The Visual Arts in 2013: The 5 must see exhibitions

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Seeing as the world survived 2012 unscathed, that pesky Apocalypse never actually rearing its ugly head, it’s time to emerge bleary eyed from the nuclear bunker and start planning your social life for the year ahead.

It’s just as well the Mayans got their prediction so spectacularly wrong because 2013 promises to be a very tasty on both the cultural and sporting front.

Granted, from a British point of view it might not match the epic heights experienced during our Olympic year, but there are stellar highlights on the agenda all the same.

First up we preview the highlights in the visual arts calendar.

Manet: Portaying Life

26 January – 14 April / Royal Academy

Édouard Manet’s body of work is well known to most impressionist lovers, but it’s his portraits alone, which make up almost half of his body of work, which serve as the central focus of the Royal Academy’s first major exhibition of the year. Bringing together works from across the world ‘Manet: Portraying Life’ aims to explore the Frenchman’s engagement with the genre while bringing to life many of the major characters of 19th century Parisian society. His models include Proust, Zola and Mallarmé, street singers and top-hatted Amazonians.

Lichtenstein: A Retrospective

21 February – 27 May / Tate Modern

Venerated alongside Andy Warhol as one of the foremost disciples of Pop Art, Roy Lichtenstein’s instantly recognisable style, inspired by comic strips and advertising imagery alike, sets up shop on the Southbank in the first retrospective of his work in 20-years. 125 of Lichtenstein’s most famous works will be on display including key paintings such as Look Mickey 1961 lent from the National Gallery Art, Washington and his monumental Artist’s Studio series of 1973–4.

Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life

25 June – 20 October / Tate Britain

Backed up by a reappraisal of his life and legacy by historians TJ Clark and Anne Wagner, the first large-scale London exhibition of LS Lowry’s work since his death in 1976 aims to underline the Lancastrian’s ‘big-hitter’ credentials. Highlighting the influence of French artists of the 19th Century the show’s 80 assembled works form an account in paint of the experiences of the 20th-century working class. From football matches to fistfights, protest marches, evictions and the drudgery of the daily grind, Lowry captures the mood of a class, a generation and a country with his distinctive style.

Vermeer and Music: Love and Leisure in the Dutch Golden Age

26 June – 8 September / National Gallery

Best known for his work ‘The Girl with the Pearl Earring’, Johannes Vermeer is regularly hailed as the finest painter of the Dutch Golden Age. The National Gallery’s free exhibition draws together three of his most famous pictures Young Woman Standing at a Virginal, Young Woman Seated at a Virginal and Guitar Player (on loan from Kenwood House) to underscore the relationship between art and music in 17th Century Dutch life. Incorporating pictures by his contemporaries, instruments, songbooks and music of the time, it promises to be a lively display.

Chagall: Modern Master

8 June – 6 October / Tate Liverpool

One of the greatest painters of the last century comes to Liverpool as the Tate’s popular Merseyside extension entertains more than 60 works by Russian Marc Chagall. Focusing on the artist’s time in Paris before the First World War, his visit to Berlin in 1914 and the years he spent in Revolutionary Russia ‘Modern Master’ aims to chart Chagall’s development from the ‘naïve’ folkloristic narratives of his early work, towards his unique combination of fauve, cubist, expressionist and suprematist influences. Having died at the age of 97 there’s plenty to pack in with timeless themes of love, suffering and death forming the core of his long career.