News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 28th May 2003


Leonardo Da Vinci: The Divine And The Grotesque is the first to British exhibition focus on Leonardo's life-long obsession with the human form. Through his drawings and notes, often made at the dissecting table, he attempted to define perfect or 'divine' proportion. At the same time, he delighted in distorting the human face to explore the comic potential of the 'grotesque', in drawings often based on lightning life studies made in the street. These were among his most influential works and were largely responsible for his reputation as a bizarre genius. For Leonardo, drawing was the principal means of exploring both the real world and the possibilities of the imagination. His highly accurate anatomical drawings broke new ground in the history of scientific illustration. Several are annotated with his characteristic mirror writing. Leonardo's compulsion to draw imaginary heads is one of the most striking aspects of his work. Ideal types - the angelic youth, the fierce warrior and the decrepit old man - recur throughout his drawings and paintings. This selection includes studies for The Last Supper, portraits of Leonardo and his circle, and rare examples of his designs for festival costumes. All the rarely seen works in the exhibition come from the Royal Collection, which holds over 600 items, and is the world's finest group of Leonardo's drawings. The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace until 9th November.

Mao: Art For The Masses gives Western audiences their first chance to see examples of the propagandist art created to promote the cult of Chairman Mao and his vision of New China. The formation of Communist Chinese state is charted through a private collection of extremely rare pieces made between 1950 and 1976, and acquired in Hong Kong during and immediately after the Cultural Revolution. These images, made in traditional media such as porcelain, lacquer and ivory, were created to illustrate the political idealism of the period, but now seem hypocritical or kitsch. The greatest master craftsmen were encouraged to use the best materials with no restriction on production time to produce perfect images of Mao's revolution. Exhibits include porcelain figures, plaques, tableware, ivory carvings, snuff bottles, posters, badges, and part of a hoard of 400 'Official Issue' busts of Mao discovered recently on the Tibetan boarder, plus a copy of his little red book. Royal Museum, Edinburgh until April.

My Favourite Dress is the opening exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum, the £4m project masterminded by fashion icon Zandra Rhodes, and built entirely without lottery or other public funding. It comprises dresses contributed by 70 designers, and while some have used the opportunity to promote their current wares, others such as Jasper Conran, Romeo Gigli Christian Lacroix, Mary Quant, Pacco Rabanne, Oscar de la Renta of Balmain and Valentino, have delved into their archives and found some famous and iconic pieces. They are displayed on a special automated mobile system of crystal mannequins that give the frocks a twirl so that they can be fully appreciated. The museum's permanent collection was kick started by Rhodes personal collection of over 3,000 garments of her own and by other designers, such as Ossie Clarke, Bill Gibb and Jean Muir accrued over the last 35 years. The building, converted from a warehouse in now trendy Bermondsey, has been created in Rhodes image by Mexican architect Ricardo Legoretta, in that it is shocking pink, orange and blue inside and out. In addition to exhibition space, the project includes Rhodes studio, workshops, and accommodation for students visiting as part of its education programme, plus a 'living above the shop' penthouse for Rhodes herself, with a shop, café, library and research centre to come. Fashion And Textile Museum continuing.


Elizabeth brings together over 350 objects in the greatest collection ever assembled of personal items, paintings, jewellery, manuscripts, fine art objects and exhibits exploring the life and reign of Elizabeth I. Under the guest curatorship of current historical authority hottie David Starkey, Britain's first golden age is celebrated, in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Elizabeth's death. Exhibits encompass both the state and the personal, ranging from the transcript of Elizabeth's first speech as Queen, to her pearl, ruby and diamond locket ring, containing miniature portraits of herself and her mother, Anne Boleyn. Among the rarely or never before seen artefacts are her minister William Cecil's shopping list of the good points of her suitor, Francis Duke of Anjou; an orpharion (a musical instrument similar to a lute) made for Elizabeth; the last letter sent by the love of her life Robert Dudley, which she kept in a casket under her bed for 15 years until her death; her leather gloves and riding boots; portraits of Elizabeth and her courtiers by Nicholas Hilliard, Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger and Elder, Isaac Oliver and George Gower; and drawings made at the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. Inevitably virtual reality has muscled in on actual reality with an interactive Elizabethan Discovery Gallery, which explores her life with 'multisensory learning displays'. Curious how all museums now labour under the bizarre delusion that seeing something on a screen is somehow a more real and valuable experience than seeing the actual object. National Maritime Museum until 14th September.

Newnham Paddox Art Park is a new 30 acre open air lakeside art gallery presenting up to 100 modern works in contemporary and classical styles for viewing and purchase in a unique wooded setting. The park is part of a 1,000 acre Grade 1 listed 18th century romantic landscape designed by Capability Brown on the 3,000 acre estate of the Earl and Countess of Denbigh. Among those artists featured in the opening show are David Begbie, Nic Fiddian-Green, Olwen Gilmore, Amy Goodman, Rob Maingay, Polly Rome, Jill Tweed, Gail van Heerden and Althea Wynne. Wooded walks afford five views of the lakes and park, which contains many rare specimen trees which have been collected by previous generations of Denbighs on their journeys abroad since 1433. Newnham Paddox Art Park, Monks Kirby, Warwickshire, 01788 833513 Thursdays to Sundays until 30th October.

Lichfield: The Early Years 1962 - 1982 celebrates the 40th anniversary of the start of Patrick Lichfield's career as a photographer, which has developed along the twin themes of his personal involvement in fashionable society and his aristocratic connections. Bringing together over 30 works, it focuses on his early career as a leading participant and chronicler of the Swinging Sixties, including his period with Vogue. It features the iconic group 'Swinging London', which includes Roman Polanski, David Hockney, and Antonia Fraser; individual portraits such as a nude of Marsha Hunt for the musical Hair, and a striking colour image of Yves St Laurent in Marrakesh; and the St Tropez wedding of Mick and Bianca Jagger. The display concludes with his definitive and intimate photographs of the Queen and the Royal Family taken in the 1970s, including the large group portrait of 26 Royals at Windsor in 1971, and culminates in the photographs of wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1981. National Portrait Gallery until 31st August.

Linley Sambourne House has reopened after a two year conservation and restoration programme, and now includes the studio. It is a fine example of a late Victorian London townhouse in Classical Italianate style, with four floors above a basement, and it survives with almost all of its extensive furniture and fittings intact. The cartoonist, illustrator and photographer Edward Linley Sambourne made it his home for 36 years from 1874, soon after it was built, and decorated it in the fashionable aesthetic style of the period. The house remained in the family largely untouched until 1980, when it was taken over by the Greater London Council and opened as a museum. Sambourne specialised in grotesque caricatures of people and animals, and was a prolific contributor to the magazine Punch for 43 years. Approximately 1000 cartoons, drawings and sketches and nearly 15,000 photographs, cyanotypes and glass plate negatives survive as part of the Linley Sambourne collection, many of which adorn the walls. Visits to the property are by guided tour only, lasting around one and a half hours, led by an actor in period costume, who gives an insight into the life and times of the Sambourne family. Linley Sambourne House, 18 Stafford Terrace London W8, 020 7602 3316 extn 305, Saturdays and Sundays continuing.

Faberge is a selection from the Royal collection of over 300 pieces by Carl Faberge, the greatest Russian jeweller and goldsmith of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The collection is unparalleled in size, range and quality, and was acquired almost uniquely through the exchange of personal gifts between the Russian, Danish and British Royal families. Faberge revived traditional techniques of enamelling, multi-coloured gold decoration and the use of carved semi-precious hardstones, but applied them with unsurpassed skill and great originality. He sought inspiration in many sources, from antiquity and Oriental art to the contemporary Art Nouveau movement. The assimilation of these different styles, using raw materials of supreme quality and craftsmanship of the highest standard, gave Faberge's work its unique character. Tsar Alexander III of Russia appointed Faberge Supplier to the Imperial Court in 1885. King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra's enthusiasm for Faberge's work encouraged the jeweller to open a London branch in 1903. Their taste was for animal sculptures, modelled from life at the Sandringham Estate farm, and deceptively simple wild flower ornaments. Queen Mary, consort of King George V, acquired four of Faberge's celebrated Easter Eggs, three of which had been made for the Russian Imperial family. These are the greatest expression of Faberge's ingenuity, and their year long production was carried out in great secrecy. The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh until 12th October.

Restoration Lives: Samuel Pepys And His Circle marks the tercentenary of the death of the famous diarist, who recorded his observations about life in London after the Restoration - one of the most dramatic periods in British history. The 1660s not only foreshadowed the 1960s as a period of immense vitality, confidence and reinvention in the arts and public life, but also included the horrors of the Plague and the Great Fire. Pepys was among those who brought Charles II back to England to be crowned King, and as a successful civil servant was at the centre of events, with access to influential social and political circles. His diary records both key historical events, and his relationships with hundreds of men and women of the period. Portraits on display include many of those who knew Pepys well, such as Navy colleagues, actresses, painters, his patron Edward Montagu, and King Charles II himself. Portraits of his associates John Harman, William Petty, George Monck and Christopher Wren have been brought out of storage especially for this exhibition. There is also a bust of Pepys long suffering wife Elizabeth. National Portrait Gallery until 28th September.


Masterpieces From Dresden: Mantegna And Durer To Rubens And Canaletto owes its origin to last summer's European floods. In August the waters of the River Elbe rushed into the vaults of the Zwinger Palace, home of the Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden, one of Europe's greatest collections of Old Master paintings. In a dramatic rescue mission 4,000 artworks were carried to safety from the basement stores by museum staff, volunteers and the armed forces. The museum has reopened, but while remedial work on the basement continues, its treasures are on loan for us to see, with over fifty masterpieces, from Italian Renaissance paintings to Mantegna and Titian, to stunning works by Durer, Van Dyck, Velazquez, Poussin, Watteau and Canaletto. Ranging in subject matter from historical, mythological and biblical themes, to dramatic portraits, genre scenes, and spectacular landscapes, the exhibition provides a unique opportunity to view rarely seen works. It includes a group of Bellotto's spectacular views of Dresden, which reveal the magnificent city in all its 18th century glory. Known as the Florence of the Elbe, Dresden was a royal capital and a city of great architectural distinction. There is an accompanying selection of dramatic black and white photographs by the German photographer Barbara Klemm, documenting the salvage operation and the flood damage at the Zwinger Palace. Royal Academy of Arts until 8th June.

The Adventures Of Hamza is a display of paintings illustrating epic tales of heroism, magic and bravery. They depict the exploits of Hamza, a mythical character, supposedly the uncle of Muhammad, who travelled the world with his band of heroes battling against a host of adversaries. Commissioned by the great Mughal emperor Akbar about 1557, the paintings are rare survivors from one of the most unusual manuscripts produced during Mughal rule, and represent a crucial turning point in the development of Mughal art. The tales, which were popular with all ages, were told by professional storytellers across the Persian speaking world, including the Mughal empire. The beautifully coloured dramatic illustrations, present a cast of larger than life characters in exotic costumes, inhabiting a world where heroes confront and make great escapes from giants, sorcerers, sea monsters and dragons, rescue princesses, or manoeuvre their hapless foes into comical predicaments through sheer guile. The unusually large volumes of the Hamzanama text took more than 100 artists, gilders, bookbinders and calligraphers fifteen years to complete, and originally contained 1400 illustrations, though fewer than 200 are known to have survived. This exhibition, comprised of sixty eight paintings from various collections, is the first time they have been seen in this country. Victoria & Albert Museum until 8th June.

Working Water: Roman Technology In Action is a full scale reconstruction of a 2000 year old water lifting machine. The sophisticated Roman mechanism - possibly the earliest example of mechanical engineering in Britain - was uncovered in Gresham Street, in the City of London, in September 2001. However, key elements were missing, and there were no written instructions about its design or operation. By comparing evidence from the surviving remains with known examples of ancient engineering, and supporting these with modern engineering principles, experts have been able to reconstruct a unique machine, which in its original form would have been capable of raising an astonishing 72,000 litres (15,000 gallons) per 10 hour day. The completed machinery consists of an 8 sided oak drive wheel, with water buckets jointed together to form a continuous loop, that empty into a trough as they near the top of the chain. The 18 oak buckets are made from planks with a recessed base to allow room for the articulated movement of an iron chain. This reconstruction, on view outdoors, has been made with a capstan and gears, and is being operated by a trained demonstrator assisted by members of the general public. Museum Of London until 31st May.