‘Fashioned from Nature’ is another large and fascinating exhibition at the V&A Museum in the Fashion Section.
On the ground floor there are numerous examples of the many creatures that we have made almost, if not entirely, extinct in order to obtain their skin, feathers, skeletons or whalebones for hats, dresses, muffs, shoes and cloaks.
On the upper floor examples of clothes made from man-made materials often using toxic materials resulting in the loss of human life.
Thank you for all those who have been coming to my talks about my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ at libraries in and around Westminster and those who have written such kind reviews on Amazon.
My unique memoir is the story of a woman pathologist brought up in a cold-water tenement in London’s East End and who has also been a Harley Street dentist, an entrepreneur (co-owner of Conran-group designed educational toyshops), the director of a Cancer Research laboratory at a major London teaching hospital, as well as a wife and mother of four children.
Our elder son, Simon, and his wife came to tea on their way to a party and I’m always glad of an excuse to bake a cake.
This fruit cake is one of my favourites. I always toss the fruit in a little of the flour so it doesn’t all sink to the bottom but is evenly distributed through the cake.
We’d been having a bit of a smashing time lately – sorting out the mugs chipped in the dishwasher and we’re always looking out for new designs. I found this one in the V&A gift shop when I last visited . The design is adapted from one of William de Morgan’s.
We have a full Thomas white china tea service but we’ve stopped getting it out even for our poshest visitors!!
Joseph Lockwood Kipling (1837-1911) was the more famous Rudyard Kipling’s father. He was Principal of the mayo School of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan (present day National College of Arts) and also became curator of the original Lahore Museum.
He was an artist, teacher, influential figure in the Arts and Crafts movement and campaigner for the preservation of Indian crafts. Besides the many Indian artefacts, photographs and videos of India and Pakistan, there is a wide variety of his drawings and paintings including his delightful humorous caricatures and the ABC book he made for his children, as well as some of his illustration for his son’s stories.
He is eclipsed by his more famous son, Rudyard, but certainly deserves to be better known.
Trying to decide on which further education classes to enrol on for the New Year I saw that there were several courses of gallery visits at major London Museums and Galleries. Now funding has been cut for Further Education these courses are now expensive so I decided to investigate the free tours, starting with the V&A. the purchase of the land for which was funded by the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Once again the tour guide took as to rooms I had either not visited or just passed though. I had no idea there was such a vast collection of ceramics or that the galleries showed their development over the ages with so many excellent examples.
The members have a free tour every fourth Thursday of the month. The last one was excellent as usual. Led by Mandy, this one was in yet another gallery I had never visited – the British Gallery. It’s not my taste, but you have to admire the workmanship in this mirror and table.
The mirror doesn’t have a crack two thirds of the way up. The craftsmen here couldn’t yet float the entire mirror in one piece.
In earlier times, it was quite common to hire just part of a bed for the night.
One night eight butchers and their wives hired this huge four-poster – the Big Bed of Ware – and carved 16 notches in the side rail as a memento.
The fascinating Theatre Museum within the V&A is yet another gallery I had never visited until the members’ tour. They even have the complete contents of Kylie Minogue’s dressing room!
The brilliant lighting makes the costumes glow. The figures in my photo are of the two sinister Lords of the Waves from Kate Bush’s stage show ‘Before the Dawn’ at the Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith in 2014 – her first stage show for 35 years.
On the member’s tour we crossed the walkway overlooking the Cast Court. I had been in there many times but hadn’t known the name of that gallery nor that all the sculptures were all copies.
The 6 metre tall copy of Michelangelo’s David was presented to Queen Victoria by the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1857 and immediately shipped off to what was then the South Kensington Museum. To protect the sensitivities of lady visitors a 50cm plaster fig leaf was commissioned and suspended over the offending parts from two hooks. In more broad-minded times the fig leaf on this and other statues were removed but the original cover-up is kept in the box affixed to the back of the plinth, just visible on the right.
Extract from my memoir Woman in a White Coat After I retired, I signed up for lots of classes, some at one Further Education college and some at another – painting, drawing, cooking, history of art, Spanish, creative writing, pottery, dressmaking – everything I hadn’t had time for when I was working. It wasn’t just that I hadn’t had the time, I hadn’t had the desire. My mind was always so full of work. Even when I was at the theatre, I would find myself thinking about a difficult diagnosis or a hiccup in our research.
I enjoyed the freedom of doing things that weren’t important, things that weren’t a matter of life and death.
‘It’s wonderful,’ I said to my art teacher. ‘Nothing I do now is critical. If my drawing of the model looks like a human being, great. If not, at least I produced something. If my new cookery dishes taste good or if I can’t eat them and have to throw them out, if I manage to remember whether Rubens came first or Constable, it just doesn’t matter. You can’t imagine the relief and feeling of freedom. My life is no longer constantly punctuated by drama, by death, by irrevocable mistakes – where every word I put in a report is crucial. It would have been devastating if what I said in my report was misinterpreted by the surgeons and the wrong treatment given.’
I go to the V&A exhibitions often enough to be worth becoming a Friend. We always go early – as soon as it opens as 10am so we saw the fabulous Alexander McQueen exhibition when it was relatively uncrowded. It’s been so popular that the V&A is going to open for 24 hours on the final weekend.
The Victoria and Albert museum was established in 1952 after the Great Exhibition of 1851. Its aim ‘was to make works of art available to all, to educate working people and to inspire British designers and manufacturers. Profits from the Exhibition were used to establish The Museum of Manufactures, as it was initially known, and exhibits were purchased to form the basis of its collections.’
In 1857 it was renamed The South Kensington Museum. Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone of the present building in 1899 and it was renamed The Victoria and Albert Museum