Questions have often been asked of the similarities, differences and boundaries between painting and photography; whether these two mediums mutually influence one another, and whether photography steals techniques and formalistic styles from painting.

The latest show at The National Gallery is the first major photography exhibition to be shown there and seeks to explore the interactions between the medium and painting. There are numerous interactions that the two media have with one another. The National Gallery has chosen one to examine, photography and historical painting.

To do this, the exhibition organises works and rooms using themes such as ‘The Figure’, ‘Tableaux’, ‘Still Life’ and ‘Landscape’ and juxtaposes photographers including Thomas Struth and Ori Gersht with paintings from the National Gallery’s collection.

…the photographers are responding to the paintings…

Throughout the exhibition the photographers are responding to the paintings, which raises questions about the nature of this relationship. Does photography need painting to justify photography’s artistic possibilities? Photography’s role as a fine art medium has often been debated, due to the fact that photographic images proliferate our lives. This however shouldn’t restrict photography’s possibilities in art.

Is the relationship between photography and painting a one-way process?

…photography responds to historical painting…

This exhibition highlights a situation in which photography responds to historical painting, but what could be open to further discussion is a potential dialogue between the two art forms. Clearly most historical painting was not open to this process, but more modern examples, such as photo-realist paintings, are.

As an artist who explores photography, this exhibition has raised important questions for me. That’s what a show like this can do. In this instance it presents its points like an essay. It is not necessary that you agree with every opinion put forward. The significant and central theme in the exhibition is to act as the catalyst for questions surrounding photography and painting.

Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present is at The National Gallery until 20 January 2013


Main image courtesy of:

Thomas Struth

The Lingwood and Hamlyn Family, London, 2001


C-type print on perspex support

95.3 x 112.7 cm

Jane Hamlyn and James Lingwood, London

© Thomas Struth

About The Author

Jessica Bunyard is an artist and writer. Her practice explores colour and music, using photography, film, photograms, performances and collaborations. Bunyard formed the performance group The Sculptural Orchestra which involves members improvising using metal sculptures as instruments and photographs as visual scores. @TheScOrchestra Jessica Bunyard has exhibited in numerous events including: 'Salon II' at Forman's Smokehouse Gallery from the 1st December to the 29th January and 'Perception' an exhibition in aid of RNIB at Bermondsey Project Space from the 18th August to the 25th August 2012

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