Some of painter JMW Turner’s greatest works have returned to the Tate Britain – home of the largest collection of the artist’s works – where they have been put into a new free display. The works, which include Norham castle – Sunrise (c1845), Peace – Burial at Sea (exhibit 1842) and The Dogani, San Giorgio (exhibit 1842), have travelled more than 12,000 miles and been seen by more than 750,000 people in the UK, US and Canada as part of The EY Exhibition: Late Turner – Painting Set Free. They now form part of a new display of more than 100 works spread over eight rooms of the Tate Britain’s Clore Gallery. The three central spaces of the gallery present an overview of the major paintings Turner exhibited during his lifetime – his Self-Portrait (c1799), which will feature on the Bank of England’s new £20 note, is among works shown here – while four smaller galleries located to the sides will show themed groups of work. One brings together scenes from the artist’s British travels and another those from his European jaunts while the final two show the artist’s works on paper and a group of “radical late works” found in his studio after his death. For more, see www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-britain

A new exhibition exploring the Great Fire of London to mark its 350th anniversary opens at the Guildhall Library in the City of London on Monday. That Dreadful Fire: The Hand of God, a Great Wind and a Very Dry Season explores the story through the collections of the Guildhall Library, including English and foreign accounts, sermons and public records. Runs until 30th November. For more and walks and talks, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/guildhall-library/events-exhibitions/Pages/the-dreadful-fire.aspx.

On Now: Heroes and Villains. This exhibition at the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury features art “depicting real life, the cartoon and comic world that highlights those we love and those we love to hate”. Featuring political cartoons, cartoon and comic strips, and caricatures, including some selected by celebrities and members of the public, it runs until 30th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.cartoonmuseum.org.

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Locking-Piece

A Henry Moore original, Locking Piece was created in 1963-64 and first located on its current site on Riverwalk Gardens at Millbank, site of the former Millbank Penitentiary, four years later. The bronze sculpture consists of, as the name suggests, two interlocking pieces. There’s a couple of conflicting stories about where the idea for the work came from – in one, Moore said he was visiting a gravel pit near his home at Perry Green in Hertfordshire where he was playing with two pebbles which suddenly locked together (and hence came the idea of a sculpture of two interlocking pieces); and in another, Moore said the idea came from a bone fragment featuring a socket and joint found in his garden. Originally loaned to Westminster City Council, in 1978 the sculpture was given to the Tate Gallery which subsequently decided to leave the piece in situ. It’s one of numerous Moore works in London. For more on Henry Moore’s London works, see www.henry-moore.org/works-in-public/world/uk/london.

NPG_936_1374_KingCharlesIIbThe first ever display of works of overlooked 17th century artist Cornelius Johnson, court painter to Charles I, has opened at the National Portrait Gallery off Trafalgar Square. Cornelius Johnson: Charles I’s Forgotten Painter features rarely viewed portraits of the king’s children including the future Charles II, James II and Mary (later Princess of Orange-Nassau) as well as a painting of Mary’s son William – all of which have been taken from the gallery’s collection. Overshadowed by Sir Anthony van Dyck, Johnson – who emigrated to The Netherlands when the English Civil War broke out – has been largely ignored by art historians despite the breadth of his work – from group portraits, such as his largest surviving English painting, The Capel Family, to tiny miniatures – and the fact that he is thought to be the first English-born artist who took to signing date his paintings as a matter of course, something he is believed to have picked up during his training in The Netherlands. The display features eight painted portraits and six prints from the gallery’s collection as well as three paintings from the Tate. Runs until 13th September in Room 6. Admission is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk. PICTURE: King Charles II by Cornelius Johnson , 1639. © National Portrait Gallery, London.

Trafalgar Square will be at the centre of London’s St George’s Day celebrations on Saturday with live music, celebrity chefs, a masterclass by leading tea experts and children’s games and activities. The musical lineup will feature the band from the West End musical Let It Be and the Crystal Palace Brass Band – one of the few traditional brass bands remaining in London. The free event runs between noon and 6pm on Saturday. For more, see www.london.gov.uk/stgeorges.

Indigenous Australia, the first major exhibition in the UK to present a history of Indigenous Australia through objects, opens at the British Museum today. Drawing on the museum’s collection, Indigenous Australia features objects including a shield believed to have been collected in Botany Bay on Captain Cook’s voyage of 1770, a protest placard from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy established in 1972 and contemporary paintings and specially commissioned artworks from leading indigenous artists. Many of the objects have never been on display before. Runs until 2nd August. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

Thirty prints from the Royal Collection will be on show at The London Original Print Fair to mark its 30th anniversary. The fair runs at the Royal Academy from today until Sunday and among the selected works from the more than 100,000 prints in the Royal Collection are the 2.3 metre long woodcut by Albrecht Durer entitled Triumphal Cart of the Emperor Maximillian (1523), Wenceslaus Hollar’s four etchings of tropical Seashells (c1650), a sequence of proofs of Samuel Reynolds’ portrait of King George III at the end of the monarch’s life, and lithographs produced by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert dating from 1842. For more on the fair, see www.londonprintfair.com. For more on the Royal Collection, see www.royalcollection.org.uk.

The question of what is meant by the concept of luxury is under examination in the V&A’s new exhibition What is Luxury? Opening at the South Kensington museum Saturday, the exhibition will feature a range of luxury objects – from the George Daniels’ Space Travellers’ Watch to a Hermés Talaris saddle, and Nora Fok’s Bubble Bath necklace. Also on show in a section of the exhibit looking at what could determine future ideas of luxury is American artist Gabriel Barcia-Colombo’s DNA Vending Machine (complete with prepackaged DNA samples) and Henrik Nieratschker’s installation The Botham Legacy which tells the fictional story of a British billionaire who sends altered bacteria into space in an attempt to find valuable metals on distant plants. Runs until 27th September. Admission charge applies. See www.vam.ac.uk/whatisluxury.

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Simon Murphy is a curator at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden – the museum is currently celebrating the 150th birthday of the Underground with a series of events including a landmark exhibition on the art of the Tube (Poster Art 150 – London Underground’s Greatest Designs)…

Underground-2How significant was the construction of the London Underground in world terms? And how does it stack up 150 years later? “The Metropolitan Railway was a true world class pioneer, but like all pioneers it made mistakes that subsequent operators learned from. Similarly the first tube railways tested the ground for others to follow. But these pioneering lines are still part of today’s world class Tube network, and some of the original stations, like King’s Cross, are still amongst the busiest, so they must have been on the right track.”

I understand the initial stretch of line ran between Farringdon and Paddington. How quickly were other sections opened? “The Metropolitan Railway’s first extension was authorised by Parliament in 1861, two years before the original line even opened. The railway made a profit in its first year, so financial backing was relatively easy to find, and the extension east to Moorgate opened in 1865, with a westward extension to South Kensington following in 1868. The Met’s main competitor, the Metropolitan District Railway, opened its first section from South Ken to Westminster in 1868. The plan was for the two companies to work together to create an Inner Circle service, but their respective directors fell out and the Circle was not completed until 1884.”

How many miles of line is the Underground composed of today? “The first underground started with less than four miles of track and seven stations; today’s system has 250 miles of track, serving 270 stations.”

When were steam trains on the Underground replaced? “Steam trains worked in central London until 1905, but were still used on the furthest reaches of the Met until 1961.”

When did the Underground take on the name ‘Tube’? “The Central London Railway opened with a flat fare of 2d in 1900, and was promoted as the Twopenny Tube – the name caught on, although the Underground has only been referring to itself officially as the Tube since the 1990s.”

Underground1It’s fairly widely known that Underground stations and tunnels were used as air raid shelters during World War II. Do you know of any other different uses they have been put to? “The station at South Kentish Town on the Northern Line closed in 1924, but the surface building, still looking very much like a station is now occupied by a branch of Cash Converters. During the war unfinished tunnels on the Central line were occupied by a secret factory run by Plessey Components. Also during the war, paintings from the Tate Gallery were stored in  a disused part of Piccadilly Circus station for safe keeping.”

Stylish design has always been an important part of the Underground’s appeal. What’s your favourite era stylistically when it comes to the Underground and why? “Most people admire the golden age of the 1920s and 30s when the Underground’s corporate identity and personality reached its peak with Charles Holden’s architecture, the roundel, Harry Beck’s diagrammatic map and the amazing posters issued in that era, but personally I find the earlier period from 1908 to 1920 more interesting. You can trace the roots of each element of today’s brand being developed at this time, under Frank Pick’s critical eye, starting with the early solid-disc station name roundels, the joint promotion of the individual tube railways under the UndergrounD brand and the introduction of Edward Johnston’s typeface. You can see the company gaining confidence and momentum, especially in relation to the increasingly sophisticated posters and promotion that Pick commissioned.”

Can you tell us a bit about how the London Transport Museum is marking the 150th anniversary? “
We started the year by bringing steam back to the Circle line, after restoring an original Metropolitan Railway carriage and overhauling an original Met steam locomotive, and have just opened our fabulous overview of the 150 best Underground posters at the museum in Covent Garden, which runs until October. We are opening our Depot store, near Acton Town station in April for a steam weekend, and have a range of lectures and evening events at Covent Garden linking to the history of the Underground and its poster art heritage. There’s also our comprehensive new history of the Tube published last year and a wide range of new products and souvenirs in our amazing shop.”

Underground3What are some of your favourite Underground-related objects on display at the museum? “The Design for Travel gallery on the ground floor is the literal and metaphorical heart of the Museum for me. Packed with close to 300 objects including signs, posters, models, leaflets and other documents, it’s hard to single out individual items, but I love the simplicity of the small ‘Platform 2’ hanging sign (pictured right) – it’s a real example of the design consistency and attention to detail that I associate with the Underground.”

And lastly, can you tell us a couple of little-known facts about the Underground? History is more than a chronological list of facts, and what one person finds fascinating sends another to sleep, so it’s quite a challenge to choose something that is little known, but genuinely interesting, but I’ll try: I grew up near Brent Cross station so I might be biased, but I reckon that if there was a top trumps for Underground lines, the Northern line would win. It has the longest escalators (at Euston), the deepest lift shaft (at Hampstead), the highest point ve sea level (on a viaduct near Mill Hill East), the longest tunnels (between East Finchley and Morden – 17 miles) and has had more names than any other line – it only became the Northern line in 1937.”

IMAGES: Top: Steam engine at Aldgate (1902); Middle: Platform 2 sign, 1930s design; and Bottom, Angel Underground Station (1990s). © TfL from the London Transport Museum collection. 

Poster Art 150 – London Underground’s Greatest Designs runs at the London Transport Museum until October. Admission charge applies. For more (including the many events around the exhibition), see www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/events/events-calendar#posterart150.

Where is it?…#40

August 10, 2012

The latest in the series in which we ask you to identify where in London this picture was taken and what it’s of. If you think you can identify this picture, leave a comment below. We’ll reveal the answer early next week. Good luck!

Well done to Angelo – this is indeed located outside the Tate Gallery, just to the left of the main entrance. The statue is The Death of Dirce, a work by Sir Charles Lawes-Wittewronges, and was one of a several copies of the same work he made in the early 1900s (this bronze version was made in 1906), including a couple of bronze versions and a colossal marble version. The sculptural group, based on the Hellenistic sculpture known as the Farnese Bull (which is indeed in Naples), depicts Dirce, the wife of the King of Thebes who was tied to the horns of a bull by Amphion and Zethus as a punishment. Sir Charles was something of a noted athlete in a range of sports as well as a sculptor who exhibited 12 works at the Royal Academy. He was also involved in a famous libel case in the 1880s. The statue was presented to what was then the National Gallery of British Art by his widow after his death in 1911.

• A major collection of photographs of London, including works by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank and Irving Penn, has been promised to the Tate Gallery. The collection, which will more than double the Tate’s photographic holdings, was assembled by Eric and Louise Franck over a 20 year period. It comprises around 1,400 photographs taken by 120 photographers between the 1880s and 2000s and is a record of the lives of people living in London. Highlights include Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work, Waiting in Trafalgar Square for the Coronation Parade of King George VI (1937), Bruce Davidson’s Girl with Kitten (1962), Elliot Erwitt’s Bus Stop, London (1962), Robert Frank’s London (Child Running from Hearse) (1951) and Irving Penn’s Charwomen, London (1950). More than two-thirds of the collection is being donated to the Tate Gallery, carrying an estimated value of more than £1 million, while the remaining works will be purchased. A selection from the collection will be exhibited in Another London, opening at the Tate Britain on 27th July. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

• An Afghan schoolbook which uses bullets and Kalashnikovs as counting tools, Operational Service Medals and charm bracelets have been added to the National Army Museum’s Conflicts of Interest gallery. The gallery explores over 40 conflicts in which the British Army has been involved including that in Afghanistan. The illustrated childrens’ textbook dates from the time of the Soviet War in Afghanistan in the 1980s and was found by Captain Daniel Hinxman in 2007. Other artefacts added to the gallery include an Operational Service Medal for Afghanistan awarded to Sapper Dewi Allen for service in 2009-10, a memorial writsband produced by the family of Corporal David Barnsdale after he was killed in an IED attack in 2010 and a ‘lucky charm’ bracelet made by an Afghan for Lance Corporal Jose Cravalho De Matos. For more, see www.nam.ac.uk.

• On Now: Picasso Prints: The Vollard Suite. The British Museum is hosting this exhibition featuring Pablo Picasso’s most celebrated series of etchings, The Vollard Suite – the first time a complete set of the etchings has been shown in a British public institution. The suite consists of 100 etchings produced between 1930 and 1937, at a time when Picasso was involved in an affair with his nurse and muse Marie-Therese Walter. The predominant them of the suite is that of the sculptors studio – the artist was at this stage making sculpture at his new home outside Paris. The etchings, which have no titles and were not assigned an order, will be displayed alongside examples of the type of classical sculpture and objects which inspired the artist as well as Rembrandt etchings, Goya prints and Ingres drawings which also influenced Picasso’s works. The exhibition is being held in Room 90 and runs until 2nd September. Entry is free. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

• On Now: Johan Zoffany RA: Society Observed. This exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts re-evalutes the life and career of the Frankfurt-born artist Zoffany, who moved to London in 1760 where he created portraits and subject pictures which attracted the patronage of the likes of actor David Garrick and courtiers of King George III. The exhibition, arranged into eight sections, features more than 60 oil paintings and a selection of drawings and prints taken from British and international collections, both public and private, with many of the items never before exhibited. Runs until 10th June. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

• A new website has been launched to showcase the UK’s vast national collection of oil paintings. While the website, which is a partnership between the BBC, the Public Catalogue Foundation, and participating collections and museums, currently hosts around 60,000 works, it is envisaged that by the end of 2012 it will carry digitised images of all 200,000 oil paintings in the UK (in an indicator of how many there are, the National Gallery currently has around 2,300 oil paintings, about one hundredth of all those in the nation). The works on the site will eventually include almost 40,000 by British artists. The 850 galleries and organisations participating so far include 11 in London – among them the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Bank of England, the Imperial War Museum and Dr Johnson’s House. For more, see www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/

• Arctic explorer John Rae has had a Blue Plaque unveiled in his honor at his former home in Holland Park. Although his feats were relatively unsung in his lifetime, the explorer’s expeditions in the Canadian Arctic saw him travel 13,000 miles by boat and foot and survey more than 1,700 miles of coastline. He is also credited with having “signposted” the only north-west passage around America that is navigable without icebreakers. Rae, who died in 1893, lived at the property at 4 Lower Addison Gardens in Holland Park for the last 24 years of his life.

Transport For London is calling on Londoners to share experiences of “kindness” that they have witnessed or participated in while travelling on the Underground. Artist Michael Landy has created a series of posters which are calling on people to submit their stories. Some of the stories will then be shown at Central Line stations (the first four posters go up on 23rd July at stations including Hollard Park, Holborn and Liverpool Street). For more, go to www.tfl.gov.uk/art.

On the Olympic front, the City of London Corporation has announced Tower Bridge will be bedecked with a set of giant Olympic Rings and the Paralympic Agitos during the 45 days of next year’s Games. Meanwhile, the Corporation has also unveiled it will host next week the launch of a London-wide campaign to get people involved in sport and activity in the lead-up to the Games. More to come on that.

On Now: Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril Beyond the Moulin Rouge. The Courtauld Gallery, based at Somerset House, is running an exhibition celebrating the “remarkable creative partnership” between Jane Avril, a star of the Moulin Rouge in Paris during the 1890s, and artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Lautrec created a series of posters featuring Avril which ensured she became a symbol of Lautrec’s world of “dancers, cabaret singers, musicians and prostitutes”. Runs until 18th September. See www.courtauld.ac.uk for more.