News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 16th May 2012


Royal River: Power, Pageantry and the Thames brings to life the history of the Thames as Britain's royal river and London's 'grandest street'. The exhibition evokes the sights, sounds and even the smells of half a millennium of royal river pageantry and popular celebration, and shows how the river pageants were used to celebrate the coronation and inauguration of Tudor and Stuart Queens. For hundreds of years the Thames has been a unique site for royal, national and civic ceremony and celebration. Providing a larger stage than any street on land, the river has seen the pomp of spectacular coronations, the music and fireworks of extravagant processions, and the bustle of festive frost fairs, where rich and poor mingled on its frozen surface. A wealth of fascinating objects take visitors from Anne Boleyn's coronation procession to Lord Nelson's funeral, from the gilded magnificence of the Lord Mayor's pageant to the noxious horror of the 'Great Stink', and from the great riverside seats of regal power to the floating palaces of the royal yachts. Among the nearly 400 paintings, manuscripts and beautiful artefacts are rarely seen uniforms, silver and barge decorations from the City's many livery companies, an elaborate silver microscope made for George III and the 16th century Pearl Sword, which to this day the monarch must touch upon entering the City of London. Other highlights include the oldest known copy of Handel's Water Music, Bazalgette's original contract drawings for the construction of the Thames embankment, Anne Boleyn's personal music book, the magnificent stern carvings from the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert III, and a remarkable collection of paintings by Canaletto. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, until 2nd September.

Alex Katz: Give Me Tomorrow focuses on seascapes and beach scenes, as well as images of family holidays and friends, painted in the seaside retreat of Lincolnville, Maine. Alex Katz is one of the most important and respected living American artists, with a career that spans six decades, and this exhibition brings together over 30 canvases, plus collages and cut-outs from the 1950s to today. Katz's paintings are defined by their flatness of colour and form, their economy of line, and their cool but seductive emotional detachment. Working with classical themes of portraiture, landscape, figure studies, marine scenes and flowers, many of Katz's works picture an everyday America of easy living, leisure and recreation. Influenced as much by style, fashion and music as he is art history, he remains a very classical painter, working in the tradition of European and American artists like Manet, Matisse, and Hopper. In the 1950s, Abstract Expressionism was still the dominant force in American art when Katz began exhibiting. Whilst his interests were firmly based in the previous generation of artists including Pollock, Rothko, Guston and De Kooning, his own painting developed in reaction to their work, and he is acknowledged as a hugely influential precursor to the Pop Art movement with which he became associated throughout the 1960s. Katz has created an unmistakable language and has remained a prolific painter and an influential and important figure for generations of artists. Highlights include 'Round Hill', 'Isleboro Ferry Slip', 'Eleuthera' and 'Black Hat (Bettina)'. Tate St Ives until 23rd September.

Picasso Prints: The Vollard Suite is the first time that a complete set of the Spanish artist's most celebrated series of etchings has been shown in Britain. The Vollard Suite comprises 100 etchings produced by Pablo Picasso between 1930 and 1937, at a critical juncture in his career. They were commissioned by Ambroise Vollard, the greatest avant-garde Paris art dealer and print publisher of his day, who gave Picasso his first Paris exhibition in 1901. The prints were made when Picasso was involved in a passionate affair with his muse and model, Marie-Therese Walter, whose classical features are a recurrent presence in the series. They offer evidence of an ongoing process of change and metamorphosis that eludes any final resolution. Picasso gave no order to the plates nor did he assign any titles to them. He kept the plates open-ended to allow connections to be freely made among them, yet certain thematic groupings can be identified. The predominant theme of the Vollard Suite is the Sculptor's Studio, which deals with Picasso's engagement with classical sculpture. The etchings of Marie-Therese, represent a dialogue alternating between the artist and his creation and between the artist and his model. Various scenarios are played out between the sculptor, the model and the created work. Among them is the classical myth of Pygmalion in which the sculptor becomes so enamoured of his creation that it comes to life at the artist's touch. Classical linearity and repose within the studio also alternate with darker, violent forces. The latter are represented by scenes of brutal passion and by the Minotaur, the half-man, half-animal of classical myth, which became central to Picasso's personal mythology. The series concludes with three portraits of Vollard himself, made in 1937. British Museum until 2nd September.


Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomist features the little known anatomical studies of the human body by 'the' Renaissance man, which were never published in his lifetime. The exhibition comprises 87 anatomical drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, the largest collection to ever go on show, including a detailed portrayal in red chalk of a child in the breech position; pencil drawings of the human skull; a series of cross sections of the human shoulder in motion; a set of views of the inner workings of the human hand; and a detailed drawing of the cardiovascular system, compiled in several stages, sketched first in red and then black chalk, with his fingerprints still visible on the paper. This body of work, driven by Leonardo's desire to be 'true to nature' saw him dissect some 30 corpses, from which he compiled hundreds of sheets of drawings of the human body, inventing biological drawing as he did so. However, his research stayed among his private papers until 1900, when the drawings were finally published and understood by the scientific world. Leonardo's work as an anatomist was deeply serious, incredibly detailed and hugely important, showing that as well as being a consummate painter and inventor, he was also a great scientist. Had they been published in his time, he would have been the most important figure ever to publish on human anatomy, and would be regarded now on par with Galileo or Newton. These drawings have been in the possession of the English monarch's Royal Collection since 1690, and are the largest surviving group of these works. The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, until 7th October.

Spencer's Earthly Paradise celebrates the 50th anniversary of the opening of the gallery dedicated to the work of the idiosyncratic British painter. Stanley Spencer lived and worked for most of his life in Cookham, and the gallery has a particular significance, as it is a former Wesleyan chapel, where he worshipped as a child, and is recorded in one of the drawings in the show: 'Ecstasy in a Wesleyan Chapel'. The exhibition, comprising over 50 works, includes a series of self-portraits ranging from his dramatic first 'Self-Portrait' in oils of 1914 to his final 'Self-Portrait' of 1959; religious works, such as 'The Last Supper', set in a Cookham malt-house 'Sarah Tubb and the Heavenly Visitors', showing Granny Tubb kneeling to pray in Cookham High Street fearing the world was going to end after the appearance of Halley's Comet, 'St Francis and the Birds' and 'Christ Preaching at Cookham Regatta'; local and domestic works such as 'Mending Cowls, Cookham' and 'Domestic Scenes: At the Chest of Drawers'; and The Astor Scrapbook drawings, featuring Elsie Munday the Spencers' maid, Patricia Preece his second wife and Daphne Charlton with whom he had an affair. Stanley Spencer Gallery, Cookham, until 4th November.

Signs, Symbols, Secrets: An Illustrated Guide To Alchemy reveals the power and intricacy of alchemical art and attempts to interpret the hidden meanings behind the symbols. The quest for the philosophers' stone was a major preoccupation of the early modern world. This precious substance was said to transform base metals into silver and gold, heal sickness, and unlock the mysteries of God and nature. Its recipe was a closely guarded secret and a bewildering array of signs and symbols were used, both figuratively and allegorically, to convey key processes and ideas in the search for the fabled stone. This exhibition follows the theme of a recipe using the same sources devised and decoded by the alchemists themselves, comprising striking images from the 16th to the 18th centuries. At its heart is a newly discovered manuscript: a Ripley scroll. These rare scrolls include some of the most complex and fascinating alchemical imagery in existence, and for the first time, this object can be viewed alongside other selected texts and images. Its rich symbolism offers clues, both practical and theoretical, for the creation of the philosophers' stone. Only 23 Ripley scrolls, named after the English alchemist George Ripley, are known to exist. Scholars believe that all the surviving examples are copies and variations upon a lost 15th century original. The scrolls range in size, but are all too long to be viewed and understood in a single glance. Scholars are still investigating how they are meant to be read and used. It is possible that the original scroll was created for a wealthy patron interested in alchemy. Over time, the scrolls have become prized for the quality of their imagery. Science Museum until 27th April.

Bauhaus: Art As Life explores the world's most famous modern art and design school, and delves into the subjects at its heart: art, design, people, society and culture. From its avant-garde arts and crafts beginnings the Bauhaus shifted towards a more radical model of learning uniting art and technology. A driving force behind Modernism, it further sought to change society in the aftermath of the First World War, to find a new way of living. The exhibition traces the life of the school from its founding by Walter Gropius in Weimar in 1919, and its expressionist-influenced roots, to the embrace of art and industry and subsequent move to a purpose built campus in Dessau in 1925 under the direction of Gropius and then Hannes Meyer. Finally it looks to the Bauhaus' brief period in Berlin, led by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and its dramatic closure in 1933, under pressure by the Nazis. Bringing together more than 400 works, the show features a rich array of painting, sculpture, architecture, film, photography, furniture, graphics, product design, textiles, ceramics and theatre by such Bauhaus masters as Josef Albers, Herbert Bayer, Marianne Brandt, Marcel Breuer, Walter Gropius, Johannes Itten, Hannes Meyer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Oskar Schlemmer, and students including Anni Albers, T Lux Feininger, Kurt Kranz, Xanti Schawinsky and Alma Siedhoff-Buscher. Significant works in the exhibition include Laszlo Moholy-Nagy's 'Construction in Enamel 1 (EM1)', the largest in a series of three famously known as the 'Telephone Pictures'; Wassily Kandinsky's 'Circles in a Circle', two bands of colour intersect in a thick black circle containing 26 overlapping circles of varying colours and sizes; Paul Klee's watercolour 'Doppelturm' with its geometric forms in pink and green hues; and Gunta Stolzl's 2m high wall hanging, 'Funf Chore (Five Choirs)'. Barbican Gallery until 12th August.

Taking Time: Chardin's Boy Building A House Of Cards And Other Paintings is a concise and concentrated selection of genre scenes and servant paintings by the 18th century French master of the still life, seen together for the first time. Rejecting the florid excesses and mythological subjects which typified the art of his time, Jean-Simeon Chardin instead captured moments of quiet concentration and absorption in simple, everyday activities. His works have a static, reflective quality which gained him the nickname 'the painter of silence'. This exhibition brings together 11 paintings and the same number of works on paper. At the core of the works on show are 4 paintings of young bourgeois boys playing with packs of cards. This was a favourite subject of Chardin's, and one that he returned to time and time again, perpetually finding new variations on the same theme. The works demonstrate the shifting meanings that arise when individual paintings are paired with different companions. Accompanying these are other images of servants engaged in their work, which distill the modesty and dignity of the people they depict. All the works in the exhibition were painted within a few years of each other, between around 1735 and 1738, during a brief period when Chardin interrupted his still life painting to explore the possibilities of figure subjects. Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, until 15th July.

Victorian Visions: Pre-Raphaelite And Nineteenth Century Art brings together paintings from an exceptional collection and a unique setting. Over the past 25 years the Australian businessman John Schaeffer has been one of the world's most prominent collectors of British 19th century art, and for the first time in Britain a selection of works from his collection is on show to the public. Located on the edge of Holland Park in Kensington, Leighton House was the former home and studio of the leading Victorian artist, Frederic, Lord Leighton. Built to designs by George Aitchison, it was extended and embellished over a period of 30 years to create a private palace of art. Rather than being displayed as in a gallery, the 23 paintings are hung throughout the historic interiors of the house, fulfilling its original intention. Among the highlights are exceptional works by Leighton himself, including the colour sketch for his celebrated 'Flaming June', Solomon J Solomon's 'The Birth of Eve', John William Waterhouse's 'Mariamne Leaving the Judgement Seat of Herod', Frank Dicksee's 'Chivalry', and others by Leighton's contemporaries including William Holman Hunt, G F Watts, and sculptor Alfred Gilbert. Leighton House until 26th September.


Louise Bourgeois: The Return Of The Repressed explores the artist's complex and ambivalent engagement with the theory and practice of psychoanalysis. The exhibition shows original documents from Louise Bourgeois's recently discovered psychoanalytic writings, as well as her drawings and sculptures, in the house of the founding father of psychoanalysis. It is based on the discovery by Bourgeois's longtime assistant Jerry Gorovoy of 2 boxes of writings at the beginning of 2004, and 2 more in early 2010. These constitute an archive of over 1,000 loose sheets recording her reactions to her psychoanalytic treatment from 1951, with several texts referring directly to Dr Henry Lowenfeld, whom she saw from 1952 to 1982. In some cases these texts complement existing diaries that she kept throughout her life, while others serve to fill in the gaps for those years in which she did not keep a diary. The exhibition foregrounds the importance of these writings, displaying nearly 50 original manuscripts for the first time, ranging through sketches, notes, dream recordings, lists and drawings. Highlights of the sculptures and drawings on display include pieces such as 'The Dangerous Obsession'; 'Cell XXIV (Portrait)'; the woven fabric text 'I Am Afraid'; and drawings and 4 gouache on paper works from the series 'The Feeding. Janus Fleuri', sometimes considered the most significant of all Bourgeois's works; plus an inevitable giant spider in the garden. The exhibition raises fundamental questions about the relationship between art and life, and the therapeutic nature of art itself. The Freud Museum, 20 Maresfield Gardens, London NW3, until 27th May.

Lucian Freud: Portraits is the first exhibition to focus on the portraiture work of one of the most important and influential British artists of his generation. Paintings of people were central to the work of Lucian Freud, and this exhibition features 130 paintings and works on paper, spanning over 70 years. The show includes 'Portrait of the Hound', the unfinished painting of his assistant David Dawson and his dog Eli, on which Freud was working until shortly before his death last year. Freud's portraits are hard, disquieting things, attuned to the tough reality of bare, veiny sprawling bodies, and the jaundiced walls, gummy sheets and cruel furniture around them. Concentrating on particular periods and groups of sitters to show Freud's stylistic development and technical virtuosity, the exhibition includes both iconic and rarely seen portraits of the artist's lovers, friends and family. Described by Freud as 'people in my life', these portraits demonstrate the psychological drama and unrelenting observational intensity of his work. Sitters in the exhibition include family members, particularly his mother Lucie, artists such as Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon, Michael Andrews, John Minton and David Hockney, and the performance artist Leigh Bowery. Bowery's friend Sue Tilley, the 'Benefits Supervisor', who was immortalised by Freud in a series of monumental paintings in the 1990s, is also featured. Other sitters on view include photographer Harry Diamond, Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, Andrew Parker Bowles, Baron Rothschild, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza and Francis Wyndham. In addition, the exhibition also highlights the recurring importance of the self-portrait in Freud's work. National Portrait Gallery until 27th May.

Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan is a retrospective of the work of one of the most influential Italian artists of the 20th century. The exhibition highlights Alighiero Boetti's exploration of numeric, linguistic and classificatory systems, as well as his engagement with people and politics. Boetti has most commonly been associated with the Italian Arte Povera artists of the late 1960s, and while this exhibition begins with his objects made from everyday materials, including 'Stack' and 'Little Coloured Sticks', it also reveals his early scepticism about art movements through such works as his mock 'Manifesto'. In the late 1960s Boetti began to explore the figure of the artist, showing how it embodied the dual roles of divine shaman and public showman. He went on to represent himself as a pair of twins and changed his name to Alighiero E Boetti (Alighiero and Boetti). Alongside his early self portraits, the exhibition includes the late 'Self-Portrait', and a life size bronze cast of the artist spraying his heated head with a hose. Boetti's engagement with geopolitics and his travels to Ethiopia, Guatemala and Afghanistan is reflected the 'Mappa', world maps, in which each country is coloured with its national flag, recording political change across the globe from 1971 to 1994, charting the independence of African states, and the break-up of the USSR. Boetti's lifelong fascination with games, numbers, words, dates and sequences is also featured, in works such as 'Dama', which uses a chequerboard pattern to evoke an absurd domino-like game; 'Ordine e disordine', which comprises 100 multicoloured word squares dispersed on the wall; several biro drawings in which Boetti's favourite phrases are encoded; the embroideries 'The Thousand Longest Rivers in the World, and 'The Hour Tree'; and a set of rugs whose patterns are based on numeric systems. Tate Modern until 27th May.