Private View held by Richard Andrews
Constable Portraits: The Painter And His Circle is the first exhibition dedicated to John Constable's portraits, and the insights they bring to his art, life and relationships. Spanning 30 years, the exhibition of some 50 works includes oil portraits, watercolours and sketches. Broadly chronological, it begins with images of the artist himself alongside portraits of his friends and family, created when he was a young man. It includes intimate portraits of Constable's wife, Maria Bicknell, produced in the early years of their romance and marriage. Portraiture, like letter writing, played an important part in their protracted courtship because they were frequently parted for long periods. It was only in the later 18th century that the commissioning of portraits had expanded beyond the aristocracy to middle class clients, including clergymen and their wives, doctors, landed gentry and families made wealthy through trade, represented here by portraits of Revd John Fisher, Mrs Pulham, Mrs Tuder and Mrs Edwards, who seem like characters from a Jane Austen or George Eliot novel. The exhibition ends with images of Constable in later life, and his son, Charles, painted before he went to sea at the age of 14.
Gerhard Richter Portraits comprises some 35 works by one of Europe's most prominent living painters, including the first showing of Richter's latest portrait, of his daughter Ella. With images dating from the 1960s to recent brightly coloured abstract paintings, it includes early black-and-white works made from magazine photographs, such as 'Mutter und Tochter' and 'Frau mit Schirm'; paintings based on private snapshots of close members of his family, such as 'Horst mit Hund' and 'Betty'; his series inspired by the assassination of President J F Kennedy, reunited for the first time; and an installation of his celebrated series '48 Portraits'.
National Portrait Gallery, Constable until 14th June, Richter until 31st May.
Greenway Agatha Christie's holiday home from 1938 until 1959, is now open to the public after a 2 year, £5.4m refurbishment, which restores it to what she described as 'the loveliest place in the world'. Visitors have the opportunity to view many personal collections and mementoes of Britain's best loved mystery writer and five generations of her family, in a house that portrays the spirit of a holiday home in its 1950s heyday. Here Agatha Christie gathered with her family and friends, often to celebrate a novel just completed for publication. The rooms on view are the library, with a frieze painted by Lt Marshall Lee, while the house was requisitioned by the admiralty in 1943, portraying scenes of wartime Dartmouth, including the bombing of a warship and a naked lady; the drawing room, where the gilding on the architrave was undertaken by one craftsman, to ensure all of the brush strokes were the same; Agatha Christie's bedroom, which retains scratch marks on the door left by Cheekyi, the family dog; the dining room, with family silver and chinaware; and the 'fax room', with a huge number of Christie's first editions and her American and English titles, demonstrating her enormous output. In addition, part of the house has been converted into a holiday apartment, which is decorated as it was for modern living in 1938, and so continues its legacy as a holiday retreat. The Greenway estate boasts 278 acres, and includes the garden, farm, and woodland with romantic pathways that lead down to the Dart estuary, with over a mile of picturesque river frontage. Greenway, Dartmouth, Devon, 01803 842382, continuing.
British Music Experience is a new permanent, interactive music exhibition that tells the 60 year story of the British rock music industry. A combination of cutting edge audio-visual technology and music memorabilia enables visitors to trace musical trends through the decades, learn about music's influence on art, fashion and politics, and even download music from its archive. Hundreds of artists feature in the exhibition from The Beatles to Iron Maiden, from Cilla Black to Elastica, and from David Bowie to Motorhead, with in depth looks at musical genres from Skiffle to Reggae, from Rock n Roll to Blues, and from Punk to Grime. Visitors can scroll through years of music, video clips, stories and images of artists, explore the continual invention of how music is listened to, and search across an interactive music map of Great Britain. It is completely 'hands on', with a studio where anyone can be guided through playing guitars, pianos and drums. Among over 500 key pieces of British music memorabilia featured are David Bowie's Ashes to Ashes clown suit and Ziggy Stardust costume, Noel Gallagher's Epiphone Union Jack guitar, Roger Daltrey's Woodstock outfit and a vintage Amy Winehouse dress. There is also an educational programme with workshops, lectures, masterclasses and concerts, aiming to help teachers raise standards in schools. British Music Experience, The O2, Greenwich, continuing.
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 comprises 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.
Treasures From Shanghai: Ancient Chinese Bronzes And Jades features objects awarded to nobles for exceptional service, together with others used for ritual and burial, from the collection of Shanghai Museum. The exhibition comprises some 60 ancient Chinese jades and bronzes, plus a few Neolithic ceramics, from the area around Shanghai. It explores their role in ancient China as ritual objects, and demonstrates their legacy for later generations. This is illustrated on two silk scrolls that show the collection of the major official and diplomat Wu Dacheng, seen for the first time outside China. Jade has been central to China's culture from the Neolithic period, worked into mysterious ritual implements, used as emblems of power, and as messengers to the spirit world. The Neolithic jades on display feature fine line designs of strange human-like figures, birds and monsters with large teeth. The highpoint of bronze casting came during the Shang and Zhou dynasties, whose rulers believed that if they properly venerated, their ancestors these would intercede in the spirit world on their behalf, and assist in resolving their worldly difficulties and ensure prosperity. The act of making food and wine offerings in spectacular bronze containers was a major part of respect for the ancestors. The bronzes on view from that period are made in elaborate shapes with intriguing ornament. In later eras, bronze was highly valued for many other purposes, including incense burners, lamps and highly decorated belt ornaments and weapons. British Museum until 27th March.
Byzantium 330 - 1453 highlights the splendours of the Byzantine Empire, comprising around 300 exquisitely crafted and richly decorated objects, including icons, detached wall paintings, micro-mosaics, ivories and enamels, plus gold and silver metalwork. The exhibition begins with the foundation of Constantinople in 330 AD by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great and concludes with the capture of the city by the Ottoman forces of Mehmed II in 1453, following a chronological progression covering the range, power and longevity of the artistic production of the Byzantine Empire. Through a number of themed sections, it explores the origins of Byzantium; the rise of Constantinople; the threat of iconoclasm when emperors banned Christian figurative art; the post-iconoclast revival; the crescendo in the Middle Ages; and the close connections between Byzantine and early Renaissance art in Italy in the 13th and early 14th centuries. Among the highlights are: the silver gilt Antioch Chalice, once believed to have been the Holy Grail; a two-sided icon of Virgin Hodegetria and the Man of Sorrows; an incense burner in the shape of a church, in partially gilded silver; the ornate Chalice of the Patriarchs; the Riha Paten, illustrating the Communion of the Apostles, in silver with gilding and niello; an imperial ivory casket from Troyes cathedral depicting hunting scenes and riders; a 12th century manuscript, the Homilies of Monk James Kokkinobaphos; and the Icon of the Archangel Michael, silver gilt on wood, with gold cloisonne enamel and precious stones. The Royal Academy of Arts, until 22nd March.
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.