News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 15th October 2003


Gothic: Art For England 1400-1547 celebrates late medieval art from the reign of Henry IV to the reign of Henry VIII, the period brought to life by Shakespeare's history plays. It shows how the wealth and patronage of monarchs, aristocrats, the Church and merchants made this one of the richest periods for the arts in England. However, fires, war, and the Reformation have destroyed much of the art and artefacts of the period making the remaining pieces extremely rare. This exhibition brings together more than 300 surviving treasures from across Britain, including tapestries, manuscripts, sculptures, paintings, armour, jewellery, gold and silver chalices and reliquaries, plate, altarpieces, tomb effigies and stained glass. Highlights include: the funerary helmet, shield and sword of Henry V which he wore at Agincourt; the crown of Margaret of York (sister of Edward IV), which has been in Germany for 500 years; the gold Reliquary of the Order of St Esprit owned by the wife of Henry IV; a monumental stained-glass window from St. Mary's, Fairford; an early edition of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales printed by William Caxton in 1483; the gold and enamel Dunstable Swan Jewel; the prayer roll of Henry Beauchamp, Duke of Warwick; silver spoons owned by thrice Mayor of London Dick Whittington; the Dacre Beasts, carved heraldic monsters; and the silver salt and silver-gilt crosier of the Bishop Fox, Bishop of Winchester. Victoria & Albert Museum until 18th January.

The Victorian Post Office explains the importance of the establishment of the universal penny post, paid for in advance by the attachment of a stamp - the famous Penny Black - and how it revolutionised communication (and still influences the system we use today). Thomas More Musgrave was the first person in the world to send a stamped letter, posted from Bath on 2nd May 1840, four days before its official introduction. The simple, fast, reliable nationwide service, with the letter enclosed in an envelope at no extra charge (rather than just folded and sealed), was immediately popular. Writing became fashionable, and the invention of the Christmas, birthday and Valentine card soon followed. Examples of these, hand made with painted scenes and paper lace, plus other letters, such as those salvaged from shipwrecks are featured in the exhibition, together with decorated envelopes, ink wells, paper knives, and stamp boxes. Other items include the only known Victorian stamp perforating machine still in existence in the UK, post boxes of all kinds, and a variety of uniforms. The permanent collection covers the history of written communication from Egyptian clay mail to today's e-mail, but sadly the museum located at the birthplace of the universal penny post service is under threat of closure. Further information can be found on the BPM web site via the Museums section of ExhibitionsNet. Bath Postal Museum continuing.

Turner And Venice is the first major exhibition devoted to works produced as a result of JMW Turner's trips to Venice in 1819, 1833 and 1840. It brings together around fifty five oil paintings, and over one hundred watercolours, as well as prints, maps and Turner's Venice sketchbooks. Much of the material is not normally on view because of its fragile nature, and some of the watercolours are displayed for the first time, including several of the romantic and mysterious studies of Venice by moonlight. The exhibition is set out as a tour of Turner's Venice, beginning with the monumental centre around the Doge's Palace and the Basilica of San Marco, and then reaching deeper into the city's heart, before finally culminating in a series of views of the Lagoon. In these, the city becomes a vital component in Turner's meditations on light, colour and the reflective surfaces of water and stone, in possibly his closest anticipation of impressionism. A perfect union of artist and subject. The exhibition also explores Turner's interest in literary evocations of Venice, particularly those of Shakespeare and Byron, which helped to shape and define his own reactions. Unusual items include pairs of pictures that were conceived as pendants but which have been separated since they were sold shortly after being completed - and two paintings originally thought to have been of Venice, but which have now been identified as of the arrival of Louis-Philippe in Portsmouth. Tate Britain until 11th January.


Sigmar Polke: History Of Everything showcases recent work by one of Germany's most significant artists, who incorporates something often lacking in both contemporary art and Germans - humour. Since the early 1960s Polke has experimented with a wide range of styles and subject matter, bringing together imagery from unexpected sources both historical and contemporary, including photographic and printed material such as advertisements, illustrations and cartoons. He has used a variety of different materials and techniques, including commercial patterned fabrics instead of canvas, and mixed together traditional pigments with solvents, varnishes, toxins and resins to produce spontaneous chemical reactions. Polke explored the visual effects of mechanical technology reproduced by hand, imitating the dots of enlarged newsprint by painting with the rubber at the end of a pencil. His series of 'Printers Mistakes' are production glitches enlarged to become abstracts or even figurative motifs. Polke likes to make works with specific venues in mind, and this display features recent pieces originally created for the Dallas Museum of Art from imagery found in Texan newspapers, referring to the gun culture of the West, and America's role in global politics. The group of around 100 pieces also features several large scale works made specifically for London, with examples of his latest technique of 'Machine Painting'. These are his first completely mechanically produced works, made by tinting and altering images on a computer and then photographically transferring them on to sheets of fabric. Tate Modern until 4th January.

Half Term Events is a programme of different daily animal, nature and craft based activities (both indoor and outdoor) taking place throughout the second half of October at what was previously known as the National Forest Discovery Centre. These range from collecting leaves and using them to make masks and pictures, and examining how animals make their preparations for winter hibernation, to dressing up and walks through 'haunted' woods for Halloween, and a firework display. On Seed Gathering Sunday, rangers will guide visitors through the woods to collect seeds, fruits and nuts of wild field rose, guelder rose, silver birch, dogwood, ash helicopters and rowan berries - plus of course acorns and conkers - and offer advice about how to plant and care for them when visitors get them home. Year round attractions boast 23 different outdoor activities, including lakeside walks, ponds, mazes, wildlife, sculpture trails, nature trails, an assault course, train rides and playgrounds. Indoors there are 4 discovery zones where visitors can get close to the forest and experience its life and energy, such as seeing the world through the eyes of a spider or crawling through a living leaf, plus regular workshops, craft and music events. Further information can be found on the Conkers web site via the link from the Attractions section of ExhibitionsNet. Conkers, Ashby de la Zouch, until 1st November.

Art For Votes' Sake: Visual Culture And The Women's Suffrage Campaign marks the centenary of the formation of the Women's Social and Political Union with an exhibition of materials employed in the 25 year long struggle to achieve the vote for women. Determined to fire the public imagination, suffrage artists exploited everything from traditional embroidery to the latest printing technologies, while some suffragettes like 'Slasher Mary' vandalised great paintings as a form of protest. An eclectic array of material is on show, much of it for the first time. An enamelled pendent by Ernestine Mills, an oil by Bertha Newcombe and drawings by Sylvia Pankhurst are displayed alongside new media such as experimental posters, post cards and photo journalism. Embroidery includes richly appliqued banners incorporating rare painted and printed scenes and aprons made by individual members. Portraiture was used to create public recognition, and there are examples of leading figures appearing in cartoons, paintings and photographs. Among the smaller items are jewellery, picture handkerchiefs, button badges, campaign journals and leaflets. Complementing the exhibition, there is a chance to browse the cultural and literary life of the time, and examine how writers such as George Bernard Shaw, Rebecca West and Virginia Woolf reacted to the campaign, alongside fiction from the Women Writers Suffrage League such as Gertrude Colmore's 'Suffragette Sally' and Elizabeth Robbins 'The Convert'. The Women's Library until 20th December.

Peter Paul Rubens: A Touch Of Brilliance is devoted to Rubens oil sketches, long regarded as one of the most remarkable aspects of his work. They illustrate the wide range of his preparation, and reveal the development of his pictorial ideas. By bringing together preparatory material from a small number of commissions, the exhibition provides a concentrated account the innovative and original use of the oil sketch in Rubens working process in creating paintings. These projects include the ceiling of the Banqueting House in Whitehall, the altarpiece of Antwerp cathedral - The Descent From The Cross, and the now lost ceiling of the Jesuit church in Antwerp. Loosely painted grisailles, exploratory bozzetti, more finished modelli and drawings provide an insight into the genesis of several of the artist's most important compositions. Although Rubens delegated the execution of many of his commissions to assistants, the sketches were all his, and each is a work of art in its own right. Comprising some forty seven oil sketches supplemented by ten related drawings and a small number of finished paintings, the exhibition draws on the collections of the Courtauld Institute of Art in London and The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, together with material from the National Gallery, Dulwich College Picture Gallery and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Hermitage Rooms, Somerset House until 8th February.

Hughie O'Donoghue: Painting Caserta Red comprises a series of paintings that trace and highlight the wartime experiences of O'Donoghue's father, from conscription, through war in Europe, to his return to Manchester. Inspired by letters, photographs and postcards sent home by his father to his mother between 1943 and 1946, O'Donoghue's work brings to the forefront the story of an individual's experience in exceptional times. Unusually for a contemporary artist, O'Donoghue works on a large scale in oils on linen canvas in the grand tradition of painting, building up thin layers of paint and varnish. His epic scale reflects the sweep of history with which he is dealing, but the works do not record the dramatic military engagements of traditional history painting, rather they are the story of the everyday events in the life of an anonymous army, which normally go untold. The collection includes a spectacular new work created especially for this, the first art exhibition to be held in the landmark space created by idiosyncratic architect Daniel Libeskind in his award winning building that opened last year. Imperial War Museum North, Manchester until 18th January.

How To Live In A Flat: Modern Living In The 1930s looks at the new phenomenon of the 1920s and 30s - purpose built flats for the middle classes. They were the height of modernity, small yet convenient, with the most up to the minute facilities and appliances, and were promoted as offering luxury, style and sophistication. This exhibition looks at the planning, the equipment, the furnishing and the lifestyle associated with this alternative to the family home. Using the latest materials and technology of the time, flats were fitted out and furnished in a streamlined modern style that contrasted sharply with the traditional 'Tudorbethan' semis that sprang up everywhere between the Wars. Apartments were a chic urban alternative, which were responsible for launching the craze for 'built in everything'. William Heath Robinson satirised the ingenious use of space and the development of multifunctional furniture in his book How To Live In A Flat which gives this exhibition its title. This was the moment that interior design entered the domestic environment for the first time. Flats may have given their occupants much less space than they were used to, for instance separate rooms for eating and living were merged into one, but they also offered unheard of luxuries, such as refrigerators, central heating and constant hot water, which changed the way the residents lived their lives. The Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture, Middlesex University, Barnet, Herts until 28th March.


From Palace To Parlour: A Celebration Of 19th Century British Glass is the first exhibition in London to illustrate the extraordinary diversity and sumptuousness of Regency and Victorian British glass. The multitude of new manufacturing and decorative techniques of the period are represented, from the rediscovery of the ancient Roman art of cameo engraving, which spawned a new luxury industry, to the introduction of mould pressed glass for the masses, with its multiplicity of shapes, colours and commemoratives, plus intricate wheel engraving and deep intaglio cutting which brought clear glass back into fashion in the latter part of the century. Highlights include a crystal throne upholstered in scarlet velvet, which was made for a Maharaja; a place setting from the famous Regency service made for the Prince of Wales by Perrin Geddes & Co; the Copeland Vase, which took its engraver Paul Oppitz 243 days to complete, gold enamel reverse decorated armorial plates from the Royal Service of Queen Victoria; an enamelled and relief gilded vase by Jules Barbe; a Persian style cameo vase made in 1890 by Stevens and Williams; and rare examples of varnished glass, the production of which was so dangerous that it was banned a year after it was invented. The exhibition, comprising over 250 magnificent objects, is curated by The Glass Circle, and provides a rare public opportunity to see many pieces lent by its members. The Wallace Collection until 26th October.

Monet: The Seine And The Sea - Vetheuil and Normandy, 1878-1883 brings together some 80 paintings from the years Monet spent in Vetheuil, a small town on the Seine near Vernon. This period of critical importance in his work, when he was at the height of his powers, has never previously been the focus of a major exhibition. It is divided into two main sections, contrasting the changing seasons in rural Vetheuil, with bold seascapes painted on the Normandy coast. A third, smaller section, shows for the first time a group of the portraits and still-life paintings Monet made during this period. Also included is a small selection of paintings by French landscape painters whom Monet admired - Corot, Courbet and Daubigny - and whose motifs his paintings recast in his own individual style. This is the first exhibition to be shown in the restored and refurbished Royal Scottish Academy building, William Henry Playfair's great landmark at the junction of Princes Street and the Mound. This £26m scheme also provides a link to the National Gallery of Scotland, Playfair's sister building next door, plus a lecture theatre, education rooms, and information technology and orientation area, as well as a restaurant, cafe and shop. Royal Scottish Academy Building, Edinburgh until 26th October.

Rock: A Retrospective Of Jane Bown's Rock And Pop Portraits (1963-2003) does exactly what it says on the tin, displaying a selection from the archive of portrait photographs by the legendary Jane Bown spanning five decades of musical history. Highlights include pictures of The Beatles, Keith Richards, Joan Baez, Donovan, Cher, Morrissey, Sinead O'Connor, Boy George, Bjork, Jarvis Cocker and PJ Harvey. The exhibition also features previously unseen portraits of John Lennon, more recent photographs of artists at this year's Glastonbury festival, and Radiohead's Thom Yorke. Jane Bown has been with The Observer since January 1949 when the newspaper published her first photograph, and in addition to portraiture is also a reportage photographer. Bown works in black and white without lights, props or tripods (or an assistant), and never uses a light meter, but gauges the settings by looking at how the light falls on the back of her hand. She works quickly and never takes more than one or two rolls of film per shoot. The spontaneity that this affords has enabled her 'snaps' as she calls them to capture a moment that reveals the essence of widely differing artists - some of whom she had never even heard of before she meets them. Her most famous portrait of Samuel Beckett was taken in less than a minute in the alleyway beside the Royal Court Theatre. The Newsroom, London until 24th October.