News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 6th October 2010


Strawberry Hill the finest example of Georgian Gothic revival architecture in Britain has reopened to the public after a 2 year, £8.9m restoration programme. Horace Walpole built Strawberry Hill as a summer villa beside the Thames at Twickenham between 1747 and 1790, and designed the interiors together with architects including Robert Adam. Walpole was one of the most important English collectors of the 18th century, and one of the best known commentators on the social, political and cultural life of his time. The house provided the setting for his collection encompassing paintings, ceramics, glass, silverware, sculpture, furniture, portrait miniatures, arms and armour, historical relics, and rare books and manuscripts. There are 25 show rooms on the ground and 1st floors, which have been meticulously restored, based on Walpole's descriptions in numerous letters to his friends, and specially commissioned drawings by John Carter and paintings by Heinrich Muntz, recording its appearance. During the work large areas of gothic trompe l'oeil decoration were found on the stairs and landing, dating from the 1750s and the 1790s. On entering, visitors can see Walpole's 'Beauty Room' preserved with its various layers exposed: the wooden panelling of the original small house begun in1698; a gothic fireplace designed by Richard Bentley; Walpole's windows, shutters and painted glass; a closet with a colourful 'bird' paper from the 19th century; a section of William Morris wallpaper dating from the 1930s; and a glass panel in the floor revealing the intricate working of the bell system. The core of the garden is also being restored to its original 18th century design, with the Open Grove of lime trees being reinstated, as well as the Priors Garden and shell bench. Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, Surrey, continuing.

Epic Of The Persian Kings: The Art Of Ferdowsi's Shahnameh brings together nearly 100 paintings from lavishly illustrated manuscripts spanning 800 years. The exhibition explores the monumental artistic legacy of one of the world's greatest literary epics: the 1000 year old Persian 'Book of Kings', or Shahnameh. It is an epic narrative poem telling the 'Iranian version' of the history of the world, mixing royal history with the mythical and supernatural, from the creation of the world and the first men through to the fall of the Persian Empire in the 7th century AD. Twice as long as the Iliad and Odyssey put together, and only finished after 35 years, it is the longest recorded poem ever written by a single author. Completed by the poet Ferdowsi in 1010 AD, it is an icon of Persian culture, inspiring some of the world's most exquisite manuscripts, bringing its warring kings, heroes, dragons and demons to life. Embellished with gold, lapis lazuli and other precious pigments, these manuscripts juxtapose fantastical portrayals of terrifying demons and monstrous creatures with astonishingly expressive depictions of human emotion, from scenes of tender affection to fiercely violent struggles, set against backdrops of beautifully detailed landscapes, and peopled by crowds of onlookers, who spill over the pages and peep at the scenes contained within. As well as these manuscripts, the exhibition brings together ceramics, metalwork and painting on silk, whose imagery was inspired by the poem's amalgam of history, myth and legend, from frieze tiles to ornate bowls, and even an Iranian saddle of the type depicted under horsemen throughout the manuscripts. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, until 9th January.

Salvator Rosa: Bandits, Wilderness And Magic features the work of one of the boldest and most powerfully inventive artists and personalities of the Italian 17th century. Salvator Rosa invented new types of painting: allegorical pictures, distinguished by a haunting and melancholy poetry; fanciful portraits of romantic and enigmatic figures; macabre and horrific subjects; and philosophical subjects, bringing into painting some of the major philosophical and scientific concerns of his age. Rosa's early works, particularly the landscapes, are bright and rich in picturesque motifs - crumbling towers, boats on the seashore, colourful travellers crossing perilous bridges, bandits lying in wait in rocky ravines - but he moved towards a grander style, and his mature art is characterised by a free technique, rich chiaroscuro and dark but strong colours creating a suggestive atmosphere. The exhibition ranges from self-portraits and other fanciful portraits to landscapes - pastoral, heroic and anchorite. Some of these are stark works, and the power of the elements pulses through them, of wind, water, fire and cloud. They are linked in theme to the paintings of magic and science, conveying a 17th century sense of the awesome grandeur of the natural world revealed by the new science. Highlights include 'Archytas', 'Lucrezia as Poetry', 'Allegory of Fortune', 'The Death of Empedocles', 'Jason Charming the Dragon', 'The Death of Regulus', 'The Frailty of Human Life' and 'Witches at their Incantations'. Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, until 28th November.


Diaghilev And The Golden Age Of The Ballets Russes 1909 - 1929 explores the world of the influential artistic director and the most exciting dance company of the 20th century, who combined dance, music and art in bold ways to create 'total theatre'. Diaghilev's dedication to pushing boundaries, and collaborating with the best designers, choreographers and artists, transformed dance, reawakening interest in ballet across Europe and America. The exhibition includes more than 300 objects, including giant backcloths, original costumes, set designs, props, posters, programmes, photographs, art, film and sound, which bring the energy of the Ballets Russes' performances to life. Among the highlights are: Picasso's huge front cloth for 'Le Train Bleu', dedicated and signed, as well as a costume he designed for 'Parade'; the costume for Modest Mussorgsky's 'Boris Godonov' worn by Feodor Chaliapin; the turban for 'Le Pavillon d'Armide' and the gold and pearl tunic from 'Le Festin', worn by Vaslav Nijinsky, alongside sculptures of him by Auguste Rodin and by Una Troubridge; 9 costumes designed by Nicolas Roerich for 'The Rite Of Spring', which caused a riot in the aisles at its first performance in Paris; Nijinsky's notation for 'L'Apres-midi d'un faune', on display for the first time as it was intended to be read, and the musical score for Stravinsky's 'Pulcinella'; the designs for the original production of 'The Firebird', including the actual backcloth; and costumes by artist collaborators Leon Bakst, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, Jean Cocteau, Joan Miro and Marie Laurencin. A specially created film features composer Howard Goodall explaining the development of music that accompanied the Ballets Russes. Victoria & Albert Museum until 9th January.

The Pre-Raphaelites And Italy challenges what is known about the influence of Italy - its culture, landscape, and history - on one of Britain's most significant and enduringly popular art movements. In re-examining their early years, the exhibition aims to shed new light on the artists who emerged as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in the 1850s. From the influence of the movement's champion, John Ruskin, one of Italy's most dedicated tourists, to their illustrations of early Italian art and literature, the exhibition explores the idea of Italy itself, a place which captured the imagination of a whole generation of British men and women, and which was the source of such varied artistic responses. The exhibition brings together over 140 pictures, including works by John Ruskin, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Millais, William Holman Hunt, John Brett and Edward Burne-Jones. Highlights include Rosetti's 'Monna Vanna', 'Dante Drawing an Angel on the Anniversary of Beatrice's Death' and 'Borgia Family'; Ruskin's Venetian architectural drawings; Burne-Jones's 'The Fall of Lucifer' and drawings for the mosaics of the American Church in Rome, united for the first time in Britain; and Brett's 'Florence from Bellosguardo' and 'Capri in the Evening', which has not been seen in public since 1865. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, until 5th December.

John Pawson: Plain Space is a retrospective of the work of the British designer hailed as 'the father of modern architectural minimalism' by the New York Times. John Pawson is known for his rigorous process of design, creating architecture and products of visual clarity, simplicity and grace. The exhibition celebrates Pawson's career from the early 1980s to date, through a selection of landmark commissions, including the Sackler Crossing at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; the new Cistercian Monastery of Our Lady of Novy Dvur in the Czech Republic; and Calvin Klein's flagship store in New York, as well as current and future projects. At its centre is a site-specific, full-sized space designed by Pawson to offer a direct and immersive experience of his work. Specially commissioned, large-scale photography looks at his architecture in the landscape. Actual architectural elements in stone, bronze, wood and metal taken from a range of buildings, including the Baron House in Sweden and Pawson's own house in London explore his sensitive use of materials. The process of design and construction is shown through photography, film, sketches, study models, prototypes and interviews relating to a number of projects including a private home in Treviso, Italy currently under construction. Personal items from the Pawson archive are also on display, including letters from Karl Lagerfeld and the writer Bruce Chatwin. Design Museum, Shad Thames, London, until 30th December.

Rachel Whiteread: Drawings offers an opportunity to explore works on paper by the contemporary artist best known for large scale sculpture. This is the first ever exhibition of Rachel Whiteread's doodling (her word) on paper, using pencil, gouache, ink and correcting fluid to build texture. Whiteread calls these drawings and collages her working diary, and they provide an intimate insight into the creative process behind her work. The drawings feel coolly constructed and painstakingly analytical, reminiscent of work by minimalist painters. While her sculptures are often large and involve a team of fabricators, these paper works provide a more personal counterpoint. Nevertheless, they also share many of the themes familiar from Whiteread's public commissions: texture and surface; void and presence; and the subtle observation of human traces in everyday life. The drawings include pictures of floors, several plans of tables, and meditations on keyholes and a doorknob. Most of these fixtures and fittings are laid out on graph paper to give the appearance of plans, and the technical look and feel is balanced by a tentative, hand drawn line. At times, this mix of the personal and the precise results in works that look not unlike interior design mood-boards: 'Untitled (Ten Tables)' could be a kitchen design, 'Floor Study' could be a swatch for a new line of tiles, and 'Study for Valley' brings to mind a designer sunken bath. The show reflects many of Whiteread's best known projects, with highlights including experiments made towards her life size cast of a council house; some boxes from her installation in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern; studies for the inverted resin plinth she made for Trafalgar Square; and her Holocaust Memorial in Vienna, which is clad in bookshelves turned inside out, with a ceiling rose that is a knotted wreath of concentrated black ink. Tate Britain until 16th January.

Lighthouses: Life On The Rocks aims to illuminate the triumph of engineering required to build a lighthouse, and the tall tales of the lighthouse keepers before they slip out of living memory. Britain's last manned lighthouse was converted to automatic operation in November 1998, and the life of a lighthouse keeper was no more. The construction of lighthouses miles out to sea, on rocky outcrops, exposed to the full force of the ocean, are some of the greatest engineering achievements of the Industrial Age. A massive four tonne optic, with its dazzling array of prisms and lenses, forms a sculptural centre piece to the exhibition, which features sketches, notebooks, photographs and an incredible array of salvaged objects, both large and small. Among these are the solid bronze doors from Bishop Rock, which, despite being situated 40ft above sea level and weighing over 100kg each, were smashed open by monstrous waves during a storm in 1994, clearly demonstrating the ferocity of the seas. Visitors also have the opportunity to step inside the world of the lighthouse keeper, with a reconstruction of a lighthouse's living quarters, featuring original curved furniture from Godrevy Lighthouse, and objects that reflect the life of a keeper. Theirs was a life of strict routine and relative isolation, and to fill their time, when not tending to the light, these men would write poetry, craft ships in light bulbs or come up with ingenious ways of supplementing their limited supplies, such as kite fishing. National Maritime Museum Cornwall, Falmouth, until 31st December.

Under Attack: London, Coventry, Dresden examines the effects of the aerial bombing raids, known in Britain as the Blitz, that defined the experience of many European cities during the Second World War. It commemorates the 70th anniversary of the start of the Blitz in England and the 65th anniversary of the Dresden Firestorm bombing. This exhibition illustrates the struggle to keep the cities of London, Coventry and Dresden moving during the war. It focuses on the role that public transport played in helping to create a sense of identity and normality. In particular, it seeks to explore the areas of commonality, as well as difference, and convey the shared experience of people from all walks of life - irrespective of nationality. The exhibition looks at some of the myths and reality of the wartime experience, and reviews the changing nature of popular memory in relation to the Blitz and the Firestorm. Displays show how each city prepared for war and the contrasting role of their transport systems. In London and Coventry, public transport was used to evacuate children and others out of the city, whilst in Dresden, the city itself was regarded as a shelter with transport bringing refugees into the centre. In London thousands of the people who remained took shelter by sleeping on the platforms of tube stations every night. The public transport system in London played a significant part in the liberation of women, as they became a major part of the workforce, replacing men who had gone into the services. Posters and photographs, magazines and newspapers bring the period alive, particularly Walter Spradbery's poster 'The Proud City' showing St Paul's cathedral standing defiant amid the rubble, which was reprinted 27,000 times and in several languages. London Transport Museum until 31st March.


Camille Silvy, Photographer Of Modern Life, 1834 - 1910 is the first British retrospective of work by one of the greatest French photographers of the 19th century. Marking the centenary of Camille Silvy's death, the exhibition includes over 100 images, many of which have not been exhibited since 1860. The portraits on display offer a unique glimpse into 19th century Paris and Victorian London, through the eyes of one of photography's greatest innovators. The exhibition shows how Silvy pioneered many branches of the photographic medium, including theatre, fashion, military and street photography. Working under the patronage of Queen Victoria, having taken portraits of her children, Silvy photographed royalty, statesmen, aristocrats, celebrities, the professional classes, businessmen and the households of the country gentry. His London studio was a model factory with a staff of 40, which produced over 17,000 portraits in the new 'carte de visite' format - small, economically priced, and collectable - that show how the modern and fashionably dressed looked. Works on display will include 'River Scene, France', considered Silvy's masterpiece, alongside his London series on twilight, sunlight and fog. Anticipating the era of digital manipulation, he created photographic illusions in these works by using darkroom tricks. The exhibition also includes a cache of letters in which Silvy describes how he set up and ran his London studio, a selection of Daybooks, providing a unique record of the workings of the studio; a dress worn by his wife for a portrait session; and albums and other items that build up a picture of his working practice. The display illustrates the transformation of photographic art into industry, the beginnings of the democratisation of portraiture, and the life of a photographic genius who fell into obscurity. National Portrait Gallery until 17th October.

Raphael: Cartoons And Tapestries For The Sistine Chapel brings together for the first time the full size designs and the actual tapestries made for the Vatican City almost 500 years ago. This is a display of 4 of the 10 original tapestries designed by Raphael for the walls of the Sistine Chapel, never before seen in Britain, alongside the designs (or cartoons) acquired by Charles I in 1623. The tapestries of the Acts of St Peter and St Paul, 'The Miraculous Draught of Fishes', 'Christ's Charge to Peter', 'The Healing of the Lame Man' and 'The Sacrifice at Lystra', were commissioned from Raphael by Pope Leo X. The tapestries were made in Brussels, Europe's leading centre for tapestry weaving, and then sent to Rome for display. As the cartoons remained in Brussels, Raphael himself never saw the cartoons beside the tapestries woven from them. This display sees the 4 tapestries hung next to the 7 cartoons. The design of each cartoon corresponds in every point to the tapestry it was made for - but in reverse. The weavers cut Raphael's cartoons into strips and copied them closely, weaving each tapestry from the back, so the front image was the reverse of its cartoon. The painted strips of cartoon were joined together again later, and became prized as artworks in their own right. They were acquired by Charles I in order to have copies of the tapestries made for himself. In addition to the tapestries and cartoons, the display also includes some of Raphael's preparatory drawings, the 17th century British tapestry copy of 'The Miraculous Draught of Fishes', and other items relating to Pope Leo X and the Sistine Chapel. Victoria & Albert Museum until 17th October.

William Morris: A Sense Of Place examines the domestic life, design work, writings and political beliefs of the Father of the Arts & Crafts Movement. William Morris's childhood homes were key to forming his precocious sense of place and the love of nature that underpinned his subsequent life and thinking. Material illustrating his adult life, from lodgings shared with Edward Burne-Jones at Red Lion Square; his first married home at Red House, which became the focus of creativity for Morris and his friends; his country retreat at Kelmscott Manor in the Cotswolds; and his final home at Kelmscott House in Hammersmith, shows how his domestic environment formed an important backdrop for his creativity, and the formulation of his ideas about society. The industrial society into which Britain had evolved by the mid 19th century represented inequality, exploitation and ugliness to Morris, setting him on the path to Socialism and the foundation of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. Designs and samples, textiles, books, and photographs from public and private collections illustrate Morris's life and work. Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House, Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria, until 17th October.