From the lowliest member of the force, Konstabel Els, to the senior officer, Kommandant van Heerden, they are shown to be uniformly inept and unimaginative and eventually come to rue the day they dared complain about the behavior of Miss Hazelstone or the Bishop of Barotseland.
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Riotous Assemblies Act 17 of 1956
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Enter your email to sign up. Thank you! Many are hung, as they were originally, at a steep angle on the sloping upper walls of what was called the Great Room. Some modern lenders were frightened off when they realised how disrespectfully, by our standards, Turner and Reynolds were to be treated.
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But this spectacle has a point: to make us see art for a moment through other eyes, freeing us from the burden of modern good taste. The Turner Prize is our modern-day equivalent in that it creates a moment when art becomes fully public. The prize is sometimes talked about as if it had no historical precedents, but in fact it fits into a history of exhibitions - more common in the 19th century than the 20th - that gave contemporary art a high public profile.
In Turner's Britain the RA show was just as popular and contentious as the prize that now bears his name. It was a riotous occasion - more so, maybe, than the Turner Prize. Walking round this year's Turner show, everyone seems terribly thoughtful, patiently watching films and reading catalogues. That wasn't the style of Regency Britain. Instead of paying attention to the paintings on the walls, the powdered beaux and magnificently coiffed women saw the exhibition, critics complained, as one huge pick-up opportunity.
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Art on the Line recreates Turner's prize with a nice combination of irreverence and scholarship - and some amazing pictures. Constable's Leaping Horse and his emotional brown study of a tomb in a tangled wood, a painting of the monument to the RA's first presi dent Sir Joshua Reynolds, hang next to canvases that - although far less well known today - were favourites of their time.
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Some of the pictures you recognise, some you have no idea about; they are not labelled. The spiral staircase up which today's visitors to Somerset House climb is the same one caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson had fun with in his popular cartoon The Exhibition Stare Case.
It's no misspelling; Regency wits gave it that name because men used to linger at the bottom to look up women's skirts. In Rowlandson's travesty of high-art gravity, female promenaders tumble downstairs, their skirts riding up, while connoisseurs watch with studied appreciation. The main stage of this very theatrical event was the Great Room, the top-lit gallery where paintings hung crammed together, side by side, floor to ceiling, while people looked, chatted and groped each other.
This was where paintings, usually bought and sold only by the elite, were seen by a public so huge that critics saw the exhibition as a vulgar democratic exercise where taste was drowned out by mob rule.