A new exhibition exploring how fashion survived and even flourished during World War II has opened at the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth to mark the 70th anniversary of the war’s end. Fashion on the Ration brings together more than 300 exhibits including clothes and accessories like the ‘respirator carrier handbag’, photographs and films as well as official documents from the period, letters and interviews. The exhibition is divided into six parts which examine in detail everything from the uniforms worn during the period to clothes rationing (introduced in 1941) and how the end of the war impacted fashion. Runs until 31st August. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk.

The UK’s first major exhibition devoted to Paul Durand-Ruel, the man who “invented Impressionism”, has opened at the National Gallery off Trafalgar Square this week. Inventing Impressionism features around 85 works including some of Impressionism’s greatest masterpieces, a number of which have never been seen in the UK before. The majority of the works were traded by Durand-Ruel (1831-1922) who is noted for having discovered and supported Impressionist painters like Monet, Pisarro, Degas and Renoir. Durand-Ruel purchased an astonishing 12,000 pictures between 1891 and 1922, including more than 1,000 Monets, about 1,500 Renoirs, more than 400 Degas’, some 800 Pissarros and close to 200 Manets. The images on display include a series of rarely-seen portraits of the dealer and his family by Renoir which are being exhibited in the UK for the first time as well as five paintings from Manet’s ‘Poplars’ series and all three of Renoir’s famous ‘Dances’, not seen in the country together since 1985. The exhibition finishes with a reference to an exhibition Durand-Ruel organised in London in 1905. Held at the Grafton Galleries, it presented 315 paintings. Admission charge applies. Runs until 31st May. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

Gift Horse, New York-based German artist Hans Haacke’s sculpture of a skeletal riderless horse, will be unveiled on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square today. The horse, derived from an etching by English painter George Stubbs – whose works are in the nearby National Gallery, features an electronic ribbon tied to the horse’s front leg showing a live ticker of the London Stock Exchange. The statue, described as a ‘wry comment’ on the equestrian statue of King William IV which was originally to occupy the plinth, is the 10th to occupy the plinth since the first commission – Marc Quinn’s sculpture Alison Lapper Pregnant – was unveiled in 2005.

 Contemporary artist Dryden Goodwin’s first feature-length film is on show as part of a new exhibition, Unseen: The Lives of Looking, at the Queen’s House in Greenwich. Continuing Goodwin’s investigations into portraiture, the newly commissioned film focuses on three individuals who have a “compelling” relationship to looking – eye surgeon Sir Peng Tee Khaw, planetary explorer Professor Sanjeev Gupta and human rights lawyer Rosa Curling. Alongside the screening is a series of drawings made by Goodwin after observing the three individuals as well as tools and papers related to each of their trades and a series of objects connected three leading observers related to the history of the Royal Museums Greenwich sites – John Flamsteed, first Astronomer Royal, Edward Maunder, who observed Mars from the Royal Observatory Greenwich, and the artist Willem van de Velde the Elder who made detailed drawings of naval battles in preparation for producing paintings in his studio at the Queen’s House. Runs until 26th July. Admission is free. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

Advertisements

Ravens

OK, so they’re not people as such, but the ravens at the Tower of London are renowned the world over.

Known as the “Guardians of the Tower”, there are currently as many as eight ravens living at the tower, lodged in a space on the grass next to the Wakefield Tower.

Raven-pensLegend has it that there must be at least six ravens living at the Tower – should they leave, not only will the Tower fall but the kingdom as well (although we hasten to add that it’s been argued this tradition only started in the Victorian age and that there have been times when the numbers of ravens dropped below the required six, such as at the end of World War II when only one raven remained).

It was King Charles II who first ordered the ravens be protected – an order which must have upset Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed who complained after he found that the birds were interfering with the observation work he was carrying out from the Tower’s north-east turret. He later moved out to Greenwich.

The eight ravens who now live at the tower include Rocky, Merlin, Hugine and the latest additions Jubilee – given to the Tower last year to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – and Grip, named after Charles Dickens’ pet raven.

The birds are looked after by a team of four headed by the raven master, Chris Skaife, who each day feed them 170 grams (six ounces) of raw meat and special biscuits soaked in animal blood.

Not all ravens can cut the mustard to work at the Tower – one recent addition Pearl was apparently bullied by other ravens and had to be withdrawn. And while the birds have the feathers on one wing trimmed to stop them escaping to a new life on the wing, that hasn’t stopped some from doing so including Grog who took off in 1981 and was last seen outside an East End pub.

The oldest raven to ever live at the Tower was Jim Crow, who died at age of 44 in 1928.

WHERE: Tower of London (nearest Tube station Tower Hill); WHEN: 9am to 5.30pm, Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5.30pm Sunday to Monday; COST: £21.45 adults; £10.75 children under 15; £18.15 concessions; £57.20 for a family; WEBSITE: www.hrp.org.uk/toweroflondon/.  

Leaving Wren’s churches momentarily, we turn this week to another of Wren’s designs, that of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich in London’s east.

Commissioned in 1675 by King Charles II, the first part of the observatory – Flamsteed House, named for the first Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed – was designed by Wren with, it is believed, the assistance of architect and scientist Robert Hooke.

Built using second-hand materials including stone brought from a Tudor fort at Tilbury, Flamsteed House was located on the former site of Greenwich Castle which had been previously used as a guest house and hunting lodge by Henry VIII. It is said to be the first purpose-built scientific research facility in the country.

The turreted building includes the Octagon Room from which Flamsteed made observations of events in the skies (although its position meant its use for this was somewhat limited), as well as living quarters for the astronomer. On top of the house is a red time ball which, since it was first used in 1833, has marked the time by falling at 1pm each day.

These days part of the National Maritime Museum and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, the site also hosts the Prime Meridian and is the place from where Greenwich Mean Time, since 1884 the basis for all world time, is calculated.

WHERE: Blackheath Avenue, Greenwich (nearest DLR station is Cutty Sark); WHEN: 10am to 5pm Monday to Sunday; COST: Entry is free; WEBSITE: www.nmm.ac.uk/places/royal-observatory/