iffing on nonetheless life work and Dulwich Image Gallery’s place amid pretty gardens, Unearthed is the primary main exhibition devoted to images within the gallery’s historical past. Dulwich’s exhibition areas are small but lend themselves to brief or partial histories: right here, a journey by vegetation and botany in images.
For photographic pioneers, the benefit of nonetheless lifes lay within the style’s very identify: with lengthy exposures important in these early years, motionless topics allowed for crisper photographs. William Henry Fox Talbot’s 1840s photograph of dahlias utilizing his silver salts method now appears modest, but on the time would have been revelatory. In distinction, one other early photographic type, the cyanotype, a photogram in a scrumptious deep blue represented right here in Anna Atkins’s photographs of algae, appears as contemporary now as when it emerged in the course of the nineteenth century. Atkins is a longtime nice however Cecilia Glaister, her modern, was solely not too long ago found — she used Fox Talbot’s photogenic drawing method to create marvellously graphic photographs of then-fashionable ferns within the 1850s.
One other photographer who got here to mild posthumously is Charles Jones, a gardener who created a physique of photographs of flowers and greens — immaculately composed, superbly printed. Right here, Jones’s photographs ricochet off close-ups of vegetation and veg by modernist photographic greats like Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham. All of them captured the symbolic potential and the bodily energy of vegetation — comparable conclusions, regardless of numerous intentions — and lead inexorably to the eroticism of Robert Mapplethorpe’s tulips and orchids. One other unintentional grasp was Karl Blossfeldt, whose loving zooms into unloved weeds had been meant for research somewhat than as artwork, revealing the ornamental magnificence in humdrum nature.
Solely within the last, modern room does the present, maybe inevitably, develop into uneven: not least the picture produced by Nick Knight’s experiments with AI. Nevertheless fascinating Knight’s course of, it’s oddly bland after the compelling historical past informed earlier than we get to it.
Come for the pictures, keep for the work: Dulwich has had a rehang, and it feels mandatory. There are some nice moments, not least their Poussins — newly sonorous on a wealthy blue within the French gallery — and Rembrandt’s Woman at a Window given a synthetic area of interest which brings her extra vividly than ever into our area. In the meantime, Sintra Tantra’s geometric murals, riffing on modernist abstraction, however evoking the Grand Tour that gave Dulwich a lot of its assortment, add a freshness to the gallery’s beforehand drained entrance corridor.
To Might 9, 020 8693 5254, dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk