Published  07/12/2006

A gate too far?

The National Gallery has laid its plans well for 2007. In February, it will open a new blockbuster entitled simply 'Renoir's Landscapes 1865-1883'. The exhibition follows 20 years of Renoir's output from about 1865 when he completed a canvas entitled 'A Clearing in the Woods'. This seems to have represented a milestone in his development towards a more radical, experimental approach, seen in the 'Bathing at La Grenouillère' of 1868-69, which he painted alongside Claude Monet. In 1875, he produced 'Spring Landscape', an even more experimental work, where light, colour and movement in the picture seem to be catalysed by the landscape itself. 'A Walk in the Woods' (1878-79) comes from a private collection and has flickers and switches of balmy summer light percolating through high boughs. Steve Wynn, the American property tycoon, has lent 'The Test Gardens' (1881) and, after his sad accident with a Picasso last month it is good to know that the Renoir did not fall foul to the same sweeping gesture (the croupier's sweep?) Clearly, the National Gallery has worked hard to secure the works on loan and given the combination of two magic ideas - 'Renoir' and 'Landscape' - this exhibition might even benefit from a gate total exceeding that of the current Velazquez show. February may not be the most user-friendly month to open, but doubters should hold firm with the National Gallery's positive new exhibition programme. After the successes of the recent Titian, Raphael and Caravaggio exhibitions, the horizons are limitless. The only problem, as usual, will be actually seeing the exhibits over the heads of admirers.

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