Category Archives: Art


Portrait of Franz Wouters 1645

It’s fantastic finally to have Art Galleries and Museums opening again in London  – though you do have to book just to visit, as well as having to book for the wonderful exhibitions now on.

I’ve been attending an excellent Further Education course of Forgeries and Fakes on Zoom, as well as a talk on the same subject by Dr David Bellingham, Programme Director at Sotheby’s Institute of Art. He spoke about the many copies made of paintings by Franz Hals (1582-1666) because his work was so popular and mentioned the exhibition of his male portraits at the Wallace Collection, in Manchester Square.

The Wallace Collection is one of my favourite galleries – I always very much enjoyed the Sunday morning tours by curators who made even porcelain snuff boxes interesting.

It’s a small exhibition of his male portraits including the famous ‘Laughing Cavalier’. The curator assured me that the paintings on show were all bona fide and not copies.

I’ll have to remember to read the labels of paintings in future and see if they say by xxx or from the School of ….

The ‘Laughing Cavalier’ painted in 1624, is always fun to see – you feel he is smiling at you personally. But what I found most interesting was that his painting of François Wouters, painted in 1645, with his plain collar and cuffs just peeping out of his cloak, looks impressionistic and so modern. The others, with their elaborate lace collars, are very much in the precise detailed style we’ve come to  associate with his work.

Many thanks to all of you who wished me Many Happy Returns on October 8th – my 90th birthday –  and wrote saying you were enjoying my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’.

Read more of my stories in my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free. ‘Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

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Woman in a White Coat



Has also been entitled ‘Man in an Exotic Costume’

It’s almost worth going to see the latest exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery, Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace, just to see Rembrandt’s A Rabbi with a Cap. Dated 1635, this fascinating painting was acquired by King George III in 1762, as part of the fabulous collection of Joseph Smith, British Consul in Venice.

I don’t know who gave the portrait this title but, of course, it is a sort of tautology. All male Jews are required to wear a head covering and no rabbi would be seen without a cap. Elsewhere it is entitled Man in an Exotic Costume.

If you look closely, you can see that the rabbi is wearing a jewelled breast plate suspended by a chain around his neck. This is reminiscent of the breast plate (Hoshen) which, according to the book of Exodus, was worn by the High Priest in the Temple. Embedded in those breast plates would have been 12 different precious or semi-precious stones labelled with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. In the Talmud, the wearing of the Hoshen is said to atone for the sin of errors in judgment on the part of the Children of Israel.

The portrait is painted on the rare hardwood, Cordia, named in honour of the German botanist and pharmacist, Valerius Cordus (1515-1544). The wood was an early export, coming from Mexico and Central/South America.

There has been doubt at times about whether the portrait was painted by Rembrandt, who lived in or near the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam, but presently it is attributed to him and the signature is considered to be original.

And thanks to all those generous people who put otherwise hard to find information on the Web, often in advertisement -free sites so they get no financial reward – only the glow from doing good!!

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free.

Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Woman in a White Coat



The entrance to the Queen’s Gallery

How wonderful to be able to visit Art Galleries and Museums again! Living as we do in Central London, in pre-Covid times we would have visited a gallery or museum at least once a month. Since Covid, our visit to the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, for the exhibition Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace is our first gallery visit in person for a year.

Attending a range of Art History Classes online and seeing exhibitions on a PC has been invaluable, but of course it’s not the same. Yes, you can zoom in on specific features on your computer, but there’s nothing like seeing the actual masterpieces like those on display in this present exhibition.

I would have liked to have seen more of my favourites – Rembrandt and Vermeer – but there was plenty to enjoy in the mixture of Rembrandt, Canaletto, Vermeer, Rubens and Titian, with just a few duds.

One of the great things about all the exhibitions in the Queen’s Gallery, is that all the paintings and other artifacts are in immaculate condition – or as good condition as several centuries will allow. The exhibitions there are always well curated, with easy to read, clear information, next to each picture. I’ve given up using the audio guide as I like to take pictures – allowed without flash – and I don’t have enough hands to listen and focus my camera at the same time.

We had to check in either with the NHS app or our completed tickets. You can get your tickets stamped to give you access to all the exhibitions at the Queen’s Gallery for a calendar year, which is a very good deal for those of us who live in London or visit London or the other palaces regularly.

We were lucky. The wretched rainy weather we have had recently cleared during the time we queued to enter – keeping our social distancing – and until we got back to the car. The skies opened again as soon as we got home and so we didn’t go out again.

Notices about Covid, Social Distancing and Directions to walk were everywhere – and Masks, of course. And which of us finished first could no longer sit on the bench by the entrance. A twisted cord stretched from arm to arm.

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free.

Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Woman in a White Coat



The Art History tutor at our Further Education college is absolutely  brilliant. I reckon he could make a lecture on any subject fascinating, whether on the depiction of pigs’ tails or of pigtails. I even persuaded my son-in-law, who lives in the Basque Country, to sign up for my present course ‘The power and influence of German Art from Early Medieval to Early Modern and Beyond’ – one of the of the benefits of the Internet and Zoom.

The course begins in Medieval times. Being Jewish, I don’t recognise all of the symbols of the many Christian saints and I find the images of jeering Jews with long noses by the Cross offensive. After all, Jesus’s family was Jewish as were His first disciples. But I can appreciate the anguish portrayed and the beauty and brilliant colour of the images.

From the time of the Reformation and the destruction of art works in Protestant churches, non-religious, non-history paintings found a ready market. From then on, the art works become more to my taste, though I can appreciate the mythical works painted during the Renaissance.

Still, for me, classes are just not the same on Zoom – sitting in my living room in a carefully ironed shirt, but wearing slippers and pyjama bottoms. Our tutor’s in-person Art History classes were always full, and I miss the buzz of conversation as we students caught up with each other, the hush as he began and our occasional giggles. I even miss the indifferent coffee in the canteen at our coffee break, as well as the wicked pain au raisin I could never resist.

I’ve downloaded ‘Smartify’  and ‘ArtPassport’ and I’ve bookmarked several other sites. I have also saved a load of emails about current exhibitions. They’re great, but I so miss visiting art galleries in person.

Now that Josh and I have been vaccinated, it is safer for us to go to art galleries wearing our N95 masks and keeping our distance, but of course just now they are all closed. Maybe by the Spring??

And thanks to all you lovely people who wrote to say you enjoyed reading my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’. There’s something very special about hearing that I’ve given pleasure with something I’ve written.

Woman in a White Coat

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free.

Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version on Amazon and £9.99 in paperback.


Tate Britain on Millbank, London

‘THANK YOU KEYWORKERS’ and ‘SEE YOU ALL SOON’ banners have been put up, with the small white ‘TATE BRITAIN IS CLOSED’ board by the front door ready to be removed. The black and white banner advertising the Beardsley exhibition is on the right.

It’s great that London art galleries are starting to open, though I’m not sure we’ll be brave enough to visit them and risk there being large crowds, even if the galleries themselves are set up to regard social distancing.

As well as Steve McQueen Year 3, described as one of the most ambitious portraits of children ever undertaken in the UK, Tate Britain will continue to show the Aubrey Beardsley exhibition which opened on March 4th. Then lockdown was imposed and the gallery closed on March 17th. However, on March 30th BBC4 showed an excellent program by Mark Gatiss about Beardsley, still available on iPlayer.

I knew Aubrey Beardsley’s work from his illustrations of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books. I can visualise the tall bookcases in the children’s section of Whitechapel Library where his books lived. I was always small for my age and had to get a librarian to hand me one down. I assume the publisher didn’t use any of his more risqué drawings, but while they were a bit frightening, I loved them.

Since Tate Britain closed, we have been going there for our Sunday walks. It is always very peaceful – the occasional jogger, a few couples with a baby in a pushchair and a little Chinese grandfather we meet every week. He leads his toddler grandson up the stairs, round the side and down again; gives us a quick smile and walks on.

Our younger son has cycled over to meet us on a couple of Sundays. When I was taking a series of Art History classes in galleries, I bought a folding stool which was much lighter than those provided by the galleries. We took it with us so we could sit on the bench at the side of the stairs and Bernard could sit on the stool the required 2m away.

After July 27th we’ll have to change where we take our weekly exercise. Hopefully, the gallery will be very busy and it might be difficult for us to keep our distance outside.

Lots more stories like this in my memoir ‘Woman in White Coat’. Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

Woman in a White Coat



A view of the steps, so useful for exercise, and the bench where we rest in the sun after our walk.

Being very much older than 70 and having an impressive medical history, I am designated as vulnerable and have to be confined for 16 weeks. I can set my inexpensive Lescom Sports Watch not only to time my exercise but to calculate the distance I travel and the calories I use. It certainly makes me realise how much exercise I need to do to work off one of my favourite chocolate digestive biscuits or a few peanuts!!

Our flat is arranged around a corridor – about 15 of my short steps – and I try to do at least 10 minutes of exercise a day, including pacing up and down it and touching my toes umpteen times. I do a mixture of exercises from the NHS website   some from the class that ran at my GP surgery and some given me by the various physiotherapists who tried to deal with my painful hip following a fracture and hip replacement. The NHS recommends at least 150 minutes exercise a week but I don’t manage two sessions every day, but apparently even 10 minutes of exercise a day is better than nothing.

Josh and I go for a walk every weekend along the Thames Embankment, often resting on a bench outside Tate Britain. We leave the steps clear for exercisers – cheering them on and exhorting them to go up and down 100 times. So far no-one has done more than ten times. This Sunday an old Chinese grandfather guided a pretty little toddler up and down and round the corner.

We live on the 9th floor with a balcony, so the lovely weather we’ve had recently has allowed me to get a bit of a tan. Unfortunately, I’ve finished all 13 of my library books so I’m now reading on my Kindle –books from Kindle itself and some from our free local Cloud Library.

When I bought my Kindle Fire I also got a matte screen to apply so I can even read in bright sunshine. It’s a great device, but I think I’ll always prefer real paper books.

Excellent NHS exercise website

Lots more stories like this in my memoir ‘‘Woman in White Coat’. Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

Woman in a White Coat


‘Les Femmes d’Alger’ after Delacroix (Oil on canvas 1955)

I remember when after WW2 ended, we first saw Picasso’s Cubist portraits with noses and eyes going every which way.

‘My two-year old could do better than that,’ was a common response at the time.

We hadn’t released that his was an intentional interpretation of reality and not lack of ability.

I retired at 60, but Josh went on working until he was 65, so I took some short trips on my own to visit Louise and her family in San Sebastian. On one of them, she and Mark took me to the rebuilt town of Guernica, where there was an exhibition about Picasso’s painting ‘Guernica’, in memory of the bombing by Nazi warplanes at the beginning of the Spanish civil war. Not until after the death of the fascist dictator, Franco, did Picasso allow his original painting to come back to Spain. It is now housed permanently in the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid.

There was a large reproduction of ‘Guernica’, and on either side copies of Picasso’s working drawings. That’s when I realised for the first time what an incredible draftsman he was. There were drawings of feet and heads – and of course his beloved bulls – all drawn in exquisite detail, before being converted into the distorted figures of his final work.

The present exhibition of Picasso’s work at the Royal Academy ‘Picasso on Paper’ is huge. There are works from all of his various periods. As well as his works on and with paper, there are a few oil paintings, sculptures and three dimensional collages. A veritable feast that needs more than one visit.

It was with great relief that we discovered the little bistro-type café set up at the back of the Royal Academy shop, complete with paper tablecloths and coloured pencils so you can imitate Picasso’s habit of drawing on anything and everything. And good strong coffee and crispy croissants.

It’s a must if you can visit London.

On Sunday February 9th on BBC4 you can watch at 9pm ‘The Many Faces of Picasso’ and at 10pm ‘Picasso’s Last Stand.’ Or on iPlayer

I thank all the lovely people who wrote and commented on my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat.’

‘Woman in White Coat – the memoir of girl growing up the East End making good.

Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

Fantastic Frank Bowling at Tate Britain, London

Traingone (Mahaicony Abary, Guyana)

I hadn’t heard of Frank Bowling  until I saw the program ‘What do artists do all day‘ on BBC which featured him and his work.

The big queues at Tate Britain at the moment  are for Van Gogh in Britain  but upstairs you can find Frank Bowling’s exciting exhibition.

I quite liked his earlier more representational art, but it is his  heavily textured abstract paintings that are so amazing. As you gaze at them you are drawn into some faraway place.

Art exhibitions always tempt me to take up drawing and painting again but what with Classical Greek, the Piano  and Writing the sequel ’25 Houses’ to my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’   I just haven’t found the time.

Perhaps next week!!

Dorothy Tanning Tate Modern London

One of Tanning’s Surrealist paintings

Dorothy Tanning ‘s Surrealist paintings (1910-2012) are very reminiscent of those of one of my favourite painters, Leonora Carrington (1917-2011), her contemporary and also a lover of Max Ernst (1891- 1976), a Dadaist and Surrealist who had left his wife for Dorothy Tanning.

Although I liked several of her surrealist paintings, I much preferred her later paintings, many from her stay at Sedonia, Arizona with Max Ernst – her abstracted ‘prismatic’ style. She wanted her pictures discovered slowly – ‘pictures that would shimmer and that you would discover something new every time you looked at them.’

Avalon (1987). begun in 1984

One of my favourites is ‘Avalon’ – painted over 3 years from 1984-1987 . It  is typical of her abstracted paintings, with parts of bodies and objects emerging from flower-like bursts of white and green.

I found her soft sculptures interesting though not particularly moving. The video at the end of the exhibition is excellent. Highly recommended.

Every time I go to an exhibition I think about taking up painting again – one of the many classes I took at Morley College and CityLit after I retired.

Read about my adventures at Further Education colleges in my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat.’

Buy Woman in a White Coat on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99


250th Summer Exhibition Royal Academy, London. Reading #3 My Art Class from ‘Woman in a White Coat’

What a brilliant idea!!

What a brilliant idea – having Grayson Perry curate this important 250th Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy.


Royal Valkyrie by Joana Vasconcelos



The brilliant mixed media sculpture by Joana Vasconcelos greets you as you enter. And I loved the Architecture Room.


The Architecture Room


Often I’ve felt overwhelmed at the Summer Exhibitions by the crowds and the works massed together higgledy-piggledy, but this year the exhibition is themed and great. It’s absolutely a ‘MUST GO’.

This fabulous exhibition  made me feel I ought to get out my paints and pastels and start painting and drawing again. After I retired in 1991 I went to a wide variety of classes including drawing and painting.

Hear about the Art Class at the Mary Ward Centre in Queen Square I attended after I retired in 1991 in this excerpt from my memoir Woman in a White Coat’  – Chapter 26 pp 355-356 and pp 361-363

Woman in a White Coat’  is available on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

Chapter 26 Woman in a White Coat

I enrolled 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, machine knitting, felt making – 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 inclination. 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.

Continue reading 250th Summer Exhibition Royal Academy, London. Reading #3 My Art Class from ‘Woman in a White Coat’