Sunday 20 April 2014

Renaissance Impressions, Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly, central London

Running until June 8th, the Renaissance Impressions exhibition showcases a groundbreaking 16th century printing technique dubbed Chiaroscuro. Several galleries on the top floor of the Royal Academy are lined with 150 of these intricate, but somewhat repetitive and monochromatic, prints. Without the helpful video explaining the extraordinarily detailed and careful woodcarving behind these works, you might be underwhelmed. However, once you understand the techniques used by the masters of Chiaroscuro, you'll begin to appreciate the craftsmanship on show. Each of the artists has a distinctive style, but the prints lack vibrancy and immediate visual appeal - this exhibition is really aimed at history of art buffs. Still, your £10 entry ticket also gives you access to a gallery showing prints by Norman Stevens, a contemporary of David Hockney at the Bradford College of Art in the 1950s. Stevens' evocative work is far more accessible than that of his Renaissance predecessors. With a photo-realistic 3D quality, his verdant prints of lush formal gardens beautifully capture the way sunlight can play on leaves. Moreover, on the way out, you get to admire the neo-classical grandeur of Burlington House, plus the striking steel sculptures by Lynn Chadwick in the Academy's Annenberg Courtyard. 7/10