Private View held by Richard Andrews
William West And The Regency Toy Theatre celebrates a great British institution on the 150th anniversary of the death of its inventor. In 1811, William West, a London haberdasher, began to issue sheets of engraved figures from current theatrical productions as an amusement for children. The phrase 'penny plain and twopence coloured' was coined to describe these prints, hand-coloured in deep hues. When children started to use them to perform the plays on miniature stages, West found that he had accidentally stumbled on a new career. He developed and perfected the idea over the next twenty years, commissioning wooden theatres for sale, and publishing plays that crossed the boundary from souvenir to practical toy. Later works by his successors John Redington and Benjamin Pollock are possibly better known, but this exhibition is devoted to West's pioneering work in creating the English toy theatre. It offers an insight into the childhood pursuits, scenic art, production style and popular culture of the period. The Regency toy theatre is closely related to the development of the architecture of its time, displaying the same historical and exotic styles, and effects of colour, perspective and lighting that were familiar to theatre audiences. This exhibition features the best of West's characters and scenes from the 146 miniature plays he produced. Associated material shows his sources, including scene designs, playbills and scripts, from the exotic melodramas produced at Covent Garden, Drury Lane, the Olympic and Astley's Amphitheatre. Sir John Soane's Museum until 27 March.
Kerry Harker: Miniature Masterpieces Of Delicacy, Humour And Colour is the culmination of a year's work by the recipient of the Vickers Award, examining the heritage of the porcelain industry at the Royal Crown Derby factory. Harker is a conceptual artist who re-interprets photographic imagery, often condensing pop and film celebrities to their most unforgettable features: Elvis's quiff and Marilyn's lips. Here she has produced a series of plates, which straddle the line between the fine and decorative arts. Elements of print were used on the factory's tablewares alongside collage and hand painting to create tableaux from the history of the industry, recalling the narrative tradition in antique Chinese porcelain. There are also 40 small oil paintings derived from the porcelain collection. Slides of archive photographs were projected onto canvas, and the object's outline traced in black linework against a flat coloured ground echoing the original porcelain 'ground' colours. The paintings are installed in a grid format following the placement of the porcelain collection in glass display cabinets, contrasting the differing modes of display for painting and ceramics. In addition, two large circular canvasses utilise an eclectic mix of visual elements, drawn from the porcelain archive, Disney, Manga, natural history and road signage, placed against the same flat 'ground' colours. Derby Art Gallery until 7th March.
Paintings And Drawings From The National Gallery Of Scotland:From Raphael To The Glasgow Boys is part of the celebration of the National Art Collections Fund's centenary, showcasing works it has helped Edinburgh's National Gallery of Scotland to acquire. The exhibition comprises forty paintings, prints and drawings by a wide range of artists, with Old Master paintings ranging from Renaissance Italy to Golden Age Denmark, and important prints and drawings that are not on permanent display for conservation reasons. At its core, are a group of English drawings and watercolours by Turner, Blake, Girtin, Constable, Cotman and Rowlandson. There are also Old Master drawings, among them Raphael's chalk drawing 'Kneeling Nude Woman with her Left Arm Raised', Poussin's preparatory drawing for 'The Dance to the Music of Time', which can be seen alongside the finished work for the first time, Rembrandt's etching 'Ecce Homo', and Ingres portrait of Mlle Hayard. Scottish paintings and drawings in the show include Joseph Crawhall's 'The White Drake', and works by Alexander Nasmyth, George Henry and David Gauld. The Wallace Collection until 18th April.
The Smithsons: The House Of The Future To A House For Today celebrates the architecture of Alison and Peter Samithson, who were both pioneers in the British Pop Art movement, and influential designers of landmark buildings. The exhibition traces the development of their architecture and ideas from their involvement with the Independent Group through the construction of major projects such as the Economist building in 1964, and the Robin Hood Gardens housing complex in 1972, to the present. It focuses on their houses, including two of their most important - and contrasting - projects: the House Of The Future designed for the Ideal Home Exhibition in 1956, and the little known house for today in rural Germany. The House Of The Future, conceived in an age of scientific optimism, was full of the gadgets that it was predicted would change our lives, but in fact never came to pass. These included retractable furniture, and a hot air curtain at the door to blast dirt off visitors as they entered. The house for today, a private commission built in Lauenforde, between 1985 and 2002, comes from the very different 'back to nature' movement. It is a simple functional design, constructed from traditional materials, and located in isolation in a wood, rather like a tree house, but on the ground. The exhibition charts both society's changing expectations and requirements for housing, and the Smithson's responses to them, drawing on their private archive, with plans, models and films. Design Museum until 29th February.
Travels With Edward Lear reveals a different side to the man who is best known as the author of some of the most idiosyncratic nonsense verse in the English language. Lear was in fact an outstanding watercolourist, who specialised in topographical and natural history subjects. After studying under the Pre-Raphaelite master Holman Hunt, Lear made his living throughout his life from art, by both selling his works and teaching - even giving drawing lessons to Queen Victoria. The 32 works in this exhibition are a recent acquisition and are on display for the first time. They are all depictions of locations in the eastern Mediterranean, which Lear painted during his grand tours in the 1840s and 1850s. Lear channelled his amusement at the quirkiness of human nature into his verse, which he illustrated accordingly. These sensitively observed watercolours reveal a comparable fascination with the marvels of the natural landscape, expressed in an entirely different way. National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh until 21st March.
Living And Dying looks at how people around the world deal with the tough realities of life, averting or confronting trouble, sorrow, sickness and death. Far from being unremittingly solemn, or indeed universal, this extraordinarily diverse collection of objects reveals man's infinite imagination and creativity, and the multiplicity of his beliefs. Among the many treasures in this lavish exhibition, there are fabulous dance masks from carnivals and rituals, representing gods and devils, with Diablada from Bolivia, and Kolam from Sri Lanka; personal spirit effigies to be carried for protection, such as the Hohao from Papua New Guinea and Durhig from Sarawak; large scale papier mache ceremonial figures representing famine, pestilence and death from Mexico; gold jewellery in the form of shaman from Colombia; a boy's protective tunic, made to ward off evil, from Afghanistan; a Moai 'hidden friend' stone statue from Easter Island; a carved wooden burial headrest from Zimbabwe; and paper replicas of motorbikes, telephones, and other symbols of worldly success to be burnt during funeral ceremonies from Penang. In providing the opportunity to look at and beyond objects as a means of comprehending common human experience, this exhibition opens a window on what life is and was like for people in widely different places and times. British Museum continuing.
Enlightenment brings together almost 5,000 objects to show how people understood their world in the Age of Enlightenment, during the 18th and early 19th centuries. It explores a period that saw the development of a systematic approach to the way that people examined the world of nature and human achievement, and resulted in the founding of the Museum itself in 1753. The display also provides an introduction to the Museum and its collections - a museum of the Museum - highlighting the way that our understanding of much of the natural and human world has changed. It ranges from dinosaur fossils, to ceremonial and every day objects from all over the world, collected on voyages of trade and discovery by James Cook, Joseph Banks and others. The exhibition is housed in the former King's Library, hailed as 'the noblest room in London'. Named after King George III, it was built to house his collection of over 60,000 books, which was given to the nation shortly after his death in 1820. The books were transferred to the new British Library in 1998, and American architects HOK have now restored the room to its original glory, as one of London's finest and most beautiful neo-Classical interiors, at a cost of £8m. It is on a grand scale: 300ft long, 41ft high and 30ft wide, with a central section 58ft wide, requiring the pioneering use of concrete clad cast iron beams to support the ceiling. The exhibits are displayed in traditional glass cases, returning the world of museums to a proper examination and appreciation of the actual artefacts from the current fad of 'interactivity'. The British Museum continuing.
Quentin Blake: 50 Years Of Illustration is a retrospective of the drawings of the man best known as the illustrator of the works of Roald Dahl, and for being the first Children's Laureate, appointed in 1999. Spanning his 50 year career, it features everything from his earliest drawings, published in Punch when he was 16, through cartoons seen in The Spectator, to illustrations from nearly 300 books. The latter include his highly successful collaborations on children's books with both Dahl and other writers, such as Russell Hoban, Joan Aiken, Michael Rosen and John Yeoman, and his own writing in which he created characters such as Mister Magnolia and Mrs Armitage, as well as illustrations from classic books for adults. The comprehensive display, with rough designs, preliminary drawings and finished originals, as well as the final publications, provide a unique insight into the working methods of one of Britain's best loved illustrators. The exhibits come from the collection of The Quentin Blake Gallery of Illustration, which is planning to set up a permanent space to display the thousands of drawings in its archive. The Gilbert Collection at Somerset House until 28th March.
New Painting Galleries is a suite of five galleries built in the 1850s and recently returned to their original use, recreating the feeling of the rooms of a great Victorian collector. They contain over 200 paintings and watercolours, plus French sculpture, Oriental ceramics, and a decorated piano designed by William Morris. Three rooms focus on landscapes, with works by Constable, Turner and their contemporaries, including James de Loutherbourg, Peter De Wint, Francis Danby and James Ward. One of these rooms features Gainsbourgh's experimental 'shadowbox' with its back-lit landscapes, painted in oils on glass, and viewed through a magnifying lens. Another contains a rotating display of watercolours, drawings and illustrations from the national collection. The centrepiece is a room housing the bequest of the merchant Constantine Ionides. This embraces both Old Masters, including Tintoretto, Botticelli and Delacroix, and contemporary works, by Degas, Ingres, Burne-Jones and Millais, and Ionides friends Rossetti, Legros and Watts. The final room houses 70 works by Blake, Landseer, Fuseli, Millais and others, hung in the 'crammed in' style of the period, as satirised in paintings and cartoons of the Royal Academy. These works were first displayed in 1857 in what was then the first National Gallery of British Art. Victoria & Albert Museum continuing.
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.
Turner's Britain shows how J.M.W.Turner recorded his travels around Britain during a time of exceptional change and upheaval - the Industrial Revolution. Turner journeyed by foot, horseback, stagecoach and riverboat, sketching the rural market towns, developing industrial cities and lonely landscapes of Wales, northern England and Scotland. Through Turner's eyes Britain's past is celebrated in the looming forms of ancient castles and churches, as well as in the picturesque jumble of shops and thoroughfares. In contrast, he also captures its present, in steam trains, canals, soldiery and industrial workings, as the country developed into the first industrial world power. 'The Fighting Temeraire', depicting the wooden sailing ship from the Battle of Trafalgar being towed to a breaker's yard by a tug, as sail gave way to iron steam ships, epitomises the period of change. The Midlands was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution, and Turner made several sketching tours through the region, where he documented the growth and transformation of towns like Wolverhampton and Dudley. His 'Birmingham and Coventry' and 'Kenilworth' sketchbooks form part of over 130 paintings, drawings, watercolours and engravings that make up the show. Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery until 8th February.
A Celebration Of Hungarian Gold And Silver is an exhibition drawn from the most important gold and silver plate collections in Hungary, the great Treasury of Esztergom Cathedral, established in the 11th century, the Eger Franciscan Church, and the Hungarian National Museum and the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest. It highlights the unique features of the gold and silver working tradition in Hungary from the Middle Ages to the end of the 19th century, from metal that is engraved, pierced and embossed, to pieces encrusted with gems. The display of around 50 works includes a spectacular group of ecclesiastical objects, such as the 13th century gold cross on which the Kings of Hungary took their coronation oath, the 14th century sceptre of the Bishop of Esztergom, a large filigree enamel drinking cup, the reliquary of St Imre, and an 18th century monstrance. Secular treasures include cups, beakers and ewers, often richly embossed with classical scenes, and many bearing the name and coat of arms of their former owners, coffee pots, tankards, table fountains, and filigree figures. Gilbert Collection, Somerset House until 1st February.