News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 4th March 2009


Van Dyck And Britain reveals the Flemish artist's unique impact on British cultural life, by bringing together some of the most magnificent paintings that van Dyck produced during his years in Britain. Anthony van Dyck became the outstanding painter at the court of art enthusiast Charles I, where he re-invented portrait painting in Britain, bringing more life and realism to his subjects. Working in the period of intense political ferment prior to the Civil War, van Dyck portrayed many of the main protagonists, and his iconic portraits of Charles I have shaped history's view of the Stuart monarchy. Van Dyck's compositions, his use of costume, and his depiction of the rich fabrics of the period, were to influence subsequent generations of British painters. Highlights include royal portraits, such as 'The Great Piece' - Charles I and Henrietta Maria and their two eldest children, 'Charles I on Horseback with M de St Antoine', and Charles II as Prince of Wales in armour; full length portraits, such as Lucy Percy, Countess of Carlisle, and the rarely exhibited late Self Portrait; and friendship portraits, such as Self Portrait with Endymion Porter, and Mountjoy Blount, 1st Earl of Newport and George, Lord Goring. The exhibition includes more than 130 exhibits, with around 60 works by van Dyck, together with 'van Dyckian' works by later artists, including Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, John Singer Sargent, and Philip de Laszlo, showing how his influence has endured. Tate Britain until 17th May.

70 Years Of Penguin Books, celebrates the history of iconic Penguin book cover design, showing how Penguin responded to - and influenced - changing trends in British culture. Penguin was launched with the pioneering concept of publishing well designed, inexpensive paperback editions of distinguished books, priced at just sixpence per title. Its distinctive approach to cover design and typography was equally advanced, and has become an integral part of publishing and graphic design history. Since 1935 each Penguin book cover has captured the culture of its time. The story began with the simple bands of colour (orange for fiction, blue for biography, and green for crime) and the classic Gill Sans typeface - a formula that was rigorously applied for some time. A major revolution came in the 1960s with creative rule breaking, such as The Medium Is The Massage, where a printer's error was incorporated into the title, the striking monochrome cover of Ulysses, and the menacing design of Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange. It continues today, with contemporary covers by artists such as Peter Saville and Sara Fanelli. The display features original artwork, hand-drawn roughs, corrected proofs and intriguing in house notes that bring the finished designs to life. Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead until 31st May.

Treasures Of The Black Death brings to London for the first time two hoards of medieval gold and silver jewellery, found at Colmar in the 19th century, and at Erfurt in the 1990s. Both hoards were buried at the time of the Black Death in the middle of the 14th century, in the Jewish quarters of these towns. They were almost certainly hidden by Jewish families who were expelled or murdered, because the Jews were blamed for spreading the disease, by poisoning the wells. These people presumably buried their most treasured possessions with the intention of returning, but owing to the ensuing pograms, they were never able to come back and reclaimed them. Among the jewellery on display are three of the earliest known Jewish wedding rings, in the form of miniature houses, symbolising both the marital home and the Temple of Jerusalem; 'double cups' used in wedding ceremonies, betrothal gifts; and other personal items with inscriptions such as 'Amor' and 'Little Anna'. In addition, there is coinage from all over Europe; silverware, including a silver bottle that once contained beauty accessories; and the only known surviving medieval toilet seat in the world. These objects illuminate not only the lives of the communities who buried them, but tastes of medieval fashion, and the highly skilled craftsmanship that went into their creation. The Wallace Collection, London, until 10th May.


Picasso: Challenging The Past reveals how the greatest artist of the 20th century pitted himself against the European painting tradition. Seizing on the signature themes, techniques and artistic concerns of painters such as Velazquez, Rembrandt and Cezanne, Picasso transformed the art of the past into 'something else entirely', creating audacious paintings of his own. Sometimes his 'quotations' from the past were direct, at other times more allusive, and occasionally, full of parody and irreverence. This exhibition features over 60 of Picasso's seminal works, and focuses on the enduring themes of European art history and his own career. There are sections on the self portrait, from 'Self Portrait with a Wig' to 'The Artist in front of his Canvas; characters and types, including 'Portrait of Jaime Sabartes' and 'Child with a Dove'; the nude, from 'Large Bather' through 'Women at their Toilette' to 'Nu couche'; still life, with 'Still Life with Glass and Lemon' and 'Skull with Jug'; and the later 'Variations' after masterpieces of the 17th and 19th centuries, such as 'The Infanta Margarita' and 'Las Meninas'. Every major period of Picasso's diverse output is represented. The exhibition makes reference back and forth between the works of Picasso and the Old Master paintings on display other rooms of the gallery, and thus visitors are invited to re examine these through the eyes of Picasso.

Picasso's Prints: Challenging The Past is an accompanying display of 13 prints by Picasso, which expands on many of the themes of the main exhibition, particularly his 'Variations' after the Masters. These prints contain echoes of pieces by Manet, David, Rembrandt and Cranach, and two Rembrandt etchings are included for comparison.

National Gallery until 7th June.

Sun Wind And Rain: The Art Of David Cox, which marks 150 years since the death of the somewhat neglected British watercolourist, is the first major exhibition of his work for 25 years. David Cox became famous for the freshness and immediacy of his rural and coastal landscapes, in which he captured the passing effects of wind, light and weather so vividly. However, unlike other 'weather painters', Cox was not drawn to terrifying conditions in which immense storms dwarf the human to helpless insignificance, nor did he use occasions of extreme meteorology as opportunities to push representation to the brink of abstraction. In Cox's paintings the scale is generally human, and while the world may be rough at times, it is rarely murderous. The exhibition comprises over 100 watercolours and drawings, including 'Sun, Wind and Rain', 'Ulverston Sands', 'Windermere During the Regatta', 'The Night Train', 'The Skylark', 'Crossing the Sands', 'On the Moors, Near Bettws-y-Coed' and 'Darley Churchyard', together with about a dozen oil paintings from later in his career. Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery until 3rd May.

Shah 'Abbas: The Remaking Of Iran explores the rule and legacy of one of the formative figures in the creation of modern Iran. Shah from 1587 to 1629AD, 'Abbas is remembered as one of the country's most influential kings and a great military leader, who succeeded in positioning Iran as a world power with a sharply defined national identity. Through trade, patronage and diplomacy Shah 'Abbas fostered good relations with Europe, and ushered in a golden period in the arts, commissioning many beautiful works of art and much grand architecture. He even developed a particular style of art that would be associated with his reign alone. 'Abbas was a great builder and restorer of major monuments across the country, and this architectural legacy provides the context in which to explore the themes of his reign. This exhibition focuses on the major shrines in Mashhad, Ardabil and Qum, which he endowed with his commissions, and the magnificent new capital he built at Isfahan. The display includes many opulent treasures from these shrines, including gold-ground carpets, Qur'ans, mosque lamps, Chinese porcelains, illustrated manuscripts, books, watercolour paintings, metalwork, embroidery and beautiful silks, many of which have never been seen outside Iran before, together with a comprehensive photographic display of the architecture that 'Abbas commissioned. British Museum until 14th June.

Le Corbusier: The Art Of Architecture is the first major survey in London of the work of the man who is widely acclaimed as the most influential architect of the 20th century. Le Corbusier was also a celebrated thinker, writer and artist, and his architecture and radical ideas for reinventing modern living, from private villas to large scale social housing to utopian urban plans, still resonate today. The exhibition contains a wealth of original architectural models, interior reconstructions, drawings, furniture, vintage photographs, films, tapestries, paintings, sculpture and books. It charts how Le Corbusier's work changed dramatically over the years, from his early houses inspired by the regional vernacular of his native Switzerland, through the iconic Purist architecture and interiors for which he is best known, his master plan for Paris in the 1920s, and the shift to organic forms in the 1930s, to the dynamic synthesis achieved between his art and architecture as exemplified by his buildings in the 1950s. Highlights include a monumental mural painting 'Femme et coquillage IV'; a reconstruction of his Plan Voisin for Paris; a complete original kitchen designed with Charlotte Perriand from his Unite d'habitation, Marseille; original models of the chapel at Ronchamp, Unite d'habitation, and Parliament Building Chandigarh; and the film version of Le Corbusier and Edgard Varese's 'Poeme Electronique'. The exhibition also offers an opportunity to see the influence of Le Corbusier's architecture and ideas on the Barbican complex itself, designed by Chamberlin, Powell and Bonn in the late 1950s. Barbican Art Gallery, London until 24th May.

The Taxidermy Gallery has reopened following major renovation work, so that the largest museum collection of domestic dogs in Britain is back on view. The historical look and feel of displays has been retained, but the lighting, colour scheme and signage have all been updated, to bring new life to the presentation and information about these outstanding examples of 19th century taxidermy. In addition, the 837 specimens have been painstakingly cleaned and restored. As well as 88 domestic British dogs, there are more exotic specimens from all over the world, such as giant tortoises, a komodo dragon, an ostrich, a Tasmanian devil, koala, anteaters, sloths, pangolins and otters, together with an extinct Tasmanian wolf, and a model of the 3 metre high flightless New Zealand bird called the moa, also extinct. The century old dogs on view reveal the differences between today's breeds and their not so distant ancestors, such as changes in the relative leg length and lower jaw of bulldogs. There is also an interactive touch screen display, with a video showing how taxidermists prepare an animal for display. A new section in the gallery focuses on the work of Walter Rothschild, with images of the man and the mansion where he lived surrounded by exotic animals, telling how he became a collector and zoologist, and founded the museum. Walter Rothschild Collection at the Natural History Museum, Tring, continuing.

A Peep Into Clubland: Cartoons From Private London Clubs, provides a rare chance to enjoy the wit and humour of the rich and varied holdings of cartoons, caricatures and prints from the collections of London's Private Clubs. These collections cover a wide range of subjects, from portraits to political and social satires, which delight and amuse their members, but which are normally inaccessible to ordinary members of the public. Pictures on show include works from the Chelsea Arts Club, the Garrick, the Sketch Club, the Athenaeum, the MCC, the Savage Club, Annabel's, Harry's Bar, Mark's Club and many others. The display of over 100 items embraces works by H M Bateman, James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson, Pont, Heath Robinson, Peter Arno and Phil May amongst others. The Cartoon Museum, London, until 3rd May.


I Turned It Into A Palace: Sir Sydney Cockerell And The Fitzwilliam Museum shows how the museum was transformed between 1908 and 1937, under the directorship of Sydney Cockerell, by bringing together some of his most famous acquisitions. Cockerell ended the previously indiscriminate approach to style, quality and period in the choice of acquisitions, and revolutionised the display of art in Britain. Among the items in this treasure trove are Titian's 'Tarquin and Lucretia'; some of the finest ancient Greek vases in Britain; works by William Blake and Samuel Palmer; William Morris's Kelmscott Press books, Keats's autograph manuscript of Ode to a Nightingale; Pre-Raphaelite works, including Dante Gabriel Rosetti's unfinished 'Joan of Arc' found by his deathbed; prints by Durer; drawings by Botticelli, Ruebens and Turner; extracts from the Egyptian papyrus of the Book of the Dead of Ramose; and original scores by Mozart and Scarlattil. The exhibition also marks the centenary of the Friends Society, the first of its kind in Britain, which Cockerell founded to support the museum. The Macclesfield Psalter, the 14th century illuminated manuscript, recent acquired following a successful fundraising campaign, is also on display. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, until 17th March.

Babylon: Myth And Reality explores the continuing dialogue between the Babylon of the imagination and the historic evidence for one of the great cities of antiquity at the moment of its climax and eclipse. For 2,000 years the myth of Babylon has haunted the European imagination, as the Tower of Babel and the Hanging Gardens, Belshazzar's Feast and the Fall of Babylon have inspired artists, writers, poets, philosophers and film makers. Over the past 200 years, archaeologists have pieced together the real Babylon - an imperial capital, a great centre of science, art and commerce. The exhibition focuses on the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar in 6th century BC, through 100 objects, including glazed brick panels from the Ishtar Gate and Processional Way; cuneiform tablets revealing the history of the period, such as one listing subsistence rations for Jehoiachin the exiled king of Judah, one noting the dimensions of the ziggurat that provided the inspiration for the Tower of Babel, and one describing the New Year celebrations that took place in and around the Processional Way; and a recently excavated Stela of Nabonidus from Saudi Arabia, which exemplifies the destruction of Babylonian monuments by the later Persian administration. Artists' responses to Babylon are shown side by side with ancient sculptures and clay tablets, with key works including William Blake's 'Nebuchadnezzar', John Martin's 'Belshazzar's Feast', several 16th century Flemish and Dutch Tower of Babel paintings, and a study by Degas for 'Semiramis construisante Babylone'. The exhibition concludes with a consideration of Babylon's recent history, showing how images of the ancient city remain state icons used on items such as stamps and banknotes, and looks at the physical harm that the site of Babylon has suffered as a result of contemporary events and war. British Museum until 15th March.

Out Of China: Monumental Porcelain By Felicity Aylieff is an exhibition of giant vessels, majestic in scale, which show how the artist has taken the medium of clay and its decoration to a new sculptural level. To say that Felicity Aylieff's work crosses the boundaries of ceramics and sculpture is an understatement. The vessels are 3 metres high, and are the largest pieces that can be fired in the kilns of Mr Yu's Big Ware Factory, in the historic porcelain centre of Jingdezhen in China. Generally cylindrical or shaped like an elongated 'upside down teardrop', they are decorated in brightly coloured contemporary abstract designs. Each pot was hand painted over a period of two days, with a variety of instruments employed to ingrain different sections of the urn. Sweeping brooms, carvers and Chinese calligraphy brushes were experimented with, adding layers of colour to forge a greater depth of surface. In some, enamel butterflies have been applied, decreasing in size to the top of the base to give the illusion of flying away. Weighing 240 kilograms, and requiring a team of assistants to move them, Aylieff's works are imposing, impressive and truly unique. In addition to the vessels themselves, the exhibition also includes Aylieff's working drawings, and illustrated excerpts from the journal she kept during her time in China. The Lightbox, Woking, until 15th March.