I went to see The Young Van Dyck exhibition at the Prado last weekend. It is truly an outstanding show. I'll write a full review later, but it's rare to see such a serious exhibition on this scale. Poussin's Landscapes at the Met a few years ago was comparable, but there was less justification for it; it was great to see so many Poussin landscapes gathered together, but I can't say it made me see Poussin differently.
The exhibition traces Van Dyck's precocious development at a very young age, trying out different techniques, working alongside Rubens and other artists in Rubens' studio. Seeing different versions of his early paintings was instructive, and drawings were effectively integrated into the display. I truly got a new appreciation of the artist. I rarely say that after an exhibition; many are less than the sum of their parts, and any new insights come from seeing the individual works rather than gaining something extra from their assemblage and display. This exhibition was insightful and intelligent without being arid - it's a real visual treat.
It's been extended to the end of March, so it's not too late to go. I was sceptical about the extension - it seemed like a planned marketing ploy to me, and I suspected that they'd negotiated loans with an option to extend. But I spoke to the curator of one of the museums that lent to the show, and I was assured that they did contact lenders and ask for an extension. I was also told that when the Vasari exhibition in Florence was extended a few years ago they simply returned the drawings to lenders without requesting an extension, and replaced them with facsimiles! They were at least identified as facsimiles on the wall text, and apparently no one complained.
I'm delighted that they've extended, but I'm not sure why; it doesn't seem to be popular demand. Admission is covered by the general entrance fee to the Prado, and they didn't seem particularly assiduous in counting people in. I'm conflicted by my desire to see things in peace and quiet, and my wish for as many people as possible to see this superb exhibition. Fortunate for me, the exhibition was fairly quiet when I went (on both the Saturday and Sunday). By contrast, a frivolous-sounding impressionist exhibition at the Thyssen had a three hour wait for a timed entry slot. Given the risk and expense of transporting the exhibits, it seems right that it should run for as long as possible.