Private View held by Richard Andrews
Babylon: Myth And Reality explores the continuing dialogue between the Babylon of the imagination and the historic evidence for one of the great cities of antiquity at the moment of its climax and eclipse. For 2,000 years the myth of Babylon has haunted the European imagination, as the Tower of Babel and the Hanging Gardens, Belshazzar's Feast and the Fall of Babylon have inspired artists, writers, poets, philosophers and film makers. Over the past 200 years, archaeologists have pieced together the real Babylon - an imperial capital, a great centre of science, art and commerce. The exhibition focuses on the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar in 6th century BC, through 100 objects, including glazed brick panels from the Ishtar Gate and Processional Way; cuneiform tablets revealing the history of the period, such as one listing subsistence rations for Jehoiachin the exiled king of Judah, one noting the dimensions of the ziggurat that provided the inspiration for the Tower of Babel, and one describing the New Year celebrations that took place in and around the Processional Way; and a recently excavated Stela of Nabonidus from Saudi Arabia, which exemplifies the destruction of Babylonian monuments by the later Persian administration. Artists' responses to Babylon are shown side by side with ancient sculptures and clay tablets, with key works including William Blake's 'Nebuchadnezzar', John Martin's 'Belshazzar's Feast', several 16th century Flemish and Dutch Tower of Babel paintings, and a study by Degas for 'Semiramis construisante Babylone'. The exhibition concludes with a consideration of Babylon's recent history, showing how images of the ancient city remain state icons used on items such as stamps and banknotes, and looks at the physical harm that the site of Babylon has suffered as a result of contemporary events and war. British Museum until 15th March.
The Intimate Portrait is the first exhibition to examine a relatively unknown aspect of British portraiture from the period between the 1730s and the 1830s. Some of the country's greatest artists produced beautifully worked intimate portraits in pencil, chalks, watercolours and pastels, as well as miniatures on ivory, which were often exhibited, sold and displayed as finished works of art. While oil paintings and sculpture dominated the public art of portraiture, many artists were simultaneously involved in creating more private portraits for domestic consumption and display. Portrait miniatures painted in watercolour on ivory were worn as jewellery or displayed as treasures in cabinets, pastels with their fragile surfaces were protected under glass and hung in frames, while drawings were either hung in family groups or kept in albums or portfolios to be shown to friends and family. The exhibition brings together some 200 works by around 50 artists, including many of the leading figures of the period, such as Allan Ramsay, Thomas Lawrence, David Wilkie, Richard Cosway, John Brown, Archibald Skirving, Francis Cotes, George Dance, Henry Fuseli and John Downman, with self-portrait drawings by the rivals Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough. The show examines the themes of self-portraiture, the depiction of artists' families and friends, and the portrayal of the political, social, literary and theatrical celebrities of the day, with sitters including Prince Charles Edward Stuart, Robert Burns, Lady Hamilton, the Duke of Wellington and the young Queen Victoria. Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, until 1st February.
This Is War! Robert Capa At Work features the work of one of the leading photographers of the 20th century, and a pioneer of photojournalism. Robert Capa captured war as it unfolded on the front line, and his images have now come to define key moments in history. Working with the Leica, a super light-weight camera invented by a mountaineer, Capa got closer to the heat of the battle than any previous photographer, redefining how war was pictured. Taking its title from the headline of a 1938 Picture Post story, this exhibition brings together rarely seen photographs, vintage prints, contact sheets, handwritten observations, personal letters, and original magazine layouts, and looks closely at Capa's working process, and the construction of six of his key photo stories from the 1930s and 1940s. The exhibition includes an examination of the most famous image of the Spanish Civil War, Death of a Loyalist Militiaman, Cerro Muriano, generally known as 'The Falling Soldier', capturing a soldier who has just been shot and falling to his death, with, for the first time, all the known images taken by Capa on that day, providing new details to help understand the events that resulted in the creation of this iconic photograph. The show also unites the 10 existing images of Capa's legendary shots of the Omaha beach landing in Normandy, France on D-Day, 6 June 1944. Although many of the original negatives were destroyed in a darkroom accident, the surviving images have become synonymous with the Allied victory in the Second World War. In addition, there are selected works from the recently discovered 'Mexican suitcase', a valise missing for 70 years containing thousands of Capa's negatives from the Spanish Civil War, on public view for the first time. Barbican Gallery until 25th January.
Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life, 1990 - 2005 brings together recent well known assignments and rarely seen personal work of one of the world's best known portrait photographers, who has been documenting American popular culture since the early 1970s. With over 150 photographs, the exhibition shows iconic images of famous public figures together with personal photographs of Annie Leibovitz's family and close friends. Arranged chronologically, they project a narrative of her private life against the backdrop of her public image. At the heart of the exhibition, Leibovitz's personal photography documents scenes from her life, including the birth and childhood of her three daughters, and vacations, reunions, and rites of passage with her parents, her extended family and close friends. The show features Leibovitz's portraits of well known figures, including actors such as Jamie Foxx, Daniel Day Lewis, Al Pacino, Nicole Kidman and Brad Pitt as well as artists and architects such as Richard Avedon, Brice Marden, Philip Johnson, Chuck Close and Cindy Sherman. Highlights include dancers Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rob Besserer holding a dance position on a beach, William S Burroughs in Kansas and Agnes Martin in Taos. Featured assignment work includes reportage from the siege of Sarajevo in the early 1990s and the election of Hillary Clinton to the US Senate. There are also landscapes taken in Monument Valley in the American West and in Wadi Rum in the Jordanian desert. National Portrait Gallery until 1st February.
From The Land Of The Golden Fleece: Tomb Treasures Of Ancient Georgia features tomb and temple treasures in gold, silver and bronze, from the land to which the Greek hero Jason led the Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece. Over 140 treasures, never before shown outside Georgia, reflect the local rituals, lavish burial practices and exquisite craftsmanship of one of the least known civilizations on the borders of the classical world. The exhibition comprises a wealth of gold and silver jewellery, sculpture and funerary items dating from the 5th to 1st centuries BC, excavated from sanctuaries and tombs at Vani in the ancient kingdom of Colchis, on the eastern shores of the Black Sea. Among the highlights are a gold necklace with 31 pendant tortoises, and accompanying earrings, rings and broach; a silver belt showing scenes of banqueting and animal processions; a delicate bronze sculpture of a youth; silver and pottery libation bowls in Persian style; and drinking vessels and decorated cauldrons reflecting the importance of wine making.
Bordering The Black Sea: Greeks, 'Barbarians' And Their Coins is an accompanying exhibition exploring the history of Greek colonies on the shores of the Black Sea, their interaction with indigenous peoples, and their artistic traditions through the imagery on coinage. It showcases gold and silver coins, some in the shape of dolphins and arrowheads, from the 6th century BC to Roman times.
Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge until 4th January.
Paths To Fame: Turner Watercolours From The Courtauld is the first opportunity to see this collection in its entirety, including 9 recent acquisitions. The watercolours are rarely on public view because of their susceptibility to damage from strong light (hence they are shown in winter). The collection includes work from across Turner's career, ranging from an early view of the Avon Gorge, Bristol, made when he was just 16, to examples of the monumental highly finished watercolours of his maturity, and the expressive late works. Turner travelled the length and breadth of Britain and the Continent in search of inspirational and marketable views. Following in his footsteps, the exhibition traces the evolution of his inventive and entrepreneurial approach to the making of landscape in watercolour - such as rearranging the landscape for a more dramatic effect. Among the highlights are 'Rome from San Pietro in Montorio', 'Mont Blanc from above Courmayeur', 'On Lake Lucerne looking towards Fluelen', 'Heaped Thundercloud over Sea and Land, Storm on Margate Sands', 'Margate Pier', and 'Dawn after the Wreck'. The works from the collection are supplemented by closely related loans, offering the opportunity to trace the development of certain compositions, including the panoramic view 'Crook of Lune', from early sketches and exploratory 'colour beginnings' to finished watercolours, and in some cases, published prints. Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, London until 25th January
Taking Liberties provides a rare opportunity to view actual documents that played key roles in the nation's struggle for freedoms and rights, charting the roots of British democracy over a period of more than 900 years. Among the iconic documents on display that paved the way for liberty and democracy are: on the Rule of Law, Magna Carta, in which King John acknowledged laws, rights and freedoms which eventually became a model for liberty throughout the world; Habeas Corpus, which guaranteed that no one could be imprisoned unlawfully; on the Right to Vote, 1832 Reform Act, which abolished the rotten and pocket boroughs, and redistributed seats to enfranchise large towns and populations previously not covered, and Olive Wharry's prison scrapbook, detailing the Suffragette's time in jail; on Human Rights, Thomas Paine's Rights Of Man, championing both natural and civil rights, and William Blake's notebook, containing a draft of The Tyger and material used in other poems, essays, lyrics and epigrams; on the Monarchy and the People, King Charles I's death warrant, following Cromwell's victory in the Civil War, and the Bill of Rights (the closest Britain has to a constitution) passed at the time of the restoration of the monarchy; on Freedom from Want, Charles Booth's 1891 Poverty Map of London, revealing the bleak living conditions of the capital's poor, and the Beveridge Report, which was the blueprint for the welfare state set up after the Second World War. British Library until 1st March.
Garden Giants: Amazing Bugs In Our Environment is a bug hunt with a difference. An indoor garden has been created, complete with a potting shed and grass paths, and hidden in the undergrowth are giant moving models of stag beetles, ants, wasps, crickets, snails, ladybirds, butterflies and spiders - up to 400 times their actual size (that's 7ft long or tall), making appropriately magnified sounds. Accompanying interactive displays provide a guide to the world of insects and invertebrates, which is full of little known facts about creepy crawlies of all kinds – and provides information that can help to distinguish the good from the bad. Younger visitors can find out what it is like to see like a fly (but unlike the film it's a reversible process), smell like a bug, and even handle the little beasts (that's the bugs not the children). Although the 'eek factor' is at the heart of the exhibition, the underlying theme is sustainability. It highlights the importance of insects and invertebrates to the ecosystems that support life on earth, and offers advice on how to encourage useful bugs into domestic gardens, from the experts at the Royal Horticultural Society Garden at Wisley. The Lightbox, Woking until 4th January.
Miro, Calder, Giacometti, Braque: Aime Maeght And His Artists demonstrates the achievement of the Galerie Maeght, one of the most influential and creative galleries of the 20th century. Founded by Aime and Marguerite Maeght in Paris in 1945, the gallery featured work by artists who expressed the bold new spirit in art that exploded in France following the end of the Second World War. The exhibition presents Aime Maeght's contributions to art in the mid 20th century as an art dealer, exhibition maker and publisher. It comprises over 140 paintings, sculptures, ceramics, prints and sketch books by the major artists Maeght exhibited: Joan Miro, Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacometti and George Braque - as well as works by Pierre Bonnard and Henri Matisse. Highlights include Miro's 'The Birth of the Day III', and 'Cat Snake'; Calder's 'Airplane Tail' and 'Sumac V'; Giacometti's 'Spoon Woman', 'Standing Woman' and 'Walking Man'; Braque's 'Hesperus - Theogony'; Bonnard's 'Summer'; and Matisse's 'Seated Nude' and 'The Bush'. There is also a collage of the covers of Derriere le Miroir, the periodical that served as a catalogue for the gallery's exhibitions, illustrated by the artists' original lithographs. Little known film footage of the artists at work and relaxing with their patron and his family is included in the show, revealing the remarkably close relationship that existed between Maeght and his artists. Royal Academy of Arts, until 2nd January.
Ford Madox Brown The Unofficial Pre-Raphaelite is a reassessment of the work of one of the comparatively lesser known artists of the Pre-Raphaelite group of artists. Ford Madox Brown is celebrated as the painter of 'The Last of England' and 'Work', yet next to John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt he is a more shadowy figure. Never an official member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, he was a major influence or what he described as 'an aider and abettor of Pre-Raphaelitism'. Recent research has revealed the breath of Madox Brown's achievements as a modernist and a realist in a career spanning some 60 years, during which he produced iconic observations of modern 19th century life. Well known and little exhibited sketches, study drawings, watercolours, stained glass designs, wood engravings as well as paintings and archive material have been selected to investigate themes such as historical subject matter and portraiture, illustrations for literature and the decorative arts, which became major concerns for Madox Brown. The importance of his wife, Emma Hill, as his most influential model is also revealed in a series of head studies alongside such landmark paintings as 'The Pretty Baa Lambs'. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery until 14th December.
The Golden Generation: British Theatre 1945 - 1968 demonstrates the variety, dynamism, and vision of actors, directors and writers that flourished in British theatre between the end of the Second World War and the abolition of theatre censorship. It reflects the time of social transformation, during which writers began addressing contemporary life, by examining some of its key theatrical institutions. The exhibition is a treasure trove of theatrical manuscripts, letters, photographs and oral history recordings. Highlights include the only surviving scripts of the first two plays by John Osborne, The Devil Inside Him and Personal Enemy, and a handwritten draft of The Entertainer sent to Laurence Olivier, alongside 'disgusted' fan letters, complaining that Olivier should play such a role; an exchange of letters between Olivier and his wig maker, revealing his obsession with the accuracy of his stage make up; photographs of Michel St Denis's revolutionary drama training methods at the Old Vic theatre school; Harold Pinter's scrapbook in which he pasted reviews of his first play, noting that 'Mr Pinter may well make some impact as a dramatist'; a handwritten draft of Pinter's The Homecoming, accompanied by letters of encouragement from playwrights Noel Coward and Samuel Beckett; photographs showing how many playwrights developed their talent while acting in regional repertory theatres, including Peter Nichols, John Osborne, Harold Pinter, and Charles Wood; letters from the Lord Chamberlain reflecting a questioning of the rigid rules on how 'deviant' sexuality could be portrayed on stage; and the assumed lost script of Alan Ayckbourn's first play, Love After All, rediscovered last year. The British Library until 30th November.
The Body Carnival is an examination of the modified body in all its forms, focusing on the practises of tattooing, piercing, corsetry and cosmetic surgery. Presented from an insider's perspective by Joolz Denby, writer, artist, 'cultural revolutionary' and tattooist, it is a highly personal vision. Exhibits include Anthony Bennett's life size sculptures of the 'Pierced Angel' and 'The Great Omi'; photographs of examples extreme tattoos and piercings shot from odd angles by Ashley and Ian Beesley; the inner workings of a tattoo studio revealed in the presentation 'Bijou Tatu'; and an examination of the practice of corseting, which charts its progress from genteel underwear to flamboyant outerwear, with examples by Viviene Westwood and Alexander McQueen. For all its sympathetic intention and protestations of a serious reflection of contemporary fashion, it is really the modern equivalent of a Victorian travelling fair sideshow - only The Elephant Man is missing. Not for the squeamish. Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Bradford until 30th November.