Private View held by Richard Andrews
George Scharf: From Regency Street To The Modern Metropolis is the first exhibition devoted solely to the work of George Scharf, the artist and illustrator who has been described as the pictorial equivalent of the literary chronicler of early Victorian London, Charles Dickens. Scharf studied in Munich and became an expert in lithographic printing and miniature portrait painting. He settled in London in 1816, at a time when the capital was undergoing a dramatic expansion, and spent the rest of his life in the city. The rapidly changing face of early Victorian London is depicted in this exhibition through some 60 works. Scharf's vivid, detailed drawings capture every aspect of ordinary life, showing people going about their daily business in fine detail - from the boots on their feet to the buttons on their coats and the hats on their heads - recorded with an immediacy that is almost photographic. Not only do the pictures offer an interesting insight into London's inhabitants, Scharf also precisely recreates the architectural landscape of the city. His work combines a sensitive observation of the individuals in the pictures with architectural accuracy to give a full picture of the city and its people as he saw it. In the 1820s and 1830s London experienced a huge growth in what would now be described as 'consumer culture' and Scharf's pictures depict the advertising hoardings and shop signs that started to appear all around the city. They also reflect how society changed, with the introduction of gas lighting, which made the streets safer, and meant that London could start to develop a nightlife, leading to the opening of the first music halls. Sir John Soane Museum, London until 6th June.
Changing Faces: Anthony Van Dyck As An Etcher features rarely seen portrait etchings, executed prior to the Flemish artist's arrival in London in 1632. In a series known as 'Iconography', van Dyck produced a collection of uniform portrait prints of distinguished contemporaries, after his own designs. With the exceptions of Erasmus and the diplomat Philippe de Roy, the portraits are all of Flemish artists of van Dyck's generation or the preceding one, together with his printmaking collaborators, engravers Lucas Vorsterman and Paulus Pontius. Taking his cue from portraiture of the Renaissance, through their physical poses, expressions and attire, his fellow artists are portrayed as distinguished, dignified and learned men, rather than ordinary craftsman. The compositions relate to the sitter's talents and specialities, such as Joos de Momper gesturing towards a mountainous backdrop, in recognition of his reputation for painting mountain ranges. Although few in number, they are among the most striking examples of the etching technique. Under van Dyck's direction, and also after his death, other printmakers built up the compositions with engraved lines. The development of the portraits is revealed by impressions of the pure etchings next to later states. To complement the etchings, the exhibition also includes drawings by van Dyck, Joos de Momper, Jan Breughel the Elder and Frans Snyders. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, until 17th May.
Annette Messager: The Messengers is the first British retrospective of the contemporary European artist Annette Messager. The exhibition presents a panoramic survey from the intimate and conceptually driven pieces Messager made in the early 1970s, to the very large sculptural installations of the past 15 years, in which movement plays an increasingly important role. It reveals her use of an astonishing repertoire of forms and materials, among them soft toys, stuffed animals, fabrics, wool, photographs, text and drawings. Many of Messager's art pieces are inspired by dreams, often reinventing the monsters of her childhood nightmares, each installation playing on the contradictions of an enclosed space being a shelter and a prison to an altogether unnerving degree. Highlights include a recreation of 'Casino', the installation that won the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2005, where visitors walk into a strange and furtive world of mechanical puppets and pallid apparitions bobbing on a crimson sea, inspired by Pinocchio and all the creepy allusions that malevolent fairytale throws up; 'My Trophies', where painting is added to blown up black and white photographs of parts of the human body; 'Collection Album', which conjures up the private rituals developed by women in response to living in a male dominated culture; and 'My Wishes', in which tiny photographs of body parts are hung by string from the wall to form an elegant votive-like display. Hayward Gallery until 25th May.
Theatre And Performance Galleries are new spaces displaying some 250 highlights from the collection of the former Theatre Museum in Covent Garden, the largest collection of its type in the world. They show the history, development and practice of the performing arts in Britain over the last 350 years, embracing drama, dance, opera, musical theatre, circus, rock and pop and popular entertainment. The galleries focus on the process of performance, from the initial concept, through the design and development stages, to audiences' reactions. Arranged in three main themes - creating performance, staging performance and experiencing performance - the displays include costumes, set models, stage props, original posters and playbills, theatrical prints, paintings, archive footage and photographs. The objects range in size from stage machinery and architecture, through to theatre tickets and tokens, including a 1623 first folio of Shakespeare's plays; the only known Handel prompt book produced during his lifetime; an early draft manuscript of Richard Brinsley Sheridan's comedy The School For Scandal; an original 1957 poster for Look Back in Anger at the Royal Court Theatre; the 1971 score for Jesus Christ Superstar, marked with alterations made by the musical director during rehearsals; a guitar Pete Townshend smashed during a 1970s performance with The Who; and costumes worn by performers such as Richard Burton, Margot Fonteyn, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. A specially commissioned film features interviews with playwright Michael Frayn, directors Peter Hall and Peter Brook, actor Henry Goodman, and ballet director Monica Mason. There is also a space for temporary exhibitions, which is currently hosting a collection of theatre photographs by Reg Wilson. Victoria & Albert Museum, continuing.
George Always - Portraits Of George Melly By Maggi Hambling sees the many facets of 'Good Time George' - jazz performer, surrealist, comic, raconteur, critic and author - as captured by his great friend, the contemporary artist Maggi Hambling. The exotic nature of her subject has inspired a rich, compelling celebration in works that are being shown together for the first time. The exhibition includes the last portraits of Melly before his death in July 2007, as well as a series that Hambling has painted since, from memory and imagination. Her responses in paint to his death are far from morbid, but are tender, challenging, serious and funny. These highly original and imaginative portraits confront the question of death head on. Melly, whose energetic stage presence apparently inspired the young Mick Jagger, is portrayed singing, joking, drinking and laughing. The exhibition comprises 29 works, including Hambling's 1998 triple portrait, ink drawings from life, oil paintings executed during Melly's final days, 'George Always, I' and 'George Always, II' painted since his death, and a new waterfall triptych, inspired by Melly's favourite colours, making their public debut. Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, until 31st May.
Wycinanki: The Art Of Polish Paper Cuts explores the traditional Polish folk art of cutting paper into intricate pictures and patterns. Wycinanki were traditionally used by Polish peasants from the mid 19th century onwards to decorate their cottages, and they often depicted scenes from daily life, such as weddings or holidays. They have become valuable documents of social history showing a disappearing way of life, such as one depicting peasant women using traditional flax brakes to make linen, a practice that has now died out. Wycinanki were generally made by women using sheep-shearing scissors and any readily available paper, and were replaced each spring when homes were whitewashed. With the advent of communism, Wycinanki were promoted as an example of non-bourgeois art, and enjoyed enormous popularity along with other forms of folk art. They are still popular and widely practised in two regions of Poland: Lowicz, where they are multi-coloured and made from multiple sheets, and Kurpie, where they are cut from a single sheet of coloured paper. The exhibition comprises some 50 diverse examples of decorative paper cuts, featuring geometric designs, scenes from rural life, and religious symbols, from the 1950s to the present day, including specially commissioned pieces by Apolonia Nowaka, Czeslawa Kaczynska and Helena Miazek. Horniman Museum, Forest Hill, London, until 27th September.
Constable Portraits: The Painter And His Circle is the first exhibition dedicated to John Constable's portraits, and the insights they bring to his art, life and relationships. Spanning 30 years, the exhibition of some 50 works includes oil portraits, watercolours and sketches. Broadly chronological, it begins with images of the artist himself alongside portraits of his friends and family, created when he was a young man. It includes intimate portraits of Constable's wife, Maria Bicknell, produced in the early years of their romance and marriage. Portraiture, like letter writing, played an important part in their protracted courtship because they were frequently parted for long periods. It was only in the later 18th century that the commissioning of portraits had expanded beyond the aristocracy to middle class clients, including clergymen and their wives, doctors, landed gentry and families made wealthy through trade, represented here by portraits of Revd John Fisher, Mrs Pulham, Mrs Tuder and Mrs Edwards, who seem like characters from a Jane Austen or George Eliot novel. The exhibition ends with images of Constable in later life, and his son, Charles, painted before he went to sea at the age of 14.
Gerhard Richter Portraits comprises some 35 works by one of Europe's most prominent living painters, including the first showing of Richter's latest portrait, of his daughter Ella. With images dating from the 1960s to recent brightly coloured abstract paintings, it includes early black-and-white works made from magazine photographs, such as 'Mutter und Tochter' and 'Frau mit Schirm'; paintings based on private snapshots of close members of his family, such as 'Horst mit Hund' and 'Betty'; his series inspired by the assassination of President J F Kennedy, reunited for the first time; and an installation of his celebrated series '48 Portraits'.
National Portrait Gallery, Constable until 14th June, Richter until 31st May.
Greenway Agatha Christie's holiday home from 1938 until 1959, is now open to the public after a 2 year, £5.4m refurbishment, which restores it to what she described as 'the loveliest place in the world'. Visitors have the opportunity to view many personal collections and mementoes of Britain's best loved mystery writer and five generations of her family, in a house that portrays the spirit of a holiday home in its 1950s heyday. Here Agatha Christie gathered with her family and friends, often to celebrate a novel just completed for publication. The rooms on view are the library, with a frieze painted by Lt Marshall Lee, while the house was requisitioned by the admiralty in 1943, portraying scenes of wartime Dartmouth, including the bombing of a warship and a naked lady; the drawing room, where the gilding on the architrave was undertaken by one craftsman, to ensure all of the brush strokes were the same; Agatha Christie's bedroom, which retains scratch marks on the door left by Cheekyi, the family dog; the dining room, with family silver and chinaware; and the 'fax room', with a huge number of Christie's first editions and her American and English titles, demonstrating her enormous output. In addition, part of the house has been converted into a holiday apartment, which is decorated as it was for modern living in 1938, and so continues its legacy as a holiday retreat. The Greenway estate boasts 278 acres, and includes the garden, farm, and woodland with romantic pathways that lead down to the Dart estuary, with over a mile of picturesque river frontage. Greenway, Dartmouth, Devon, 01803 842382, continuing.
British Music Experience is a new permanent, interactive music exhibition that tells the 60 year story of the British rock music industry. A combination of cutting edge audio-visual technology and music memorabilia enables visitors to trace musical trends through the decades, learn about music's influence on art, fashion and politics, and even download music from its archive. Hundreds of artists feature in the exhibition from The Beatles to Iron Maiden, from Cilla Black to Elastica, and from David Bowie to Motorhead, with in depth looks at musical genres from Skiffle to Reggae, from Rock n Roll to Blues, and from Punk to Grime. Visitors can scroll through years of music, video clips, stories and images of artists, explore the continual invention of how music is listened to, and search across an interactive music map of Great Britain. It is completely 'hands on', with a studio where anyone can be guided through playing guitars, pianos and drums. Among over 500 key pieces of British music memorabilia featured are David Bowie's Ashes to Ashes clown suit and Ziggy Stardust costume, Noel Gallagher's Epiphone Union Jack guitar, Roger Daltrey's Woodstock outfit and a vintage Amy Winehouse dress. There is also an educational programme with workshops, lectures, masterclasses and concerts, aiming to help teachers raise standards in schools. British Music Experience, The O2, Greenwich, continuing.
The Art Of The Poster: A Century Of Design is a retrospective celebrating the outstanding poster design that has been a constant part of London's public transport network. The show explores not only the aesthetics of the posters, but their cultural references, and their ability to change the way people thought about the underground. Featuring leading artists of their day, and many previously unseen artworks, the exhibition explores how the first graphic poster commission for London Underground in 1908 led to the company becoming a pioneering patron of poster art, a legacy that continues today. Taking a chronological and thematic approach, the display includes over 60 original artworks, supported by photographs, letters, concept sketches and artist's materials. The artists and designers whose work is featured include John Hassall, Edward Bawden, Dora Batty, Edward McKnight Kauffer, John Nash, Edward Wadsworth, William Roberts, Abram Games, Howard Hodgkin and Alan Fletcher. The range of styles in their work reflects the changes of artistic fashion through the century. The exhibition reveals stories behind some of the works on display, such as why a painting by John Nash was never published; how John Bellany's misunderstood Chinatown has been reinterpreted by today's Chinese community; and why a controversial poster by Edward Wadsworth in the 1930s was withdrawn from public display. Alongside the original artworks there are reprints of 20 historic posters. London Transport Museum until 31st March.
Magnificence Of The Tzars: Ceremonial Men's Dress Of The Russian Imperial Court 1721 - 1917 is a display of rare and lavishly decorated costumes and uniforms worn by the Tsars and court officials of Imperial Russia, most of which have never been publicly exhibited before, either in Russia or abroad. These come from the Moscow Kremlin Museums, which together with the Armoury Chamber, form Russia's oldest national treasury, and their collections include the dress of the emperor and other participants in ceremonies at court. Over 40 ensembles include the extensive silver and gold embellished wardrobe of Peter II, ranging from brocade jackets to formal nightgowns made of satin and lined with fur, and the coronation uniforms of the succeeding seven Tzars, concluding with the 5m long ermine trimmed Imperial coronation mantle of Nicholas II, together with dress uniforms of court officials, coachmen, postilions and other servants. These spectacular garments show the work of the most eminent master craftsmen of the period, giving a taste of the legendary magnificence and luxury of the Imperial Russian Court. In addition, there are hats and boots, dress weapons worn at court, an enamelled gold snuff box, a jewelled gunpowder flask, a pocket telescope, a herald's staff, insignia, jewellery, illustrated books and portraits of the Tzars. Victoria & Albert Museum until 29th March.
Lee Miller And Friends features the work of the legendary beauty and fashion model, who became an acclaimed photographer, first of fashion, and then on the battlefield. Miller's relationships with Surrealist artist and photographer Man Ray, and painter and collector Roland Penrose, placed her at the heart of 20th century artistic and literary circles, and in a career spanning more than three decades, she came into contact with an astonishing range of people. Many of these became her friends and were the subjects of her penetrating portraits, including Max Ernst, Jean Cocteau, Colette, Fred Astaire and Marlene Dietrich. This exhibition places Miller's images alongside original pieces by her artist friends, including Eileen Agar, Leonora Carrington, Joan Miro, Eduardo Paolozzi, Paul Eluard and Pablo Picasso, given to Miller in exchange for her photographs. Among the more unlikely images are a photograph of Picasso standing in front of an English village signpost, alongside his drawing of a lithograph of flying bullets made the same day in the visitor's book of Lee's home, Farley Farm; a shadow portrait of Eileen Agar appearing 'pregnant with a camera' against the Brighton Pavilion; and a picture of Miller in Hitler's bathtub, taken in his apartment in Munich. Pallant House Gallery, Chichester until 29th March.