Never too far from a masterpiece

In Search Of A Masterpiece is the title of Christopher Lloyd’s new book. In reality, you don’t have to search too hard.

“My point is that you can be anywhere in the British Isles and you are never too far from a masterpiece,” says Christopher, former Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures and the new President of NADFAS.

Christopher, who heads to Chichester for the Festivities (Old Kitchen, Bishop’s Palace, Monday, July 4, 6pm), argues that countless masterpieces are waiting for you around the British Isles, sometimes neglected, in our galleries and museums.

In his book, he identifies more than 265 masterpieces in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales from the National Gallery to The Burrell Collection in Glasgow, some acknowledged greats, others surprising, quirky and richly rewarding.

He concedes that it is very much a personal selection of pieces he has come across and enjoyed or admired in public collections during the course of his career.

In that respect, it’s a starting point for discussion: “There will be an element of surprise about it.”

Some people will object to some inclusions; others will object to omissions - but, again, his point is our proximity to great art at any given moment.

All of which begs the question: “What is a masterpiece?” Inevitably, Christopher says, it’s a response to the eye - possibly an intellectual response, possibly a physiological approach when the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

But the piece’s historical significance is also a factor, says Christopher who is fascinated by the development of the galleries. He cites Chichester’s Pallant House as a prime example, a townhouse which became a gallery and which was then extended to become the great place now to view modern British art in this country.

Selection for the book was inevitably a huge task: “I can’t remember how many I was contracted to choose, but I wrote twice the length! My personal view is that you have got to put across the importance of galleries and encourage people to go to them!”