News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 30th March 2005


Portrait Miniatures is a new gallery designed to bring to life this unique art form, tracing its development from origins in the illuminated manuscript, to its heyday in the 19th century, before the rise of photography. The display comprises 140 paintings, with masterpieces by Hans Holbein, the Elizabethans Nicholas Hilliard and Isaac Oliver, Samuel Cooper (who painted both Cromwell and Charles II) and Richard Cosway, miniature painter to the Prince Regent. It shows how the miniature - portable, highly personal and often mounted in precious materials - offers a link between painting and jewellery. Three displays focusing on sitters show how the role of the miniature, and the nature of the painter, changed over the centuries. The first group has portraits of Elizabeth I and James I and his family, from the golden age of miniature painting; the second, the family and friends of Susannah-Penelope Rosse, a woman miniaturist at the end of the 17th century; and the third, portraits painted by British artists in India at the end of the 18th century, when miniaturists provided pictures small enough to send home by post or be carried in hand luggage. The display also explores the materials and techniques of portrait miniatures to reveal the way that they were made, and looks at their settings, including ivory boxes, enamelled cases and gilt lockets. The gallery has been designed by Casson Mann, who have developed showcases that allow visitors to sit down on stools and examine the miniatures closely with a magnifying glass. Victoria & Albert Museum continuing.

Marilyn Monroe is the most extensive collection of movie costumes worn by, and memorabilia associated with, the 1950s screen goddess ever shown in Britain, including the iconic one from Bus Stop. Monroe lunched at Renshaw with Edith Sitwell while she was filming The Prince And The Showgirl. The permanent collection includes material relating to stars from the worlds of theatre, ballet and opera, such as Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh and Noel Coward; Margot Fonteyn, Rudolph Nureyev, Natalia Markova, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Anna Pavlova and Robert Helpman; Maria Callas, Maya Plisteskaya, Julia Migenes, Joan Sutherland, Montserrat Caballe and Enrico Caruso.

John Piper is an exhibition celebrating the work of the artist who specialised in capturing country houses, and their gates and temples. It includes the original paintings of Renishaw and its surroundings, and of Montegufoni, the Sitwell's castle in Tuscany, commissioned to illustrate Osbert Sitwell's epic autobiography, which are generally regarded as among his finest work. There are also Piper's designs for theatre, opera and ballet, such as the famous curtain for the first post War performance of Edith Sitwell and William Walton's Facade. The Performing Arts and John Piper Galleries, Renshaw Hall, Derbyshire until 2nd October.

Animal Mummies Of Ancient Egypt features a unique range of animal mummies on display in Britain for the first time, including cats, a baboon, a crocodile and birds of prey. There are also examples of natural mummification - when the body dries before it decomposes - including a cat buried under the grounds of the Duke of Bedford's house, and a gazelle foetus. The exhibition explores the many reasons why animal mummification was practised in ancient Egypt. As with humans, this was principally to protect the body for the 'afterlife', but mummies were also made as religious offerings, and were even used to preserve treasured pets that were buried alongside their owners. Through studying animal mummies, archaeologists have been able to learn more about the importance of animals in ancient Egyptian society. Cats sometimes received their own elaborate burials, complete with cat-shaped coffins. Animal statues and amulets made from faience or bronze, indicating the high esteem in which these creatures were held are also in the show, including scarabs, faience hippos, and bronze animals. The mummified specimens are so well preserved that scientists been able to study the skeletons to make close comparisons with the modern wild and domestic animal specimens. Visitors also have the opportunity to peer inside the mummies with the help of X-rays, to reveal one of them as a fake. The Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum, Tring until 3rd July.


International Arts And Crafts is the most comprehensive British exhibition on the movement ever staged, and the first to look at it from an international perspective. It shows how Arts and Crafts originated in Britain in the 1880s as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and its machine dominated production. Led by John Ruskin and William Morris, the movement promoted the ideals of craftsmanship, individualism, and the integration of art into every day life. It became the first British design movement to spread internationally, to America from 1890 to 1916 and continental Europe and Scandinavia from 1880 to 1914, before its final manifestation in Japan between 1926 and 1945. The display comprises over 300 of the best examples of the genre, from simple folk craft to sophisticated objects made for wealthy patrons, including textiles, stained glass, furniture, ceramics, metalwork, jewellery, books, architecture, photography, paintings and sculpture. Highlights include objects by British designers such as Voysey, Mackintosh, Ashbee, Morris, Geddes, Traquair, Baillie Scott and De Morgan; a group of Russian objects that have not been exhibited abroad before; four metres wide stained glass doors by Californian designers, Greene and Greene; and Japanese objects by Bernard Leach and Hamada Shoji. Four specially created room sets emphasise the importance of the movement's interiors: two British sets (one urban and one rural), one American 'Craftsman' room, and one Japanese 'model room' recreated through recently rediscovered objects. Victoria & Albert Museum until 24th July.

The Treehouse, is a turret topped wooden 'fantasy tree village', up to 60ft high, and with 4,000 sq ft of suspended walkways and rope bridges, which appear to float around 16 mature lime trees. It is one of the world's largest and most unusual wooden treehouses ever built for the public, designed to withstand not only moving and growing trees, but trees that will bend and rock in storms. Rope and net collars have been placed around each tree trunk to allow room for natural growth and movement, ensuring the Treehouse, and the trees, are perfectly safe. The structure is entirely made of natural materials, with an intentionally weathered feel to it, giving an impression that it could have existed in the trees for centuries. It offers an opportunity to experience the treetops up close, in a way previously restricted to Tarzan and Jane, plus one of the most unusual cafes to be found, and unparallelled views of the surrounding gardens and countryside. New attractions at ground level include the Bamboo Labyrinth, a maze of pathways created from 500 Chinese bamboo plants to test visitors puzzle solving abilities; the Poison Garden, with over 50 carefully guarded toxic, dangerous and scarce plants, including cannabis, coca, deadly nightshade, mandrake, magic mushrooms, opium poppy and tobacco plants; and the Serpent Garden, featuring 8 interactive mirror polished steel water sculptures, which combine art with hydrostatics, showing the different ways water can be made to move. Alnwick Garden, Northumberland continuing.

John Virtue London Paintings is an exhibition of the paintings created by Virtue during his two year residency as the National Gallery's Associate Artist, when he was given a studio in which to make new work that somehow connects to the existing collection. Virtue described the process thus: "My day consists of getting up early, drawing from the South Bank of the Thames, drawing from the roof of Somerset House, and finally drawing from the roof of the National Gallery. Then I work on the images here (in the studio) from drawings that I'm making every day." There are eleven paintings in all, four representing the London cityscape looking towards St Paul's Cathedral; four of the city from the roof of Somerset House; and three from the roof of the National Gallery looking towards Trafalgar Square and Nelson's Column. Executed solely in black and white, (sometimes using his hands and J cloths as well as brushes to distribute the paint) they are monumental works, the largest of which is over 22ft across. National Gallery until 5th June.

John Virtue London Drawings comprises over 150 of Virtue's preparatory drawings for the paintings, which he describes as "the compost from which painting develops". The display collates the drawings in three groups of multiple images. Shown in close proximity to one another, the studies build up a picture of how Virtue prepares for a painting, and charts his creative process. One of the paintings - an image of Somerset House measuring 8ft by12ft - is at the heart of the exhibition, and offers a compelling comparison with the drawings.

Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery, Somerset House until 5th June.

Matisse, His Art And His Textiles: The Fabric Of Dreams is the first exhibition to explore the relationship of textile designs to Matisse's paintings. Textiles were a primary source of inspiration to Matisse throughout his life. He started acquiring fabrics from an early age, and accumulated an extraordinary collection, from traditional French fabrics to Persian carpets, African wall hangings, Moroccan embroideries and jackets. The exhibition is a selection of Matisse's fabrics and costumes, together with some 30 paintings, and a number of drawings and prints to which they relate. Alongside a display of brilliantly coloured silk swatches from Bohain are the sober low key still lifes that Matisse produced in his early years as a Beaux-Arts trained painter working within a northern tradition. The fabric that liberated Matisse in the most radical phase of his career was a length of flowered, cotton 'toile de Jouy', seen in many works, particularly 'Still Life with Blue Tablecloth' and 'Portrait of Greta Moll'. When Matisse began painting in Nice, he turned his studio into a private theatre, where models in Arab robes and turbans, silk sashes and harem pants, posed on divans, carpets and cushions in front of screens draped and dressed with lengths of fabric. Later he was galvanised by Kuba fabrics from Zaire, small raffia strips and oblongs woven into geometrical patterns that he called 'African velvets', which lie behind his last great invention, the paper cut-outs. Royal Academy of Arts until 30th May.

Hotel Futuro is the first solo show in the UK of recent film-works by Finnish artist Mika Taanila, and includes the premiere of his latest piece 'Optical Sound'. Taanila's works are collages of archive materials, found footage of amateur films and documentary, combined with electronic music. A common theme is his fascination with science fiction, and the futuristic ideas and utopias imagined in the recent past, focusing on the technological dreams of the previous generation. 'Futuro - A New Stance for Tomorrow' explores the history of an icon of space age design, the 100% plastic Futuro House, an egg shaped, prefabricated portable building designed by Matti Suuronen. 'The Future Is Not What It Used To Be' is about the scientist and artist Erkki Kurenniemi's 1960s avant-garde music and film, and the early history of microcomputers. 'A Physical Ring' is based on fragments of found footage, documenting physics test that took place in the 1940s, transformed into a visual fantasy steeped in hypnotic effects, accompanied by a minimalist soundtrack. 'Optical Sound' is based on a live performance of the Symphony for 12 Dot Matrix Printers by the Canadian artist duo [The User], intercutting close ups of the mechanical parts of the printers performing the piece, taken from surveillance cameras placed inside the machines, with images of the ASCII files's score being played. Spacex Gallery, Exeter until 30th April.

Rupert Bear, Punch And Much More: The Art Of Alfred Bestall is a survey of the work of the man who drew Rupert Bear for nearly fifty years. From 1935 to 1965 Bestall wrote and illustrated the daily strip that appeared in the Daily Express, and contributed to the famous annuals that began in 1936, and continue to this day. Although Mary Tourtel was the original creator of Rupert, Bestall played a significant part in his development, among other things, changing his jumper from blue to the now famous red, and adding new characters in over 270 adventures. He is particularly known for the specially drawn double spread vista endpapers in the annuals. The exhibition not only shows a wide range of Bestall's Rupert material, but also his earlier incisive cartoons that appeared in Punch, the dreamy watercolours he created for The Tatler, and illustrations for many other magazines. Cartoon Art Trust Museum, London until 30th April.


Thinking The Unthinkable - Or, Against Nature features the imaginative transformations seven contemporary artists and two historical predecessors have worked upon the natural world, blending fantasy and reality to create new types of flora and fauna. It comprises: Sir John Tenniel's original illustrations of Lewis Carroll's creatures in Alice Through The Looking Glass; the early 20th century photographs of Frances and Elsie Wright and The Cottingley Fairies; Tessa Farmer's sculptures of 'hell's angels' and 'fairies' so small they can only be viewed using a magnifying glass; Daniel Brown's digital animation recreating the endless patterns of growth that exist in the natural world; David Harrison's nocturnal oil paintings revealing nature flourishing amongst the debris and dereliction man has wrought on the environment; Karen Melvin's constructed still lives, inserting figures made of photographic paper into sun drenched landscapes; Nicholas Pace's photo-realist paintings made after natural history dioramas in Victorian museums; Kelly Richardson's animated video tracking shot of an archetypal North American white-picket-fence suburban street - but with a house defying the laws of nature rotating 360 degrees; and Laura Youngson Coll's baroque environment of miniature wax sculptures combining skeletons of unknown species with bizarre, unclassifiable flowers and plants. Northern Gallery For Contemporary Art, Sunderland until 16th April.

Turks: A Journey Of A Thousand Years 600-1600 AD is a wide ranging exhibition devoted to the artistic and cultural riches of the Turkic-speaking people. It comprises a wealth of materials whose origins stretch from the eastern borders of modern China to the Balkans, examining the artistic achievement of regions controlled by Turkic peoples over a thousand year period. Around three hundred and fifty objects, drawn principally from the collections of the Topkapi Palace Museum and the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art of Istanbul, include paintings, textiles, carpets, sculptures, book illustrations, calligraphy, woodwork, metalwork, and ceramics, many of which have never before been exhibited outside of Turkey. Each of the eight galleries explores a particular time and place, emphasising specific themes and issues through a selection of works of art. Highlights among the riches include: a diamond and ruby studded casket made to contain a single hair of the prophet Mohamed; the Holbein Carpet (named after its resemblance to the painted version in Holbein's Ambassadors); a pair of 16th century walnut harem doors; a 7th century Chinese wall painting resembling a hybrid of Japanese ink sketch and Indian watercolour; pottery bowls and jugs encrusted with gold, rubies and emeralds; a 16th century Ceremonial helmet of iron, steel, gold, turquoise and ruby; and the animated grotesque figures in the scenes of daily life portrayed in the brilliantly coloured drawings of Mohamed of the Black Pen. The Royal Academy of Arts until 15th April.

Thomas Banks: Britain's First Modern Sculptor marking the bicentenary of his death, is the first ever exhibition of work by the man Joshua Reynolds hailed "the first British sculptor who had produced works of classic grace". A gifted sculptor and one of the most influential artists of his time, Banks's work ranged from exquisitely carved bas-reliefs of historical and poetical subjects, to dramatic neoclassical compositions of the epic class, which reinvented the male nude in dramatic compositions that pushed marble to its limits. His greatest works had such emotional power that they reduced onlookers to tears, but his radical political beliefs secured his position as the scourge as well as the toast of the English art establishment. Banks spent seven years working in Rome in the international circle of artists there, and then became sculptor to Catherine the Great in St Petersburg, before returning to Britain, where he produced some of his most original and influential sculptures as church monuments. Regarded by fellow artists as 'a violent democrat' Banks was arrested on suspicion of treason, and the last work he finished, a bust of Oliver Cromwell, was ordered removed from the Royal Academy exhibition as 'an improper object'. Colour photographs, specially commissioned for the exhibition, which present Banks's finest church monuments afresh as works of art, accompany eleven works that are part of the permanent collection. Sir John Soane's Museum until 9th April.