Exhibition Guide

John Gibson Narcissus

John Gibson 
Narcissus 1838

Royal Academy of Arts, London

This exhibition presents some of the finest works of sculpture acquired by British patrons between 1760 and 1860.

The style embodied in these objects has traditionally been called Neoclassicism. This term evokes a new imaginative involvement with the ancient world and the revival in art of the classical ideal, characterised by order, harmony and timeless beauty. Artists used the human body to represent idealised version of feminine grace, youthful elegance or masculine vigour. Although classical art was a key influence, these sculptors did not simply copy antique prototypes. They also looked for inspiration at more recent art, and tried to rival the masters of the past in the skill and originality of their productions.

Neoclassicism was a cosmopolitan phenomenon. Many British sculptors spent time in Rome, where they could encounter ancient art at first hand. The city also attracted numerous British art patrons, and the exhibition contains works bought by them from Italian, Swedish, Danish and American artists as well as British sculptors.

The exhibition occupies the three monumental spaces at the heart of Tate Britain – the Duveen galleries. The objects on show have been loaned from public and private collections across the UK, and from Sweden and America.