Tag Archives: Portraits

Charles II: Art and Power, Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace

Charles II with his symbols of power

Charles II: Art and Power – another fascinating exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, more interesting for it’s historical significance than the paintings. After his execution in 1649 most of Charles I’s art collection and other valuables were given away or sold by Oliver Cromwell and his party and few of value were returned.

The Collar Charles II (1630-1685) wears in this painting by John Michael Wright (1617-1694) shows that he is a member of the order of the garter; the Orb represents Christ’s Authority over the world and symbolises that he has been chosen by God to rule; the Parliamentary Robes which are made of crimson velvet with an ermine fur cape and gold lace decorations, represent Charles II’s role as head of state.

Charles II was determined to make his reign as different from that of the Puritans as possible commissioning a variety of valuable artefacts and numerous prints and paintings of himself.

Ornate gold Plate

This rather vulgar set of gold plate is typical of his commissions.

He also commissioned paintings and prints of his numerous mistresses including this delightful print of Nell Gwynn as Venus.

A print of Nell Gwyn as Venus

The print was adapted from a painting by Correggio which had been in the collection of Charles I. There are numerous paintings of his many other mistresses – I lost count of how many illegitimate children he fathered – as well as of his wife, the unpopular catholic Catherine of Braganza

In spite of his decree that all off Charles I’s paintings be returned, in fact very few were given back to the throne, mainly from the English.

Starting January 27th 2018 a blockbuster exhibition of Charles I’s paintings collected from the other beneficiaries of Cromwell’s distribution opens at the Royal Academy, London – ‘Charles I: King and Collector.

Read about my attempt at becoming a fine artist in my memoir Woman in a White Coat

Modigliani at Tate Modern, London

At Tate Modern until April 2nd 2018

Modigliani (1884-1920)  another blockbuster exhibition at Tate Modern with difficult-to-read text. In my view, if a painter chooses to give his/her painting a title, the viewer should be able to find it easily. All round this otherwise superb exhibition there were people peering at the almost unreadable text, hardly different in colour from the background. Why can’t the Tate take a leaf from the Courtauld and other galleries that actually care about their visitors?

Great selection of prints to buy

What a great time to live in Paris at the turn of the 20th century!! Not only Italian born Modigliani but his friends Soutine, Picasso and Brancusi amongst others. Diego Rivera even stayed with him for a time.

And if you’re not into Art – have a swing instead!!

‘ONE, TWO, THREE, SWING!’. SUPERFLEX Hyundai commission in the Turbine Hall and in the grounds outside. Have a swing if you’ve had enough of looking at ART.

 

Monochrome at the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London

Monochrome was one of those exhibitions at the National Gallery that  I booked for more out of a sense of duty. How wrong I was!! it was fantastic. It was amazing that drawings and paintings looked so much more 3D in black and white than in colour.

‘La Grande Odalisque’ in black and white. The pillars are in the glaring yellow colour of the last room of the exhibition

Ingres’s  (1780-1867) La Grande Odalisque was so much more sensual and fleshy in monochrome than in colour. You have to go to the exhibition and see Ingres’s own black and white version to see just what I mean.

Ingres’s La Grande Odalisque in colour

The  paintings and drawings of stone sculptures were so life-like you could imagine that seen by candlelight without bright daylight or electricity viewers would believe they were real. Some incredible trompe l’oeil. A must see.

Image of a young girl painted to look like a photograph

 

Once photography became commonplace, some artists regarded it as an enemy. Others like the author of this delightful portrait of a young girl meant his work  to be like a photograph. Artists were told to Imitate,  Rival or Challenge.

My only caveat. The last room deigned by Olaf Eliasson  was lit entirely in very bright yellow – ostensibly to make it easier to see details. But I ended up with flickering lights behind my left eye for ages. I think there should have been a warning and the possibility of missing that room – though I couldn’t have known it would affect me so adversely.

Chaïm Soutine’s Portraits at the Courtauld Gallery, London

Scrumptious cakes and my favourite Fruit Scones

I always enjoy exhibitions at the Courtauld Gallery – and tea or coffee in the café in the basement afterwards.

 

 

The exhibition leads out of the rooms housing the Courtauld galleries own interesting collection of mainly Impressionist paintings

Chaïm Soutine’s portraits of Cooks, Waiters and Bellboys is a delightful study of men and a couple of women who serve us in restaurants and hotels. They show varying degrees of boredom, insolence and occasional pleasure as they stare out at us from his brightly coloured paintings.

Not a large exhibition – only two rooms compared with the much larger exhibition of Cezanne’s portraits at the National Portrait gallery,  but I much preferred it.

Girl in a White Blouse (around 1923) from their permanent collection

Though not as well known as some of his friends and colleagues, the Russian – French Expressionist painter,  Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943) was one of the leading painters in Paris in the 1920s.

Soutine was born Chaïm Sutin, the tenth child of eleven children of Jewish parentage in Lithuania in 1893. He studied art at the Vilna Academy of Fine Arts, moving to Paris in 1913 where he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts. A close friend of Modigliani, he lived in poverty for many years until he caught the attention of major collectors such as the American Albert Barnes.

I’m delighted with the response to my memoir Woman in a White Coat and the very complimentary reviews on Amazon. Thank you all.

Cézanne Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, London

At the National Portrait Gallery until February 11th 2018

An interesting exhibition of Cézanne Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, though the best thing was that our daughter Jane, here for the weekend from Switzerland with her partner, was with us. And the coffee and scones in the basement café were good – certainly improved on the last time we had mid-morning snacks in the basement café.

Born in Aix-en-Provence in 1839, Cézanne enrolled in law school to please his father but left for Paris and a career in art in 1861. He was much influenced by Pisarro but developed a style of his own. His work was exhibited in the first exhibition of the Salon de Refusés in 1863.

One of my favorite Cézanne paintings

I like his work but was disappointed by his portraits except those of the ‘ordinary’ people’ in the last two rooms of the exhibition. I know he said he didn’t want to obey the stereotypes of pretty simpering women and tough handsome men, but except for the portrait of Mme Cézanne sewing I thought his many portraits of his wife too bland and expressionless and the few men too alike.

His Boy in a Red Waistcoat 1888-1890 – a portrait of the professional model Michelangelo de Rosa  and one of my favourite Cézanne paintings – has been used on the cover of the catalogue and there are prints on the wall of the downstairs café showing some of his more familiar and popular paintings.

A Great Weekend in Oslo, Norway, and a Visit to The Astrup Fearnley Museum

The Asstrup Fearnley Modern Art Museum

Loved our trip to the Astrup Fearnley  Modern Art Museum on the bay. Couldn’t understand why the collector bothered with so many of Damien Hirst’s half animals in formalin. When there was a scandal about keeping children’s brains I turned out my mounted specimens of cancers but I thought of offering the museum the head of my fractured right femur. I still have it in a jar in my bathroom cabinet – much more interesting and educational that half a cow.

Oslo harbour

Lovely view of the harbour complete with two-masted sailing vessel. Just not enough time to go across to the Viking museum.

Cindy Sherman as demure lady

 

 

I very much liked their collection of Cindy Sherman’s photographs. Amazing what she can turn herself into.

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Untitiled #152

 

 

Hard to realise that this painting Untitled #152 of what apprears to be a bald man is also her.

Michael Jackson and Bubbles 1988

We both liked Jeff Koons’  porcelain Michael Jackson and Bubbles, his chimpanzee,  in white and gold. Seeing Koons’ name reminded me of the hallucinations i had in the High Dependency Unit (HDU; dependant on care not on drugs) following my heart attack last August after I came off the ventilator.

Memoir extract from Chapter 28 of Woman in a White Coat

Continue reading A Great Weekend in Oslo, Norway, and a Visit to The Astrup Fearnley 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.

 

 

BP Portrait Award 2017 at the National Portrait Gallery, London

BP Portrait Award 2017
One of my favorite images – Honest Thomas by Alan Coulson

In an interesting collection of portraits submitted for the BP portrait Award 2017 by contemporary artists I was surprised to find that only one portrait was abstract, all the rest were figurative representational images. Though I liked many of them most were too ‘photographic’ for my taste.

Cecilia by Madeline Fenton

 

I always enjoy the BP Portrait of the Year exhibitions though I rarely agree with the judges’ verdicts!!

 

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!!