February 9, 2017
• A Tudor-era bowling ball, Roman iron horse shoes and late 19th century ginger jars are among hundreds of historic objects unearthed during the Crossrail construction project to go on show at the Museum of London Docklands tomorrow. Tunnel: the archaeology of Crossrail presents highlights from among the more than 10,000 objects which have been discovered during the project, the largest infrastructure project currently underway in Europe, since it kicked off in 2009. The finds, which span 8,000 years of human history, also include prehistoric flints found at North Woolwich, medieval animal bone skates and human remains found in the former 17th century Bedlam cemetery. The objects, which can be seen until 3rd September, are displayed in accordance to where along the new Elizabeth line they were found. Entry is free. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
• This year is centenary of the Russian Revolution and to mark the occasion, the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly is hosting a landmark exhibition on Russian art which takes in the period between 1917 – the year of the October Revolution – and 1932 when Josef Stalin began his violent suppression of the avant-garde. Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 features the works of the likes of avant-garde artists Marc Chagall, Wassily Kandinsky, and Kazimir Malevich and social realists like Isaac Brodsky and Alexander Deineka. More than 200 works are on show including loans from the State Russian Museum of St Petersburg and the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, many of which have never been seen in the UK before. Highlights include Chagall’s Promenade (1917-18), Kandinsky’s Blue Crest (1917) and Malevich’s Peasants (c. 1930). Alongside the paintings, the display features photography, sculpture, film, posters and porcelain. Admission charge applies. Runs until 17th April. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk. PICTURE: Boris Mikailovich Kustodiev, ‘Bolshevik’ (1920) © State Tretyakov Gallery.
• More than 100 robots are on display at the Science Museum in South Kensington as part of a new exhibition spanning 500 years of robotic history. Robots, which explores how robots have been shaped by religious belief, the industrial revolution, 20th century popular culture and dreams of the future, features everything from a 16th century mechanical monk to a 2.4 metre tall robot named Cygan dating from the 1950s, and one of the first walking bipedal robots. Visitors will be able to interact with 12 working robots and go behind the scenes to see recent developments in robotic research as well as speculate on what robots of the future might be like. Admission charge applies. Runs until 3rd September. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/robots.
• A major exhibition celebrating the work of early 20th century UK modern artist Vanessa Bell – a central figure in the so-called ‘Bloomsbury Group’ – has opened at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London’s south this week. About 100 oil paintings as well as ceramics, fabrics, works on paper, photographs and related archival material are featured in the exhibition with the works arranged thematically so as to reveal Bell’s “fluid movement” between the fine and applied arts and focusing particular attention on her most distinctive period of experimentation from 1910 onwards. Vanessa Bell, which runs until 4th June, is presented alongside a photography display which brings together Bell’s photographic work with that of American musician, writer and artist Patti Smith. Legacy: Photographs by Vanessa Bell and Patti Smith features 17 photographs by Smith – who has long found inspiration in the work and lives of the Bloomsbury Group – and a selection of Bell’s photo albums. Both can be seen until 4th June. For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk.
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This Week in London – New armoury display at the Tower; Margaret Thatcher’s clothes on show; and James Ensor at the RA…
December 15, 2016
• A new “family friendly” permanent exhibition, Armoury in Action, opens today on the top floor of the White Tower at the Tower of London. The display, presented by Royal Armouries and Historic Royal Palaces, brings to life 1,000 years of history in a hands-on experience in which visitors can explore the weapons, skills and people from the Norman through to the Victorian eras. Featured are a master mason who explains the building of the White Tower – constructed on the orders of William the Conqueror, a medieval longbowman who explains the different types of arrows, a Civil War artillery captain who guides visitors through the process of firing a cannon, and a Victorian superintendent of firearms from the Ordnance Office who invites visitors to design their own musket. There’s also the chance to have a go at drawing back a medieval longbow, to dress King Henry VIII in his armour, to fire a half-sized Civil War cannon and sharpen sword skills against cabbages in an immersive interactive installation. The exhibition can be seen as part of a visit to the Tower. Meanwhile the Tower of London ice rink has opened once more in the fortress’ moat while, between 27th and 31st December, King Richard III and Queen Anne Neville are roaming the tower with their court as well as jesters and minstrels. Admission charges apply (ice-skating is separate to tower entry). For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/ or www.toweroflondonicerink.co.uk. PICTURE: HRP.
• Three iconic outfits worn by former PM Margaret Thatcher have gone on show in the fashion galleries at the V&A in South Kensington. The outfits, which were worn by Baroness Thatcher at significant moments in her public and private life, are among six outfits donated to the museum earlier this year by her children. The outfits include a distinctive blue wool Aquascutum suit she wore to the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool in 1987 and again to place her vote in the general election that year, a custom-designed brocade suit and taffeta opera cape with sweeping train designed by Marianne Abrahams for Aquascutum which she wore when delivering the keynote speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet at London’s Guildhall in 1988, and a wool crepe suit in striking fuchsia-pink by Starzewski that she wore to the Women of Achievement reception at Buckingham Palace on 11th March, 2004. There’s also a black slub silk hat with feathers and velvet-flecked tulle designed by Deida Acero, London, that she wore to the funeral of her husband, Sir Denis Thatcher, in 2003. The display is free to visit. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.
• On Now: Intrigue: James Ensor by Luc Tuymans. The first major exhibition of Belgian artist James Ensor’s work in the UK in 20 years, the exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts Sackler Wing of Galleries off Piccadilly features some 70 paintings, drawings and prints by the modernist artist, who lived between 1860 and 1949, and is curated by contemporary Belgian artist Luc Tuymans. The display features three of his most important works – The Intrigue (1890), The Skate (1892) and Self-Portrait with Flowered Hat (1883). Runs until 29th January. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.
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This Week in London – Engineering feats explained; Tate Modern reopens; app for blue plaques; and, the RA’s summer exhibition…
June 16, 2016
• The stories behind some of the world’s most iconic buildings – from the Sydney Opera House to the Centre Pompidou in Paris – and engineering projects like London’s Crossrail will be exposed in a new exhibition at the V&A on the work of Ove Arup – arguably the most influential engineer of the 20th century. Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Total Design, which is being staged on conjunction with the global engineering and design company he founded – Arup, surveys the life, work and legacy of Arup (1895-1988) and features more than 150 previously unseen prototypes, models, films, drawings and photographs as well as new immersive digital displays featuring animations, simulations and virtual reality. As well as presenting information relating to a selection of Arup’s most ground-breaking projects – including collaborations with architects such as Richard Rogers and Norman Foster, the display, which is divided into several distinct sections arranged chronologically, also explores the pioneering work of Arup today on projects like Crossrail, technologies for acoustics studies like SoundLab and SolarLeaf – an experimental bio-reactive facade system that uses micro algae to generate renewable energy. The first major exhibition led by the V&A’s new Design, Architecture and Digital Department, Engineering the World runs at the South Kensington museum until 6th November. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/EngineeringSeason. PICTURE (above): Sydney Opera House under construction, 1966; © Robert Baudin for Hornibrook Ltd. Courtesy Australian Air Photos.
• The new Tate Modern opens its doors to the public tomorrow following a £260 million renovation and expansion. Designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron (who also designed the original conversion of the Battersea Power Station which opened in 2000), the new Switch House building increases the size of the Tate Modern by 60 per cent. As well as redisplaying the 800 works previously on show, the revamped Tate Modern – which still features the Turbine Hall at its centre – also offers a range of new experiences for visitors, from the subterranean concrete ‘Tanks’ – the first permanent museum spaces dedicated to live art, and a panoramic public viewing terrace on level 10. The museum’s reopening will be celebrated by a free programme of live performances, new commissions and other special events and the museum will stay open until 10pm each evening this weekend when events will include a specially commissioned choral work being performed by more than 500 singers from community choirs around London at 5pm on Saturday. Entry to the Tate Modern on Bankside is free. For more, see www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern. PICTURE: © Hayes Davidson and Herzog & de Meuron/Tate
• English Heritage blue plaques were unveiled to ballet dancer Dame Margot Fonteyn and choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton earlier this month. Dame Margot’s plaque was unveiled at her former flat at 118 Long Acre in Covent Garden (conveniently close to the nearby Royal Opera House where she performed) while Sir Frederick’s plaque was unveiled at his former property at 8 Marlborough Street in Chelsea. The pair’s 25 year relationship produced many of her most celebrated performances and his greatest ballets, including Daphnis and Chloe (1951), Sylvia (1952) and Ondine (1958). The unveiling coincided with the release of a new free Blue Plaques app which, as well as helping users to find blue plaques and uncover the stories of those they commemorate, is also intended to provide an expanding series of walking tours. The first, ‘Soho’s Creatives and Visionaries’, follows a route from Oxford Circus to Tottenham Court Road Station, taking in the property where Karl Marx began writing Das Kapital, the house where Canaletto lived and the attic rooms where John Logie Baird first demonstrated television in 1926. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.
• The 248th ‘summer exhibition’ – featuring the work of 15 international artistic duos in a display curated by leading British sculptor Richard Wilson – opened at the Royal Academy of Arts this week. On display in the Piccadilly institution’s main galleries, the exhibition’s highlights include a new large scale, suspended kite sculpture by Heather and Ivan Morison, two hand-coloured prints from Jake and Dinos Chapman’s Human Rainbow II series, and, an atmospheric photographic installation from Jane and Louise Wilson’s seminal Chernobyl series. Turkish film-maker and artist Kutlug Ataman’s monumental multi-image video installation, THE PORTRAIT OF SAKIP SABANCI, featuring 10,000 LCD panels will also be displayed. Can be seen until 21st August. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.
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This Week In London – Artists and gardens at the RA; London tattoos; and, out of this world photos at the Natural History Museum…
January 28, 2016
• A major exhibition looking at the role of gardens in the paintings of Claude Monet and his contemporaries opens at the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly on Saturday. Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse spans the period from the 1860s to the 1920s and includes more than 120 Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Avant-Garde works including 35 by Monet as well as “rarely seen” masterpieces by Paul Klee, Emil Nolde, Gustav Klimt and Wassily Kandinsky. Highlights include Monet’s Agapanthus Triptych (1916-1919) as well as his Water Lilies (1904) and Lady in the Garden (1867), Auguste Renoir’s Monet Painting in His Garden at Argenteuil (1873) , Kandinsky’s Murnau The Garden II (1910) and Pierre Bonnard’s Resting in the Garden (1914). The exhibition, which has previously been at The Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio, runs until 20th April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk. PICTURE: Claude Monet, Lady in the Garden, 1867; © The State Hermitage Museum/Vladimir Terebenin.
• The world of professional tattooing is the subject of a new display at the Museum of London. Tattoo London, which opens at the City-based museum tomorrow, looks at the history of tattooing in the capital – which dates back to a time before Captain Cook – as well as life inside four contemporary tattoo studios. Also on display will be newly commissioned artworks by tattooists from the studios – Lal Hardy at New Wave, Alex Binnie at Into You, Claudia de Sabe at Seven Doors, and Mo Coppoletta at The Family Business. A series of events are being held in conjunction with the display which runs until 8th May. Entry is free. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
• A new photographic exhibition exploring the solar system has opened at the Natural History Museum. Otherworlds: Visions of our Solar System features 77 composite images pieced together from date collected on NASA and ESA missions by artist, curator and writer Michael Benson. Highlights include A Plutonian haze – a colourised image of Pluto created from data captured during New Horizon’s flyby of the dwarf planet in July last year, Enceladus vents waters into space – captured in 2009 by NASA’s Cassini mission it shows Saturn’s sixth largest moon Enceladus spraying water into space, and, A Warming Comet – a picture of the twin-lobed comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko venting gas and dust captured by ESA’s Rosetta probe in July last year. The exhibition can be seen until 15th May at the South Kensington museum. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nhm.ac.uk/otherworlds.
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This Week in London – New guides to British Museum; Jean-Etienne Liotard at the RA; and Peter Lanyon’s gliding landscapes…
January 7, 2016
• The British Museum has unveiled a new audio guide to provide the museum’s 6.7 million annual visitors with a new way to interact with its permanent collections. The guide comes in 10 different languages as well as in British Sign Language, an updated and improved audio descriptive guide and a “family game guide” for children to play with their parents. It boasts 70 new commentaries detailing the most recent research on key objects as well as new tours for China and A History of the World, a highlights feature and Top 1o tour, stunning new photography and a ‘My visit’ feature which sends visitors a visual record of their visit by email. The guide is available for hire at the Bloomsbury institution. See www.britishmuseum.org for more.
• On Now: Jean-Etienne Liotard. This exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts’ Sackler Wing of Galleries off Piccadilly, which closes at the end of the month, features more than 70 works by the 18th century Swiss artist including works in pastels (of which he was an undisputed master), oil paintings, drawings and miniatures. The exhibition is divided into six sections – they include a detailed look at the artist and his family, his four year sojourn in Constantinople and his royal portraits which include Archduchess Marie-Antoinette of Austria, painted in 1762 (pictured). Runs until 31st January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk. PICTURE: Bettina Jacot-Descombes/RA
• On Now: Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintings. The first exhibition devoted to the post-war artist’s gliding paintings, this display at the Courtauld Gallery in Somerset House explores Lanyon’s (1918-1964) pioneering artistic breakthroughs in landscape painting as he created works inspired and influenced by his own gliding experiences in West Cornwall. The display features 15 major paintings from public and private collections around the world. Closes on 17th January. Admission charges apply. See www.courtauld.ac.uk.
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The Charter for the Society of Artists of Great Britain and its associated Roll of Obligation have been rediscovered at the Royal Academy of Arts, 250 years after was society was founded. The documents, long thought to have been missing, date from 1765 and signify the formation of artists as a professional group in Britain. They form a crucial piece in history of the development of the Royal Academy of Arts, which formed in 1768 when a group of artists broke away from the society. The Charter, which consists of three pages of vellum with a portrait of a young King George III, hadn’t been seen since 1918. It and the Roll of Obligation – which features the crossed-out names of artists ‘expelled’ from the society, including the RA’s first president, artist Joshua Reynolds and German-born Johann Zoffany – were rediscovered earlier this year during an audit of the RA collections. The finding coincides with the 250th anniversary of the formal foundation of the society when it was granted a Royal Charter by King George III. Both documents will go on show from 2018 – the 250th anniversary of the founding of the RA – in new exhibition areas being created as part of the transformation taking place at the RA. For more on the Royal Academy, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.
October 6, 2015
Painted in 1890, the painting – never seen before in the UK – depicts people strolling along the clifftops at Coogee in Sydney, looking eastward over the gleaming blue of the Pacific Ocean.
Christopher Riopelle, the gallery’s curator of post-1800 European paintings, says Streeton’s use of the vertical format was “brilliantly calculated to exploit the contrast between the azure sheet of water and the subtly observed depictions of rock face and sky”.
“Still young, but at the height of his powers, Streeton demonstrates here how impression was a capacious and flexible tool for confronting the awesome landscape unique to Australia.”
Streeton (1867-1943) was considered one of the most advanced landscape painters in Australia in the 1880s and 1890s and was one of the first to adopt an impressionist style. His masterpiece, Golden Summer (1889), was exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1891.
Blue Pacific is now on show in Room 43 at the gallery off Trafalgar Square alongside Monet’s Water-Lilies and Manet’s The Execution of Maximilian. Entry is free. For more on the gallery, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.
PICTURE: Blue Pacific, 1890, Sir Arthur Streeton (1867 – 1943), oil on canvas, © on loan from a private collection/via National Gallery.
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 – Hampton Court Palace turns 500; celebrating the influence of Rubens; and, remembering the liberation of Auschwitz…
January 22, 2015
• Hampton Court Palace turns 500 this year and the palace is conducting a programme of events in celebration of the landmark anniversary. Sadly, the first in a series of events – a night in which Historic Royal Palace’s chief curator Lucy Worsley, inspired by the recent BBC Two programme Britain’s Tudor Treasure: A Night at Hampton Court, will explore one of the greatest nights in Hampton Court’s history, the christening of King Henry VIII’s longed for son, Edward (later King Edward VI) – is already sold out but there are a range of further events planned (we’ll try and keep you informed as they come up through the year). In the meantime, HRP have announced that a rare 16th century hat which is rumoured to have once belonged to King Henry VIII is to return to the palace later this year after undergoing restoration. The story goes that the hat, which will become the oldest item of dress in the palace’s collection by almost a century, was caught by Nicholas Bristowe, the king’s Clerk of the Wardrobe, when Henry threw it in the air on hearing of the French surrender of Boulogne in 1544. Treasured by the Bristowe’s descendants, it has now been acquired by HRP and is expected to go on show in a future exhibition. We’ll be looking at the hat in more detail in a future post. For more on the palace, see www.hrp.org.uk/HamptonCourtPalace/. PICTURE: HRP/Newsteam
• The first major exhibition in the UK to examine the influence of Peter Paul Rubens on the history of art opens at the Royal Academy of Arts on Piccadilly on Saturday. Rubens and His Legacy: Van Dyck to Cezanne brings together more than 160 works by Rubens and artists who were inspired by him both during his lifetime and later including everyone from Van Dyck, Watteau, Turner and Delacroix to Manet, Cezanne, Renoir, Klimt and Picasso. The exhibition is organised around six themes: poetry, elegance, power, lust, compassion and violence. Runs until 10th April in the Main Galleries. For more, see www.royalacademy.co.uk.
• The 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz will be marked at Westminster Abbey with a special service at 6.30pm on 1st February. At least 1.1 million prisoners died at the camp, located in south-west Poland, around 90 per cent of them Jewish. It was liberated on 27th January, 1945 by the Red Army. Tickets are free but need to be booked. Follow this link to book. Meanwhile, the Imperial War Museum London in Lambeth has invited people to mark Holocaust Memorial Day – 27th January – with a visit to the free Holocaust Exhibition which has a 13 metre long model depicting the arrival of a deportation train from Hungary at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in 1944, accompanied by testimonies from 18 survivors. Recommended for children aged 14 and above. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk/visits/iwm-london.
This Week in London – Giovanni Batista Moroni at the RA; German history on show; and, Afghanistan at the IWM…
October 23, 2014
• The works of 16th century artist Giovanni Battista Moroni go on show at the Royal Academy of Arts this week. The exhibition will feature more than 40 works including portraiture as well as his lesser-known religious paintings. They include a number of altarpieces from the churches of Bergamo in northern Italy as well as portraits including Portrait of a Lady (c1556-60), A Knight with a Jousting Helmet (c1556), and The Tailor (1565-1570) – the first known portrait of a man depicted undertaking manual labour. The exhibition in The Sackler Wing, off Piccadilly, runs until 25th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk. PICTURED: A Gentleman in Adoration before the Baptism of Christ, (c.1555-60) (Gerolamo and Roberta Etro).
• This year marks 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the birth of modern Germany so it’s a fitting time for the British Museum in Bloomsbury to host an exhibition looking at Germany’s tumultuous history. Germany: memories of a nation features 200 objects reflecting themes ranging from ’empire and nation’ to ‘arts and achievement’ and ‘crisis and memory’ spanning a period from the 15th century to today. They include Tischbein’s iconic portrait Goethe in der Campagna, an early edition of Grimm’s fairy tales, a home-made banner from demonstrations in late 1989 and Ernst Barlach’s bronze figure Der Schwebende, designed as a World War I memorial for Gustrow Cathedral. The exhibition, sponsored by Betsy and Jack Ryan, runs until 25th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.
• Britain’s 13 year involvement in Afghanistan is the subject of a new display at the Imperial War Museum London in Lambeth. Opening today, War Story: Afghanistan 2014 features new objects, photographs, film and video interviews and looks at the experiences of the Afghan national security forces and UK government and NGO workers as well as those of British troops. Objects, all collected between 2012 and this year, include a beadwork lamp made by Afghan prisoners in training workshops aimed at developing skills prior to their release and an Afghan dress and trousers. The display is part of the War Story project which started in 2009. Runs until 6th September next year. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk.
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This Week in London – Bridges in focus; cheap entry to Tower Bridge; WW1 nurse honoured; and, Dennis Hopper’s photographs…
June 26, 2014
• A new exhibition on London’s bridges commemorating the 120th anniversary of the opening of Tower Bridge opens at the Museum of London Docklands tomorrow. The largest art exhibition ever staged at the museum, Bridge features rarely seen contemporary and historical works, photography, films and maquettes of London’s bridges and explores the role they play in the city. Highlights include Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s 1766 etching A view of the intended bridge at Blackfriars, London, Charles Ginner’s 1913 work London Bridge, and Ewan Gibbs’ 2007 linocut London. The exhibition will also feature a rare photograph taken by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1845, Old Hungerford Bridge. The oldest photograph in the museum’s collection, it will only be on display for one month from tomorrow. The exhibition, entry to which is free, runs until 2nd November. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/docklands/. (PICTURE: © Museum of London Docklands).
• Don’t forget there is a special admission entry offer of just £1.20 to the Tower Bridge Exhibition this Monday, 30th June – 120 years to the day since the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) opened the iconic structure. Tickets must be bought at the door. There will be some Victorian re-enactors at the bridge on the day including police, tourists and engineers and each visitor will receive a special ticket which replicates the design of the invite to the 1894 ceremony (a limited edition commemorative badge will also be available to buy). For more, see www.towerbridge.org.uk.
• The Australian-born nurse responsible for the entire nursing operation on the Western Front during World War I has been commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque unveiled at her former home in Chelsea. Maud McCarthy, one-time Army Matron-in-Chief, was in charge of more than 6,000 British, Imperial and American nurses in 1918. Her accolades included the Florence Nightingale Medal – the highest international distinction a nurse can receive. McCarthy lived at 47 Markham Square for almost 30 years after the war, from 1919 until shortly before her death in 1949. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/blue-plaques/.
• An exhibition featuring more than 400 photographs taken by the late US actor, film director and artist Dennis Hopper opened at the Royal Academy of Arts off Piccadilly today. Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album is the first time the body of work – first shown in Texas in 1970 – has been displayed in the UK. The photographs document the social and cultural life of the American Sixties and cover a range of themes and subjects. They include portraits of the likes of Paul Newman, Andy Warhol and Jane Fonda, and images depicting members of counter-cultural movements as well as events such as the 1965 march civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. Admission charge applies. Runs until 19th October. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.
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This Week in London – Norman Shaw’s drawings on display; Tower Bridge art; and, German medals from World War I…
May 29, 2014
• Drawings by the renowned Victorian-era British architect Norman Shaw (1831-1912) are the subject of a new display at the Royal Academy of Arts. Shaw’s building works included New Scotland Yard on Embankment and renovations and additions to the likes of Burlington House, home of the RA. The display Dream, Draw, Work will explore the materials, draughtsmanship and design practices of Shaw and his staff and many of the works in the display bear the marks of extensive handling. As well as the drawings, photographs of Shaw’s London buildings will be displayed in the Royal Academy’s Architecture Space. Opens in the Tennant Gallery tomorrow and runs until October 26. Entry is free. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.
• An exhibition of artworks depicting Tower Bridge over its 120 year history opens at the Guildhall Art Gallery on Saturday. Tower Bridge: A Celebration of 120 Years includes paintings from the gallery’s permanent collection, contemporary interpretations and archive material. For more, follow this link.
• On Now: The other side of the medal: how Germany saw the First World War. This free display in Room 69a of the British Museum focuses on medals made by artists who lived and worked in Germany from 1914-1919. While smaller struck ‘medalets’ were mass produced, the larger cast medals – such as those featured in this display – were produced in smaller numbers and mostly cast in iron because bronze was required for shell casings. While some of the medals, unusually modernist in style, were used to influence opinion against Germany’s enemies, others provided what the museum describes as a “more universal criticism about the futility of war and waste of human life”. Among the motifs used was that of Death who can be seen killing soldiers and attacking ships or giant Zeppelin airships. The medals were not officially produced or sanctioned and attracted their fair share of controversy (one depicts the passenger ship Lusitania, sunk by a German U-boat in 1915, as laden with armaments). The display can be seen until 23rd November. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.
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March 13, 2014
• A new display exploring the demand for copies and remakes of portraits originally created by Tudor court painter Hans Holbein the Younger has opened at the National Portrait Gallery. Hans Holbein Re-made features a selection of copies of Holbein’s works from the gallery’s collection including portraits of William Warham, John Fisher, Sir Thomas More and Sir Richard Southwell, all of which have undergone new technical analysis as part of the gallery’s Making Art in Tudor Britain project. The research reveals new details about how and when the paintings were made and the techniques used. The display also includes a portrait of Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex – thought to be one of the first miniatures Holbein painted alongside a digital screen which enables this work of Holbein’s to be compared with that of another artist working in his studio. In Room 3. Runs until 31st August. Admission is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk. PICTURE: Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, after Hans Holbein the Younger, early 17th century (1533-1534). © National Portrait Gallery, London.
• This year marks the 350th anniversary of King Charles II’s granting of a Royal Charter to The Worshipful Company of Needlemakers and to commemorate the occasion, the Guildhall Library is hosting an exhibition of some of the company’s treasures and history. Among the displays are tools used in 19th and 20th centuries, 18th century silverware, and the Company Arms (gifted to it in 1995) as well as examples of their craft from both early and recent periods. The exhibition closes on 29th March, so you’ll have to be quick. Admission is free. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/visiting-the-city/archives-and-city-history/guildhall-library/exhibitions/Pages/The-Worshipful-Company-of-Needlemakers.aspx
• A new display of revolutionary sixteenth century woodcuts opens at the Royal Academy of Arts on Saturday. Renaissance Impressions: Chiaroscuro woodcuts from the Collections of Georg Baselitz and the Albertina, Vienna, looks at the development of the printing technique of the chiaroscuro woodcut and presents more than 100 rare prints by artists from Germany, Italy and The Netherlands which have come from the collection of the Albertina Museum in Vienna and the personal collection of Honorary Royal Academician Georg Baselitz. The new technique – the first known example of which is widely believed to have been created by Hans Burgkmair the Elder with his 1508 depiction of Emperor Maximilian on Horseback – involved supplementing the key ‘black line block’ with one or several ‘tone blocks’ with chiaroscuro woodcuts the first colour woodcuts to make dramatic use of light and shadow to suggest form, volume and depth. Runs until 8th June in the Sackler Wing of Galleries. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.
Now the home of the Royal Academy of Arts, the origins of Burlington House on Piccadilly go back to the 1660s but it was Richard Boyle, the 3rd Earl of Burlington, who had the property reworked into the Palladian building it is today.
It was Sir John Denham, Surveyor-General of the King’s Works for King Charles II, who first began building a red brick mansion on the site in the 1660s before he sold the still unfinished building to Richard Boyle, the 1st Earl of Burlington, in about 1667. He completed the house the following year.
The property next underwent major changes during the minority of the 3rd Earl (also Richard Boyle, 1612-1698) – his mother, the 2nd Countess, Lady Juliana, had architect James Gibbs carry out some alterations including the addition of a semi-circular colonnade at the front of the house and reconfiguration of the main staircase.
But around 1717-1718, the 3rd Earl (1694-1753), who himself was something of an architect, commissioned architect Colen Campbell to take over from Gibbs. The property was then reworked to a Palladian design – particularly the southern front of the building and William Kent was summoned to redesign interiors – the surviving interior of the Saloon is credited as the first ‘Kentian’ interior in England.
Lord Burlington soon shifted his attention to Chiswick House (see our earlier post here), and on his death in 1753, the house passed to the Dukes of Devonshire before it was eventually purchased by the 4th Duke’s younger son, Lord George Cavendish, around 1812. He had some of the interiors reworked by Kent admirer Samuel Ware, keeping them sympathetic to the Palladian vision. Four years after the purchase, Burlington Arcade was built along the western side of the premises.
In 1854, the property was sold to the British Government who initially intended demolishing the structure and using the site for the University of London but after strong opposition to the plan, it was occupied by the Royal Society, the Linnean Society and the Chemical Society while the Royal Academy – which had been founded by King George III in 1768 – took over the main block on a 999 year lease in 1867.
The building subsequently underwent further alterations – among them Sidney Smirke added a third floor to the main building – the Diploma Galleries – and the Main Galleries and the Art School on a garden to the north of the house. Later, three story ranges were raised around the courtyard and the three aforementioned learned societies moved into these and were later joined by the Geological Society of London, the Royal Astronomical Society and the Society of Antiquities.
The Royal Society left in 1968 and the British Academy moved in but this august institution moved out in 1998, leaving the building now home to the Royal Academy and the five learned societies, the Geological Society of London, the Linnean Society of London, the Royal Astronomical Society, the Society of Antiquaries of London, and the Royal Society of Chemistry.
More recent works at the property – the last survivor of four townhouses built along Piccadilly in the 1660s – have included a 1991 remodelling of the Diploma Galleries by Norman Foster – now known as The Sackler Wing of Galleries – and the restoration of the former state rooms including The Saloon, reopened as the John Madejski Fine Rooms.
WHERE: Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly (nearest Tube stations are Piccadilly Circus and Green Park); WHEN: 10am to 6pm Saturday to Thursday/10am-10pm Friday (opening times for the John Madejski Fine Rooms may vary); COST: Varies depending on the exhibition (there are free guided tours of the John Madejski Fine Rooms – check the website for details); WEBSITE: www.royalacademy.org.uk.
PICTURE: Installation by Ãlvaro Siza, part of the Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined exhibition which runs until 6th April. Photo: Royal Academy of Arts. Photography: James Harris/Ãlvaro Siza
July 1, 2013
Poet. Painter. Visionary? William Blake failed to find great success in his lifetime and died in relative obscurity but is now known internationally for his controversial and innovative works in the written word and visual arts.
Blake was born on 28th November, 1757, at 28 Broad Street in Soho, the third son of hosier James Blake and his wife Catherine (he was christened at St James’s Piccadilly). Little is known of his early life although accounts suggest he had some spiritual experiences – including a vision of a tree full of angels – as a young boy and also showed an interest in the visual arts at an early age.
About the age of 10, he started attending Henry Par’s drawing school before, at the age of 14, becoming an apprentice to James Basire, engraver to the Royal Society and Society of Antiquaries. Among his early assignments was to make drawings of the monuments and paintings at Westminster Abbey – interestingly, Blake’s earliest extant drawings are of the opening of King Edward I’s coffin on 2nd May, 1774.
In 1779, his apprenticeship completed, Blake enrolled as a student at the Royal Academy of Arts and at the same time, made his living as a copy engraver. His clients included the radical bookseller Joseph Johnson through whom he became introduced to people like Joseph Priestley. He also began producing original works on historical themes apparently with the aim of forging a career in the painting of history.
In 1782, Blake married Catherine Sophia Boucher and they took up life together at a property near Leicester Square, later moving to Lambeth. They were to have no children.
Experimenting with new methods of engraving, in 1788, he published the first of what he was to call his “illuminated books” – All Religions are One, and There is no Natural Religion – with his first illuminated book of poetry, Songs of Innocence, coming a year later (its sequel Songs of Experience was published in 1794). In 1789, he published The Book of Thel, combining his new method of engraving with “prophetic” verse.
Later works in prose and poetry – created while Blake was still working as an engraver – continued to explore his increasingly radical views on religion and politics. They included The Marriage of Heaven and Hell published in 1790, The French Revolution in 1791, America: A Prophecy in 1793 and Visions of the Daughters of Albion the same year.
In 1800, Blake moved to Felpham, West Sussex, thanks to his friendship with one William Hayley who engaged his skills on several projects. It was while living here that Blake began work on his epic poems Milton (printed in 1810-11) and Jerusalem (completed in 1820).
Following an incident in 1803 in which Blake removed a drunk soldier from his garden, Blake was charged with high treason but acquitted after a trial at Chichester.
Having meanwhile moved back to London, in 1809 Blake made a last effort to gain the public’s attention with his work and held an exhibition of his paintings and watercolours at his family home in Broad Street (now home of his eldest brother James). But the exhibition did not elevate his profile as he may have hoped and during his last years, Blake increasingly sank into obscurity amid tightening finances and, although he continued to produce poetry, paintings and engravings, he found it hard to find work.
Blake died on 12th August, 1827, at his home at 3 Fountain Court on the Strand and was buried in an unmarked grave at Bunhill Fields. The stone which now stands there (pictured above) was added later.
It was during the Victorian-era that Blake’s work made its way into the hands of a larger audience than it ever had while he was alive, thanks to Blake enthusiasts like his first biographer Alexander Gilchrist and people associated with the Romantic movement.
His work continued to gain attention into the 20th century (in particular around the centenary of his death in 1927) and by mid-century had become what Robert N Essick says in Blake’s entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, “one of the cultural icons of the English-speaking world”. Interest in Blake and his works has continued both in the UK and around the world.
A new room dedicated to showing Blake’s works opened at Tate Britain in May.
This version of the iconic British ‘institution’ – the red phone box – was designed by architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1924 (you may know him as the designer of the Battersea Power Station).
Formally known as the K2 telephone kiosk, Scott’s design was selected after a competition organised by the Royal Fine Art Commission (there’s a wooden prototype of Scott’s K2 located under the entrance to the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly – the location where it was originally positioned).
The design featured a classical-looking dome (said to have been influenced by the work of architect Sir John Soane) which featured the royal crest of King George V (done in perforation, so it also provided ventilation). The phone box was made in cast iron and painted red (Scott had apparently suggested silver). From 1926 onwards, around 1,700 of the K2s – which weighed more than a ton – were deployed around London (very few were ever erected outside the city).
The surviving K2s – there are said to be slightly more than 200 – are now listed buildings.
The telephone box is a part of the Design Museum’s permanent collection which is currently held in two locations but from 2015 will be housed in a new purpose-built museum in High Street Kensington.
The box, which will be displayed on the museum’s top floor which will be dedicated to the display of 20th century artefacts, is currently featured in a special exhibition, Design Museum Collection: Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things, which runs at the museum’s current premises until January, 2015.
To further explore the Design Museum’s collection, you can download a free Design Museum Collection App for iPad app via iTunes.
WHERE: Design Museum, 28 Shad Thames (nearest Tube stations are London Bridge and Tower Bridge); WHEN: 10am to 5.45pm daily (last admission 5.15pm); COST: £11.85 adults/£10.70 concessions/£7.50 students (children under 12 are free); WEBSITE: www.designmuseum.org
February 1, 2013
Can you identify where in London this picture was taken and who the statue represents? If you think you can, leave a comment below. We’ll reveal the answer early next week. Good luck!
No takers this week. This is a statue of John Flaxman (1755-1826), located on the facade of Burlington House in Piccadilly, home of the Royal Academy of Arts since 1867. The sculptor and draughtsman, a leading figure of the Neoclassicism movement, was made an associate of the RA in 1797. For more on the Royal Academy of Arts, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.
Around London – Christmas at the Tower and Kew Gardens; Old Flo on display; African Diaspora on show at MoL Docklands; and, Mariko Mori at the Royal Academy…
December 20, 2012
• The Tower of London is going Victorian this Christmas with visitors able to experience some of what the Yuletide celebrations in the foreboding, much storied buildings were like in the mid-to-late 1800s. Visitors will be shown how many of the Christmas customs we now participate in each year – like writing cards, pulling crackers and the setting up of family Christmas trees – owe their origins to the Victorian era. The Yeoman Warders will be receiving a Victorian makeover and writer of the age – Charles Dickens – will be reciting some of his works before joining in a “raucous” lunch party with some of his fellow writers, artists and benefactors. It’s even rumoured that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert themselves may make an appearance (take that as a given). Bah! Humbug! A Very Merry Victorian Christmas runs from 27th until 31st December. The festivities will all be included in the usual admission price. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk. PICTURE: Nick Wilkinson/NewsTeam.
• Kew Gardens are celebrating Christmas with a host of events including a “Twelve trees of Christmas” family trail. The trail, a map of which can be picked up as you enter, includes facts about trees along the route. Volunteer guides are also leading free tours of seasonal highlights and the Kew Christmas tree can be seen at Victoria Gate. Other festive treats at Kew include the chance to see Father Christmas in his grotto (until Sunday only) and a vintage carousel on the Kew Palace Lawn. Many of the Christmas-related events end on 6th January. See www.kew.org for more.
• A display focusing on the history of Henry Moore’s sculpture, Draped Seated Woman (better known as Old Flo), has opened at the Museum of London Docklands. Henry Moore and the East End provides a glimpse into 1950s East London and looks at why public art was considered important at the time. It features some of the maquettes (scale models) Moore used in creating the piece. The exhibition was opened following a decision by the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, to sell Old Flo (now at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park) rather than display the artwork in a public space. The move is being contested by the Museum of London Docklands who have offered to put the work on public display. An online exhibition can be seen at www.museumoflondon.org.uk/oldflo and a ‘pop-up exhibition’ on Old Flo will be launched in January. The museum is also encouraging people to tweet their views about the selling of the sculpture under the hashtag #saveoldflo.
• On Now: Take Another Look. Still at the Museum of London Docklands, this exhibition focuses on the visual representation of people from the African Diaspora who were living and working in Britain in the late 18th and early 19th century. The display of 17 exhibits in the London, Sugar and Slavery gallery features prints by artists including Thomas Rowlandson and George Cruikshank as well as newspaper cuttings, mostly dating from 1780-1833, which show black Britons in perhaps what were unexpected roles – soldiers, musicians and sportsmen – during what was the period in which the abolition of slavery occurred. There are a series of events planned around the exhibition which runs until 4th August. Entry is free. For more see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/Docklands/.
• On Now: Mariko Mori: Rebirth. The first major museum exhibition of the New York-based Japanese artist Mariko Mori in London since 1998 has opened at the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly. The exhibition features some of the artist’s most acclaimed works from the last 11 years, many of which have never before been seen in the UK, as well as works created just for the exhibition. Highlights include Tom Na H-iu, a five metre high glass monolith lit by hundreds of LED lights and connected back to the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research at the University of Tokyo; Transcircle, described as a “modern day Stonehenge”; and, Flatstone, an installation of “22 ceramic stones assembled to recreate an ancient shrine”. Runs until 17th February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.
Around London – A West End institution reopens; Barnet’s Foundling Hospital under the spotlight; English landscape masters at the RA…
December 13, 2012
• A West End institution which has hosted a who’s who of Londoners – including the likes of Oscar Wilde, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling and Winston Churchill as well as, more recently, David Bowie, Mick Jagger and Princess Diana – has reopened its doors to the public after a four year redevelopment. Originally opened in 1865 by French wine merchant Daniel Nicholas Thévenon and his wife Celestine, Café Royal at 68 Regent Street – overlooking Piccadilly Circus – has been relaunched as five star hotel featuring more than 150 rooms, six historic suites and a variety of dining venues – including the spectacular Grill Room – as well as a private members club, meeting rooms and wellbeing centre. The redevelopment of this storied building, which centres on the original premises – retaining John Nash’s Grade I-listed facade, has seen the restoration of grand public rooms, originally dating from the 1860s and 1920s, as well as an expansion into neighbouring buildings – all under the watchful eye of David Chipperfield Architects and Donald Insall Associates. For more, see www.hotelcaferoyal.com.
• On Now: Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape. This exhibition, recently opened in the John Madejski Fine Rooms and Weston Rooms at the Royal Academy of Arts, features works of art by three “towering figures” of English landscape painting – John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough and JMW Turner. The 120 works on display includes paintings, prints, books and archival material. Highlights include Gainsborough’s Romantic Landscape (c 1783), Constable’s The Leaping Horse (1825) and Boat Passing a Lock (1826), and Turner’s Dolbadern Castle (1800). There are also works by their 18th century contemporaries and artifacts including letters written by Gainsborough, Turner’s watercolour box, and Constable’s palette. Admission charge applies. Runs until 17th February. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.au.