News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 29th April 2009


William Blake's 1809 Exhibition is a recreation of the ill fated exhibition held to launch the career of the engraver, visionary poet and painter William Blake. The show was held in the upstairs rooms of his brother's hosiery shop in Golden Square, Soho. Inside were 16 paintings in watercolour and tempera. Visitors were charged two shilling and sixpence, for which they also received a 66 page pamphlet entitled 'A Descriptive Catalogue', in which Blake discussed the pictures and his ambitions as an artist. Blake hoped the exhibition would help him to become a painter of large scale public schemes, what he termed 'the Grand style of art'. However, almost no-one came to the exhibition, and even his friends were baffled by his strange descriptions of his pictures. Only one review appeared at the time, which was brutally dismissive: the poor man fancies himself a great master, and has painted a few wretched pictures, some of which are unintelligible allegory, others an attempt at sober character by caricature representation, and the whole 'blotted and blurred' and very badly drawn. These he calls an Exhibition, of which he has published a Catalogue, or rather a farrago of nonsense, unintelligibleness, and egregious vanity, the wild effusions of a distempered brain. Blake was bitterly disappointed, and became increasingly withdrawn and depressed. Two centuries later, 10 of the surviving pictures are exhibited here, including 'Jacob's Ladder', 'The Soldiers Casting Lots for Christ's Garments', 'Christ in the Sepulchre', and 'The Spiritual Form of Pitt Guiding Behemoth', together with a copy of the original Catalogue. The missing works, including a large scale painting of 'The Ancient Britons', are represented by blank spaces. Pictures by other artists exhibited during 1809 are also shown, giving a sense of what was different about Blake's exhibition - and why contemporaries may have found his work so strange and confusing. Tate Britain until 4th October.

Sizergh Castle has just completed a £1.5m restoration programme, repairing the fabric of the building. The major works included pointing removal, chimney rendering, parapet rebuilding, roof insulation and re-leading, and replacement of the cement structure of the tower with traditional lime mortar, to reveal the natural stone building and preserve it from damp. Historic glazing and carved stonemasonry and the front garden steps of the building have also been repaired. A particular complication was that the roof work had to be carried out with disturbing its resident population of bats. With the removal of the covering of Boston Ivy from the outside, and the old cement pointing, features that have not been seen for centuries have been uncovered, including the original doorway into the tower. The castle contains an exceptional series of oak panelled rooms, culminating in the Inlaid Chamber, with portraits, furniture and objet d'art, accumulated over centuries by the Strickland family, by whom it was built in the Middle Ages, and whose descendants still live there today. An exhibition of photographs and videos reveal the skilled traditional craftspersons at work during the 2 year restoration programme. Visitors can also watch the movements of tower's winged residents via a 'bat cam'. Sizergh Castle, near Kendal, Cumbria, continuing.

Madness & Modernity looks at the relationship between mental illness, the visual arts and architecture in Vienna around 1900. The exhibition presents the range of ways madness and art interacted in Vienna, from designs for utopian psychiatric spaces, to the drawings of the patients confined within them. It shows how psychiatry influenced early modernism in the visual arts, and how modernism shaped the lives and images of mentally ill people. Vienna was one of Europe's leading centres for psychiatric innovation around 1900, and there was an overwhelming sense of the Viennese living in 'nervous times'. Anxieties about mental health were allied to anxieties about the modern, capitalist city, with its new technologies, modes of work and play, and speeds of life. The experience of modernity gave a new impetus to the study of madness. The exhibition comprises around 80 exhibits, including the work of artists such as Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka, and leading modernist designers and architects Josef Hoffmann and Otto Wagner, who sought to create a new kind of environment for the care and confinement of mentally ill people. As well as original paintings, drawings and design objects, the display also includes artworks by asylum patients, therapeutic equipment, and architectural models and drawings. In addition, two specially commissioned films by the artist David Bickerstaff contrast the buildings of Wagner with the kind of asylums they were designed to replace, taking viewers on a journey through the spaces of Vienna asylums of the 18th and 20th centuries. The Wellcome Collection, London, until 28th June.


Baroque 1620 - 1800: Style In The Age Of Magnificence features the splendour of one of the most opulent styles of the 17th and 18th centuries. The exhibition reflects the complexity and grandeur of the Baroque style, from the Rome of Borromini and Bernini, to the magnificence of Louis XIV's Versailles, and the lavishness of Baroque theatre and performance. On display are some 200 objects, including silver furniture, portraits, sculpture, a regal bed and court tapestries, which conjure up the rooms of a Baroque palace. Further, the exhibition shows how, as European power and influence spread, Baroque style reached other parts of the world. Highlights include: depictions of the Palace of Versailles, including the Hall of Mirrors and designs for the gardens; rare historic furniture made for Louis XIV; religious paintings by Rubens and Tiepolo; sculpture and architectural designs for St Peter's Basilica and the Cornaro Chapel in Rome; stage sets from theatres such as Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic, Italian costumes and musical instruments; the original model for James Gibbs's church St Mary-Le-Strand in London; pearls from the vaults of Augustus the Strong in Dresden; costumes from the Swedish Royal court, and candelabrum from the Swedish Royal chapel; and a gilded altarpiece, sculpture, paintings and furniture from Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Indonesia, the Philippines and India. Victoria & Albert Museum until 19th July.

Assembling Bodies: Art, Science & Imagination aims to challenge pre-conceived notions about the human body, by examining ways that bodies are constructed, known and transformed in various historical, cross-cultural and disciplinary contexts. Presenting insights from anthropology, archaeology, history, classics, bio-medical research and artistic practice, the exhibition brings together an assembly of bodies from different times and places, highlighting multiple definitions of the body, as well as the political implications of the ways that bodies are created and understood. The diverse range of gloriously gristly exhibits embraces: stone tools used by early hominids, classical sculptures, medieval manuscripts, European paintings, medical instruments, ancestral effigies from the Pacific, scientific models, a funerary sculpture that contains and then releases the life force of the deceased, a plaster cast of Aphrodite of Knidos, a depiction of marriage from the earliest European Encyclopedia of the 12th century, Chinese ancestral spirit tablets, a Mongolian household cresta, a Maori child's cloak, Isaac Newton's death mask, 'body maps' of HIV sufferers, a cyborg, and Marc Quinn's 'Genomic Portrait of Professor Sir John Sulston'. All human life - and some. Museum of Archaeology and Anthroplogy, Cambridge, until December 2010.

The Topolsky Century, which recently reopened to the public, is the artist Feliks Topolski's visual record of the personalities and social and political events, of a century that he witnessed and chronicled, during a lifetime spent criss-crossing the five continents. This panoramic diary is a unique cavalcade, pageant and portrait gallery, painted in expressionist style on hardboard panels 20 foot high, which curve snake like 600 feet through the railway arches of Hungerford Bridge, next to the Royal Festival Hall. It is Topolski's pictorial and historical representation, painted over 15 years, from his many hundreds of vivid eyewitness and on the spot drawings and paintings, made during a century of high drama. Topolski donated it to the nation in 1984. There had been a steady deterioration in the condition of the paintings, and it was in urgent need of refurbishment. A £3m programme has seen its restoration and secured its future, and an accompanying interactive project, and the refurbishment of Topolski's nearby original studio as a learning centre, is under way. The Topolski Century, 150-152 Hungerford Bridge, Concert Hall Approach, London, continuing.

Kuniyoshi is the first exhibition in Britain of work by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, one of the greatest Japanese print artists, in nearly 50 years. Featuring over 150 works, the exhibition presents Kuniyoshi as a master of imaginative design. It reveals the graphic power and beauty of his prints across an unprecedented range of subjects, highlighting his ingenious use of the triptych format. Kuniyoshi was a major master of the 'floating world', or Ukiyo-e school of Japanese art, and dominated 19th century printmaking in Japan. Kuniyoshi considerably expanded the existing repertoire of the school, particularly with thousands of designs that brought vividly to life famous military exploits in Japan and China. He portrayed historic heroes of Japan's worrier past and brigands from the Chinese adventure story The Water Margin, giving dramatic pictorial expression to the myths and legends. Kuniyoshi developed an powerful and imaginative style in his prints, often spreading a scene dynamically across all three sheets of the traditional triptych format, and linking the composition with one bold unifying element - a major artistic innovation. Kuniyoshi was also very active in other genres including beautiful women, Kabuki actors, landscapes, comic themes, erotica and commissioned paintings, in each of which he was experimental, imaginative and different from his contemporaries. He transformed the genre of landscapes by incorporating Western conventions, such as cast shadows and innovative applications of perspective. Highlights include rare original brush drawings, a selection of extraordinarily dynamic triptych prints, and the only known example of a set of 12 comic erotic prints. Royal Academy of Arts until 7th June.

The Anson Engine Museum has just opened for the 2008 season with a full size replica of the first ever diesel engine, made by Rudolf Diesel in Germany in 1897. The copy was built to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Diesel's birth last year by MAN Truck & Bus Ltd, and is on public display for the first time. It stands alongside the Mirrlees No1, the 1st ever diesel engine built in Britain, which was the 3rd ever built in the world, revealing the alterations and improvements that were developed between the two engines. This specialist engineering museum houses a unique collection of over 200 gas and oil engines, many maintained in running order. It tells the story of the engine from the cannon to the sophisticated, electronically controlled engine of the future. Prize exhibits include: the largest running example of Crossley Atmospheric gas engine; the original Gardner L series engine; a rare Atkinson-cycle engine; the first ever built Crossley engine; a Griffin 6-stroke engine; a Hugon gas engine; a Stott cross-compound mill engine; and a Fowler beam engine. The museum is on the site of the former Anson Colliery, and also features a display of photographs, maps and mementoes from the Anson Colliery and Vernon Estate, telling the story of the rise and decline of the coalmining industry in the area. The Anson Engine Museum, Anson Road, Poynton, Cheshire, until 25th October.

London Aquarium, one of the largest in Europe, containing over 1m litres of water, and over 400 species, has reopened after £5m redevelopment. Visitors can experience an immersive journey along the Great Ocean Conveyor Belt, meeting thousands of marine creatures from every part of the world in themed settings. Features include a glass tunnel walkway beneath a tropical ocean, containing 25 species, including green turtles, seahorses, the world's biggest captive shoal of cownose rays, butterfly fish, octopus, stingrays with a 2m wingspan, zebra sharks, clown fish and piranhas; a Pacific shipwreck; an Atlantic coastline; a life size replica of a blue whale skeleton; secret coral caves; a dive school; an area where visitors can feed and handle fish; and a display telling the story of the River Thames. The finale is provided by the new Shark Walk, a perspex walkway across the shark pool that allows visitors to come frighteningly close to 5 different species, including 4.5m long nurse sharks. The aquarium is also an education, research, conservation and breeding centre, which hopes to breed its own zebra sharks. London Aquarium, County Hall, Southbank, London, continuing.


The Glasgow Boys: Drawings And Watercolours is a selection of works by the informal grouping of artists who were inspired by progressive French painting, and produced some of the most decorative and adventurous painting in Scotland at the end of the 19th century. The group of around 20 artists became known as the 'Glasgow Boys', whose leading figures were James Guthrie, George Henry, E A Hornel, John Lavery, Arthur Melville, James Paterson and E A Walton, treated watercolour and pastel as mediums just as noble as paint. The works on display feature drawings and watercolours that mainly belong to the second half of the artists' careers, when their early interest in rustic realism had been replaced by a commitment to decorative and aesthetic effect, and a wider range of subject matter. Highlights include James Paterson's 'Moniaive' and James Guthrie's 'Winter', both of which show a desire to experiment in an almost abstract manner with the forms and shapes found in landscape; Arthur Melville's 'A Byway in Granada', in which he achieved its strong contrast between light and dark by dropping pure pigment onto untouched areas of the wet paper; and George Henry's 'A Japanese Pottery Seller' and 'Japanese Beauty', which mark a high point in his career. Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, until 16th May.

Treasures Of The Black Death brings to London for the first time two hoards of medieval gold and silver jewellery, found at Colmar in the 19th century, and at Erfurt in the 1990s. Both hoards were buried at the time of the Black Death in the middle of the 14th century, in the Jewish quarters of these towns. They were almost certainly hidden by Jewish families who were expelled or murdered, because the Jews were blamed for spreading the disease, by poisoning the wells. These people presumably buried their most treasured possessions with the intention of returning, but owing to the ensuing pograms, they were never able to come back and reclaimed them. Among the jewellery on display are three of the earliest known Jewish wedding rings, in the form of miniature houses, symbolising both the marital home and the Temple of Jerusalem; 'double cups' used in wedding ceremonies, betrothal gifts; and other personal items with inscriptions such as 'Amor' and 'Little Anna'. In addition, there is coinage from all over Europe; silverware, including a silver bottle that once contained beauty accessories; and the only known surviving medieval toilet seat in the world. These objects illuminate not only the lives of the communities who buried them, but tastes of medieval fashion, and the highly skilled craftsmanship that went into their creation. The Wallace Collection, London, until 10th May.

Sun Wind And Rain: The Art Of David Cox, which marks 150 years since the death of the somewhat neglected British watercolourist, is the first major exhibition of his work for 25 years. David Cox became famous for the freshness and immediacy of his rural and coastal landscapes, in which he captured the passing effects of wind, light and weather so vividly. However, unlike other 'weather painters', Cox was not drawn to terrifying conditions in which immense storms dwarf the human to helpless insignificance, nor did he use occasions of extreme meteorology as opportunities to push representation to the brink of abstraction. In Cox's paintings the scale is generally human, and while the world may be rough at times, it is rarely murderous. The exhibition comprises over 100 watercolours and drawings, including 'Sun, Wind and Rain', 'Ulverston Sands', 'Windermere During the Regatta', 'The Night Train', 'The Skylark', 'Crossing the Sands', 'On the Moors, Near Bettws-y-Coed' and 'Darley Churchyard', together with about a dozen oil paintings from later in his career. Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery until 3rd May.