life, this lugubrious portrait of Margaretha de Geer, wife of the wealthy Dordrecht merchant Jacob Trip, confronts the burdensome ageing process head on: wrinkles and all. Yet, the man widely considered the most important painter in Dutch history manages to also convey an honesty and acceptance in Margaretha’s weary eyes, making it an invariably stimulating sight.
69
'Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting' - Artemisia Gentileschi
© Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

'Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting' - Artemisia Gentileschi

WHEN? 1638
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? This painting is part of the Royal Collection and is currently on show in the Cumberland Art Gallery at Hampton Court Palace.
I LIKE IT See also 'Salome receives the Head of John the Baptist'

This 1638 painting depicts and embodies a multitude of triumphs, starting with the very fact of being a female painter in the first place: Artemisia was able to get one over on her male colleagues, who couldn’t transform themselves into an accepted symbol of their art, only because women were supposed to stick to the symbolic side of the canvas (the allegory was traditionally gagged; Artemisia, appropriately, ignored that bit). Painted while she was in England at Charles I’s invitation, this image is both a virtuoso accomplishment – how on earth did she copy that pose? – and a celebration of her own talent: she achieved that pose because a great painter has no time to beguile the audience with eye contact, so busy is she doing so via her art.
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68
'The Lady with a Fan' - Diego Velázquez
© Wallace Collection

'The Lady with a Fan' - Diego Velázquez

WHEN? c1640
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? Wallace Collection
I LIKE IT See also 'The Rokeby Venus'

Who is the sombre young woman in the black headdress, painted around 1640 by Spain’s greatest court painter? The Duchess de Chevreuse, a French troublemaker whose political machinations had obliged her to leave home in such a hurry she ran disguised as a man, is one possibility. It would explain the elegantly gloved hand ready to draw her mantilla across to hide her face; the fan, an inadequate weapon to beat back Spain’s unfamiliar heat; and disguise the gloomy eyes of the exile.
67
'The Upper Room' - Chris Ofili
© Chris Ofili. Image: courtesy Victoria Miro Gallery, London. Photo © Lyndon Douglas

'The Upper Room' - Chris Ofili

WHEN? 1999
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? This installation is currently not on display. Check Tate Modern or Tate Britainto see when it will next be on show.
I LIKE IT See also 'No Woman, No Cry'

Everything about Ofili’s installation suggests worship and devotion: the 12 flanking paintings, illuminated from above, each in a different, resplendent colour; the chapel-like room (designed by architect David Adjaye); the single, altar-like work at the far end. The fact that the paintings themselves depict rhesus monkeys only adds to the otherworldly, profoundly hallucinatory atmosphere typical of Ofili’s multi-layered work from this period. It’s a key piece of late-twentieth-century art, maximalist (oil paint, acrylic paint, glitter, graphite, pen, elephant dung, polyester resin and map pins are on the list of media) and magnificent.
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66
The Visit' - Willem de Kooning
© Willem de Kooning Revocable Trust/ARS, NY and DACS, London 2014

'The Visit' - Willem de Kooning

WHEN? 1966-1967
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? This painting is part of the Tate collection but currently not on display. Check Tate Modern or Tate Britain to see when it will next be on show.
I LIKE IT See also 'Monument'

This bold and frenetic picture exemplifies the vulgar carnality that Dutch-American painter Willem de Kooning’s work came to embody. Unlike his avowedly abstract New York School contemporaries, de Kooning expressively depicts an enigmatic figure: female, limbs akimbo. It was given its title as the painter's assistant thought the composition resembled a medieval painting of the Annunciation.
65
 'The Annunciation' - Crivelli
© The National Gallery, London 2014

'The Annunciation' - Crivelli

WHEN? 1486
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? National Gallery
I LIKE IT See also 'Madonna of the Meadow'

On March 25 1482, the city of Ascoli Piceno received wonderful news: the Pope, their then ruler, had granted them a degree of self-government. Since that day happened to be the festival of the Annunciation, it must have been easy for Venetian artist Carlo Crivelli to settle on the subject matter for the altarpiece he’d been commissioned to paint. His treatment, though, is extraordinary, from the inclusion of the city’s patron saint, St Emidius, carrying a model of the city, to the sci-fi ray of heavenly light that pierces Mary’s prayer room – which is in Ascoli, naturally. Where else?
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64
Manet

'The Execution of Maximilion' - Edouard Manet

WHEN? 1867
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? National Gallery
I LIKE IT See also 'A Bar at the Folies-Bergère'

The great French painter Edouard Manet wasn’t known for his political work – his masterpieces concentrate more on indoor scenes, portraits and sneak peeks into everyday Parisian life. But he supported the Republican cause in Mexico at the time and painted three versions of the execution of emperor Maximilian, a dictator instated by Napoleon III. One version was cut into pieces and bought by various collectors, before eventually being brought together by the French impressionist Edgar Degas. Now it hangs in the National Gallery in all its odd, accidentally geometric glory. It was never meant to look like this, but it’s so full of mystery – what is happening in those lost segments? What perfect Manet-ian gesture are we missing? There’s a story being told, but only in bits, and that’s why you have to keep coming back to it.
63
The Triumph of David' - Nicholas Poussin
© Dulwich Picture Gallery, London / By permission of the Trustees of Dulwich Picture Gallery

'The Triumph of David' - Nicholas Poussin

WHEN? 1631
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? Dulwich Picture Gallery
I LIKE IT See also 'The Supper at Emmaus'

It’s a supremely grisly scene – yet you hardly notice at first, so good is Poussin at conjuring up an atmosphere of celebration and revelry. It’s only after you’ve been drawn in to the painting, as if mingling amongst the colourful crowds, that you notice, half-hidden in the shadows, what all the cheering’s about: Goliath’s sallow, decapitated head, being paraded through town on a stake.
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62
'Cage 1-6' - Gerhard Richter
© 2006 Gerhard Richter

'Cage 1-6' - Gerhard Richter

WHEN? 2006
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? This painting is part of the Tate collection but currently not on display. Check Tate Modern or Tate Britain to see when it will next be on show.
I LIKE IT See also 'The Four Seasons'

Layer upon layer of paint has been pulled across the canvas with a squeegee, allowing the German artist Gerhard Richter to create the abstract ethereal qualities in this painting series. Richter listened to avant-garde American composer John Cage while making the works; hence their title and their unconventional random configuration. In ‘Cage 1-6’, featured in Richter’s major Tate retrospective in 2011, the paintings consider issues of presence and absence and what scientific phenomena evade the naked eye.
61
'I Love the Whole World' - Agnes Martin
© Estate of Agnes Martin

'I Love the Whole World' - Agnes Martin

WHEN? 1999 
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? This painting is part of the Tate collection but currently not on display. Check Tate Modern or Tate Britain to see when it will next be on show.
I LIKE IT See also 'Six Mile Bottom'

The meditative minimalism of Agnes Martin’s geometric stripes may easily be mocked (it looks as simple as art can get) but as the title suggests, her work is open-heartedly honest. Channelling a sort of pantheistic tenderness, the American artist’s pale horizontal bands resonate like Mark Rothko’s ‘Seagram Murals’ – also in the Tate collection – which invoke divine immanence to animate the mundane canvas.
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