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Get a taste of the tropics at Kew Gardens. The rare beauty of orchids is on show in the Princess of Wales Conservatory as part of the annual Orchid Festival which runs until 6th March. And as was the case last year, the festival once again features a series of late openings giving visitors the chance to experience the colourful display after dark. Admission charge applies – for more information on dates and times, see www.kew.org. PICTURES: Jeff Eden/RBG Kew.

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Key 59 Marigold NightThe first UK show dedicated to the works of Norwegian landscape painter and printmaker, Nikolai Astrup, opens at the Dulwich Picture Gallery tomorrow. Painting Norway: Nikolai Astrup (1880-1928) features more than 120 paintings, woodcuts and archive material – many of public display for the first time. Astrup is described as one of Norway’s finest 20th century artists and long with Munch, expanded the possibilities of woodcuts to capture the wild landscapes and traditional way of life in his western Norway home. Works on show include everything from the woodcut A Clear Night in June (1905-07), the many coloured masterpiece A Night in June in the Garden (1909), and the celebratory Midsummer Eve Bonfire (1915). Runs until 15th May. Admission charges apply. The gallery is also hosting a series of related events. For more, head to www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk. PICTURE: Marsh Marigold Night, c.1915 – The Savings Bank Foundation DNB/The Astrup Collection/KODE Art Museums of Bergen. Photo © Dag Fosse/KODE.

Bruegel the Elder’s only three surviving grisaille paintings have been brought together in a new exhibition opening at the Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House today. The works, painted in shades of grey, include the Courtauld’s Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery as well as The Death of the Virgin (brought from the National Trust-managed Upton House) and Three Soldiers (borrowed from the Frick Collection in New York. They’re among the less than 40 works attributed to the artist (c1525-1569) and while The Death of the Virgin was owned by his friend, map-maker Abraham Ortelius, Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery was one of few paintings kept by the artist himself. The exhibition Bruegel in Black and White: Three Grisailles Reunited also includes replicas made by Bruegel’s sons as well as other grisailles while other works by Bruegel from the Courtauld’s collection will be displayed in the Butler Drawings Gallery. Runs until 8th May. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.courtauld.ac.uk.

Head to Kew Gardens for a splash of colour as the annual Orchid Festival kicks off in the Princess of Wales Conservatory on Saturday. And, following the success of last year’s events, the conservatory will once again throw its doors open after dark on the 11th, 18th and 25th February and 3rd March for Orchid Lates at Kew Gardens (there’s also a special Valentine’s Late at Kew Gardens on 13th February). Admission charges apply. For more, head to www.kew.org.

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Happy Easter! We’re taking a break over the Easter weekend…Our next update will be on Tuesday, 2nd April.

Mary-of-Modena's-bedA new exhibition exploring the secrets of the bedchambers of the Stuart and Hanoverian courts of the 17th and 18th centuries opened at Hampton Court Palace this week. At the heart of Secrets of the Royal Bedchamber are six royal beds which tell the story of why the bedchamber became the most important part of the palace and detail some of the events that took place there before an audience of courtiers, politicians and family members – from births and deaths to the consummation of marriages and the discussion of important affairs of state. It tells of why courtiers would fight for positions such as the ‘groom of the stool’ or ‘necessary woman’ and how beds which could cost the same as a London townhouse were sometimes never slept in. Among the beds on display is the ‘Warming Pan Bed’ (pictured), the State Bed of King James II’s queen, Mary of Modena, and scene of the royal birth that ultimately led to the end of the Stuart line, and the ‘Travelling Bed’ of King George II which travelled as far afield as Hanover and the battlefields of Europe. The exhibition also gives rare access into the Prince of Wales’ Apartments, designed by 17th and 18th architect Sir John Vanbrugh, and now open for the first time in 20 years.  Admission charge applies. Runs until 3rd November. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk. PICTURE: HRP

The Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum are the subject of a major exhibition opening at the British Museum today. Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum brings together more than 250 objects from the two cities which were buried in just 24 hours during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The objects include celebrated finds and recent discoveries, many of which have never before been seen outside Italy, and help explore what daily life was like for the inhabitants. Artefacts include a beautiful wall painting from Pompeii showing baker Terentius Neo and his wife, wooden furnishings including a linen chest, inlaid stool, and even a baby’s crib from Herculaneum, and casts of victims including a family of four and a dog who died at Pompeii. Runs until 29th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

Find out more about the history of chocolate at Kew Gardens this Easter, from the ritualistic use of cacao in ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures to the arrival of chocolate in 17th century London, where it was a luxury item for high society to indulge in at newly fashionable chocolate houses. Running from tomorrow until 14th April, there will be a range of workshops taking place at the gardens around the chocolate theme along with a traditional Easter Egg Hunt on Easter Sunday (31st March). The garden’s cocoa tree can be found in the Princess of Wales Conservatory. Admission charge applies. See www.kew.org.

Harry Beck, designer of the innovative first diagrammatic Tube map, has been honoured by an English Heritage blue plaque – inscribed in the Underground’s new Johnston typeface – at his birthplace in Leyton in London’s east. Beck, who was born in a small terraced house at 14 Wesley Road in 1902, was working with London Transport as a draughtsman in the London Underground Serial Engineer’s Office, when, in 1931, he produced his first design for a diagrammatic map. He continued to update the map with new stations and lines even after leaving London Transport with the last version of his map published in 1960. Beck died in 1974. Meanwhile, a blue plaque commemorating railway engineer Sir Nigel Gresley (1876-1941) has been returned to King’s Cross station following the completion of building work. It can be found on platform 8. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/blue-plaques/.

On Now: The Underground. A commission from Art on the Underground, this exhibition of artist Mark Wallinger’s work at the Anthony Reynolds Gallery (60 Great Marlborough Street) features some examples of 270 labyrinth designs – one representing each of the Underground stations – which are being installed at the Tube stations themselves. Among those stations represented at this showing are Westminster, St James’s Park, Oxford Circus, Victoria, Embankment, Green Park, King’s Cross St Pancras, Baker Street and Tottenham Court Road. While labyrinths are already in place at these locations, the remainder of Wallinger’s labyrinth designs will be appearing at Tube stations over the coming months. Runs until 27th April. For more, see www.anthonyreynolds.com.

Chinese New Year celebrations will go off with a bang in Chinatown in the West End this Saturday. The festivities, which are the largest outside Asia, will include a lion dance, fireworks, and a variety of performers – all gathered to herald the start of the Year of the Snake. The celebrations will kick off with a parade which will leave Trafalgar Square at 10am and end at Rupert Street in Chinatown at 11am. At 12pm, dignitaries will gather in Trafalgar Square for the Dotting of the Eye ceremony which will bring the dragons and lions to life and performances will the take place until 5.30pm. At 5.55pm a fireworks display will mark the end of the day’s celebrations. For more, see www.chinatownlondon.org/page/chinese-new-year-2013/378.

Like orchids? Want to escape the gloom of winter? Kew Gardens are celebrating the exotic plant with a dazzling display in the Princess of Wales Conservatory. Thousands of orchids will be on show as part of ‘Orchids at Kew’ and the plants will be used to recreate the giant waterlily flower, Victoria amazonica, which can normally be seen in the conservatory in the summer months. There are special behind the scenes tours, food and an adult education course for the truly interested. Charges apply. Opening on Saturday, 9th February, the display can be seen until 3rd March. For more, see www.kew.org.

The late artist Lucian Freud has donated a treasured portrait – Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot’s L’Italienne ou La Femme à la Manche Jaune (The Italian Woman, or Woman with Yellow Sleeve) – to the nation in gratitude for the welcome his family received when they arrived as refugees from Berlin. The Corot has been allocated to the National Gallery by the Arts Council England and was done under the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, which allows people to transfer works of art into public ownership instead of paying inheritance tax.  The painting – which was last seen in a show at the Louvre, Paris, in 1962, and was previously owned by Hollywood Golden Age star Edward G. Robinson – is on display on Room 41 of the gallery. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

On Now: Man Ray Portraits. The first museum exhibition to focus on the photographic portraiture of the 20th century artist Man Ray, this display at the National Portrait Gallery features more than 150 vintage prints taken between 1916 and 1968. Subjects include everyone from Catherine Deneuve and Ava Gardner to Salvador Dali and Aldous Huxley. The majority of works have never been exhibited in the UK before. Runs until 27th May. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

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