Tag Archives: Portraits

Canaletto and The Art of Venice at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace

Also with paintings and drawings by his contemporaries

Another fascinating exhibition of paintings and drawings from the Queen’s own collection.

I can take or leave Canaletto’s paintings – they all look too similar to me and too yellow – nothing like the colourful Venice of my memory – but I loved his drawings – especially the early designs for the theatre., where he started his career. His drawings show his great sense of humour as well as his compassion.

 

A view of the Rialto

His paintings and drawings of Venice would have been a must for wealthy Englishmen making their Grand Tour.

Interesting drawings and paintings by his contemporaries included some by Sebastiano and Marco Ricci, Francesco Zuccarelli, Rosalba Carriera, Pietro Longhi and Giovanni Batista Piazzetta.

We have George III to thank for the collection. He bought Joseph Smith’s entire stock for £20,000 in 1762 – some 15,000 books, 500 paintings, drawings etc.

I personally prefer Canaletto’s paintings of London and its surroundings, carried out during his repeated visits to England 1746-1755, but obviously not included in this exhibition.

Giacometti at Tate Modern

The long thin sculptures we associate with Giacometti

Another interesting retrospective of Giacometti’s work, though I preferred the exhibition of his portraits at the National Portrait gallery with lots more paintings and a broader view of his oeuvre. You can’t get very close to his small elongated sculptures and from the distance you are kept from them it’s hard to distinguish one from another

Most of the exhibits were sculptures – a surprising number of lifelike  heads in the multitude in Room 1, as well as some of his signature long thin sculptures. Once again I was frustrated by having the titles of everything so far from the objects.

The enormous double life-size sculptures in the last room were amazing but one of the best things in the exhibition was the film about him, showing the amazing care with which his clay figurines were made – his hands darting rapidly from eyes, to crown and to mouth, modelling with fingers, knives or modelling tools.

The Giacometti posters against a backdrop of the River Thames and St Paul’s

For some reason, the coffee on the exhibition floor is always better than that in the downstairs café and the view from the balcony of the 3rd exhibition floor is stunning.

 

Always lots of merchandising!!

Looking around gallery shops is always a pleasure, though we might buy a couple of things for the grandchildren, rarely for ourselves. We have accumulated too many things!!

 

Ashley Bickerton – Damien Hurst 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!!

America after the Fall, Royal Academy, London

Grant Wood’s iconic American Gothic 1930

Another excellent exhibition at the Royal Academy. The poster shows Grant Wood’s iconic American Gothic. I had never liked this painting that  I’d only seen in reproduction – glanced quickly and thought ‘What a miserable couple!’. In fact it’s of Grant Wood’s dentist and his sister, Nan. The house behind them is owned by the Dibble family. When you look carefully, Nan is quite pretty, with a gorgeous complexion so much better in the original painting.

Not much in the way of Abstract Expressionism, though there had just been a huge exhibition of those works. Just one Georgia O’Keefe – Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses. Grant Wood’s painting of three elderly women – Daughters of Revolution – struck terror – you could imagine them ruling their families and communities with a rod of iron!! There were a few painting reminiscent of German Expressionism – like Philip Evergood’s Dance Marathon and Reginald Marsh’s Twenty Cent Movie. Just one of those sad, evocative Edward Hopper paintings – Gas.

I hadn’t been sure I wanted to visit the exhibition but it was a lovely March day, spring flowers in planters outside many of the shops and the Cherry Trees in blossom and I’m so glad I went out that Sunday.

Not a large exhibition but varied and well worth the visit.

Portrait of the Artist at the Queen’s Gallery Buckingham Palace

Artemesia
Self-portrait of Artemisia Gentileschi

Portrait of the Artist – Another sumptuous exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace. On until April 17th 2017.

Disappointing, to see so few women painters but delighted that this self-portrait of Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1652) was chosen for the poster. A tough woman who overcame rape and forced marriages to become as great a painter as her father.

Connoisseurs
Connoisseurs

 

Love this jokey picture by Sir Edwin Landseer (1803-1873) entitled The Connoisseurs: Portrait of the Artist with Two Dogs – th one on the right thought to be his own collie, Lassie, and the dog on the left is Myrtle, owned by a patron. The idea being that dogs can recognise fine art as competently as humans.

Judith with the head of Holofernes
Judith with the head of Holofernes

 

Surprisingly young and pretty Judith in this painting Judith with the Head of Holoferenes.by Christofano Allori (1577-1621). Her face is modelled on Allori’s ex-lover ‘La Mazzarirra.’

Not sure I’d want to paint my self-portrait as the decapitated Holofernes!!

An interesting comparison with Caravaggio’s ‘Judith Slaying Holofernes’ painted around the same time.

Gothenburg’s Konstmuseum – Museum of Art

'Beggar' by Giacomo Ceruti 1698-1767
‘Beggar’ by Giacomo Ceruti 1698-1767

For us, no visit to a city is complete without going shopping and exploring at least one art museum.

The Konstmuseum at Gothenburg, a stark edifice on the outside, had two exhibitions – Watched – Surveillance, Art and Photography’ an exhibition of photographs that explored the extent to which we are all subject to surveillance and  included a hologram of a woman who spoke greetings in several different languages. and Gränslöst Unbounded. The Eighteenth century Mirrored by the Present, an exhibition giving the modern take on 18th century art.  There are also several floors of their permanent collection of Scandinavian artists and a room of impressionist pictures we were unfamiliar with.

18th Century porcelain
18th Century porcelain
Porcelain figure by Christin-Pontus Anderson
Porcelain figure by Christin-Pontus Anderson

Eighteenth century porcelain amazed us with its detail. I tried to imagine what it would have like working often under poor lighting with a soft material that would flow this way and than and maybe all for a pittance.

There were unsettling modern porcelain figures by Christian-Pontus Andersson, so different from the delicate waif-like ballet dancers of Degas , especially his Little Dancer of Fourteen Years. 

Equally unsettling were the few included photographs including the selfie of the obese Ilu Susiraja, Re-Animate Me by Tobias Bernstrup, and Volcanoes by Frida Fjellman.

Painters’ Paintings at the National Gallery, London

Poster for Painters' paintings showing Lucien Freud and his Corot portrait
Poster for Painters’ paintings showing Lucien Freud and his Corot portrait

Yet another fascinating exhibition at the National Gallery.  This time it’s of paintings collected by other painters.

It’s a large exhibition and by its nature it feels a bit discontinuous but a wonderful opportunity to see paintings from such a wide variety of collections.

Books about the painters represented in the exhibition
Books about the painters represented in the exhibition

And it you want to read further, the National Gallery shop has a mouth-watering collection of books about the painters whose collections and works are on display.

Again it’s a ‘don’t miss’ if you can make it to London!!

 

SCOTTISH ARTISTS AT THE QUEEN’S GALLERY, BUCKINGHAM PALACE (PART 2)

King George III at his coronation September 22nd 1761 by Allan Ramsay
King George III at his coronation September 22nd 1761 by Allan Ramsay

For me, this is the saddest portrait in the exhibition. Allan Ramsay has portrayed the young King George III (1713-1754) in his coronation robes in all his divine glory. His queen, Charlotte, and children are shown in a paired portrait hanging next to it.

Little did anyone at the time know about the dreadful metabolic disease porphyria, that was said to have sent him into bouts of madness – so beautifully shown in the play The Madness of King George, though more recent evidence suggests that his symptoms may indicate that he suffered from mental illness and that there are other explanations for his discoloured urine.

John Pettie's Bonnie Prince Charlie
John Pettie’s Bonnie Prince Charlie

This for me, is the jolliest portrait on show, Bonnie Prince Charlie (Prince Charles Edward Stuart 1720-1788). A handsome young man, in the excellent audio guide provided as part of your ticket, Alexander McCall Smith comments on the fineness of Charlie’s legs and that he would himself prefer to wear his kilt below his knees.

Bonnie he might have been but his attempt on the English and Scottish thrones with the aid of the French was doomed to failure and he spent the rest of his life in exile.

Miniature by Robert Thorburn 1818-1885
Miniature by Robert Thorburn 1818-1885

This is my favourite portrait of Prince Albert even though it’s a miniature painted by Robert Thorburn in watercolour on ivory – no longer an acceptable medium.

Here he looks thoughtful and wistful – not the stern martinet as he is often portrayed.

 

HISTORY OF ART AT THE NATIONAL GALLERY, LONDON

First lecture in Module 3
First lecture in Module 3

I had been to lectures in the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery on upcoming exhibitions but it wasn’t until I looked through their Spring What’s On that I discovered these brilliant lectures on the History of Art. I’d unfortunately missed the first two modules but the first on of this term’s module 3 was fantastic. The tutor, Lucrezia Walker, first pointed out the main differences between the rather static, formal Renaissance art and that of the Baroque period using Bernini’s sculptures as illustrations.

Self-portrait
Caravaggio Self-portrait

She then went on to discuss Caravaggio’s work in depth – his time in Rome, his flight to Naples and then on to Malta only to die while attempting to return to Italy.

I’m not sure what I expected from his self portrait – perhaps more of a bully0boy in keeping with his reputation as a brawler and out-spoken difficult man. I hadn’t realised that at the time some of his works were considered too sacrilegious and that he had to repaint them.

One of his paintings of an appealing young boy with ever so slightly damaged fruit
One of his paintings of an appealing young boy with ever so slightly damaged fruit

 

He certainly admired young boys, whether only as models for him, and painted them as luscious objects. His meticulous baskets of fruit are tongue-in-cheek with evidence of decay and dissolution for the close observer.

 

 

VOGUE100 & RUSSIA AND THE ARTS AT THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY LONDON

Glitzy laughing model
Glitzy laughing Naomi Campbell

Everyone has been raving about the huge Vogue100 exhibition – a pictorial history of Vogue magazine since its birth in 1916. Several of my friends have been twice.

Yes, there are loads of fantastic portraits. though I liked best the long tables of black and white photographs. I particularly liked the hand-drawn and painted covers of the early years.
But the National Portrait Gallery curators elected to do something I really hate – group the  captions to one side of the exhibits so that at times it was hard to tell which description went with which photo.  The detailed descriptions were in a small thin font, difficult to read especially in the rooms where the light had been dimmed. My view is that the title of any artefact is  important, especially if given by the author of the piece, and should be easy to find and read, even if the artist has elected to call the work Untitled .

A quotation from the Vogue of 1938 Primer of Art made my hackles rise:
A lady of quality should be able to walk into any drawing room, to look at the picture over the mantelpiece and to exclaim: “Oh what a charming  Picasso of the early Blue Period”, or “I like your new Follower of Masaccio (circa 1420) immensely.” If she guesses right she is a gentleman and a scholar.”
The cheek!!

Portraits of my favourite authors and other artists
Portraits of my favourite authors and other artists

I loved the Russia and the Arts exhibition – and not only because the titles were underneath each portrait!! Included were portraits of some of my best-loved Russian authors whose books I’d first pored over in my teenage years – Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky – as well as musicians like Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky, painters (mainly unfamiliar to me) and patrons – from the years 1867-1914.

My mother and grandmother were Russian so there was probably a bond there.
Memoir extract from The Girl with a Threepenny Birth Certificate

My grandmother was a tall, commanding woman with dark hair piled on top of her head. As a deeply orthodox Jewish woman it would have been a sheitel, a wig. I always went to bed before she did and I never saw her without it. I loved her and looked forward to curling up against her warm back in the big double bed we shared. Continue reading VOGUE100 & RUSSIA AND THE ARTS AT THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY LONDON