News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 30th May 2012


Writing Britain: Wastelands To Wonderlands examines how the landscapes of Britain permeate great literary works. The exhibition allows visitors to read between the lines of great works of English literature, discovering the secrets and stories surrounding the works' creation, shedding new light on how they speak to the country today. Over 150 literary works are featured, ranging from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales to Graham Green's Brighton Rock, and Angela Carter's London novel Wise Children. The exhibition includes first editions, original drafts and loans from authors, plus sound recordings, videos, letters, photographs, maps, song lyrics and drawings, as well as manuscripts and printed editions. It provides a rare opportunity to access usually hidden-away treasures, and to glimpse the writer's mind in action, seeing in their own handwriting what they excise, or their method of writing. The exhibition is arranged thematically to reflect our literary geography, mapping out our various landscapes and placing our writers like landmarks within them. The journey begins with Rural Dreams, continuing via the Industrial Muse, Wild Places and Waterlands to Cockney Visions and Beyond the City. Among the highlights are William Blake's notebook, in which he recorded his thoughts while walking the streets of London; Lewis Carroll's diary, recounting a day out on the Thames in which he entertained a young girl called Alice Liddell by inventing "the fairy-tale of Alice's Adventures Under Ground", displayed alongside the very first written version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, featuring his own illustrations; William Wordsworth's handbook on the Lake District; and Oscar Wilde's handwritten manuscript of The Importance of Being Earnest. British Library until 25th September.

The English Prize: The Capture Of The Westmorland, An Episode Of The Grand Tour is a vivid recreation of the Grand Tour and events on the high seas of 18th century Europe. The story of the Westmorland, an armed merchant ship sailing from Livorno to London in January 1779, is one of colourful 18th century personalities and modern detective work. Consigned to the ship, by a cast of characters that included artists, aristocrats and dealers, was a precious cargo of art and antiquities, books, and luxury goods, including 32 wheels of Parmesan cheese. The Westmorland was captured by two French warships on 7th January and declared a 'prize of war'. The majority of the cargo was acquired by King Carlos III of Spain, who presented many of the items to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid, while one painting ended up as far away as St Petersburg. Following an extraordinary research project begun in the 1990s in the archives in Madrid, scholars have been able to trace the history and learn the fate of many of the items on board the ship. The exhibition presents over 120 objects that were on the Westmorland when it was captured, including portraits of two of the Grand Tourists by Pompeo Batoni; a group of watercolours by a young John Robert Cozens; and portrait busts by Irish sculptor Christopher Hewetson. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, until 27th August.

The Noble Art Of The Sword: Fashion And Fencing In Renaissance Europe provides an opportunity to investigate the historical and social development of the ancient art of sword-fighting. The exhibition reveals the untold story of a little known area of Renaissance art, revealing the skilled artistry behind the rapier, at once a weapon, fashion item, and rich jewellery object. It represents the rise of a new and upwardly mobile middle class, 16th century concepts of masculinity and the emergence of the duel of honor. The very best 16th and early 17th century swords can be seen alongside costumes, fencing manuals, beautifully illustrated by artists such as Albrecht Durer, portraits, design books and documents, which help to place the Renaissance rapier in its social and artistic context, and reveal information about the men who owned and used them. During the Renaissance civilian swords were not just weapons, they were works of art. A bewildering variety of decorative techniques went into creating the finest rapiers, fire-gilding, damascening, enamelling, steel-carving and encrusting with precious metals and fine jewels. Among the highlights are the rapier of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II, modelled with unbelievable skill in solid gold, the hilt, glittering with multi-coloured enamel in many bright colours, set onto a deadly Milanese blade of the very best quality; and the rapier of Elector Christian II of Saxony, displayed for the first time alongside its matching doublet and breeches, cut from the finest Italian silk. Wallace Collection, Manchester Square, London W1, until 16th September.


The Queen: Art And Image brings together of some of the most remarkable and resonant images in a wide range of different media across a 60 year reign. Formal painted portraits, official photographs, media pictures and powerful responses by contemporary artists are on show in an exhibition that has both traditional representations and unconventional works, which extend the visual language of royal portraiture. Documenting the changing nature of representations of the Monarch, the exhibition shows how images serve as a lens through which the changing perceptions of royalty can be viewed. It also demonstrates fundamental shifts in the social scene and historical context, highlighting important developments and events, as well as the advent of new technology. This multi-textured view of the period is emphasised by the inclusion, alongside fine art, of material drawn from newspapers, film footage, postage stamps and satirical images. Among the highlights are Annigoni's iconic 1954 portrait together with his very different but no less magisterial 1969 painting, Lucian Freud's 2000 portrait, and Thomas Struth's recent large scale photograph depicting The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh. Among other photographers whose images are included are Annie Leibovitz, Dorothy Wilding, Cecil Beaton (the iconic Westminster Abbey Coronation picture) and Chris Levine (the highly unusual photograph of The Queen with her eyes closed). Alongside these there is a rich selection of unofficial portraits from major artists including Gilbert and George, Andy Warhol and Gerhard Richter, as well as spontaneous portraits by such photographers as Eve Arnold, Patrick Lichfield and Lord Snowdon. National Portrait Gallery until 21st October.

Edvard Munch: Graphic Works From The Gundersen Collection features masterpieces from an outstanding private collection of prints by the Norwegian artist, never shown before in Britain. The extraordinary collection of lithographs and woodcuts show Munch's pioneering working processes and highlights the integral part that printmaking played within his artistic career. The exhibition comprises some 50 works, primarily dating from the period 1895 to 1902, which feature many of the motifs that Edvard Munch grouped together as a series entitled 'The Frieze of Life' that focused on universal concerns of love, anxiety and death, including a hand coloured version of his best known work 'The Scream'. One of Munch's most significant paintings, 'The Sick Child', based on his sister's death, is one of many works which deal with personal tragedy. Munch later developed the image into a lithograph that he considered to be his most important print, and three different versions are on show side by side in the exhibition. In addition, three examples of the lithograph 'Madonna' show how Munch used colour, both added by hand and in the printing process, to emphasise the drama of his images. An accompanying display draws out the wider European context and signals the depth of influence that Munch had upon artists working across Europe, including paintings and major prints by artists such as Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Wassily Kandinsky. National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, until 23rd September.

The Body Adorned: Dressing London looks across time and cultures at the relationships between dress, the body and the emergence of London as a world city. The exhibition considers how the movement of people, objects and ideas have influenced London dress in the past, and explores body adornment in today's capital. It first examines body adornment practices across the world, with some 300 objects that include an Ancestor figure from Papua New Guinea; a shaman figure from North America; early tattooing instruments; a Native American headdress; European folk costumes; and a spectacular Maori ancestor figure. These objects give an insight into the messages dress conveys in these societies, and the role dress plays in magic, religion, warfare, social status, gender, marriage and death. The focus of the exhibition then turns to contemporary London, with film and photography used to consider dress choices in London today, including a video installation by the innovative filmmakers and designers The Light Surgeons, in which people in various parts of London talk about their own and others' dress choices; a display of large scale photographs taken by young people exploring the many ways in which Londoners dress; and an in depth looks at the intimate choices, and even anxieties, of Londoners, as revealed by a multi-faith wedding wardrobe, a sharp suited business woman, and the mysteries of a teenage bedroom. Horniman Museum, London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23, until 6th January.

Royal River: Power, Pageantry and the Thames brings to life the history of the Thames as Britain's royal river and London's 'grandest street'. The exhibition evokes the sights, sounds and even the smells of half a millennium of royal river pageantry and popular celebration, and shows how the river pageants were used to celebrate the coronation and inauguration of Tudor and Stuart Queens. For hundreds of years the Thames has been a unique site for royal, national and civic ceremony and celebration. Providing a larger stage than any street on land, the river has seen the pomp of spectacular coronations, the music and fireworks of extravagant processions, and the bustle of festive frost fairs, where rich and poor mingled on its frozen surface. A wealth of fascinating objects take visitors from Anne Boleyn's coronation procession to Lord Nelson's funeral, from the gilded magnificence of the Lord Mayor's pageant to the noxious horror of the 'Great Stink', and from the great riverside seats of regal power to the floating palaces of the royal yachts. Among the nearly 400 paintings, manuscripts and beautiful artefacts are rarely seen uniforms, silver and barge decorations from the City's many livery companies, an elaborate silver microscope made for George III and the 16th century Pearl Sword, which to this day the monarch must touch upon entering the City of London. Other highlights include the oldest known copy of Handel's Water Music, Bazalgette's original contract drawings for the construction of the Thames embankment, Anne Boleyn's personal music book, the magnificent stern carvings from the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert III, and a remarkable collection of paintings by Canaletto. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, until 2nd September.

Alex Katz: Give Me Tomorrow focuses on seascapes and beach scenes, as well as images of family holidays and friends, painted in the seaside retreat of Lincolnville, Maine. Alex Katz is one of the most important and respected living American artists, with a career that spans six decades, and this exhibition brings together over 30 canvases, plus collages and cut-outs from the 1950s to today. Katz's paintings are defined by their flatness of colour and form, their economy of line, and their cool but seductive emotional detachment. Working with classical themes of portraiture, landscape, figure studies, marine scenes and flowers, many of Katz's works picture an everyday America of easy living, leisure and recreation. Influenced as much by style, fashion and music as he is art history, he remains a very classical painter, working in the tradition of European and American artists like Manet, Matisse, and Hopper. In the 1950s, Abstract Expressionism was still the dominant force in American art when Katz began exhibiting. Whilst his interests were firmly based in the previous generation of artists including Pollock, Rothko, Guston and De Kooning, his own painting developed in reaction to their work, and he is acknowledged as a hugely influential precursor to the Pop Art movement with which he became associated throughout the 1960s. Katz has created an unmistakable language and has remained a prolific painter and an influential and important figure for generations of artists. Highlights include 'Round Hill', 'Isleboro Ferry Slip', 'Eleuthera' and 'Black Hat (Bettina)'. Tate St Ives until 23rd September.

Picasso Prints: The Vollard Suite is the first time that a complete set of the Spanish artist's most celebrated series of etchings has been shown in Britain. The Vollard Suite comprises 100 etchings produced by Pablo Picasso between 1930 and 1937, at a critical juncture in his career. They were commissioned by Ambroise Vollard, the greatest avant-garde Paris art dealer and print publisher of his day, who gave Picasso his first Paris exhibition in 1901. The prints were made when Picasso was involved in a passionate affair with his muse and model, Marie-Therese Walter, whose classical features are a recurrent presence in the series. They offer evidence of an ongoing process of change and metamorphosis that eludes any final resolution. Picasso gave no order to the plates nor did he assign any titles to them. He kept the plates open-ended to allow connections to be freely made among them, yet certain thematic groupings can be identified. The predominant theme of the Vollard Suite is the Sculptor's Studio, which deals with Picasso's engagement with classical sculpture. The etchings of Marie-Therese, represent a dialogue alternating between the artist and his creation and between the artist and his model. Various scenarios are played out between the sculptor, the model and the created work. Among them is the classical myth of Pygmalion in which the sculptor becomes so enamoured of his creation that it comes to life at the artist's touch. Classical linearity and repose within the studio also alternate with darker, violent forces. The latter are represented by scenes of brutal passion and by the Minotaur, the half-man, half-animal of classical myth, which became central to Picasso's personal mythology. The series concludes with three portraits of Vollard himself, made in 1937. British Museum until 2nd September.


Red Chalk: Raphael To Ramsay explores the versatile and beautiful drawing medium of red chalk, featuring works which, due to their delicate nature are rarely on show, as well as a number of drawings being exhibited for the first time. The exhibition reveals the ways in which artists have, over the centuries, exploited the unique nature of red chalk to produce an array of dazzling and distinctive effects that cannot be achieved with any other drawing medium. The display showcases a diverse range of exquisite drawings by distinguished artists, such as Jean-Antoine Watteau, Francois Boucher, Jean-Honore Fragonard, Robert Hubert and David Allan. Highlights include Raphael's 'Study of a Kneeling Nude', made as a preparatory drawing for one of a series of painted frescos; Salvator Rosa's 'Head of a Bearded Man', which is an arresting example of red chalk being used to produce a highly expressive finished drawing, intended as a piece of art in its own right; a sheet of figurative studies by Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, which reveal the incredible precision and control that can be achieved in the medium; Rubens's 'Four Women Harvesting', which demonstrates how effectively chalk can be used for rapid sketching, with the simplest and most minimal strokes; and a preparatory study by Guercino for his monumental oil painting of 'Erminia Finding the Wounded Tancred', shown alongside the finished painting. Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, until 10th June.

Dickens And London celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Britain's most successful novelist. Recreating the atmosphere of Victorian London through sound and projections, the exhibition takes visitors on a haunting journey to discover the city that inspired Dickens's writings. Paintings, photographs, costume and objects illustrate themes that Dickens wove into his works, while rarely seen manuscripts including Bleak House and David Copperfield - written in the author's own hand - offer clues to his creative genius. The exhibition reveals how Dickens's childhood experiences of London, working in a blacking factory while his father was locked away in a debtor's prison, were introduced into the stories he wrote. The great social questions of the 19th century, including wealth and poverty, prostitution, childhood mortality and philanthropy, are also examined, all of which set the scene for Dickens's greatest works. The exhibition covers Dickens's childhood and home life, the theatre, industrialisation, criminal justice and death. Highlights include an audio-visual experience bringing to life Robert William Buss's unfinished painting 'Dickens's Dream', portraying Dickens asleep in a chair surrounded by the characters he created, with the actual desk and chair where he wrote his novels; and a specially commissioned film by the documentary maker William Raban, which explores the similarities between London after dark today and the night time city in Victorian times, to a soundtrack of Dickens's essay Night Walks. Museum of London, until 10th June.

Children's Lives traces the changing nature of childhood in Birmingham from the 18th century to the present day. The exhibition explores the relationships of children with their families and peers, the experiences of children in school, at work, during wartime, and in the hands of various welfare institutions, as well as the ways children have imagined the world. This is done through fine art, photography, film, objects, toys, sound archives and documentary sources. The exhibition aims to bring the voice of the child out of the archive and the museum collections and draw the connections between the past and the present into sharper focus. It also shows how the world of the child has been constructed by adults. There is an element on children 'on the move' including refugees and evacuees, also featuring Middlemore Homes, which sent more than 6000 children to Canada and Australia between1874 and the Second World War. The final part of the display has been curated by young people from two local secondary schools, who have created their own responses to past children's experiences, and present their stories of what it is to be young in the 21st century, creating an archive through film and oral history. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Chamberlain Square, Birmingham, until 10th June.