Private View held by Richard Andrews
The Charles Dickens Museum, located in Dickens's only surviving London home, has re-opened following £3.1m restoration and refurbishment project. As part of this programme, the offices were transferred to the neighbouring building, where a visitor centre, learning centre and cafe were created, and the original Georgian house restored to the condition and decorative scheme when Dickens lived there, from 1837 to 1839. During this time, two of his daughters were born, his wife's sister Mary Hogarth (with whom he was alleged to have had an affair) died in his arms, and he finished The Pickwick Papers and wrote Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. For the first time the entire four storey house is open to the public, including the kitchen and the attic. The museum holds over 100,000 items, including manuscripts, rare editions, furniture, jewellery, personal items, letters, paintings and other visual sources, including the National Dickens Library, the most comprehensive of its kind in the world. Among the highlights are Dickens's original writing desk and chair; his reading desk, which he designed himself; the grille from Marshalsea Prison, where his father was held over a debt, which features in Little Dorrit; his four poster bed; and photographs of the 1865 railway accident at Staplehurst in which he helped rescue the injured. In addition, costumes from the recent film of Great Expectations are on display. The Charles Dickens Museum, 48 Doughty Street, London, WC1, continuing.
In Front Of Nature: The European Landscapes Of Thomas Fearnley is the first British exhibition of the work of one of Scandinavia's most important painters. The fjords, forests, mountains, torrents and glaciers of Scandinavia and Switzerland, the lakes and picturesque country buildings of Cumbria, and the sun-drenched plains, hillsides, rocks and sea-shores of Southern Europe and the Mediterranean are brought vividly to life in the work of the Victorian artist Thomas Fearnley. Of British ancestry, but born and brought up in Norway, Fearnley was thought by some critics during his lifetime to possess a talent for landscape that rivaled Turner's. Although Fearnley toured Britain several times, painting views of the Lake District, and is today revered as one of the fathers of Norwegian paintings, in this country he is now virtually unknown. This exhibition, which aims to restore the reputation of this supremely talented artist of the Romantic era, comprises iconic large landscape paintings, including 'The Grindelwald Glacier', oil sketches and drawings, some of which have never before been seen in public. Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham, until 27th January.
Hartnell To Amies: Couture By Royal Appointment is a retrospective of London couture design after the Second World War. The exhibition explores how the Queen's patronage of ground breaking British designers Norman Hartnell, Hardy Amies and Frederick Fox helped to establish London as an international fashion centre. Whilst the English have been renowned for their tailoring since the 18th century, there was little typically British couture until Norman Hartnell opened in 1923. Known for his landmark art-moderne House of 1935, war-time Utility designs, and the Queen's wedding dress in 1947 and Coronation Dress of 1953, the iconic dress of the mid-20th century, Hartnell expressed the characteristics and the quality of British high fashion, and set the standard for generations to come. Hardy Amies's career began as designer at Lachasse, noted for its tailored suits, and he was in tune with Christian Dior's New Look. By 1951 Princess Elizabeth ordered from him, and as Queen Elizabeth II did so for the next five decades. Amies became a successful menswear designer in 1959 with the first recorded men's catwalk show. The milliner's role in London couture is examined through the work of Australian born designer Frederick Fox. His most famous designs are the hats he created for Queen Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and many celebrities worldwide. The exhibition ends with a discussion of the design house in the current fashion industry and the resurgence of British heritage brands, traditional tailoring and dressmaking. The Fashion and Textile Museum, 83 Bermondsey Street, London SE1, until 23rd February.
The Furniture Gallery is the first ever gallery dedicated to providing a permanent home for the internationally renowned furniture collection of over 14,000 pieces. Designed by NORD Architecture, the gallery displays more than 200 outstanding pieces of British and European furniture, from the Middle Ages to the present day, as well as examples of American and Asian furniture, and examines in detail the range of materials and techniques employed for each one. The pieces range from chairs, stools, tables, bureaux, chests, cabinets and wardrobes, to clocks, mirrors and screens. Well-known designers such as Thomas Chippendale, David Roentgen, Grinling Gibbons, George Bullock, Robert Adam, Eileen Gray, Michael Thonet, Ron Arad and Tom Dixon are represented, alongside lesser-known names selected for their superior workmanship. The gallery explores a thematic range of materials and techniques ranging from joinery, moulding, upholstery and digital manufacture, to carving, marquetry, gilding and lacquer. The display focuses on techniques of construction and decoration and includes numerous examples of how conservation and analysis have revealed previously unknown information about the way in which the objects were made. Highlights include a 16th century gilded cassone made for the Duke of Urbino; a 17th century scagliola decorated table formerly at Warwick Castle; a Gothic revival cradle designed by Richard Norman Shaw; a dining chair by Frank Lloyd Wright; and a storage unit by Charles and Ray Eames. Victoria & Albert Museum continuing.
Tracing The Century highlights drawing's fundamental role as a catalyst and vehicle for change in modern and contemporary art. The exhibition has at its heart artworks based on the human body and the inner self, examining the link between figuration and abstraction that characterised art in the 20th century, exploring the continuous slippage between the two. It moves from the preliminary sketch to painting, sculpture, photography and film, acknowledging the broader role drawing played within modernism. Some 100 works are brought together into small, often trans-historical groupings, demonstrating points of contact or crossroads between artists through the practice of drawing, such as a sequence of works on paper by Paul Cezanne, Paul Klee, Richard Hamilton, Lee Bontecou and Julie Mehretu, which proposes drawing as a means of conjuring imaginary worldscapes. Drawing's ability to transcend a fixed set of materials and conventions has ensured the medium's vitality and power to stimulate change. A number of works in the exhibition serve to erode the conventional definition of drawing as a static line on a two dimensional plane, such as Anthony McCall's 'Line Describing a Cone', where visitors can explore the projected line by moving around it, interacting with it and moving within the cone of light created; and Matt Saunders's 'Century Rolls', a series of silver gelatin prints created by projecting light through a drawing or painting to expose a sheet of photosensitive paper, alongside which are a new animated film made from a huge number of ink on mylar drawings, edited into hypnotic moving images. Tate Liverpool until 20th January.
Charles Jennens: The Man Behind Handel's 'Messiah' explores the life, work and character of the 18th century philanthropist who was Handel's greatest collaborator. Charles Jennens, an enigmatic character, had an enormous influence on Handel's life and work. As librettist for the oratorios 'Saul' and 'Belshazzar', he provided the composer with words that inspired some of his most challenging and exciting music. Jennens's carefully chosen scripture selection for 'Messiah' was to inspire Handel to even greater creative heights, and together these two men created one of the greatest musical works of all time (for which Jennens never received any payment). The exhibition examines their relationship in detail, alongside other elements of Jennens's life as a great landowner, the builder of a fine country house with extensive grounds, a major art collector, a Christian philanthropist, a devout defender of revealed religion, an encourager of other authors and composers, a forward looking editor of Shakespeare (including Hamlet and Othello), and possibly the owner of the first piano in England. This exhibition unites all known oil portraits of Jennens for the first time, and includes paintings and books from Jenner's collection, letters from Handel to Jennens discussing their projects, and original manuscripts by Handel with Jennens's alterations. Handel House Museum, 25 Brook Street, London W1, until 14th April.
Women In Focus: Photographs By Dorothy Bohm is a rare opportunity to see work by the trailblazing mid 20th century British photographer. The exhibition features a selection of Dorothy Bohm's photographs dating from the 1990s to the present, which juxtapose the images of women that are ever present in advertising, artworks and shop windows, with actual women living and working in London. Bohm aims to capture the many roles of women in society, from professional to parent, and reflects on how women are seen in and see public spaces like the shops, cafes and streets of the capital. The works reveal some of the contrasts, similarities and discrepancies between the ideals and expectations of the feminine and real life women in everyday situations. While Bohm reflects on issues surrounding gender, her photographs are full of vibrancy and humour, with posed mannequins seeming to mimic some of those who pass by their shop windows, and women unconsciously repeating the same gesture as the image in an advertising poster. These kinds of motifs run through the work and link the images together, showing her enduring interest in people, especially women, of all ages and from all walks of life. On the surface these photographs can be enjoyed simply as a series on street life in London and on how people live, work and play in the city, but actually they go a little deeper, and consider how themes such as women's public presence - how they are looked at, and how they look. Museum of London until 17th February.
Secret Splendour: The Hidden World Of Baroque Cabinets casts new light on some of the most magnificent and expensive furniture ever produced. Made from a wide variety of rare and exotic materials, cabinets-on-stands were one of the great status symbols of the 17th century, designed to show off the wealth and importance of their owners. Their outer doors are splendid enough, often with painted or inlaid panels, but these open to reveal exquisite interiors, where collectors could show off their most prized and precious objects, revealed to only the most privileged of guests. Many cabinets incorporate ingenious secret drawers and compartments to hide important documents, some of which were fitted with central mirrored perspectives, like miniature theatres. For the first time, a dazzling array of these cabinets are being displayed fully open, to reveal their extraordinary interiors, an experience formerly reserved for a select few. The show includes astonishing pieces made from the widest variety of materials and techniques, including tortoiseshell, ivory, ebony, painted panels, verre eglomise, marble, pietra‐dura, silver, marquetry, intarsia, semi precious stones and japanning, created by the most highly skilled craftsmen in England, Flanders, Holland, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Japan and China. Holburne Museum, Bath, until 6th January.
UCL Flaxman Gallery and Octagon Gallery have reopened after a 9 month comprehensive refurbishment of the historic spaces, overseen by Burwell Deakins Architects. In the upper Flaxman Gallery, the interior of the Wilkins Building's famous dome, John Flaxman's plaster study 'St Michael Overcoming Satan' now stands on a glass plinth above an oculus (a circular opening in the floor or ceiling). On the surrounding walls, below the dome's windows, plaster reliefs from Flaxman's studio are set into the wall. They are a rare surviving 19th century sculptural installation, considered by art historians as comparable to plaster cast galleries by Italian contemporaries such as Canova. Visitors in the new Octagon Gallery below can look up through the oculus, seeing the reliefs from new angles. The Octagon Gallery features four large bespoke showcases incorporating audio visual and touchscreen technology. Its first exhibition is of objects, some never displayed before, from the University's art, anthropology, archaeology, engineering, pathology and zoology collections, and record encounters and explorations between scholars and the natural and made environment. The exhibition is designed to offer inspiration, encapsulating imagination and creativity in material form. At the same time, the items materialise world views that are problematic and difficult to reconcile today. 5 of UCL's Mellon Fellows have chosen a selection of objects that speak to, and translate, different aspects of their own research. University College London, Gower Street, WC1, continuing.
Robin Ironside: Neo-Romantic Visionary is a retrospective of the work of one of the most individual British artists of the mid 20th century, who has now been almost forgotten. Robin Ironside was a painter, illustrator, designer, writer and curator. Exquisite and intricate, his remarkable paintings draw upon many sources of inspiration, from art and architecture to music and poetry, and his use of hallucinogenic drugs. Completely self-taught, Ironside saw his paintings as belonging to the imaginative tradition of British art. Elegant and learned, witty and melancholic, eccentric and obsessive, Ironside was as extraordinary as his art, whose emotional spectrum ranges from sensual delight to anxiety and death. The subjects of his pictures, which owed a lot to John Piper, John Martin and classical sculpture, were nearly all imaginary, usually with literary, scholarly or classical themes, and often executed with a magnifying glass. Many of his works contain a young male protagonist who is probably based in part on himself. In the 1940s and 50s Ironside worked as a designer for ballet and opera at the Royal Opera House, and his understanding of set design is evident in the architectural spaces of some of his other paintings, which could almost be a design for a stage set, due to the theatrical framing of the space. The exhibition is comprised of nearly 70 items, with paintings spanning his entire career, together with representative selections of his theatre designs, book illustrations, other designs and publications. Grosvenor Museum, Chester, until 6th January.
Ritual And Revelry: The Art Of Drinking In Asia reveals the importance of water, alcohol and tea in cultures across Asia over the past 2,500 years. From Bronze Age China to modern South Asia, liquids have played an important role in both religious and secular spheres, though the boundaries between them are often fluid. The exhibition celebrates the ritual and social uses of liquids including sake (rice wine), toddy, water and the mighty Asian drink that has conquered the world - tea. The importance of tea is illustrated through many exceptional objects, including an exquisite silver tea set from Bhuj in Western India, where the handles have been shaped into bamboo stems, and a Japanese brazier shaped like a demon's face, pronouncing judgment on those around it. Tea became popular among Buddhist monks in the mountainous areas of southern China where conditions were good for cultivation. From the monasteries tea drinking then spread to the educated elite and on to the rest of society. Before the advent of steeped tea (leaves brewed in hot water) in the 15th century, large bowls such the black-glazed wares from the Jian kilns in northern Fujian were used, as seen in this display. The exhibition features vessels for drinking, pouring and performing religious offerings, as well as depictions showing their use in paintings and prints, covering their significance in Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, as well as traditional Chinese and Japanese religious practices. The social side of liquids is revealed in sections on revelry and intoxication. These include stories of consumption of sake in the pleasure districts of Tokyo, alcohol in the Mughal courts of India and drinking games in China. The exhibition also uncovers the spread of tea across Asia, its use in the iconic Japanese tea ceremony and how butter tea is drunk in Tibet. British Museum until 6th January.
Shoot! Existential Photography traces the history of a curious side-show that appeared at fairgrounds in the period following World War I: the photographic shooting gallery. If the customer hit the bullseye, he or she triggered a camera, winning a snapshot of themselves in the act of shooting. The metaphorical charge of the activity is obvious - upon looking at their portrait the shooter sees the gun, still trained in their hands a moment after its discharge, aimed at themselves. The idea fascinated many artists and intellectuals in its heyday, including existentialist French philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, surrealist Man Ray and photographers Robert Frank, Henri Cartier- Bresson and Brassai among others. Showcasing vernacular and vintage images alongside contemporary pieces, the exhibition traces the history of this image making process from its days as a popular sideshow to its re-appropriation by artists. It includes numerous analogies between taking photographs and shooting, and includes works by contemporary artists such as Sylvia Ballhause, Agnes Geoffray, Jean-Francois Lecourt, Steven Pippin, Emilie Pitoiset, Niki de Saint Phalle and Patrick Zachmann. Among the highlights are Erik Kessels's celebration of one amateur shooter, Ria van Dijk, who took portraits of herself in this way every year from 1936, with 60 of her images; Rudolf Steiner's series 'Pictures of me, shooting myself into a picture', in which the bullet hole serves as the aperture for a pinhole camera, creating an image upon impact; and the video-sound installation 'Crossfire' by Christian Marclay, a sampling from Hollywood films that edits together those moments in which the actors on the screen begin to take aim at the movie theatre audience. The Photographer's Gallery, 16 - 18 Ramillies Street, London W1, until 6th January.