Category Archives: Museum

Matisse in the Studio at the Royal Academy, London

Matisse in the Studio exhibition open until November 12th 2017

Aren’t we Londoners lucky? Just one great exhibition after another.

I liked best the photographs of Matisse (1869-1954)  in his studio surrounded by the myriads of objects he had collected over a long life time.  Of the original objects on display I most liked the Moroccan table and the little ivory figurines from Africa. The enormous African masks were intriguing and terrifying.

Matisse surrounded by his collected objects
Set of Matisse drawings

I have mixed feelings about his paintings but I love his drawings. The shop had a collection of reproductions on sale – at £198 a bit outside my price range!!

Goodies in the Royal Academy shop


Lots of theme based artefacts in  the Royal Academy Shop  including jugs and cups based on Matisse’s collection.



Ashley Bickerton – Damien Hirst does it again


Orange Shark (2008)

Ashley Bickerton’s Ornamental Hysteria is another brilliant exhibition in Damien Hurst’s gallery in Newport Street. Like the previous exhibition of his own Jeff Koons artefacts, the exhibition extends over two floors.

Born in Barbados in 1959, he has moved around the world ending up in New York in 1982.

Flower Pot (2009)

It’s hard to choose which of his work I liked best. This sculpture of colourful flowers growing out of skulls is certainly high on my list. The texture and colour of the stone container are gorgeous. The painting behind is Red Scooter (2009) a joyous vision of a family and their dog riding a red scooter on the beach.

Canoe, shark, woman (2016)

Love this sculpture of a woman balancing on a pile of coconuts and holding another hammer-head shark .

The serene painting on the wall behind is K.T._K.T (2015).

I must go again!!

The Pharmacy Café at Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery

Pills and potions
Pills and potions

Most of the first floor of Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery is given over to his Pharmacy Café.
At the far end there are white shelves bearing serried ranks of boxes and tubes of medical drugs – a version of his Pharmacy  installation which toured the galleries.  I find it far less interesting than the Pharmacy department at my local Boots the Chemist.

Barista SArt
Barista Art

My Latte was fine. it even had a little homunculus made by the barista, but my blueberry muffin was so full of sugar neither of us could eat it.

Most people seemed to have come in for a greasy fry-up for late breakfast.


Pharmacy at the Castle of Heidelberg
Pharmacy at the Castle of Heidelberg

But if you want to see a selection of fabulous old pharmacies you need to go to the Pharmacy Museum in the Castle of Heidelberg that  we visited during a Rhine River Cruise.

Incredible workmanship
Incredible workmanship


These are not just MDF shelves filled with loot from a local chemist. These are lovingly created hand-crafted shelves and drawers containing individually created medicaments – which may have been, but often were not,  efficacious.


My visit February 21st
My visit February 21st
Some of the artists who were influenced by Delacroix
Some of the artists who were influenced by Delacroix

We found that attending curators’ lectures at the British Museum before going to the exhibitions made them much more interesting  so. before visiting the show at the National Gallery on Delacroix (1798-1863),  I went to the fascinating talk  by the co-curator of the show, Patrick Noon of the Minneapolis Institute of Art.


Some of the artists who were influenced by Delacroix included Degas, Cezanne, Renoir, Redon, Van Gogh and Gaugin (who took many reproductions of Delacroix’s work with him to the South Seas.)

Delacroix's self-portrait and my favourite painting by him of Baron Scwiter-
Delacroix’s self-portrait and my favourite painting by him of Baron Scwiter-

My favourite works by Delacroix himself  are his self-portrait and the ‘swagger portrait’ of Baron Schwiter which would have influenced Sargent. However, I much preferred the paintings in the exhibition by the artists he influenced.

Homage to Delacroix 1964
Homage to Delacroix 1864

His disciples mourned the fact that as Delacroix died in August 1953, when Paris had emptied for the summer, few attended his funeral. Henri Fantin-Latour painted a group portrait of them surrounding a copy of Delacroix’s self-portrait. They were: Delacroiz 5









The Great Court opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000
The Great Court opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000

Not free, but very good value at £12, the British Museum runs 90 minute Highlight Tours of some of the most well-known of its millions of artefacts from all over the world including the Rosetta Stone, the Lewis Chessmen, the enormous Easter Island basalt statue known as Hoa Hakanai’a, the fabulous human-headed winged bulls from Assyria and much more.

Kind Ramesses II about 1279-1213 BC
Kind Ramesses II about 1279-1213 BC

For me, the British Museum has above all been about the wonderful sculptures and wall paintings from ancient Egypt – though as a child the mummies in their sarcophagi used to terrify me. The Pharaohs may have been cruel and incestuous and probably quite ugly to boot,  but their statues and masks  speak of a transcendent serenity.

Artist and Empire at Tate Britain, London

Ruxshir, Potter of Agra 100 years old
Ruxshir, Potter of Agra 100 years old

What a fantastic, shaming, inspiring, huge exhibition.  So much to read; so much to think about.

At school in the 1940s and 50s, we had a pageant every Empire Day, May 24th – Queen Victoria’s Birthday. We celebrated the amount of pink colouring on our map of the world showing which countries or states were under British Rule, and we repeated that The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire. The prettiest girl would be Britannia, symbol of British values, complete with Neptune’s trident, lion and British Union Jack flag, while the rest of us would be dressed in various ‘native’ costumes and sing Rule Britannia  confirming that Britain rules the waves (hence the trident) and that we never never shall be slaves – though we did jolly well out of the slave trade in its heyday. Rebadged in1958 as Commonwealth DayEmpire Day was changed in 1977 to the second Monday in March.

The iconic portrait by the Austin artist Rodolf Swoboda shown in the Tate Britain poster was one of three portraits commissioned by Queen Victoria.  Though exhibited at the Indian and Colonial Exhibition in London in 1886 as ‘Genuine Artists’,  they are of prisoners in Agra gaol who were being rehabilitated by training in a variety of handicrafts. Ramlal, a 9-year old boy, (and what crime could a 9-year old have committed?) was a carpet weaver while Mohammed Hosein was a 26-year old coppersmith.

Paintings, photographs, cartoons, banners, sculptures, Benin bronzes and wood carvings – a lot to take in during one visit.

Free tours at London’s Museums – the V&A

Decoration at the entrance for Diwali and Christmas
Decoration at the entrance for Diwali and Christmas

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.

Victoria and Albert at the Great Exhibition of 1853
Victoria and Albert at the Great Exhibition of 1853

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.

Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy

Outside the Royal Academy Piccadilly
Outside the Royal Academy, Piccadilly
Wonder what Joshua Reynold 1723-1792, First President of the Royal Academy would have n=made of Ai Weiwei's Tree
Wonder what Joshua Reynolds, 1723-1792, First President of the Royal Academy, would have made of Ai Weiwei’s Tree – tree limbs bolted together to make artificial trees. Art? Never!!

I was underwhelmed by Ai Weiwei’s installation Sunflower Seeds at Tate Modern in 2011 . I felt that the craftsmen individually making porcelain Sunflower Seeds were doing something nature did every Autumn, and that they would have been better employed doing good deeds, helping the underclass – if that is possible in a tightly controlled China.
But this exhibition at the Royal Academy is quite different – overwhelming, mind-blowing, fabulous, Must-Go!! It is hard to choose what to illustrate – the moving videos showing the Chinese overlords at their most destructive, the chandelier of glass suspended from bicycle frames, the fabulous cubes of glass or beautifully crafted wood or his iconoclastic painting of ancient pots.

Porcelain pushchair in a porcelain field of grass
Porcelain pushchair in a porcelain field of grass

There was something so forlorn about the empty white porcelain push-chair amongst the fragile grey and white porcelain grass. Were the lookers-on about to trample the delicate leaves? Was the child lost for ever? Perhaps a little girl in a society where only boy children are valued?

The World Goes Pop at Tate Modern

The Exhibitions Poster
The Exhibitions Poster

I was expecting Lichtenstein, Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol but this exhibition at Tate Modern was an by artists I mainly didn’t know – very much an exhibition of rebellion and subversion with some very moving pieces and some I felt were just daft.

Adam Cruzvillegas' Hyundai Commission Empty Lot
Adam Cruzvillegas’ Hyundai Commission Empty Lot




There’s something very exciting about installations under construction. Only the far half of Cruzvellegas’ Empty Lot was in place. Not having a head for heights, the gap in the centre for access made me feel dizzy just to look at it.

I wonder whether they will leave the exciting unfinished half as is.

Platforms and scaffolding at the other end