News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 27th January 2010


The Real Van Gogh: The Artist And His Letters for the first time, views the artist's paintings and drawings from the perspective of his correspondence. Over 35 of van Gogh's original letters, rarely exhibited to the public due to their fragility, are on display, together with around 65 paintings and 30 drawings, which express the principal themes to be found within the correspondence. Thus the exhibition offers a unique opportunity to gain an insight into the complex mind of Vincent van Gogh. During his ten year artistic career, his output was prodigious: over 800 paintings and 1,200 drawings. Van Gogh was a compulsive and eloquent correspondent. The majority of his letters were written to his brother Theo, an art dealer who supported him throughout his artistic career, and other artists, notably Anton van Rappard, Emile Bernard and Paul Gauguin. The originality of his ideas about art, nature and literature, combined with his deep understanding of these subjects, make van Gogh's letters much more than a personal expression of feelings: they attain the status of literature. Together the letters create a 'self-portrait', and reveal the ways in which he defined himself as an artist and as a human being. The letter sketches that van Gogh frequently used to show a work in progress or a completed work are a fascinating part of the correspondence, and many are shown alongside the paintings or drawings on which they are based. Highlights include 'Self-portrait as an Artist', 'The Yellow House', 'Still-life: with a Plate of Onions', 'Van Gogh's Chair', 'Gauguin's Chair', 'Landscape Near Montmajour With a Train', 'Wheat Fields After the Rain' and 'Entrance to the Public Gardens in Arles'. Royal Academy of Arts until 18th April.

Sargent, Sickert, Spencer focuses on three of the most original painters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although at first glance the lives and careers of John Singer Sargent, Walter Sickert and Stanley Spencer appear disparate, this exhibition shows that their lives and careers intersected in a number of ways. Comprising over 70 works, from landscapes and portraiture, to interiors and nudes, and including little seen sketches and studies, the show examines what divided these painters stylistically, and what united them artistically. The exhibition explores a number of themes: Artists On The Move: with images of locations as diverse as Sargent's Jerusalem, Corfu, Sicily and Majorca, Sickert's Paris, Dieppe and London and Spencer's Sarajevo, with particular focus upon Sargent and Sickert's views of Venice; War Zones, with depictions of soldiers and military life by Sargent and Spencer, and their friends and associates, including Henry Tonks and Muirhead Bone; Music, Music Halls And Theatres, surveying Sickert's images of music and performance, in Paris, London and Dieppe; Landscapes, from Sargent's 'Olives in Corfu' to Spencer's 'Landscape in North Wales'; Interiors And The Nude, with their frequently unsettling depictions of nude female models, such as Sickert's 'Mornington Crescent Nude' and Spencer's 'Self-Portrait with Patricia Preece'; and God And Love, examining Spencer's overarching themes, in such visionary works as 'Love Among the Nations' and 'Love on the Moor'. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, until 5th April.

ABBAWORLD is an exhibition filled with all things ABBA: music, original costumes, history, images, instruments and never before displayed memorabilia from the Swedish supergroup's recording and performing heyday. Most of the items have been supplied by the quartet: Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus, and Agnetha Faltskog. The exhibition, which is launching a world tour in London, begins with an introductory film by director Jonas Akerlund. Displayed in 25 rooms, covering different aspects of their career, the items include stage clothes, instruments, theatrical props and personal belongings, gold records and awards, unique videos, TV interviews and photographs, plus both newly recorded and old material that have never been heard before. Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard is the voice in an audio guide accompanying visitors through the displays. The exhibition is also an interactive experience, featuring the latest technology in sound, visuals, multimedia and communications. With a high definition holographic video system, ABBA returns to the stage in the form of a live karaoke concert for visitors to interact with. This experience is recorded and is then viewable online afterwards. Earl's Court until 28th March.


Inventions: Discover The Muslim Heritage In Our World traces the story of a thousand years of science from the Muslim world, from the 7th century onwards. The exhibition looks at the social, scientific and technical achievements that are credited to the Muslim world, whilst celebrating the shared scientific heritage of other cultures. Featuring a diverse range of exhibits, interactive displays and dramatisation, it shows how many modern inventions, spanning fields such as engineering, medicine and design, can trace their roots back to Muslim civilisation. The star exhibit is a 6m high replica of the 'Elephant Clock', a visually striking early 13th century timepiece, whose design fuses together elements from many cultures, alongside which is a short film with Ben Kingsley as Al-Jazari, inventor of this fabled clock. Other highlights include: a model of an energy efficient and environmentally-friendly Baghdad house; a 3m reproduction Al-Idrisi's 12th century world map; a model of Zheng He's Chinese junk ship, a 15th century wooden super structure over 100m long; a reproduction of a 9th century flying device; medical instruments from a thousand year ago, many of which are still used today; and a model of a 9th century dark room, later called Camera Obscura, with which Ibn al-Haytham revolutionised our understanding of optics. In addition, there are parallel stories of invention from other cultures and civilisations, illustrated through a display of rare objects, many of which have never been on public display before. These include devices used for weighing and measuring, surgical instruments, astronomical devices, intricately crafted ceramic pots and textiles. Science Museum until 25th April.

Objects Of Contemplation - Natural Sculptures From The Qing Dynasty is a unique display of remarkable rocks collected in 17th century China. In recent years these objects have come to be known as 'scholars' rocks', making a claim for them as artefacts appreciated by men of learning - objects which sat on their desk and inspired their work. The exhibition begs questions such as: When does a rock become a sculpture? How important is the role of the person who notices the rock in the first place? What part is played by the person who cleans it, polishes it and places it on a pedestal? It is very difficult to precisely determine the age of these objects because it is impossible to be certain of their origins. The rocks are millions of years old, and only their plinths, often minutely carved to support the rock at its most attractive, can be dated with any kind of confidence. Like any sculpture, some of these rocks were appreciated for their abstract qualities, while others were treasured because they looked like certain animals, birds or natural formations. Some rocks were left as found, while others were surreptitiously altered to enhance their natural features. This exhibition initiates a series of 'cabinet' shows featuring historic stones and bones, looking at the ways in which they can be transformed into sculpture simply by means of changing perceptions, or through subtle changes of use or re-appropriation. Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, until 7th March.

Tris Vonna-Michell: 'No more racing in circles - just pacing within lines of a rectangle' is a mixed media installation that combines photography, film, sound, performance and concrete poetry. The exhibition is the result of a 3 month residency period in Southend-on-Sea by performance artist Tris Vonna-Michell, who was born and brought up in the area. It scrambles his childhood memories of local landmark sites with contemporary images. During a recent journey in the Vonna-Michell family's old black 1983 Mercedes 230E, he took photographic images and sound recordings of various localities. The semi-derelict modern classic car (which had previously been lying dormant in a garden for 5 years) re-emerges as the vehicle for the artist's research trip around his early days, recalling childhood haunts and family journeys. Vonna-Michell's project seeks to 'question the nature of periphery, margin and centre, and map important events in world history onto ideas of the personal within a local framework'. It is a rumination on the recent history of a town that is currently undergoing a radical transformation through dramatic regeneration plans. Focal Point Gallery, Southend-on-Sea, until 20th March.

On The Move: Visualising Action explores the representation and analysis of movement in the visual arts and sciences, drawing on a wide range of material in many different media, to provide an in-depth examination. A central element of the show is the pioneering photographic work of Eadweard Muybridge and Etienne-Jules Marey, with an extensive selection of Muybridge's work, including lantern slides, rare zoopraxiscope disks, and photographic plates. Muybridge made ground-breaking studies of animal and human locomotion investigating the theory of 'unsupported transit' (that is, whether or not all four of a horse's hooves are off the ground at any one moment during the gallop). Where Muybridge represented the successive stages of motion in individual frames, Marey captured them on a single photographic plate, creating overlapping, 'chronophotographic' images that revealed the movement of figures through space and time in wave-like trails. Following Marey's photographic study of the flight of birds, which had until then defeated technical ingenuity, plaster models were created, which were subsequently cast in bronze, one of which is included in the exhibition. Among the other photographers and artists whose work is included are Thomas Eakins, Gjon Mili, Harold Edgerton and Jonathan Shaw, who have in different but complementary ways explored the manner in which the camera is able to capture events too rapid to be perceived by the human eye. Optical toys such as the phenakistoscope, praxinoscope and zoetrope are also on display, both as vintage examples, and working, modern day replicas for visitors to use. Estorick Collection, 39A Canonbury Square, London N1, until 18th April.

The Rise of Women Artists charts the progress made by female artists from the 16th century to the present day, in both fine and decorative arts. The exhibition shows that women have been creative in a wide variety of media over that time, from 16th century European paintings, to the industrial pottery of the early 20th century, and contemporary abstracts and sculpture. The show is displayed chronologically in nine sections, featuring paintings, works on paper, textiles, ceramics and sculpture. The exhibition traces the historical changes affecting women, looking at their status and careers as they moved to assert themselves as artists in their own right. Celebrating some of the key pioneers of women's art, the exhibition features early works from 16th and 17th century Italian painters Lavinia Fontana and Elisabetta Sirani; renowned 18th century French painter Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, and Angelica Kauffmann, a founding member of the Royal Academy; from the 19th century, Louisa Starr's 'Sintram', Henrietta Ward's 'George III and his family at Windsor' and 'Elaine' by Sophie Anderson, together with works by Pre-Raphaelite Emma Sandys, and Marianne Stokes; and early 20th century Art Nouveau paintings of Frances Macdonald McNair, alongside pottery by Clarice Cliffe and Susie Cooper. Contemporary artists and designers such as Louise Bourgeois, Helen Chadwick, Alison Britton and Paula Rego complete the exhibition. Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, until 14th March.

Warriors Of The Plains: 200 Years Of Native North American Honour And Ritual explores the world of Native North American warfare and ritual. The exhibition focuses on the material culture of Native North American Indians of the Plains between 1800 and the present, and the importance of the objects in a social and ceremonial context. Men of these tribes were expected to join a 'warrior society', a social, political and ritual group that engaged in warfare and organised ceremonial life.

The societies played a prominent role in battles, offering members the opportunity to gain honours through individual acts of bravery such stealing horses, capturing women, and taking scalps during war raids, but also had a rich ritual life that was marked by a strong sense of spirituality. In their ceremonies society members made use of objects such as pipes, rattles and headdresses, as these were significant to their shared ideas of ritual and honour. The exhibition includes examples of feather headdresses, shields, moccasins, painted hides, scalps, pipes, tomahawks, traditional and contemporary costumes, and ceremonial face painting. Although many of these items seem initially familiar from popular culture, the exhibition uncovers the deeper ritual significance of these iconic objects. The legacy of the warrior societies is also examined, revealing how crucial they are in the maintenance of tribal identity among Plains Indians today. British Museum until 5th April.


The Conversation Piece: Scenes Of Fashionable Life explores the tradition of Conversation Piece paintings - group portraits of high society sitters in strikingly informal situations or going about their daily lives. While a portrait primarily records the sitter's appearance, the Conversation Piece depicts their way of life, often conveying the impression that the subject has been caught off-guard. Typically a work shows a family group or a gathering of friends participating in informal activities. Thus the exhibition offers an insight into high society fashions, interiors and manners from the time of Charles I to the reign of Queen Victoria. With its roots in 17th century Dutch painting, through the work of artists such as Pieter de Hooch and Godfried Schalcken, the genre is best known through the work of the English artists, Thomas Gainsborough, William Hogarth and George Stubbs in the 18th century, and Edwin Landseer in the 19th century. This exhibition brings together outstanding paintings by the greatest exponents of the Conversation Piece, commissioned or acquired by members of the royal family over the past four centuries. The greatest exponent of the genre was Johan Zoffany, and the centrepiece of the display is his masterpiece 'The Tribuna of the Uffizi', which depicts the artist himself and 21 other visitors, examining some two dozen old masters in a gallery at the palace in Florence, painted for his royal patron George III. The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, until 14th February.

Paul Sandby: Picturing Britain celebrates the bicentenary of the pioneer landscape painter and innovator with watercolour. Paul Sandby played a key role in promoting the appreciation of spectacular scenery across Britain, and inspired many later travellers and artists. The exhibition features over 100 items, including oil paintings, watercolours, gouaches, prints and sketchbooks. Early in his career Sandby was draughtsman in the Military Survey, based in Edinburgh, and produced numerous ground breaking landscape and genre studies. These works became well known through prints, and began the tradition of depicting the drama and beauty of Scottish landscape, which was later developed by artists such as Runciman, Nasmyth, More and Turner. Works in the exhibition from this period include 'Roslin Castle', 'Horse Fair on Bruntsfield Links, Edinburgh' and part of the 'Great Map of Scotland' of around 1753. Sandby then settled in London, became a founder member of the Royal Academy, and made many highly finished watercolours and gouaches at Windsor, including 'View of Windsor on a Rejoicing Night of 1768. He delighted in the study of rural and urban views, street scenes, royal parks and ancient castles, and always retained an interest in fascinating anecdotal details, which embrace the fashions, occupations and entertainments of the people he encountered. Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, until 7th February.

Turner And The Masters presents a selection of paintings by JMW Turner alongside related works by the old masters and contemporaries he strove to imitate, rival and surpass. The exhibition brings together over 100 pictures of historical significance, and provides an unprecedented opportunity to view Turner's works alongside masterpieces by more than 30 other artists, including Canaletto, Claude, Titian, Aelbert Cuyp, Poussin, Rembrandt, Rubens, Jacob van Ruisdael, Willem van de Velde, Veronese, Watteau, Constable, and R P Bonington. In so doing, it reveals that Turner's responses to other artists were both acts of homage and a sophisticated form of art criticism, designed to demonstrate his understanding of the most celebrated masters, and his ability to make their art his own. The exhibition includes Rembrandt's 'Landscape with the Rest on the flight into Egypt' paired with Turner's 'Moonlight, a study at Millbank'; Claude's 'Moses saved from the Waters' with Turner's 'Crossing the Brook'; Ruisdael's 'A Rough Sea at a Jetty 'alongside Turner's 'Port Ruysdael'; Poussin's 'Winter - The Deluge' paired with Turner's 'The Deluge'; Willem van de Vel's 'A Rising Gale' alongside Turner's 'Dutch Boats in a Gale'; and Constable's 'Opening of Waterloo Bridge' with Turner's 'Helvoetsluys'. It was Turner's strategy, almost uniquely within the history of European art, to enter into direct competition with artists both past and present, whom he considered as worthy rivals to his own fame. Turner built his reputation as an oil painter by challenging the works of old masters, deliberately producing paintings that could hang in their company. Tate Britain until 31st January.