News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 30th November 2011

Commencing

Royal Manuscripts: The Genius Of Illumination provides a rare opportunity to see richly illuminated manuscripts previously belonging to the kings and queens of England. The exhibition comprises 154 colourful and gilded handwritten books, dating from between the 9th and 16th centuries. The manuscripts offer unique insights into the lives and aspirations of those for whom they were made, enriching understanding of both the monarchy and the Middle Ages. Many documents played an active role in the development of kings and knights, and provided moral and practical guidance, as well as lessons in history, politics and geography. A critical part of the nation's cultural heritage, these manuscripts have survived in astonishingly good condition, retaining their vivid colours and gleaming gold detail. English kings from the Anglo-Saxons to the Tudors commissioned and owned luxurious handwritten copies of Christian texts. These included small, handheld prayerbooks for personal devotion, and large, lavish Gospel books and Bibles given to royal foundations for display and liturgical use. Their magnificence reflects both the status and wealth of their owners and the desire to glorify God by adorning his Word with the most precious of materials. A range of manuscripts aided monarchs in understanding and presenting their status as royalty. Genealogical rolls and historical chronicles underpinned their right to rule, while coronation books documented the formal ceremony authenticating their authority. Accompanying objects providing context for the manuscripts include a life size standing king from the Bristol Cross; a 15th century stone shield carved and painted with the arms of England; the skull of a medieval lion previously kept at the Tower of London; and a tapestry depicting the dead body of the Trojan hero Hector. The British Library, until 13th March.

Gainsborough's Landscapes: Themes And Variations is the first exhibition in 50 years devoted solely to the 18th century artist's landscape paintings and drawings. For Thomas Gainsborough, portraiture was his business, but landscape painting was his pleasure. The landscape paintings and drawings reveal his mind at work, the breadth of his invention, and the quality of his technique. Gainsborough sold relatively few of his landscape paintings, and none of his drawings, but he regarded them as his most important work. These paintings do not represent real views, but are creations 'of his own Brain', as he put it. A limited number of rural subjects exercised his imagination from one decade to the next, changing as he developed an increasingly energetic 'hand', or manner of painting, and becoming ever grander in conception. This exhibition includes some of Gainsborough's most famous and popular works, including 'The Watering Place', together with less well known works such as 'Haymaking from Woburn'. The paintings show Gainsborough returning to the same themes again and again, and demonstrate the longevity of each theme, and the degree of experimentation that was involved in the search for the perfect composition. The evolution of Gainsborough's style is traced from early naturalistic landscapes in the Dutch manner, enlivened with small figures, to grand scenery that is dramatically lit and obviously imaginary, such as the 'Romantic Landscape'. The sketches drawings that accompany the paintings clarify the development of Gainsborough's constructed vision, revealing how his style evolved. Holburne Museum, Bath, until 22nd January.

Terence Conran - The Way We Live Now explores the unique impact on contemporary life in Britain of the designer, retailer and restaurateur. Through his own design work, and also through his entrepreneurial flair, Terence Conran has transformed the look of the British home. He has established a design studio and an architectural practice with a worldwide reach. He was the founder of Habitat and a pioneer of the new restaurant culture driven by a passion for simplicity. The exhibition explores Conran's impact, whilst painting a picture of his design approach and inspirations. It traces his career from post war austerity through to the new sensibility of the Festival of Britain in the 1950s, the birth of the Independent Group with its flare for the avant-garde and the Pop Culture of the 1960s, to the design boom of the 1980s, and on to the present day. The show opens with a collection of Conran's own pieces from the late 1940s and 1950s, when he was welding steel chairs himself, designing textile designs, ceramics and magazine covers. The Habitat story includes the reconstruction of one of the room sets shown in the Habitat catalogues that were so influential in the 1960s and 1970s. Conran's role in professionalising the practice of design is charted by the work of the various Conran Design studios, which undertook projects as diverse as lighting, furniture, kitchenware, packaging, architecture and retail design. Conran's approach to food is traced by a look at the many restaurants that he has designed and opened. A recreation of Conran's study from his home in Barton Court offers a glimpse into his private world. Design Museum, Shad Thames, London SE1 until 4th March.

Continuing

Building The Revolution: Soviet Art And Architecture 1915 - 1935 examines Russian avant-garde architecture made during a brief but intense period of construction that took place following the revolution. Fired by the Constructivist art that emerged in Russia from around 1915, architects transformed this radical artistic language into three dimensions, creating structures whose innovative style embodied the energy and optimism of the new Soviet Socialist state. The exhibition juxtaposes large scale photographs of extant buildings with relevant Constructivist drawings and paintings, and vintage photographs. The drive to forge a new Marxist - Socialist society in Russia gave scope to a dynamic synthesis between radical art and architecture. This was reflected in the engagement in architectural ideas and projects by artists such as Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Tatlin, Liubov Popova, El Lizzitsky, Ivan Kluin and Gustav Klucis, and in designs by architects such as Konstantin Melnikov, Moisei Ginsburg, Ilia Golosov and the Vesnin brothers. European architects including Le Corbusier and Erich Mendelsohn were also drafted in to shape the new utopia. Their novel buildings - streamlined, flat-roofed, white-walled and with horizontal banded fenestration - appeared alien among the surrounding traditional low-built wooden structures and densely developed 19th century commercial and residential blocks. They left a distinctive mark not only on the two most prominent cities, Moscow and St Petersburg, but also on other urban centres such as Kiev, Ekaterinburg, Baku, Sochi and Nishni Novgorod. The photographer Richard Pare has documented these iconic buildings over the past two decades, providing an eloquent record of the often degraded condition into which the buildings have fallen. Royal Academy of Arts until 22nd January.

Edward Burra is the first major show for over 25 years of the work of one of the most individual British artists of the 20th century. The exhibition provides a unique opportunity to reassess Edward Burra's extraordinary creativity and impressive legacy. Burra made modernist paintings in an eccentric style that had something in common with those of Stanley Spencer - but without the religious references. Sailors in dockside watering holes, Harlem strip joints, lorries and motorbikes were his kind of subjects. Burra's preferred medium was watercolour, but the results are not like the watercolours of other artists. His paintings are vital, crowded with detail, their urban men and women flattened and cartoonish in a gaudy palette, yet surprisingly, Burra remains something of a footnote in art history. This exhibition of over 70 works features some of Burra's best known images of everyday people at leisure in cafes, bars and nightclubs, and explores the influence on him of jazz music and cinema, as well as examples of his fascination with the macabre (including dancing skeletons) and dark sides of humanity, together with his later more lyrical depictions of the British landscape. In addition, the show also examines Burra's role as a designer for the stage, including ground-breaking sets and costumes for Frederick Ashton and Ninette de Valois, particularly a front cloth for Don Quixote. Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, until 19th February.

Winter Wonderland, set between Hyde Park Corner and the Serpentine, is the ultimate winter theme park experience. The 20 acre site features London's largest outdoor ice rink - created with 130,000 litres of frozen water, weighing 130 tonnes - able to accommodate up to 400 skaters at a time, with ice guides to help beginners; a toboggan slide; a haunted mansion; an ice palace mirror maze; a traditional Christmas Market, with over 50 separate wooden chalets, offering arts, crafts, presents and foods; numerous cafes and bars serving traditional food and mulled wine; a 50m observation wheel providing a panoramic view of London above the park; a big top presenting Zippo's Circus with a special 50 minute Christmas themed show and Winter Cirque featuring a Wheel of Death a final Battle of Fire; Carter's Steam Fair traditional rides and attractions; thrill rides including Power Tower and Black Hole; a ski jump and snow ride; and a selection of gentler amusement rides for younger children; plus Father Christmas in his own Santa Land. To add to the atmosphere, the trees along Serpentine Road sparkle with thousands of Christmas lights highlighting the natural beauty of Hyde Park. Entrance to the Winter Wonderland site is free, with fees for individual attractions. Hyde Park, 10am-10pm daily (except Christmas Day) until 3rd January.

The First Actresses: Nell Gwyn To Sarah Siddons explores art and theatre in 18th century England through portraits of women. Starting with the emergence of the actress's profession in the late 17th century, the exhibition shows how women performers, in drama, as well as music and dance, were key figures within a spectacular celebrity culture. Fuelled by gossipy theatre and art reviews, satirical prints and the growing taste for biography, 18th century society engaged in heated debate about the moral and sexual decorum of women on stage, and revelled in the traditional association between actress and prostitute, or 'whores and divines'. The exhibition comprises 53 large paintings of actresses in their celebrated stage roles, intimate off stage portraits, and mass produced caricatures and prints, and explores how they contributed to the growing reputation and professional status of leading female performers. Actresses featured include Nell Gwyn, Kitty Clive, Hester Booth, Lavinia Fenton, Susannah Cibber, Peg Woffington, Sarah Siddons, Mary Robinson, Dorothy Jordan and Elizabeth Farren. They are seen in works by artists such as Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, John Hoppner, Thomas Lawrence, Johann Zoffany and James Gillray. Highlights include a little known version of Reynolds's famous portrait of Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse, Hogarth's 'The Beggar's Opera', Gainsborough's portraits of Giovanna Bacelli and Elizabeth Linley, and the 'Three Witches from Macbeth' (in the forms of Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne; Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire; Anne Seymour Damer) by Daniel Gardner. National Portrait Gallery until 8th January.

Alice In Wonderland is first exhibition to provide a comprehensive historical exploration of how Lewis Carroll's stories have influenced the visual arts. The exhibition provides an insight into the creation of the Alice novels, the adoption of the text as an inspiration for artists, and the revision of its key themes by artists up to the present day. The starting point is Carroll's original manuscript, with his own illustrations, and the famous illustrations by Sir John Tenniel in the first published edition. These indicate that images were an integral part of the story, creating a visual world which took on a life of its own. Works by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais feature, alongside paintings by William Holman Hunt and Arthur Hughes, referenced in Carroll's diaries. The exhibition also includes Carroll's own photographs and photographic equipment, alongside Victorian Alice memorabilia, and documents from early stage adaptations. Surrealist artists from the 1930s onwards who were drawn towards Carroll's fantastical world are represented by Salvador Dalí's series of twelve Alice in Wonderland illustrations, and work by Max Ernst, Rene Magritte and Dorothea Tanning. British Surrealists, dubbed 'the children of Alice', such as Paul Nash, Roland Penrose, Conroy Maddox and F E McWilliam. Work by Mel Bochner, Jan Dibbets, Dan Graham, Yayoi Kusama, Adrian Piper and Marcel Broodthaers highlight responses to the novel as it reached its centenary. Contemporary artists taking inspiration from the books, include the photography of Anna Gaskell, alongside pieces by A A Bronson, Joseph Grigely, Torsten Lauschmann, Jimmy Robert and Annelies Strba. Tate Liverpool until 29th January.

William Morris: Story, Memory, Myth looks at how the Victorian designer and writer told stories through pattern and poetry. William Morris, a leading member of one of Britain's first socialist parties, made textiles truly radical. It was the holistic experience of medieval crafts he strove for, railing against the grim production lines of his own era. The exhibition examines the tales that were most important to him, such as the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Norse saga, Arthurian legend and Greek myth. Morris returned to the same stories throughout his artistic career, and his continued fascination is revealed by arranging the works according to the tale they tell rather than their medium. Thus, 5 rarely seen panels of the embroidered frieze 'The Romaunt of the Rose' can be seen together with editions of 'The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer', elaborately illustrated by Morris and Edward Burne-Jones and printed by Morris's private press. Both the frieze and Chaucer drew inspiration from the French medieval text the 'Roman de la Rose'. This is the first time that these panels have been seen since their recent conservation by The Royal School of Needlework. Among the other highlights are illustrations of Arthurian legends. These combine the work of both Burne-Jones and Morris, where romanticised women, with their long unravelled red hair and draped white robes stand in front of wistful backdrops, composed of Morris's iconic and infinite patterns of nature, including 'King Arthur and Sir Launcelot', from 'The Story of Tristram and Isoude' series of stained glass windows. This is the first public exhibition at Two Temple Place, one of London's hidden architectural gems, built by William Waldorf Astor on the Embankment. It is an extraordinary late neo-Gothic Victorian mansion, designed to 'personify literature in addition to being representative of art, craft and architecture'. Two Temple Place, London WC2, until 29th January.

Concluding

Word And Image: Early Modern Treasures explores intercultural exchange in the Early Modern period from 1450 to 1800. The exhibition focuses on the interaction between word and image, looking at themes including travel, translation, and the traffic of goods and ideas, principally through books and art. It offers the chance to see an eclectic and unusual combination of items, including a 17th century volume on the history of Lapland complete with pictures of skis and shamen; a 1589 map of the world; a beautifully illustrated early work of Egyptology; prints of Jesuit missionaries in China wearing local dress; icons of the Grand Tour, such as the Apollo Belvedere and Laocoon; plus early dictionaries, travel narratives and translations. The highlight of the exhibition is Albrecht Durer's 15 woodcuts from 'The Apocalypse', based on various scenes from the late 15th century Book of Revelation, the most famous of which is 'the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse', alongside its precursor 'The Nuremberg Chronicle'. University College of London Art Museum, Gower Street, London, until 16th December.

Degas And The Ballet: Picturing Movement explores the French Impressionist's preoccupation with movement as an artist of the dance. The exhibition traces the development of Edgar Degas's ballet imagery throughout his career, from the documentary mode of the early 1870s to the sensuous expressiveness of his final years. It is the first to present Degas's progressive engagement with the figure in movement in the context of parallel advances in photography and early film. Degas was keenly aware of these technological developments and often directly involved with them. The exhibition comprises around 85 paintings, sculptures, pastels, drawings, prints and photographs by Degas, as well as photographs by his contemporaries and examples of early film. Highlights include the sculpture 'Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen', together with a group of preparatory drawings that together show the artist tracking around his subject like a camera, 'Dancer Posing for a Photograph', 'Dancer on Pointe', 'The Dance Lesson' and 'Dancers in a Rehearsal Room with a Double Bass'. The show explores the links between Degas's highly original way of viewing and recording the dance and the inventive experiments being made at the same time in photography by Jules-Etienne Marey and Eadweard Muybridge, and in film-making by pioneers such as the Lumiere brothers. By presenting Degas in this context, the exhibition demonstrates that he was far more than merely the creator of beautiful images of the ballet, but instead, a modern, radical artist who thought profoundly about visual problems and was fully attuned to the technological developments of his time. Royal Academy of Arts until 11th December.

Beatrix Potter: Botanical Illustrations explores the artistic 'second career' of the legendary children's author. Flower painting was a conventional subject for a girl of Beatrix Potter's class and time. From a young age she drew inspiration from books such as John E Sowerby's British Wild Flowers and Vere Foster's popular drawing manuals. Mostly, however, Potter shared the Pre-Raphaelites' passion for the 'meticulous copying of flowers and plants' from life. These drawings blend characteristics of botanical illustration, concerned with the accurate depiction and identification of plants, with those of flower painting, a genteel art celebrating the beauty of nature. Whether drawing for serious study or for enjoyment Potter combines scientific detachment with a keen sense of wonder and an expert appreciation of composition and design. Potter later remarked that the 'careful botanical studies of my youth' informed the 'reality' of her fantasy drawings. Precisely drawn flowers people her prettiest and best known books: geraniums in The Tale Of Peter Rabbit; carnations and fuchsias in The Tale Of Benjamin Bunny; water lilies in The Tale Of Mr. Jeremy Fisher; foxgloves in The Tale Of Jemima Puddle-duck, and an abundance of lilies, pansies, roses and snapdragons in The Tale Of Tom Kitten. Victoria & Albert Museum until 11th December.