An August Bank Holiday Lark

The men do some strange things over in Lancashire. They wear fancy straw hats with real flowers in them; they dance in lace-up shoes with wooden soles and they celebrate something called The North West Rush Cart Tradition by building and decorating a tall cart with rushes upon which they place a saddle and one of them is brave enough to climb up onto the top of this cart with a kettle on a rope – don’t ask!  At least they did in 1914 – 1915 when this play was set.

ABHL-A5

Written especially for  Northern Broadsides Theatre Company ‘An August Bank Holiday Lark’ is based on a rural village in Lancashire where the cotton mill rules but the old traditions still continue.

Commissioned to write a suitable play as a Remembrance for the World War I Centenary Deborah McAndrew has produced a winner. There is music and dancing and humour and traditional customs and, I’m afraid, needless to say, tragedy as well. The title is taken from a line in Philip Larkin’s poem ‘MCMXIV’.

Those long uneven lines
Standing as patiently
As if they were stretched outside
The Oval or Villa Park,
The crowns of hats, the sun
On moustached archaic faces
Grinning as if it were all
An August Bank Holiday lark;

And the shut shops, the bleached
Established names on the sunblinds,
The farthings and sovereigns,
And dark-clothed children at play
Called after kings and queens,
The tin advertisements
For cocoa and twist, and the pubs
Wide open all day—

And the countryside not caring:
The place names all hazed over
With flowering grasses, and fields
Shadowing Domesday lines
Under wheat’s restless silence;
The differently-dressed servants
With tiny rooms in huge houses,
The dust behind limousines;

Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word – the men
Leaving the gardens tidy,
The thousands of marriages,
Lasting a little while longer:
Never such innocence again.

[Source]

Back in November last year I wrote about my great uncle Marshall Howman who was killed at Gallipoli in August 1915. The lads in this story enrol in the 6th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment which in real life suffered many casualties and great loss of life in the ill-fated August Offensive in the Dardanelles in 1915 .

It is currently showing at The West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, which where I saw it this afternoon, but will move around the country for the next couple of months.

 

 

Two Art Talks

Last week I went to two art talks and very interesting they were too. One was an evening reception at The Mercer Gallery in Harrogate organised by the Art Fund. The other was ‘Tea with the Curator’ at Temple Newsam House near Leeds.

npg_npg_2531_slide

Self-portrait of Frank Holl as a young man [source]

Frank Holl : Emerging from the Shadows [Mercer Gallery, Harrogate 23 November 2013 to 30 March 2014]

‘Frank Holl (1845-1888) is one of the great painters of the Victorian period, notable for his tragic social realism as well as his penetrating portraits. Revered in his lifetime, he died young whilst at the height of his powers. His early death meant that he never fully received the acclaim that his work merited. This exhibition represents the first modern retrospective of this significant artist.’ 

I have been aware of Holl since the mid-1990s when one of my masters papers in Victorian Studies was on the subject of narrative paintings with a theme of poverty and the poor in Victorian England. The Holl picture we looked at was The Seamstresses now owned by The Royal Albert Museum in Exeter. It is on show at the Harrogate exhibition.

4

Seamstresses. Frank Holl. 1875. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter.

Jane Sellars, curator of the Mercer Gallery, introduced Holl and told us more about his life and travels and spoke about each of the, perhaps 30, paintings. It was interesting to note the themes of Holl’s narrative paintings on loan from prestigious galleries around the country, including The National Portrait Gallery – soldiers off to fight in Afghanistan, sweatshops, guilty bankers – all themes that appear in the news today. So not much has changed there. Jane pointed out the “Rembrandtesque” effect in many of these paintings.

5

No Tidings from the Sea. Frank Holl. 1870. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of the Royal Collection Trust. [source]

Even Queen Victoria bought one of his pictures No Tidings from the Sea (1870 and  in The Royal Collection). Later Holl gained commissions to paint portraits and his subjects included national figures like William Gladstone and W.S.Gilbert. The BBC ‘Your Paintings’ website shows 68 of his paintings. Jane quoted several times from his eldest daughter’s, Ada Mabel Reynolds,  1912 biography of her father. There is an accompanying book/catalogue to the show. Earlier last year the exhibition was shown at the newly refurbished Watts Gallery in Surrey. In Harrogate the pictures have been hung beautifully for ease of viewing and the lighting is excellent for all except maybe one glazed picture.

Last May on a visit to Highgate Cemetery I noticed his tomb and photographed it.

Frank Holl tomb

The Tomb of Frank Holl in Highgate Cemetery

I’m very pleased that Frank Holl is at last emerging from the shadows.

Rembrandt : etchings from the Collection of Leeds City Art Gallery [Temple Newsam House 19 November 2013 - 20 July 2014]

TNH side view

It’s very difficult to get a ‘front on’ view of Temple Newsam. The land drops away significantly from the front of the house and a wider angled camera lens is required to capture it closer up. The photo above is of the side view. Temple Newsam’s history goes back beyond the Domesday Book. Lord Darnley former husband of Mary Queen of Scots was born here in 1545.

Stable Block

The Stable Courtyard makes a much better view

So, last Thursday afternoon I made my way to Temple Newsam for Tea with the Curator of the Rembrandt Etchings Display.

This season’s Winter/Spring exhibition at Temple Newsam House offers the rare chance to see a selection of prints made by the greatest printmaker the world has ever seen – Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606 – 1665). The exhibition will run for nine months and will consist of two displays; the first will examine Rembrandt’s portraits and figure studies and the second, will showcase a selection of Rembrandt’s biblical prints.

Rembrandt’s career as a printmaker ran parallel with his painting, but he rarely treated the same subject in both medium and only on a few occasions did he reproduce his paintings in print. Indeed for Rembrandt, print was a distinct art form which he pursued as actively as he did his painting; quickly learning the technical skills involved in etching Rembrandt virtually recreated this technique. His impact and contribution to printmaking is unprecedented and is so significant that it is still reflected in etchings produced today.

Rembrandt poster
Portraits and People, 19th November 2013 – 30th March 2014
Bringing together Rembrandt’s prints of people the first half to this exhibition will focus on his early experimental prints in which Rembrandt developed both his technique and his interest in showing emotion and thought through detailed observations of facial expressions. Highlights include a selection of Rembrandt’s iconic self-portraits, etchings of his mother and wife Saskia and a group of Rembrandt’s prints of beggars.

rembrandt-mother1

The Artist’s Mother [source]

Theodore, the curator, and I and four others assembled in the Dining Room for a friendly discussion and an opportunity to examine etching and engraving tools. The tool box and tools themselves that Theodore brought along had all been the property of Frank Brangwyn. Theodore explained the processes and their differences to us before taking us upstairs to the small but excellent display of Rembrandt etchings.

Frank Brangwyn's tools

Frank Brangwyn’s Etching Tools

The etchings themselves are small and exquisite and beautifully displayed. Magnifying glasses are supplied through which we could study the minute detail of each print.

Tes is served

Tea and cake and biscuits are served

On returning to the Dining Room for tea and cakes we had further opportunities to examine at close quarters etchings and tools and a brief slideshow of a 16th  century printmaking shop which reminded me of my visit last month to the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp.

The current etching display will be replaced next month by a further series from the 70 or so donated to the Art Gallery on the theme of Rembrandt and the Bible.

Art Deco and Art Nouveau in Lille and Antwerp : Day Three

Day 3 : A full day’s excursion today to the historic Belgian City of Antwerp (about 1.5 hours from Lille) famed as the birthplace of Rubens with a strong artistic heritage in its fine museums and churches. This heritage was reflected too in the city’s enthusiastic embracing of the Art Nouveau movement with an entire district, known as the Golden Triangle of some 170 Art Nouveau houses as well as the famed “Five Continents” house and the Reunion exhibition in the Cathedral of Our Lady. Evening free.”

There are so many Art Nouveau houses in Antwerp’s Golden Triangle that it is impossible I’m afraid to give the addresses of each but here are some examples from those 3 streets – Waterloostraat, Transvaalstraat and Cogels Osylei. Quite amazing! According to Mike at one time threatened with demolition this now an area of prime real estate.

AN on Waterloost

Waterloostraat, Antwerp crammed with Art Nouveau houses

With more than 100 Art Nouveau buildings, Antwerp is the second town of Belgium (after Brussels) and one of the two most important ports in Europe.

Zurenborg – Cogels Osylei quarter

This is the Art Nouveau “golden triangle”, a quarter defined by three streets (Cogels Osylei, Waterloo straat and Transvaal straat) that was built mainly between 1890 and 1906. The urban planning of Zurenborg and the Cogels Osylei dates from 1894 (and half of the area was built in 1895, which became an important place for Art Nouveau which began around 1897 in Antwerp). An incredible number of Art Nouveau buildings are still preserved for your pleasure. It is often presented as the most important Art Nouveau quarter in Europe and in the world.” [Source]

So, here are some of those buildings preserved “for your pleasure”.

Waterloostraat

Den Tijd, Waterloostraat

Close up Den Tijd

Close-up of Den Tijd

Waterloost

On Waterloo Straat

Waterloo St

Also on Waterloostraat

4 seasons 1

One of the Four Seasons Houses at a cross roads, Waterloostraat

["De Vier Seizoenen" villas built by Joseph Bascourt in 1899 : the 4 symetrical villas corner a cross roads. Each corner is decorated by a fresco dedicated to a season.]

4 seasons spring

Four Seasons – Spring

4 seasons summer

Four Seasons – Summer

4 seasons autumn

Four Seasons – Autumn

4 seasons winter

Four Seasons – Winter

Peacock

There are the peacock’s eyes!

Plain

Plain – but with peacock eye balcony

Art Nouveau triangle

Art Nouveau in the Golden Triangle

OTT

Over The Top in the Golden Triangle

Cogels Osylei

Cogels Osylei

Grander House on Cogels Osylei

Grander house on Cogels Osylei

On Cogels Osylei

Also on Cogels Osylei

I probably have another 50 photos but that is enough for now.

Tournai in Belgium : A Unesco cathedral and a small town art gallery of substance

After a dip into the Roubaix swimming pool our coach transported us just over the border and into Belgium. The town of Tournai was our destination. Such a small quiet town but with so much to offer. We were given an hour and a quarter to find a luncheon venue and meet again under the towering belfry at the end of the picturesque town square.

The Belfry Tournai

A life-size black and white cow tempted us into an intimate brasserie Au Boeuf Qui Rit where we chose I salmon salad and  my companion chose cheese croquettes.

World Heritage

Next to the Belfry is the Cathedral of Tournai. Begun in the 12th century the cathedral’s cultural value was recognised by UNESCO and designated a World Heritage Site in the year 2000.

[The Cathedral] has been preserved in its original state , particularly the capitals of the nave, which makes the cathedral one of the few remaining great Romanesque buildings in this region. The World Heritage committee also pointed out the historical continuity of the cathedral as a place of worship from the 5th century onwards as well as the role of the chapter in the political, social, economic, intellectual and cultural life of the city, documented by centuries old archives.” [Poster shown above]

Photos at Tournai Cathedral :

Tournai 1

Tournai 2

Tournai 3

Tournai 4

Repair work on the cathedral continues but we were able to visit the main body of the church and also the Treasury. No photography was allowed inside The Treasury as almost 5 years ago to the day a priceless jewelled cross was stolen by thieves :

22/02/08 — Theft — Tournai, Cathedral — The “tresor” of the Tournai Cathedral was the victim of a major theft on Tuesday 19 February. In broad daylight, three men using baseball bats broke the glass display cases and stole, despite the attempts of several by-standers, thirteen objects including a famous Byzantine cross. This reliquary which holds a piece of the Cross and probably dates back to the VIIIth-IXth centuries was most likely brought to Tournai from Constantinople in 1205 by a Crusader. One can only hope that the object will not be dismounted in order to sell off the precious stones ornating it. ” [Source]

Beaux arts tournai

From the Cathedral it was a very short walk to the Museum of Fine Arts [Musée Beaux Arts Tournai]

Inaugurated on Sunday 17th June 1928, the Museum of Fine Arts is a building created by the genius for spatial conception, the great Belgian  Art Nouveau architect Victor HORTA. He conceived it especially for presenting the very rich collections bequeathed to the city by the Brussels patron of the arts Henri VAN CUTSEM, deceased in 1904.

The combination of the rooms that radiate from the central polygonal entrance hall is so original that the building itself deserves a visit. The collections shown include many ancient paintings, which added to the works bequeathed by Henri VAN CUTSEM, together with purchases, deposits, gifts and legacies, permit to offer the visitors an interesting overvieuw of the pictorial production history from the 15th century up to now.” [source]

I just chose two pictures on a reading theme on show at the Museum.

Courbet The Reader

Gustave Courbet’s “La Lecture”

Fantin-Latour The Reader

Henri de Fantin-Latour “La Lecture”

La Piscine – The Swimming Pool Gallery

On completion of our morning walking tour of Lille we met our coach and were taken the few miles out of the centre of Lille to the nearby city of Roubaix (twinned with nearby Bradford, West Yorkshire) which is now incorporated into the Lille conurbation.

Original pool entrance

The Original 1932 Art Deco Entrance

La P exterior

The Swimming Pool Museum Entrance Today

In October 2011, Lille’s Musée d’Art et d‘Industrie celebrated its tenth birthday, and a hugely successful decade of existence. Architect Jean-Paul Philippon converted the splendid Art Deco swimming baths into a museum, transforming the former changing rooms and cabins into “curiosity cabinets” overlooking the partly covered former swimming pool. The collections include paintings by Gérome, Fantin-Latour, Dufy and Tamara De Lempicka, and sculpture by François Pompon and Camille Claudel, plus ceramics by Pablo Picasso and an exceptional collection of textile samples and designs. Visitors come here from all over Europe for the acclaimed temporary exhibitions; recent subjects include The Bloomsbury Group, Pierre Loti, sculpture by Degas and the work of Paul Signac” [Adapted from my 2012 LV City Guide Lille, Lyon, Monaco, Toulouse]

Trunks

Oh-La-la!

B&W swimmers

Original Swimming Displays in the Museum

The main entrance lobby and display don’t prepare you for the museum itself. After the lobby and reception you step through the ‘showers’ and ‘footbaths’ and into the pool proper. There’s still some water but much reduced in size and even on the dull overcast Friday the area was filled with light.

La Piscine

La Piscine

On arrival Mike introduced us to the gallery and to two Art Nouveau stained glass windows on display then left us to our own devices for an hour before meeting us in the picture gallery and talking about several paintings relevant to our themes.

T. Laumonnerie

Théophile Laumonnerie – Memory of Autumn

J Gruber

By Jacques Gruber of Nancy

Young woman on lute

Stylised Art Deco: Part of the Debussy Monument : Young Woman Playing a Lute (1932)

Eric Kennington

Eric Kennington of The New English Art Club: La Cuisine Ambulante (1914)

Rothenstein

Sir William Rothenstein’s The Artsist’s Son and his Wife

And I always find time to check out the quirky gifts and buy postcards in the Museum Shop – La Piscine no exception!

Museum shop

Art Deco and Art Nouveau in Lille and Antwerp : Day Two

Day 2 : Morning walking tour of the Art Nouveau houses of Lille, including the exterior of the beautiful Maison Coilliot,  followed by the hidden gem that is La Piscine Museum at the former textile town of Roubaix. Afternoon tour to Tournai and its Musée des Beaux Arts. Lecture “Art Nouveau and Belgium” followed by dinner at the Brasserie de la Paix.”

… so, another full day.

Our second day dawned overcast but brightened up considerably as we began our walk through the streets of Lille. Ignore the shop fronts and look up and a whole new world appears. Interspersed between plain dull shop fronts and ordinary apartment exteriors are a multitude of different, often colourful, Art Nouveau and Art Deco façades.

Here are some of the style features of Art Nouveau which developed during the 1890s and continued until the outbreak of the First World War :

  • sinuous, elongated, curvy lines
  • the whiplash line*
  • vertical lines and height
  • stylised flowers, leaves, roots, buds and seedpods

* Definition of the whiplash line from the V&A website : ‘This is a decorative line that seems to have a life of its own. It writhes and coils with dynamic force, as if trying to break free of the forces holding it in place. It is everywhere in the early Art Nouveau works. Architectural ironwork, decorative borders, textile patterns and the flowing hair of the poster girls all seethe with an excess of feverish energy. The whiplash form can be seen as a metaphor. It displays in graphic form the radical drive to break away from the constraints of tradition.’

In the UK we have Charles Rennie Macintosh and in France Hector Guimard and in Belgium Victor Horta. In Lille the buildings are tall and thin and squeezed in between other buildings.

Another architectural feature are the ‘peacocks’ eyes’. At first I thought I had never been near enough to a peacock to look at its eyes but soon realised that the eyes are in the peacock’s tail feathers.

Spot the eyes and lines and stylised flowers and roots and leaves in this small sample of buildings above the shopping streets of Lille.

A La Cloche

A La Cloche d’Or, rue Saint Nicolas, Lille

43 Rue du Faubourg de Béthune

43 Rue du Faubourg de Béthune, Lille

71 Rue de Béthune

71, rue de Béthune, Lille

Rue Nicolas Leblanc

Rue Nicolas Leblanc

Ceramique Colliot

Maison Ceramique Coilliot by Hector Guimard

Art Deco of the 1920s on the other hand is characterised by clean lines and strong curves and by

  • geometric and angular shapes
  • chrome, glass, mirrors and mirror tiles
  • stylised images of aeroplanes, cars, cruise liners, skyscrapers
  • nature motifs – shells, sunrises, flowers
  • theatrical contrasts – highly polished wood and glossy black lacquer

The fonts or typescripts are sans serif – no added curlicues or decoration.

Spot the art deco style features and sans serif scripts on the buildings on our morning walk in Lille :

AD near hotel

Art Deco near The Hotel Mercure, Lille Centre

Maison Gilbert Lille

Maison Gilbert, Lille

Shoe shop

Former shop or factory?

45 rue de Béthune

Above hat maker, Benjamin, 45, rue de Béthune

Also r de Béthune

Also on the rue de Béthune

rue de Bethune

Another on the rue de Béthune

Place de Béthune

At the Place de Béthune

After the Maison Ceramique Coilliot by Hector Guimard we joined our coach for the next stages of the day’s tour.

Art Deco and Art Nouveau in Lille and Antwerp : Day One

Last Thursday I set off from St Pancras Station to Lille along with 23 others booked on a Travel Editions art trip to northern France and Belgium.  The train journey took just less than 1 hour 30minutes.

Lille Town Hall and belfry

Lille Town Hall and Belfry [UNESCO World Heritage listed] from the hotel balcony

Day 1 : Travel by Eurostar from St Pancras to Lille and transfer by coach to hotel for check in for 3 night stay. Afternoon walking tour of central Lille.
Welcome reception lecture “Art nouveau – an Overview” and dinner with wine at the atmospheric Art Nouveau Brasserie de la Paix located 2-3 minutes from the hotel.

Vieille Bourse with Belfry behind

Unfortunately, it was raining hard in Lille so an hour after arrival and check-in with our brollies out we were on our first guided walk with tour guide and lecturer Mike Hope who mixed his vast knowledge with humour, patience and enthusiasm and from whom I learned all I now know about Art Deco and Art Nouveau in Lille (and nearby towns) and Antwerp during the following three days.

La Grand Place in the rain

The Grand Place in the rain

Once the jewel of the Spanish Netherlands, Lille is France’s most besieged city. It was incorporated into the royal domain in 1304 before passing under Burgundian (1369), then Austrian (1477), then Spanish rule under Charles V. The city became French in 1667 and remained so, except for a brief interlude from 1708 to 1713 and the absurd Nazi Aryanization (1940) from which it was delivered by its illustrious native son, a certain Charles de Gaulle. Throughout the 20th century, Lille was the capital of the French textile industry. … The city [has made] an extraordinary transformation that began with the arrival of France’s high-speed train, the TGV. [It] boasts prestigious colleges, abounds with café terraces and brasseries. Since 2004, when Lille was European City of Culture, it has stood at the forefront of the French cultural scene.” [From my LV Guide Lille, Lyon, Monaco, Toulouse 2012]

From the hotel we were just steps away from the main square and the important civic buildings – the town hall, the old bourse (now a secondhand book market), the opera and theatre – and shopping and business areas.

Vielle Bourse

V Bourse

VB Detail

VB Drainpipe

In the Vieille Bourse

Theatre du Nord

The Voix du Nord Building: Mike points out the architectural features

Paul, Lille

Art Deco Bakery on the rue Lepelletier – still a bakery shop

Huitriere

A L’Huitriere

A L'Huitriere

A L’Huîtriere, rue des Chats Bossus. Renowned fishmonger and restaurant with pure Art Deco decor inside and out.

ND de la Treille

The Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Treille : building began in 1854 and was finally finished in time for Lille’s European City of Culture year 2004

West Window

The West Window from Inside

… and other Art Deco and Art Nouveau façades in Lille :

Others 1

Others 2

Others 3

Others 4

And the best place to finish is at Méert famous for its butter and vanilla waffles

Meert

Fashion Galore! and The Georgians Revealed

In addition to Uproar! at The Ben Uri Gallery I managed to fit in two further shows in London this week. On Monday (half price day) I accompanied a friend to see “Isabella Blow : Fashion Galore!” a spectacular exhibition of fashion and accessories from the collection of Isabella Blow at Somerset House.

British Library

And  on Tuesday I met my sister at The British Library to see “The Georgians Revealed : life, style and the making of Modern Britain”. A far cry from each you might think but not so! There was Ms Blow with her aristocratic background, her celebrity lifestyle, her fashion journalism  and her promotion and patronage of design and style and fashion in clothes and shoes and hats. And there were the Georgians apparently just as obsessed with the cult of celebrity, with their outrageous fashions, with the first newspapers and popular magazines and with their aristocrats living in homes just like the one Ms Blow grew up in.

Born Isabella Delves Broughton brought up at the family seat is Doddington Park, near Nantwich, Cheshire. She became fashion director of The Tatler. She worked at Vogue and was an innovative editor the Sunday Times Style magazine.  Blow is credited with discovering such designers as Alexander McQueen, milliner Philip Treacy and Hussein Chalayan, as well as models Sophie Dahl and Stella Tennant.

Postcard

Postcard from Isabella Blow : Fashion Galore!

Sadly, I have the impression that Isabella Blow could not cope with the changes and developments of the mood of fashion in the 21st century and she took her own life on 7 May 2007. Bu the exhibition certainly reflects a passion for fashion and is filled with colour and style and flamboyance reflected through the work of the designers she collected and promoted in particular Philip Treacy and Alexander McQueen.

Blow flyer

If I have one complaint about the exhibition, which was simply spectacular, it would be that the first few showcases illustrating Blow’s early life displayed scrapbooks and letters which everyone wanted to study closely and led to a jam of people at the start of the show which later easily dispersed.

Georgians large

The Georgians Revealed  marks the 300th anniversary of the accession of King George I in 1714 and reveals the unprecedented economic, social and cultural changes in Britain under the four successive kings of the House of Hanover. By 1830, when George IV died, every aspect of daily life had been transformed.

The show is divided into three broad areas illustrating their influences on :

1) Public places, private spaces

“New ideas of taste and politeness influenced much of Georgian life from the elegant new streets and squares to the entertainments enjoyed at home. London and the major provincial towns were transformed by classical architecture, providing new public buildings and comfortable homes for the elite and middle classes. Gardens and parks were radically redesigned. Formal parterres gave way to expansive lawns and exotically planted flowerbeds. In the home, luxury and comfort were to be had in refined new styles of interior decoration and a range of fashionable furniture made to order.

But the population of the British Isles tripled to some 24 million, there was disorder and want too. The poor often had just a single room to house a family, and popular public places, such as pleasure gardens and coffee houses, were also sites of bawdy entertainment, crime and scandal. Nevertheless, new middle class homes and gardens reflected the growing wealth and confidence of Georgian Britain and created a lifestyle to which many still aspire.” [Source The Exhibition Guide]

2) Buying luxury, acquiring style

Georgian Fashion

“The East India Company was central to the import of luxury goods during much of the Georgian period. As Britain grew more powerful in the successive wars of the 18th and early 19th centuries, the company extended its monopoly over trade with the East Indies. Tea, coffee and sugar changed the lifestyles as well as the diets of the Georgians. British manufacturers enticed consumers with cheaper goods that copied those from abroad.

Shopping became a popular social activity. Advertising in newspapers, printed handbills and beautifully designed trade cards, encouraged spending on a wide range of luxuries. The fashion industry was born, as newspapers and magazines began regular commentaries on celebrity clothes and accessories. All who could afford it aspired to be fashionable.” [Source The Exhibition Guide]

3) Pleasures of society, virtues of culture

“Sociability to the Georgians was central to daily life, inspiring a huge increase in public entertainments. Theatre was well established, playhouses became larger and new theatrical genres catered for a wider and more diverse audience. Assembly Rooms were built where gentile society could show off their dancing skills, take refreshments and gamble. Pleasure gardens and masquerades added spice to social gatherings. All these opportunities to see and be seen, and to be reported on in print, fed a new culture of celebrity.” [Source The Exhibition Guide]

Georgeobelisk

Outside, in the British Library courtyard, is the Georgeobelisk a 6 metre high eye-catcher which evokes the playfulness of temporary theatrical constructions that were popular during the Georgian period to mark special occasions or important historical events.

Cityscapes

I recommend both exhibitions if you can get to them!

“Like a jewel box shimmering in amber candlelight” – Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Programme

Tuesday evening was my last in London and I returned home on Wednesday morning.

The title quote is from a review in The Guardian.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to buy the last ticket for the evening performance of The Duchess of Malfi at the brand new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at The Globe by the riverside in Southwark. I’ve visited its sister theatre The Globe proper several times and loved each performance. In rain and in sunshine and with a bench seat and cushion I have looked down on the (in my view) unlucky groundlings in the pit. These theatres are not built for comfort.

I’ll warn you now about the seating. Unlike in the Globe itself no cushions are required as all the benches (to call them seats would be an exaggeration) are padded. By lucky chance I was on the back row of four in the pit and I had a back wall (of sorts) to lean against (kind of). Looking round, and thinking of possible future visits, I could see none better to go for. As it happened, in the end, the comfort of the seats was unimportant.

This play and its performance in the intimate (seating for just 340), candle-lit auditorium was one of my theatre-visiting highlights of all time. And I can think of quite a few good ‘uns.

Candelabra

The candles themselves played a part in the performance; even just the lighting of them and the blowing out of them. The candelabras rise and fall from the ceiling, single candles are carried by actors and others flicker in their sconces. All contribute the atmosphere and action as the performance unfolds. I’ve been unable to add the Youtube video about the candles but scroll down through this link to watch.

G Arterton

Gemma Arterton – The Duchess – with her candle

Sconce

Candles in a Sconce

“The Duchess of Malfi” was written by John Webster (1580-1634) and first performed around 1613-1614.

The widowed Duchess of Malfi longs to marry her lover, the steward Antonio. But her rancorous brothers, Ferdinand and the Cardinal, are implacably opposed to the match. When their spy, Bosola, discovers that the Duchess has secretly married and carries Antonio’s child, they exact a terrible and horrific revenge.

First performed by the King’s Men – Shakespeare’s own company – ‘privately at the Blackfriars and publicly at the Globe’, The Duchess of Malfi is a thrilling combination of brilliant coups de théâtre, horrific set-pieces and vivid characters – notably the tragic Duchess and the subtly villainous Bosola – all lit by Webster’s obsessional imagination.” [Source]

I’m looking forward to more visits to The Globe and The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in future!

“Uproar!” The first 50 years of The London Group 1913-1963

Ben Uri sign

Ben Uri : Art, Identity and Migration – The Art Museum for Everyone

I’m in London for a few days and this morning I walked from the flat between Belsize Park and Swiss Cottage to The Ben Uri Art Museum in St John’s Wood. It’s a 20 minute walk; unfortunately today it was pouring with rain.

The Ben Uri

Until 2nd March the Gallery is hosting a special exhibition of which I read favourable reviews in the FT Weekend and The Independent. I had never heard of the London Group but it seemed to fit in well with recent exhibitions visited in Kendal and in Leeds.

The Gallery is very small, entrance is free and there is currently no permanent display as ‘Uproar!’ fills all three rooms. Here is a short video introduction from the Gallery website.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40QfdO0d2eY

To celebrate The London Group’s momentous centenary year in 2013, Ben Uri and The London Group are working together with two simultaneous exhibitions. Ben Uri has curated and is hosting a major historical exhibition, “Uproar!”: The first 50 years of The London Group 1913-1963, examining the first half century in the group’s turbulent history, while The London Group is holding a separate, complementary, contemporary exhibition showcasing work by its current members at The Cello Factory, London SE1 8TJ.” [source]

It was amazing to see side by side paintings and sculptures by such diverse artists as L S Lowry, Duncan Grant, Walter Sickert, Vanessa Bell, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, C R W Nevinson, Jacob Epstein, Mark Gertler, Roger Fry, Euan Uglow and Leon Kosoff. I was lucky enough to turn up on the day of a tour and introduction by the curator of this small but powerful exhibition. The above video gives a feel of the intimacy of the small gallery and the importance of the works on display. And here are some of my photos of notable works.

Nina Hamnett

Roger Fry’s Portrait of Nina Hamnett (1917)

Returning to the trenches

Nevinson’s Returning to the Trenches ((1915)

Pentelicon marble

Mask in Pentelicon marble by Barbara Hepworth (1928)

Iron sculpture

Untitled (Iron Sculpture) by Lynn Chadwick