Private View held by Richard Andrews
Jean Prouve - The Poetics Of The Technical Object is the first comprehensive overview of the radical, innovative and influential work of the French designer and engineer to be staged in Britain. Prouve worked as both a designer and manufacturer, producing everything from bicycles for the French resistance to folded sheet steel armchairs, and prefabricated housing in the time of post Second World War reconstruction. He was a pioneering architect who invented High Tech design, and was responsible for the selection of Richard Rodgers and Renzo Piano to design the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the building that firmly established the movement. The exhibition is a comprehensive survey of Prouve's life and work, from his early career as a blacksmith, through the establishment of his factory producing components and structures, to later work as a consultant engineer. Architectural models, drawings, photographs and films are displayed alongside full scale structures, together with over 50 examples of his furniture designs. Prouve's fluid, functional designs developed not only the aesthetic possibilities of aluminium and steel, but also their economic and social applications. The exhibition demonstrates his central role in pioneering the use of metal in the mass production of both furniture and buildings in the 20th century. Design Museum until 25th March.
Sleeping Beauties: Walter Crane And The Illustrated Book presents highlights from the recently acquired Walter Crane Archive, spanning the career of the artist and designer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The broad selection includes Crane's early commissions, as well as original drawings for his famous Toy Book illustrations, flower books and political cartoons. Exploring the rich and varied subject matter within Crane's book designs, the exhibition brings to life the fantastic imagery in his work, as well as revealing the stories behind their inspiration and production. Crane's work is referenced by personal correspondence, photographs and hand written journals, as his own story is placed alongside fairy tale imagery, traditional stories and the private picture books created for his own children. The exhibition highlights various themes evident within Crane's practice, including his aspirations for political and social reform, as reflected in his vision of a picture book utopia. Crane's position as a leading figure of the aesthetic movement is explored through his imagery, as is his belief in the redemptive power of good design. Themes such as industrialisation, vegetarianism and man's relationship to the environment are explored in Crane's picture books, giving an insight into how these contemporary issues were regarded a century ago. The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, until March.
Medieval Ivories From The Thomson Collection is a selection of over 45 of the finest medieval carved ivories from the art collection of the late Kenneth Thomson. The display features most types of medieval ivory carving, with subjects ranging from the religious to the secular, including large statuettes of the Virgin and Child intended to stand on altars in chapels, together with small versions for private use in the home, and folding tablets or diptychs with scenes from the life of Christ carved in relief. Alongside these are carved writing tables, boxes and caskets, combs, hair parters, mirror cases with scenes of romantic encounters between young men and women, and a rare set of carved serving knives with fabulous beasts decorating the ivory handles. The centerpiece is an astonishingly carved Nativity and the Last Judgement, which until recently had been dismissed as a 19th century forgery, as its degree of accomplishment so far exceeds any other surviving medieval work. Other highlights include the Dormeuil Diptych of the Passion of Christ, the largest Passion diptych recorded, measuring 24.7cm by 31.4cm when opened, last on public display in 1913; a narrative comb showing two couples being transported to the fountain of youth in a carriage drawn by a horse and a mule, where they frolick naked in the waters; and a series of grisly memento mori beads designed to remind the owner of their own mortality, with heads on one side and worm eaten skulls on the other. Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, London, until 9th March.
Atlantic Worlds is a new gallery that explores the interrelationship, connections and exchanges created between Britain, Africa and the Americas between 1600 and 1850, and looks at the impact and legacy of empire on three continents. It reveals how geographical exploration and the navigation of the Atlantic opened up new trade routes from the early 17th century onwards, and brought Europeans into contact with different cultures, setting in motion a dynamic of conquest and exploitation, as well as trading and cultural exchanges, which ultimately resulted in military conflict, in order to protect the new relationships that were forged. Paintings, prints, drawings, maps, models of ships, weapons, decorative arts and ethnographic materials are amongst the 220 objects on view. These include a 16th century Spanish astrolabe; gold weights, fashioned in the form of muskets, used for weighing gold dust by the Akan people of Southern Ghana during the 18th and 19th centuries; a detailed daily logbook from the slave schooner Juverna, written by Master Robert Lewis, which records the vessel's maiden voyage between Liverpool, West Africa and Surinam during 1804 and 1805; a North American shot pouch, made from moose and caribou skin, with porcupine quillwork embroidery and woven panels of triangles and rectangles reflecting Metis, Cree and Chippewyan influences; a harpoon gun used on Resolute, an auxilliary steam whaler of 680 tons, part of the Dundee fleet, which was crushed by the Arctic ice and sank in 1886; a copy of the American Declaration of Independence; and an 18th century guillotine, used in the Haitian uprising. National Maritime Museum, continuing.
Victorian Visions: 19th Century Photography offers an insight into the Victorian view of the world through around 40 original photographs, grouped into early works, landscape, documentary, women photographers and portraits. They include images made by major pioneers of photography, such as Julia Margaret Cameron, Lady Hawarden, Roger Fenton, Francis Frith, Robert Howlett and B.B. Turner. Among the highlights are: Julia Margaret Cameron's works echoing Pre-Raphaelite paintings in their romantic subject matter; Lady Hawarden's intense photographs of female sitters, often her own daughters, making use of natural light, reflections and a careful choice of viewpoint and props; B B Turner and Roger Fenton's landscapes, which follow in the tradition of British landscape painting; Paul Martin's photographs of day trippers enjoying the beach at Yarmouth Sands, a new leisure activity made possible by the building of the railways; a selection of carte de visite (small portrait photographs exchanged between friends and stuck into albums) of various eminent Victorians such as Charles Dickens and William Gladstone; and documentary images that record the desolation of the Crimea War, and the groundbreaking nature of Victorian engineering. Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, Liverpool, until 16th March.
William Blake: 'I still go on / Till the Heavens and Earth are gone' is an exhibition marking the 250th anniversary of the birth of William Blake. The unconventional artist, whose works encompassed hallucinations on Peckham Rye and poems of biblical turmoil, combined the prosaic with the visionary. A collection of Blake's designs and watercolours from both public and private collections is displayed alongside some of his most famous illustrated books and colour prints. The highlight is a group of eight recently discovered plates from the 'Small Book of Designs', which have never been on public view before. As part of gallery's contribution to the anniversary celebration, it has published a facsimile of William Blake's first printed book of poems, the 'Poetical Sketches' of 1783, from a copy which includes the author's handwritten corrections, which is also on display. Tate Britain until 1st June.
The Vault is a new gallery displaying some of the finest and most valuable gems, crystals, metals and meteorites from around the world. Each exhibit has a story to tell, whether of the American gold rush, African diamond mining, or in the case of meteorites dating back 4.5bn years, the history of the solar system. Among the treasures in their natural form are: a diamond embedded in what is known as yellow ground, like a shark's tooth jutting sharply from a piece of rock found in California; the Latrobe nugget, one of the largest and finest groups of cubic gold crystals in the world, found at a mine in Australia; large clusters of rubies clinging to pieces of limestone marble; an aquamarine and rose crystal the size of a grapefruit clasped in the coarse grain rock on which it grew; the Devonshire Emerald, one of the biggest uncut emeralds in the world, from Columbia; and the extremely rare Nakhla meteorite from Mars, which fell to earth in Egypt in 1911. The cut stones are just as impressive, including: the Aurora collection of 296 coloured diamonds; the famous Star of South Africa, which started the South African diamond rush; an 898 carat aquamarine gemstone the size of an orange; a huge 2,982 carat topaz from Brazil; and the Heron-Allen amethyst, looted during the Indian Mutiny and believed to be 'cursed and stained with blood', as everyone who owned it suffered disaster and misfortune. Natural History Museum, continuing.
Utagawa Hiroshige: The Moon Reflected is an opportunity to see the woodblock prints of famous Japanese landscapes by the 19th century Japanese artist. This exhibition features the series of prints, 'Famous Views of the Sixty-odd Provinces', Hiroshige's first attempt to produce landscapes in the unusual vertical format, and 'Thirty-six Views of Fuji' - stylistically quite distinctive, although made using the same traditional woodcutting technique - as well as a number of sketchbooks, and the famous 'Snow', 'Moon' and 'Flowers' triptychs. These works, assembled from three separate prints, epitomise Hiroshige's vision, extraordinary for their breadth and ambition. The artist's last series, exhibited here, 'One Hundred Famous Views of Edo', was originally intended to be 100 prints, but there are more, due to popular demand, with imagery featuring fascinating details amidst a range of evocative landscapes. Rivers, hills, bridges and temples are depicted in these compositions, each work revealing their different aspects depending on the weather, time of day and season. In these works Hiroshige uses to extreme his disconcerting techniques of radical cropping of the image, and a dominating foreground object - such a tree - that almost obscures the landscape, supposedly the subject of the print, so that the viewer is not quite sure what s/he is looking at. Ikon Gallery Birmingham until 20th January, and Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool, 8th March to 26th April.
Shutting Up Shop presents a selection of photographs by John Londei of small independent shops, found on journeys covering the length and breadth of Britain. In 1972 Londei started taking pictures of retailers, often family run businesses, well established in their local communities, striving to capture the timeworn presence of these already anachronistic businesses:¬ the butchers and bakers, button makers, cobblers, fishmongers and chemists. Over a 15 year period Londei photographed some 60 shops, but when he retraced his steps in 2004, and revisited the shops, he found that only 7 were still in business. This display captures a bygone age. Proud proprietors are pictured outside their enterprises, such as Frank Gedge, owner of a contraceptives shop opened in Stoke-on-Trent in 1935, and Oliver Meek, 86 years old, and last in a line of basket makers stretching back seven generations in the small town of Swaffham in Norfolk. The interiors of some of the more idiosyncratic shops are also shown as a backdrop to their proprietors, with Philip Poole photographed in his perfectly organised pen shop, His Nibs, formerly of Drury Lane in London, and Bill and Joan, standing at the counter of the provisions store they have run together in Lincolnshire since 1947. For Londei, the shopkeepers were vital to the portraits of the shops, as running the shop meant so much more to them than a business - as though they had turned the premises into living entities. National Portrait Gallery, until 4th May
The Age Of Enchantment: Beardsley, Dulac And Their Contemporaries 1890-1930 marks the dramatic change in the world of the illustrated book that occurred following the death of Aubrey Beardsley. The 'degenerate' images of scandal and deviance disappeared, as the age of decadence was softened to delight rather than to shock. Whimsy and a pastel toned world of childish delights and an innocent exoticism unfolded in the pages of familiar fables and children's stories, such as The Arabian Nights and Hans Andersen's tales, published with lavish colour plates. A new generation of illustrators emerged, led by the masters of this new art form, artists Edmund Dulac, Kay Nielson and Arthur Rackham, followed by Jessie King, Annie French, the Detmold Brothers, Sidney Sime, Laurence Houseman, Charles Ricketts and Harry Clarke. The exhibition comprises over 100 works arranged by theme: the Exotic, the Arabian World, the Chinese World, Greeks and Romans, Fairies and Monsters. Among the many highlights are Beardsley's 'Salome', 'Le Morte d'Arthur' and 'The Rape of the Lock'; Dulac's 'Circe' and 'The Ice Maiden'; Rackham's 'Lizzie, Lizzie, Have You Tasted for My Sake the Fruit Forbidden'; Clarke's 'The Pit and the Pendulum; and plates from 'the Detmold's 'The Jungle Book' and Sime's 'Zoology'. Dulwich Picture Gallery, London until 2nd February.
Millscapes: Art Of The Industrial Landscape looks at the industrial architecture of the North West, from the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, when mills, and the canal systems, aqueducts, warehouses and streets of terraced housing built with them, completely transformed the landscape, through the decline after the Second World War, to today's changing skylines. Paintings of early water powered mills in rural settings contrast with images of those built on the edge of urban developments, and dark, smoggy industrial landscapes, seen in French Impressionist Pierre Adolphe Valette's 'Bailey Bridge, Manchester', and James Purdy's view of 'Millbottom,' Oldham', together with works by unknown artists, including 'Lowerhouse Printworks, Burnley' and 'Frenches Mill, Saddleworth'. Paintings from the 1930s and 1940s include 'Our Town' and 'Street Scene' by LS Lowry, the rigid lines and smoking chimneys providing a stark contrast to Harry Rutherford's cheerful and informal 'Mill Girls, Ashton'. By the 1980s, over half of the mills and cloth-finishing works in Greater Manchester had been demolished or were derelict, and the subsequent regeneration is captured in Liam Spencer's 'Rooftops' and 'The End of the Mancunian Way', Peter Stanaway's 'Now the Mill Has Gone', Walter Kershaw's 'Mutual Mills Reflections', Alan Rankle's 'Saddleworth Study: Uppermill' and David Gledhill's 'Old Mill Street'. Gallery Oldham until 2nd February.
An American Passion For British Art: Paul Mellon's Legacy marks the centenary of the birth of one of the world's greatest collectors of British art, with a selection of major works from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art. It provides an unparalleled opportunity to experience some of the finest works of British art from the 15th to early 20th centuries. The exhibition features more than 150 works, including prints, drawings, paintings, rare books and manuscripts, with many objects that have not been seen in Britain they were purchased. Among these are early Americana and exceptional rare books and manuscripts including works by William Blake. Items range in scale from miniatures by Hilliard and small scale works on paper, to large scale oil paintings. The representative collection of great British watercolours includes paintings by JR Cozens, Thomas Girtin, Richard Parkes Bonington and Paul Sandby. The oil paintings featured comprise works by Reynolds, Gainsborough, Stubbs Constable, Canaletto, Hogarth, and Turner - including his outstanding marine painting, 'Dort or Dordrecht: The Dort Packet-Boat from Rotterdam Becalmed' on view in the UK for the first time since it was purchased in 1966. Royal Academy of arts until 27th January.