This Week in London – Talking Shakespeare; Dickens’ letter in support of ‘fallen women’; and, wallpaper at the Geffrye…
May 5, 2016
• Guildhall is hosting an “open mic” Shakespeare day this Tuesday as part of commemorations marking the 400th anniversary of his death. Speeches, Soliloquies and Songs from Shakespeare will be opened with recitals from actors Simon Russell Beale and John Heffernan before members of the public will have their chance to recite their favourite piece from Shakespeare. Participants are invited to sign up by emailing email@example.com or calling 020 7332 1868. The event will run between 10am to 12pm and 1.30pm to 3.30pm at the Basinghall Suite in the Guildhall Art Gallery. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/visit-the-city/attractions/guildhall-galleries/Pages/guildhall-art-gallery.aspx.
• A letter written by author Charles Dickens to the governors of the Foundling Hospital has gone on display at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury. The letter was written to the governors in support of an application for a new matron and touches on Dickens’ belief that the downward path of a ‘fallen woman’ wasn’t irreversible and inevitable but that reform was possible. Tempted to Virtue: Dickens and the Fallen Woman can be seen until 22nd May. In a related event, Lynda Nead, curator of the recent exhibition, The Fallen Woman, will join Jenny Earle, programme director at the Prison Reform Trust, in discussing the hidden stories of vulnerable women in the 19th century and today on 21st May. This event is free but booking is essential. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.
• An exhibition celebrating how wallpaper is made is running at the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch as part of London Craft Week. The Craft of Wallpaper demonstrates the variety of processes being used to make wallpaper in today’s world and features papers by some of the UK’s most innovative makers including Claire Coles, Elise Menghini, Helen Morley, Identity Paper, Juliet Chadwick, Linda Florence, Erica Wakerly, Fromental, CUSTHOM, Tracey Kendall and Graham & Brown who are showcasing six of their most successful wallpaper designs: from its first design in 1946, Original, to the 2016 Wallpaper of the Year, Marble. You’ll have to be quick – only runs until Sunday. For more, see www.londoncraftweek.com.
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This Week in London – Literary ‘foundlings’; Anthony Van Dyck re-examined; Astronights; and, Liberty in Fashion…
January 21, 2016
• A new exhibition featuring drawings of fictional child protagonists who were orphaned, adopted, fostered or ‘found’ opens at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury tomorrow. Drawing on Childhood shows how illustrators, spanning the period from the 18th century until today, was inspired by Lemn Sissay’s 2014 commission, Superman was a Foundling. It features original drawings, first editions and special illustrated editions depicting everyone from James Trotter (James and the Giant Peach) to Cinderella and Rapunzel. Among the artists whose work will be on display are Phiz (Hablot K Browne), Arthur Rackham, Quentin Blake, Stref, George Cruikshank, Thomas Rowlandson, Nick Sherratt and David Hockney. Three contemporary artists – Chris Haughton, Pablo Bronstein and Posy Simmonds – have also been invited to produce a new illustration for Henry Fielding’s 1749 novel, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. Runs until 4th May. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.
• The works of Anthony van Dyck are the subject of a new display at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. I Am Van Dyck centres around a self-portrait of the artist recently acquired by the National Portrait Gallery and lent to Dulwich and juxtaposes the painting with two works by contemporary British artist Mark Wallinger – Self (Times New Roman) and I Am Innocent – in an effort to explore the meanings of individuality and our sense of self. The display – the first of four under the umbrella of Making Discoveries: Dutch and Flemish Masterpieces – also reveals new information on works by Van Dyck held by the gallery and shows how he developed and altered his compositions. Runs until 24th April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk.
• The Science Museum is holding the first of its Astronights – “sleepovers for grown-ups” – this Saturday night. Guests will be treated to a midnight screening of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens before which they’ll enjoy a three course meal with live music and an evening of entertainment. The next Astronight will be held on 4th March. Charges apply. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/astronights.
• On Now: Liberty in Fashion. Commemorating the 140th anniversary of the company in 2015, this exhibition at the Fashion and Textiles Museum in Bermondsey Street explores the impact of Liberty & Co on British fashion and features more than 150 garments, textiles, and objects which demonstrate the company’s relationships with designers such as Yves Saint Laurent and Vivienne Westwood. The exhibition, which opened in October, runs until 28th February. Admission charge applies and there’s a series of events accompanying the exhibition (many of which have still to run). For more, see www.ftmlondon.org.
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This Week in London – V&A reopens Europe 1600-1815 galleries; the Victorian era’s finest; and, ‘Handel’s Performers’…
December 10, 2015
• The V&A has reopened its ‘Europe 1600-1815’ galleries to the public this week following a major £12.5 million refurbishment. The seven transformed galleries, located close to the South Kensington museum’s grand entrance, tell the story of how France succeeded Italy as the “undisputed leader” of fashionable art and design in Europe in the late 17th century and how Europeans systematically “explored, exploited and collected” resources from Africa, Asia and the Americas. Featuring more than 1,100 objects, the galleries – redesigned in conjunction with architectural practice ZMMA – include four large rooms introducing the story of Europe across the period and three smaller rooms focusing on specific activities – ‘collecting in the Cabinet’, ‘enlightened thought in the Salon’, and ‘entertainment and glamour in the Masquerade’. Objects on display include a highly ornate Rococo writing cabinet made from Augustus III (on show for the first time since it has undergone a conservation work), a newly conserved 18th century bed from the Parisian workshop of George Jacob – furniture maker to Napoleon, a 17th century Venetian table by Lucio de Lucci and Pierre-Denis Martin’s oil painting, The Visit of Louis XIV to the Chateau de Juvisy (both on show for the first time) as well as several large recently cleaned tapestries including the 1860s Gobelins tapestry, The infant Moses tramples on Pharoah’s crown. The display also includes three recreated period rooms – a 17th century French bedchamber, Madame de Sérilly’s cabinet and a mirrored room from 18th century Italy – while in the Salon can be found a contemporary installation, The Globe. A curved architectural sculpture, it is the creation of Havana-based artist collective Los Carpinteros and forms a “room within a room” within the ‘Salon’. It will be used for events and discussions. Entry to the galleries is free. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/europegalleries. PICTURES: David Grandorge/©Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
• On Now: Handel’s Performers. This display of portraits and documents in The Foundling Museum’s Handel Gallery is a showcase of celebrities and singers who brought the work of composer George Frideric Handel’s work to the public in the 18th century. Among those depicted are Anastasia Robinson and Senesino, among the highest paid singers of their time, Anna Maria Strada, a leading soprano, Gustavus Waltz, a bass singer who sang at the benefit performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Foundling Hospital in 1754, and John Hebden, who played in the orchestra during benefit performances of the Messiah in 1754 and 1758. Runs at the Bloomsbury museum until 1st May. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.
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This Week in London – Celts at the British Museum; the Fallen Woman at the Foundling; and Ai Weiwei…
September 24, 2015
• The story of the Celts and their culture is being explored in a new exhibition which opens at the British Museum in Bloomsbury today. Celts: Art and Identity, being run in partnership with National Museums Scotland, is the first British exhibition on the Celts in 40 years. Highlights of the display include a hoard of four gold torcs found at Blair Drummond in Stirling in 2009, Christian artefacts including iron handbells used to call people to prayer, elaborately illustrated Gospels, carved stone crosses and, a gilded bronze processional cross which, dating from 700-800 AD and coming from Tully Lough in Ireland, will be on show for the first time in Britain. Also present will be the Gundestrup cauldron, which dates from 100 BC-1 AD and comes from Denmark (pictured), London artefacts such as the Waterloo helmet and Battersea shield, and works created more recently which reflect on an often mythical Celtic past such as George Henry and Edward Atkinson Homel’s 1890 painting The Druids: Bringing in the Mistletoe. Runs until 31st January in the Sainsbury Exhibition Gallery (Room 30). Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org. PICTURE: © The National Museum of Denmark.
• A new exhibition exploring the myth and reality of the ‘fallen woman’ in Victorian Britain opens at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury tomorrow. The Fallen Woman features works by artists including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Richard Redgrave, George Frederic Watts and George Cruikshank, displayed alongside stereoscopes and depictions of the fallen woman in the era’s popular media. It also looks at the petitions of women applying to the Foundling Hospital, bringing to life the real ‘fallen women’ of the period through a specially-commissioned sound installation by artist and musician Steve Lewinson. The exhibition runs until 3rd January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.
• The London Transport Museum’s Depot in Acton hosts its autumn open days this weekend. The day includes the chance to see the original printing blocks used for the Johnston font – London Transport’s iconic typeface, expert talks on transport vehicles, a chance to see how the moquette – the seat covering on the tube – is made and film screenings from the LTM archive. From 11am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.ltmuseum.co.uk.
• The Worshipful Company of Woolmen will be holding their annual sheep drive across London bridge this Sunday. The event, free to watch, kicks off at 10am and runs until 5pm. For more, see www.woolmen.com.
• On Now: Ai Weiwei. This landmark exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly celebrates the work of Honorary Royal Academician and leading Chinese artist Ai Weiwei with significant works from 1993 onwards and new, site specific installations. Among the key exhibits is Straight (2008-12), a body of work related to the Sichuan earthquake of 2008, fabricated from 90 tonnes of bent and twisted rebar which was collected by the artist and straightened by hand. Runs until 13th December. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.
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This Week in London – John Singer Sargent (and friends); Chinese New Year in Soho; and, ‘Cravings’ at the Science Museum…
February 19, 2015
• A major exhibition of the works of John Singer Sargent has opened at the National Portrait Gallery off Trafalgar Square this week. Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends – which has been organised in conjunction with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York – brings together a collection of the artist’s intimate and informal portraits of his friends including Robert Louis Stevenson, Claude Monet and Auguste Rodin. Sargent (1856-1925), born the son of an American doctor in Florence, studied in Italy and France before scandal led him to move to England where he established himself as the country’s leading portrait painter. He made several visits to the US during his career, painting portraits as well as decorative paintings for public buildings including the Boston Public Library and Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibition runs until 25th May. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk. PICTURE: Courtesy of the Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio
• It’s Chinese New Year and the celebrations kick off in London’s Chinatown in Soho this Sunday. The day starts with a parade at 10am which runs from Duncannon Street to Shaftesbury Avenue featuring floats and Chinese lion and dragon teams. It will be followed by a free programme of events in Trafalgar Square which, starting at noon, include music, dance, acrobatics and martial arts. Other events are taking place at a range of locations across the West End. For more information, check out www.london.gov.uk/get-involved/events/chinese-new-year-2015.
• Ever wondered how your appetite is shaped by food? A new free exhibition at the Science Museum in South Kensington, Cravings: Can Your Food Control You? explores how the brain, ‘gut brain’ and bacteria influence our diets. Along with personal stories and objects as well as the use of science and tech to present the display, those who attend the exhibition will also be able to take part in a ground-breaking neurogastronomy experiment to explore how our senses influence appetite (the experiment is also available online – follow the link below). There’s also a digital quiz where you can consider the ethical challenges that cravings, appetite control and food regulations pose. Runs until January next year. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/cravings.
• The history of the Foundling Hospital’s Boy’s Band is the subject of a display at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury. Foundlings at War: Military Bands is part of a series of exhibits supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund exploring the hospital’s links with the military. The Boy’s Band was established in 1847 and boys who joined increasingly went on to serve in the military. Runs until 10th May. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.
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This Week in London – The Clowns’ Service has a new venue; Sir Jacob Epstein at the Foundling Museum; Mark Boxer’s caricatures at the Cartoon Museum…
January 29, 2015
• The 69th annual Clowns’ Service will be held this Sunday – but the venue has changed. An annual tradition since 1946, the service is held in memory of Regency performer (and man hailed as the “inventor” of the modern clown), Joseph Grimaldi (1778-1837). It has been held at Holy Trinity Church in Dalston since 1959 after the previous building where it was held – St James’ Chapel in Pentonville Road; site of Grimaldi’s grave – was gutted in a fire (permission was given for clowns to attend in costume in 1967) but this year, due to repairs at Holy Trinity, the service is being held at sister church All Saints, Livermore Road, in Haggerston (E8 4EZ) (www.trinitysaintsunited.com). Kicks off at 3pm but you’ll have to be early to find a space. About 60 clowns usually attend and a clown show for children follows.
• Bronze sculptures and drawings of babies and children by Sir Jacob Epstein (1880-1959) form the basis of a new exhibition opening tomorrow at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury. Sir Jacob Epstein: Babies and Bloomsbury features portraits of Epstein’s own children and grandchildren and those of friends and contemporaries. The artist lived in Bloomsbury himself between 1914 and 1927 during which time he had five children from a series of extramarital affairs (interesting his long-suffering wife Margaret, herself unable to have children, brought up the youngest and oldest of these and put up with his affairs until her death in 1947 – although she is believed to have shot his long-term lover Kathleen Garman, later his wife and Lady Epstein, in the shoulder with a pearl-handled pistol. Also opening at the Foundling Museum tomorrow is a display of four rarely-exhibited portraits of Georg Frideric Handel and contemporaries Corelli, Geminiani and Daniel Purcell which are on-loan from the Royal Society of Musicians and which once hung in the royal box of King George III. Both exhibitions run until 10th May. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.
• On Now: The Caricatures and Cartoons of Mark Boxer. This exhibition at the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury features more than 100 of Boxer’s caricatures and cartoons from The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The New Statesman, The London Review of Books and The Observer. Among the more than 80 caricatures on display – works for which he is particularly noted – are those of Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth II, Antonia Fraser, Seamus Heaney, Tony Benn, Clive James, Barry Humphries and David Frost. Runs until 22nd March. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.cartoonmuseum.org.
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December 8, 2014
Eighteenth century physician Dr Richard Mead is noted not only for his attendance on the rich and famous of his time – including royalty – but also for his philanthropy, his expansive collections and, importantly, his contributions in the field of medicine.
Born in Stepney, London, on the 11th August, 1673, as the 11th of 13 children of nonconforming minister Matthew Mead, Mead studied both Utrecht and Leiden before receiving his MD in Italy. Returning to England in 1696, he founded his own medical practice in Stepney.
He married Ruth Marsh in 1699 and together the couple had at least eight children, several of whom died young, before her death in 1720 (he subsequently married again, this time to Anne, daughter of a Bedfordshire knight, Sir Rowland Alston).
Having published the then seminal text – A Mechanical Account of Poisons – in 1702, the following year Mead was admitted to the Royal Society. He also took up a post as a physician at St Thomas’ Hospital, a job which saw him move to a property in Crutched Friars in the City – his home until 1711, when he relocated to Austin Friars.
It was after this that he become friends with eminent physician John Radcliffe who chose Mead as his successor and, on his death in 1714, bequeathed him his practice and his Bloomsbury home (not to mention his gold-topped cane, now on display at the Foundling Museum – see note below).
Following Radcliffe’s death, in August of that year Dr Mead attended Queen Anne on her deathbed. Other distinguished patients over his career included King George I, his son Prince George and daughter-in-law Princess Caroline – in fact he was appointed as official physician to the former prince when elevated to the throne as King George II – as well as Sir Isaac Newton, lexicographer Dr Samuel Johnson, Alexander Pope, Sir Robert Walpole and painter Antoine Watteau.
Mead, who had been named a governor of St Thomas’ in 1715 and elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1716, was over the years recognised as an expert in a range of medical fields – including, as well as poisons, smallpox, scurvy and even the transmission of the plague.
Among the many more curious stories about Dr Mead is one concerning a ‘duel’ (or fistfight) he apparently fought with rival Dr John Woodward outside Gresham College in 1719 over their differences in tackling smallpox and others which concern experiments he conducted with venomous snakes to further his knowledge of venom before writing his text on poisons.
Dr Mead was also known for his philanthropy and became one of the founding governors of the Foundling Hospital (as well as being its medical advisor) – a portrait of him by artist Allan Ramsay (for whom he was a patron), currently hangs at the museum.
Dr Mead, who by this stage lived in Great Ormond Street in Bloomsbury (the property, which backed onto the grounds of the Foundling Museum and which Mead had moved into after his first wife’s death, later formed the basis of the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children), is also noted for the large collection he gathered of paintings – including works by Dürer, Holbein, Rembrandt, and Canaletto, a library of more than 10,000 books, antiquities and classical sculpture as well as coins and jewels, all of which scholars and artists could access at his home (it took some 56 days to sell it all after his death).
While Dr Mead – who died on 16th February, 1754 – was buried in the Temple Church, there is a monument to him – including a bust by Peter Scheemakers – in the north aisle of Westminster Abbey.
Dr Mead is currently being honoured in an exhibition at the Foundling Museum – The Generous Georgian: Dr Richard Mead – which runs until 4th January. There’s an accompanying blog here which provides more information on his life and legacy.
This Week in London – Dr Livingstone’s beetles; the Great River Race; Snowdon at the NPG; and Foundlings at War…
September 25, 2014
• From Dr Livingstone, I presume? A recently unearthed collection of beetles gathered together by Dr David Livingstone during his Zambezi expedition of 1858-64 will go on display in its original box at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington on Friday night. The specimens were found among the museum’s 10 million beetles by beetle curator Max Barclay who stumbled on an unusual box received from a private collector. The collector was later found out to be amateur entomologist Edward Young Western (1837-1924) who apparently bought the specimens from a member of Livingstone’s expedition. The 20 beetles found inside the box are believed to the only surviving specimens known to have been collected by Livingstone. The specimens will be on show as part of Science Uncovered, a free annual after hours event – part of European Researcher’s Night – which will take place at the museum between 3pm and 10.30pm Friday night. Other highlights of the night include the chance to extract DNA from strawberries and bananas, create your own earthquake and chat live with NASA about chasing asteroids. For more, see www.nhm.ac.uk/scienceuncovered. PICTURE: Giant Predatory Ground Beetle, Termophilum alternatum © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London.
• Totally Thames – the month long celebration of the great river – is going out with a bang this weekend with more than 300 crews expected to take part in the Great River Race. Running from Millwall to Ham in Surrey, the 21.6 mile long event attracts entries from across the globe. The first boats leave Millwall at 12.40pm. Head to the riverbank between Richmond and Ham at approximately 3.40pm to see the winners cross the line to a cannon broadside. For more on the Great River Race, see www.greatriverrace.co.uk. Other events on as part of Totally Thames this weekend include historic riverside walks – one focused on Brunel and another on London’s ports before the Great Fire of 1666 as well as exhibitions including Richmond’s River at Orleans Gallery House in Twickenham and your last chance to see Florentijn Hofman’s HippopoThames. For more on Totally Thames, see www.totallythames.org.
• Some of Snowdon’s most iconic images will be on show as part of a new exhibition opening at the National Portrait Gallery near Trafalgar Square on Friday. Snowdon: A Life in View will feature studio portraits spanning a period from the 1950s to the 1990s alongside images from Private View, Snowdon’s 1965 examination of the British art world, created in collaboration with art critic John Russell and then director of Whitechapel Gallery, Bryan Robertson. More than 40 black-and-white portraits are included in the display including some works acquired by the gallery last year. To be held in Room 37 and 37a of the ground floor Lerner Contemporary Galleries until 21st June. Admission is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.
• On Now: Foundlings at War: World War I. This display at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury reveals for the first time the stories of foundlings who fought as well as those of the mothers forced to leave their children at the hospital as a result of bereavement or abandonment of those serving abroad. A free digital ibook, The Foundlings at War: World War I, containing expanded background information was published to coincide with the opening of the display earlier this month and can be downloaded from iTunes. The exhibition is part of a major research project, Foundlings at War, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and is the first of several displays examining the institution’s historic links with the military. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.co.uk.
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February 6, 2014
• A new exhibition exploring German-born George Frideric Handel and his association with the royal family opens at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury tomorrow to mark the 300th anniversary of the coronation of King George I. The museum says no composer has been more closely associated with the British monarchy than Handel, whose anthem Zadok the Priest has been performed at every coronation since King George II in 1727 and whose Water Music was performed on the River Thames during the Diamond Jubilee for Queen Elizabeth II in 2012. By George! Handel’s Music for Royal Occasions features treasures from the Gerald Coke Handel Collection and loans from the British Library, the National Portrait Gallery, the British Museum and Westminster Abbey. Runs until 18th May. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.
• A landmark exhibition of David Bailey photographs opens at the National Portrait Gallery today. Bailey’s Stardust – one of the gallery’s largest scale photographic exhibitions, it occupies most of the gallery’s ground floor – features more than 250 portraits including a new portrait of Kate Moss and previously unseen images from Bailey’s travels to the Naga Hills in India in 2012. There’s also rooms devoted to portraits of the Rolling Stones and Catherine Bailey, images from Bailey’s trip to Papua New Guinea in 1974 and from east Africa which Bailey visited in 1985 in support of Band Aid. Admission charge applies. Runs until 1st June. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.
• A new exhibition at the British Museum explores how six key artists redefined the notion of art in Germany in the Sixties and Seventies. Germany divided: Baselitz and his generation features some 90 works including some 45 by George Baselitz as well as works by Markus Lupertz, Blinky Palermo, AR Penck, Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter. Thirty-four of the works, including 17 by Baselitz, have been donated by Count Christian Duerckheim while a loan of some 60 additional works from the Duerckheim Collection makes up the rest of the exhibition. Runs in Room 90 until 31st August. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.
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Hampton Court Palace Festival; good deeds at the Foundling Museum; Harold Wilson’s memorial; and, the RA’s summer exhibition…
June 13, 2013
• The 2013 Hampton Court Palace Festival kicks off tonight. Highlights include a performance by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and fireworks on Saturday night while other artists featured include Jools Holland, Lisa Stansfield, Frank Valli and the Four Seasons, Imeda May, Bjorn Again, Russell Watson, Cliff Richard and Joe Bonamassa and Beth Hart. For the full programme of events over the next couple of weeks, check out www.hamptoncourtpalacefestival.com.
• It’s all about good deeds at the Foundling Museum. Opening at the museum in Bloomsbury tomorrow, a ceramic artist Clare Twomey’s exhibition – Exchange: 1,000 Good Deeds at the Foundling Museum – features more than 1,000 cups and saucers with each cup hiding instructions for a good deed underneath. The instructions are only revealed when a visitor selects a cup – they either agree to do the good deed, leaving it exposed and taking home the cup, or, if they’re not able to, can return the cup to its saucer. There is a limit of 10 cups available for exchange each day – ring or check the website for times when the exchanges may take place. Entry is free with museum admission. Runs until 15th September. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.
• A memorial ledger stone to former Labour PM, Harold Wilson (later Lord Wilson of Rievaulx), was dedicated in Westminster Abbey this week. Lord Wilson (1916-1995) was PM from 1964 to 1970 and 1974 to 1976. The stone is placed near where Earl Attlee’s ashes were interred at a memorial service attended by Lord Wilson when Prime Minister in 1967. For more, see www.westminster-abbey.org.
• On Now: Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition 2013. Coordinated by Royal Academicians printmaker Norman Ackroyd and Eva Jiricna, this year’s exhibition at the Royal Academy in Piccadilly features more than 1,000 artworks with many going on display for the first time. Among the works on display will be Grayson Perry’s series of six tapestries entitled The Vanity of Small Differences – inspired by Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress, it tells the story of Tom Rakewell. Other highlights include a room dedicated to portraiture – including photographs and works on paper – and a new large scale sculpture by Anthony Caro. Runs until 18th August. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.
Around London – Of foundling tokens; a French field marshal’s grave marker; behind the scenes at Royal Albert Hall; Tom Daley’s swimming trunks; and, crime fiction at the British Library…
January 24, 2013
• A new exhibition opens at the Foundling Museum tomorrow (25th January) which tells the often heart-breaking stories behind the tokens left by mothers with their babies at the Foundling Hospital between 1741-1760. While hundreds of tokens were removed from the hospital’s admission files in the 1860s, Fate, Hope & Charity reunites the tokens – which range from coins and jewellery to playing cards, poems and even a nut – with the foundlings to whom they were given. A moving exhibition. Museum admission charge applies. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.
• The Duc and Duchesse de La Rochefoucauld-Doudeauville were among those who attended the dedication of a ledger stone marking the grave of their kinsman, Field Marshal Francois de La Rochefoucauld, the Marquis de Montendre, at Westminster Abbey last week. Born in 1672, de La Rochefoucauld served in the British Army during the reign of King William III and Queen Mary II after fleeing France as a Huguenot refugee (he had also succeeded his brother as marquis). He was promoted to field marshal in 1739 but died later that year and was buried in the abbey. The floor stone which was replaced by the new ledger stone will be sent to France for inscription and installation at Montendre. For more on the abbey, see www.westminster-abbey.org.
• One we should have mentioned with our piece on Royal Albert Hall last week. The Royal Albert Hall is running behind the scenes tours of the venue every Monday until 11th February as well as Tuesday 29th January (so you’ll have to be quick!). The tour – which runs as an extension of the front of house tour – takes in the loading bay located under the hall and one of the many dressing rooms (currently in use by Cirque de Soleil who are in residency with their new show KOOZA. The 90 minute Behind the Scenes tours cost £16. Booking in advance is strongly recommended. For more, see www.royalalberthall.com.
• A pair of swimming trunks worn by diver Tom Daley during the 2012 Olympic Games has been donated to the Museum of London. The trunks join an ever increasing collection of Olympics and Paralympics-related outfits in the museum with others including a leotard worn by bronze-medal winning gymnast Beth Tweddle. A display featuring the Olympic kit is being planned for spring. Meanwhile, still aty the museum and an exhibition featuring a series of photographs exploring the city’s major arterial roadways opens on Saturday. The free exhibition, Highways: Photographs by John Davies, features six specially commissioned photographs taken by Davies in 2001-02 – just prior to the introduction of the Congestion Charge in 2003. Routes featured include the Elephant and Castle roundabout, the Hammersmith Flyover, Marble Arch and Hyde Park, St Pancras Station Midland Grand Hotel and the A501, the junction of Poultry and Queen Victoria Street and the Blackwall Tunnel entrance. Runs until 16th June. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.
• On Now: Murder in the Library: An A-Z of Crime Fiction. This exhibition at the British Library looks at the history of crime fiction and features never-before-seen manuscripts, printed books, rare audio recordings, artworks and artefacts. Highlights include Arthur Conan Doyle’s manuscript of the Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Retired Colourman (1926); the first appearance in print of Miss Marple (in Royal Magazine in 1929); John Gielgud’s annotated script for the film Murder on the Orient Express, crime novels from unlikely authors including Pele and burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee and the 1933 book, the Jigsaw Puzzle Murders in which readers had to complete a jigsaw puzzle to solve the crime. A series of events will be taking place alongside the exhibition. Entry to the library’s Folio Society Gallery is free. Runs until 12th May. For more see www.bl.uk.
Around London – Dickens and the foundlings; astronomy photographs at the Royal Observatory; Royal Parks allotments; and, Asian drinking vessels at the British Museum…
September 27, 2012
• A new exhibition exploring the relationship between author Charles Dickens, the Foundling Hospital and its secretary and former foundling, John Brownlow, opened at the Foundling Museum today. Received, a Blank Child: Dickens, Brownlow and the Foundling Hospital looks at how Dickens supported the institution in various ways including helping a young mother petition for a place for her child and publicising the work of the hospital through his writing – in particular the 1853 article Received, A Blank Child (the phrase comes from the wording used on the hospital’s entry forms). Among the items on display are never before displayed letters from Dickens relating to the hospital. The exhibition, which runs until 16th December, is free with the museum admission. And if you haven’t yet had a chance to see it, there’s still time to catch Dickens and the Foundling, in which six contributors including actor Gillian Anderson and journalist Jon Snow, have chosen objects to be displayed. This ends on 28th October. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.
• Images from the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition have gone on display at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich (which runs the competition in conjunction with Sky at Night Magazine). Among the winning images were The Whirlpool Galaxy taken by Martin Pugh of the UK/Australia, Star Icefall by Masahiro Miyasaka of Japan, and Venus-Jupiter Close Conjunction, by Laurent Laveder of France. The exhibition is free of charge and runs until February next year. For more (including an online gallery), see www.rmg.co.uk/visit/exhibitions/astronomy-photographer-of-the-year/2012-winners/.
• It’s Harvest Festival time at London’s Royal Parks and this Sunday, between 11am and 4pm, people are invited to attend the Kensington Gardens’ allotment to see the fruits of the gardeners’ labour including the “big dig” of the potato crop as well as seasonal vegetables. There’s also the chance for families to see the allotment chickens being fed and children’s activities run by Ginger Cat. This week’s event follows one last weekend at Regent’s Park. For more, see www.royalparks.org.uk.
• On Now: Ritual and revelry: the art of drinking in Asia. This new free exhibition in room 91 of the British Museum features a display of objects which have been used in the consumption of liquids in various Asian contexts and the manner in which their use is intertwined with ritual, religious and otherwise. Among the vessels on display is a Tibetan skull-cap known as a kapala which is made from a human skull and used in religious rituals as well as a silver tea set from western India which features handles shaped like bamboo stems and a lacquered wooden sake bottle which was used as an altar piece. Runs until 6th January. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.
Around London – Cecil Beaton at the IWM; a night of bicycles at the Design Museum; and, Dickens and the Foundling…
September 6, 2012
• A major new exhibition featuring stunning images captured by the late renowned society and fashion photographer Cecil Beaton during World War II opens at the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth today. Cecil Beaton: Theatre of War features some of the 7,000 photographs the photographer took between 1940 and 1945 with many of them exhibited for the first time. The photographs were taken in an array of locations – from Britain and Europe to the Middle East and Africa, India, Burma, China and the US – and depict everything from “ordinary” people in civilian life through to some of the era’s most famous military leaders. The exhibition will also look at how the war affected Beaton personally including his own brushes with death including in a major air crash and suffering from the likes of dengue fever and dysentery. Admission charge applies. Runs until 1st January. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk.
• A celebration of all things bicycle will be held at the Design Museum tomorrow (Friday, 7th September) night. Bike V Design, which kicks off at 6.30pm, will feature talks exploring the design of bikes, a mini cinema and live performances including BMX stunts and circus trick cycling as well as a demonstration of saddle manufacturing. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own bikes or enjoy the selection of bespoke bicycles on display. The night is being held to coincide with Designed to Win, the museum’s current exhibition exploring the tension between sport and design. An admission charge applies. For more, see www.designmuseum.org.
• On Now: Dickens and the Foundling. In case you’ve missed it, this exhibition at the Foundling Museum in Bloombury explores the relationship between the writer and the Foundling Hospital through a series of objects selected for display by six people with an interest in Dickens including actress Gillian Anderson, Dickens’ descendent Mark Dickens, comedian Armando Iannucci, Camden councillor Tulip Siddiq, poet Lemn Sissay and journalist Jon Snow. Among the objects on show are a letter from Dickens to the editor of The Times in which he objects to public hangings, the writing desk at which Dickens wrote what we have of the unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and a manuscript page from Oliver Twist, written when Dickens lived in a house at nearby Doughty Street. The exhibition runs until the end of October. Free with museum admission. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.
May 4, 2012
First laid out in the mid 17th century, Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, on the east bank of the Thames just south of Lambeth, rose in fame to become one of London’s leading public entertainment venues.
The gardens, initially known as New Spring Gardens, are believed to have opened around the time of the Restoration of 1660 on a site which had been formerly an estate owned by vintners John and Jane Vaux (Jane was apparently widowed).
Initially apparently no more than an ale-house with a garden attached, the gardens grew to span several acres and featured a central hub and long avenues for strolling. Admission was initially free with money made from food and drink sold there. Among the earliest recorded visitors to the gardens was John Evelyn in 1661, describing it as a “pretty contrived plantation” and diarist Samuel Pepys, who wrote of a visit he made on 29th May, 1662 (he is known to have returned numerous times).
From 1729, the gardens came under ownership and management of John Tyers, entrepreneur, property developer and patron of the arts, and it was he who, until his death in 1767, oversaw the transformation of the area into an arts hotspot which included sculpture (in particular a fine statue of the composer Handel), music, painting and architecture. Thanks partly due to the patronage of Frederick, Prince of Wales, the gardens become the fashionable place to be seen.
The variety of entertainment on offer at the gardens – the name of which was only officially changed to Vauxhall Gardens in 1785 – grew substantially over the years: from concerts and fireworks displays to performances by tight rope walkers and lion tamers and even re-enactments of famous battles. The gardens became renowned as site for balloon ascents and, for its architecture – the number of buildings there grew over the years to include a rococo ‘Turkish tent’, Chinese pavilion, and, another rococo building, the Rotunda (where concerts could be held in wet weather). There was also a cascade and private ‘supper boxes’ for those who could afford them; those who couldn’t could dine at tables set under the trees.
From the outset, Vauxhall was known as a place where the sexes could mix freely and, therefore, for romantic assignations – in fact, one area of the gardens became known as the ‘Dark Walk’ for the fact it was, unlike other areas of the gardens, never illuminated by lamps and it was in this area, frequented by prostitutes, that many of the more illicit liaisons took place.
By the late 1700s and early 1800s, the gardens, one of a number of pleasure gardens in London, had reached the height of their popularity with reportedly more than 60,000 people said to have attending a fancy dress party held one night in the late 1700s.
Those who attended events in the gardens included royalty as well as the likes of Samuel Johnson and James Boswell (see Thomas Rowlandson’s image above, Vauxhall Gardens, showing the likes of Johnson and Boswell, along with Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire, and the future King George IV, at the gardens in about 1779) as well as, much later, Charles Dickens (by the time Dickens visited, however, the heyday of the gardens was already well over).
The gardens closed in 1859 due apparently to declining popularity and were eventually replaced with housing. After being badly bombed in World War II, however, the site once again returned to being a garden, known as Spring Gardens. The gardens (pictured) still occupy the site not far from Vauxhall tube station – part of them is used by the Vauxhall City Farm as paddocks for horses and livestock and they also contain a multi-use games court.
For an authoritative and comprehensive work on the Vauxhall Gardens, try David Coke and Dr Alan Borg’s Vauxhall Gardens: A History. There’s also much more information on David Coke’s website here. There’s also a detailed history here.
David Coke is curating an exhibition at The Foundling Museum, The Triumph of Pleasure, which looks at the way in which the gardens and the establishment of the Foundling Hospital in 1739 “changed the face of British art forever”. Runs from 11th May to 9th September. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.
PICTURES: Wikipedia and David Adams
Around London – Cutty Sark to reopen next month; Bed of Ware leaves V&A; and, Quentin Blake at the Foundling Museum…
March 15, 2012
• London landmark, the 19th century tea clipper Cutty Sark, will reopen to the public on 26th April following a five year, £50 million conservation project. Visitors to the ship will now be able to explore the vessel as well as, for the first time, walk under the ship after it was raised three metres above the dry dock. A glass canopy has been designed to protect the base of the ship’s hull. The Cutty Sark was built in 1869 by ship-builders Scott & Linton at Dumbarton, Scotland, and, one of the last tea clippers built, was designed to move very fast through the water. After the tea trade was taken over by steamers, the Cutty Sark was used to carry more general trade including wool from Australia. Later sold to a Portuguese company and renamed Ferriera, in 1922 Captain Dowman of Falmouth bought the ship and used her in the floating nautical school. Following his death, the clipper was donated to the Thames Nautical Training School at Greenhithe. After the formation of the Cutty Sark Preservation Society in the early 1950s, the ship was moved to Greenwich and permanently installed in a stone dry-dock where the clipper’s appearance restored to that of an active sailing vessel. In November 2006, the ship rig was dismantled in preparation for a full restoration project – this received a set back the following 21st May a fire broke out aboard the ship. But with the restoration now complete, the ship will once again accommodate visitors wishing to explore its 140 year history. For more on the Cutty Sark, see www.cuttysark.org.uk. PICTURE: © Cutty Sark London
• A treasure of the V&A Museum, the 16th century Great Bed of Ware, is being loaned to the Ware Museum, located not surprisingly in the Hertfordshire town of Ware, for a year from early next month. Believed to date from around 1590 and to have been made in Ware, the bed is believed to have been created as a tourist attraction for people traveling the pilgrim route between London and Walsingham or Cambridge University. More than three metres wide, it was said to be able to sleep 12 people and was such an attraction that people apparently stopped in Ware for the night just to sleep in the bed. It’s even mentioned in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night – the author has Sir Toby Belch describe a piece of paper as “big enough for the Bed of Ware”. The bed was acquired by the V&A in 1931 and hasn’t left the museum since. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.
• Now On: Quentin Blake – As large as life. This exhibition at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury features more than 60 works by artist Quentin Blake, best known for his illustrations of Roald Dahl’s books and Britain’s first Children’s Laureate. The works – which are recent commissions by UK and French hospitals – are contained in four series of pictures which are displayed throughout the museum. They include Our Friends in the Circus – a 2009 series featuring circus performers, Ordinary Life – a 2o10 series celebrating the “pleasures of everyday life”, the 2007 work Planet Zog – a 2007 series in which aliens and young people swap doctor and patient roles, and Mothers and Babies Underwater – a 2011 series created for a French maternity ward. Admission charge applies. The event draws on the long history of artists’ aiding the work of hospitals and child welfare organisations – including William Hogarth who donated paintings to the Foundling Museum. Runs until 15th April. For more information, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.
January 9, 2012
An artist with a social conscience, William Hogarth’s sketches and paintings summed up much of what was rotten with 18th century England – the society in which he lived – much as Dickens’ writing did in the following century.
Hogarth was a native Londoner – he was the son of Richard Hogarth, a Latin teacher and publisher, in Smithfield in 1697. Despite the ups and downs of his father’s fortunes (during Hogarth’s childhood, Richard Hogarth was confined to the Fleet Prison for debt for five years following an unsuccessful venture running a coffee house), at the age of 16 William was apprenticed to an engraver named Ellis Gamble.
Following his apprenticeship, he set up his own shop in 1720 and it was at this time that he started producing political satires. Hogarth was also painting and around this time met with artist Sir James Thornhill. He became a regular visitor to Thornhill’s art academy in Covent Garden and their friendship grew, so much so that Hogarth eventually married Thornhill’s daughter Jane in 1729.
In the early 1730s, having established himself as a painter – both of portrait groups and some early satirical painting – Hogarth turned to painting his ‘moral tales’, the first of which, A Harlot’s Progress, was published in 1732 and tells the story decline of a country girl after coming to London. It was followed by A Rake’s Progress in 1733-35 (now at the Sir John Soane’s Museum).
In 1735 Hogarth was also successful in lobbying to have an act passed to protect the copyright of artistic works – it was unofficially known as “Hogarth’s Act”. The same year he also established St Martin’s Lane Academy – a school for young artists and a guild for professionals.
In the late 1730s, Hogarth turned his hand to individual portraits of the rich and famous. Among his most famous works at this time is a magnificent portrait of Captain Thomas Coram (founder of the Foundling Hospital – it can still be seen at what is now the Foundling Museum), and another of actor David Garrick as Richard III for which he was paid the substantial sum of £200, an amount he apparently claimed was more than any other artist had received for a single portrait.
In 1743, Hogarth completed his landmark work Marriage a-la-mode, a series of six paintings which can now be seen at the National Gallery. He was also painting historical scenes – like Moses brought before Pharoah’s Daughter (for the council room of the Foundling Hospital) and Paul before Felix (for Lincoln’s Inn). In 1747, he published a series of 12 engravings, Industry and Idleness, which tells the parallel stories of two apprentices – one successful, the other not – and this was followed by a series of prints such as Beer Street, Gin Lane, and The Four Stages of Cruelty illustrating some of the less savory aspects of everyday life.
Other works completed around this time included The March of the Guards to Finchley – which looks back to the mid-1740s when the Scottish Pretender’s Army was believed to be about to threaten London, The Gate of Calais – which draws on Hogarth’s own experience of being arrested as a spy when he visited France in 1748, and the Election series – four painting which take for their subject the Oxfordshire election of 1754.
There were some clouds on his horizon at this time with unfavourable criticism of his works and beliefs about art but even as he was engaging in a robust debate with critics of his works (largely through a written work he produced called The Analysis of Beauty), Hogarth was appointed in 1757 to the post of Sergeant-Painter to King George II (he commemorated the event in a painting).
Hogarth ran into further trouble in his later years with works deliberately created to provoke – among the more famous was The Times, a work which led to a breach in his friendship with influential MP John Wilkes who then launched a personal and devastating attack on Hogarth in his newspaper The North Briton. Hogarth responded with a non-flattering engraving of Wilkes.
His last work – The Bathos, an apocalyptic piece – seems to capture his gloomy mood at the time, and having suffered a seizure in 1763, Hogarth died at his house in Leicester Fields on the 25th or 26th October, 1764, possibly of an aneurism. Buried in the churchyard of St Nicholas in Chiswick, he was survived by his wife Jane to whom he left his properties – these included his country home in Chiswick, now known as Hogarth’s House. She made her living reprinting his works until her own death five years later.
Hogarth’s legacy lies in the impact of his works which not only attacked some of the evils of his day but have since inspired countless artists and been adapted in all manner of artistic endeavours over the ensuring centuries. Hogarth’s works can still be seen at various galleries around town – including that of the Foundling Museum – and there is a fine statue of him and his pug dog, Trump, in Chiswick High Road (pictured) as well as a bust in Leicester Square.