Thursday 24 December 2015

Advent Calendar: Day 24

The Nativity Piero Della Francesca 1470-5 The National Gallery

This nativity scene has to be one of my favourites, the variety of expression in the faces of the angels, the human gesture of Joseph whose leg is slung over his knee and the simplicity of the small baby reaching up to his mother.

Happy Christmas

Wednesday 23 December 2015

Advent Calendar: Day 23

Christmas Time - The Blodgett Family 1864 Johnson Eastman Metropolitan Museum of Art

Family Christmases comes in all shapes and sizes and I hope you enjoy yours whatever it looks like.

Tuesday 22 December 2015

Monday 21 December 2015

New Acquisition at the National Gallery

If I didn't already have lots of wonderful advent images in store for the next three days I would have tried to find space for this work that the National Gallery have just acquired for the Nation.

Road in the Village of Baldersbronde (A Winter Day) Laurits Andersen Ring 1912

It is by the Danish artist Laurits Andersen Ring and it's acquisition will make it the first Danish work to enter a National collection in the UK.

You can see it in Room E at the National Gallery alongside works by Boudin, Leighton, Bonnington, Millet and Corot.

The painting makes me chilly just looking at the thick covering of snow and the purplish grey clouds hanging over the landscape with the promise of future flurries of snow.

Advent Calendar: Day 21

Isaac Levitan March 1985 State Tretiakov Gallery

One of my favourite things about doing this blog is discovering new artists that I had not come across before and Isaac Levitan is a great example of this.

His 'mood landscapes' infuse the Russian landscape with a deep sense of emotion, I find his paintings really act on me casting a spell of tranquility. Something that I felt we could all do with in the final couple of shopping days before Christmas so here a couple more.

Over Eternal Peace 1894

Birch Forest 1885-89

Sunday 20 December 2015

Advent Calendar: Day 20

Beryl Dean Jubilee Cope 1977

This exquisite cope owned by St Paul's Cathedral depicts 73 of the city of London's churches 3 royal peculiars (churches that sit outside of the jurisdiction of it's diocese and instead is under the rule of the monarchy) and of course St Paul's Cathedral itself.

Here is an image of the cope in all of its glory.

Friday 18 December 2015

Advent Calendar: Day 18

Salvador Dali's front cover for Vogue.Dec 1946

Dali did several illustrations and covers for Vogue in the 30's and 40's. The Metropolitan Museum also hold this beautiful, albeit less festive, study for the April 1944 edition.

Thursday 17 December 2015

Advent Calendar: Day 17

Christmas Preparations at Beaulieu Charles Ernest Cundall Southampton City Art Gallery

This work is just bursting with life and activity and there are so many charming details. The chaotic cascade of white feathers falling in the middle of the painting contrasts so well with the focused calm of the two figures hunched over their tasks. I particularly like the small dog who is attentively watching the live chickens and geese inside the open crate to the right.

Only seven days left to go don't forget to check back for tomorrow's image.

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Advent Calendar: Day 15

Christmas Tree Lithograph Alexander Calder

If this vibrant piece has inspired you then head to Tate Modern for the Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture show.

Monday 14 December 2015

Advent Calendar: Day 14

The Rabbit's Christmas Party Beatrix Potter

You can practically smell the apples roasting on the fire and we can all relate to the rabbits lying full and sated and sleepy on the floor.

Saturday 12 December 2015

Advent Calendar: Day 12

Christmas Gambols 1804 Thomas Rowlandson Royal Collection

If you thought that your office Christmas party was wild it's nothing on these early 19th Century revelers.

Thursday 10 December 2015

Advent Calendar: Day 10

The Louvre under Snow 1902 Pissarro National Gallery

London may be fairly mild today but if you feel like getting into the wintery spirit then you could pop in to the National Gallery to see this snowy work by Pissarro in room 44.

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Advent Calendar: Day 8

A Christmas Morning Robert Gemmell Hutchison City of Edinburgh Council

This is a touching image of a young girl's excitement at snow. Fingers crossed, the weather this year has been so strange it could happen.

Sunday 6 December 2015

Advent Calendar: Day 6

St Nicholas surrounded by 14 scenes from his life. Style of Strogonov (Frame 16th - 17th Century insert 19th Century).

To celebrate St Nicholas' Day which falls today we have this work from the British Museum. Around the image of the saint are arranged some of the scenes from his life. These include moments from his first miracle where he preached for an hour after his birth, (the second in from the top left) to the translation of the saint's relics to Bari in the bottom right.

For more details about the work and the scenes depicted click here.

Friday 4 December 2015

Thursday 3 December 2015

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Advent Calendar: Day 1

The Millinery Mabel Frances Layng Darlington Borough Art Collection

This fashionably dressed lady's shopping experience looks 1000 miles away from the Black Friday crowds.

This post war photo from the Metropolitan museums collection on the other hand shows that maybe things haven't changed that much.

State Street at Madison Looking South Xmas shoppers Gordon H Coster 1945

Monday 30 November 2015

Happy St Andrew's Day

The image of St Andrew is somewhat less familiar to me then that of England's Patron saint so I thought that I would take today to remind myself of his history and how artist have painted him.

In this characteristically dramatic work by Caravaggio we see St Andrew on the cross. At his feet dressed in highly reflective armor which distinguishes him from the rest of the characters is the Roman Proconsul Aegeas. After St Andrew had suffered for two days on the cross, from which he preached to the gathered masses, it was Aegeas that ordered he be cut down. However, when his soldiers went to remove him they were struck with paralysis rendering them incapable of doing so. Caravaggio has chosen this dramatic moment for his painting and we see the soldier frozen on the left hand side incapable of untying the martyred saint. 

This has given the artist the opportunity to really play with the anatomy of the figure, he has left half of the back on show in order to show us the locked and tense muscles in the shoulder blade giving us this impression of a sudden spasm. If we look at the figures legs we can also see that both knees are strangely bend as if the strength has gone out of them and the man has been rendered powerless to move.

This slightly more serene painting is by El Greco. Unlike Caravaggio El Greco has painted the figure of St Andrew simply holding the cross in order that we may identify him with one hand raised in a gesture of blessing. You may have noticed that in Caravaggio's painting St Andrew is shown on an upright Latin cross while here El Greco shows him holding a diagonal cross. In images from the 17th Century and onward he is usually painted with the diagonal cross which of course has become the Saltire cross on the Scottish flag. In Caravaggio's painting he was possibly influenced by earlier 16th Century beliefs that he had been crucified on a Latin cross. These two works are believed to have been  painted only 10 years apart but it marks a significant shift in the artists iconography.

I found this image on the wonderful BBC Your Paintings resource. Painted by the Italian artist Carlo Dolci and acquired by the Birmingham Museums Trust from the prestigious gallery Tomas Agnew and Sons who deal in Old Master paintings.

It is a very busy painting which seems to have a more narrative function. Again we are shown the Roman proconsul on the right overseeing the erection of the cross. Dolci has also included more prominently the crowds of people who had come to observe St Andrews crucifixion and many of whom he will convert to Christianity in his two days on the cross. You can see them between the ankles of the gentleman holding one of the boughs of wood and wearing a rather fabulous hat. 

I just had to include this work because of the splendid Scottish blue that St Andrew is wearing.

Happy St Andrew's Day

To read more about St Andrew then do click here to read A History of St Andrew written by Michael Turnbull on the site.

Monday 2 November 2015

Poetic Pairings: November 2015

Lady Lilith Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1868

Lilith or Body's Beauty

Of Adam's first wife, Lilith, it is told
(The witch he loved before the gift of Eve,)
That, ere the snake's, her sweet tongue could deceive,
And her enchanted hair was the first gold.
And still she sits, young while the earth is old,
And, subtly of herself contemplative,
Draws men to watch the bright web she can weave,
Till heart and body and life are in its hold.

The rose and poppy are her flowers; for where
Is he not found, O Lilith, whom shed scent
And soft-shed kisses and soft sleep shall snare?
Lo! as that youth's eyes burned at thine, so went
Thy spell through him, and left his straight neck bent
And round his heart one strangling golden hair.

Dante Gabriel Rosetti
This sonnet appears on the lower portion of this painting's frame.

Great article about the poem here

Saturday 24 October 2015

Shoes Glorious Shoes - Shoes: Pleasure and Pain at the V&A

So many people have spoken about shoes more knowledgeably and articulately than I so I shall use their words to take you through some of the highlights of this lovely exhibition at the V&A

Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world Marilyn Monroe

If high heels were so wonderful, men would be wearing them Sue Grafton ......... (I think you will find they are)

If a chick wants to know who makes my shoes she's got to take them off and look inside ASAP Rocky

One thing I detest, I have to say, is when a shoe is too soft and its molding to the foot. This is quite disgusting. And I really really hate incredibly long shoes, where the last is very pointy, almost like Aladdin. Christian Louboutin (Not Sure how he would feel about these ones)

I like Cinderella, I really do. She has a good work ethic. And she likes shoes. The fairytale is all about the shoe at the end. Amy Adams

I spend most of my time wearing uncomfortable things, so for me, it's all about trainers. Cara Delevinge (I think she would approve of Robert's adidas collection in the exhibition)

Craziness in a shoe is great - you can have much more freedom, you can exaggerate it and it doesn't feel stupid. But to have too much craziness near your face, that would just feel weird. Miuccia Prada

I'm not afraid of heights have you seen my shoes Carrie Bradshaw

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Poetic Pairing: October 2015

Happy Holiday 1999 Agnes Martin

Peace, Tranquility and Solitude

Peace, Tranquility and Solitude
Are the things we all need most
Sit all alone and meditate
Relaxing by the coast.

Allow those sounds to agitate 
And fill your empty head
Help your inner self to meditate
To natures sounds instead.

The sound of wind and water 
Waves crashing on the land
Listen to the tides which turn 
And flow along the sand.

Sitting by the coast
Breath in the cool sea breeze
It helps relax the mind and soul
And you body is all at ease.

David Boyce

Natural History Museum: Spirit Collection Tour

As a Londoner I have stood in awe under the plaster cast of Dippy in the Natural History Museum's ornate entrance hall, cowered in fear clinging to my grandfather's hand when they installed the lifelike moving T. Rex and explored the insect rooms with classmates clutching crumpled worksheets and wholesome pack lunches. All in all I thought I knew the museum pretty well and had relegated it to a place of childhood learning and amusement.

Yesterday I went on the gallery's behind the scenes Spirit Collection tour and I was shown how much more there is to the museum.

Myself and a group of eight colleagues met our charming and very knowledgeable guide by that museum institution, the gift shop, and headed away from the busy hub of the gallery via the swish Darwin centre into the back stage area. 

While we walked she set the scene by reminding us that the natural history museum is not just a reliquary for dinosaur bones and the Victorian's taxidermied animal specimens but it is also an active research institution leading and participating in research into the natural world.

The first stop on the tour was a glimpse into one of the museum's labs where some of the gallery's scientists were busy working in the sort of organised chaos common in lab environments.

Then we moved on to look at the skin crawling 'flesh-eating beetle room' complete with a live feed of the bugs themselves slowly breaking down the body of a python.

Don't worry they weren't anything like the ones from The Mummy...

From here we moved into what was essentially a huge library stack except instead of endless art journals or exhibition catalogues the shelves were filled with animals in jars of alcohol to protect and preserve the specimens. This section included fascinating items like these mice which, through a process which quite eludes me, have been dyed so that the skeletons are red and the organs are transparent. Freaky!

Many of the museum's specimens, particularly the fish and large mammal and reptile specimens, are too large to fit into this section and the next room we journeyed to was designed to store them. It had long metal tanks in the centre where specimens were stored together and the wall was lined with huge glass tanks filled with weird and wonderful creatures. While we were there some of the gallery's very own white coat wearing scientists (or some well paid actors) were moving a sharks head into a new jar.

The star of this space had to be the museum's giant squid. It was caught by accident near the Falkland Islands and gifted to the museum and since it has arrived it has helped scientist to understand more about the elusive species. Oh and she is named Archie.

We learnt a lot about Archie and the other occupants of this room but I don't want to give away all of the surprises.

To book tickets to see all of this for yourself click here it's only a tenner a ticket and I think you will agree totally worth it.

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Poetic Pairing: September 2015

Untitled Joseph Cornell c. 1956-58


How countlessly they congregate
O'er our tumultuous snow,
Which flows in shapes as tall as trees
When wintry winds do blow!--

As if with keenness for our fate,
Our faltering few steps on
To white rest, and a place of rest
Invisible at dawn,--

And yet with neither love nor hate,
Those stars like some snow-white
Minerva's snow-white marble eyes
Without the gift of sight.

Robert Frost

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Go and see some installation art this September

It would seem that September is to be the month for striking public art installations in London.

I went a couple of days ago to see the hauntingly beautiful Heartbeat installation by French designer photographer and artist Charles Pétillon in Covent Garden's Market Building.

It is a mesmerising work comprising thousands of white balloons suspended in a clump from the ceiling like a giant man-made cloud. It is fitted with lights which pulse on and off giving the impression of a heartbeat. The installation looks very organic in form particularly when contrasted with all of the brick, steel and glass of it's industrial setting.

It is a work that really benefits from viewing on a couple of occasions in different lightings and moods. The first time I went it was pouring with rain outside and very grey but the work felt really warm and it was calming to just take the time to walk around it and really get to know it. The second time I went was early afternoon and there were some musicians playing which gave it a much more vibrant and energetic feeling and I noticed all the people engaging with the work, posing for photos with it taking photos or videos and posting it on social media.

On my second visit I also had time to go and see the pop up gallery showing some of Pétillon's photographs which gave me a bit more insight into his work. I would thoroughly recommend popping in if you have the time.

Then today I went to see The Rising Tide by Jason deCaires Taylor down on the riverside near Vauxhall. This visit takes a little more planning as the sculpture only emerges or in fact disappears two hours either side of high tide.

If you are a pinterest user then chances are you will have come across the work of Jason deCaires Taylor but it did take me a little time to connect the grim grey sculptures with his usual vibrant work. Such as his famous underwater sculpture park of the coast of Grenada which makes you just want to book a flight and dive into the sea.

The Rising Tide doesn't leave you with quite the same urge to put on your bathers and dare the Thames but it is a fascinating installation none the less. There is a certain comic quality to the work with the one horse with it's head down as if it is drinking or hiding and when only the heads are on display one seems to be straining out of the water. There is also something surreal and a little unnerving about watching just the heads and shoulders in the water. I wonder if like Antony Gormley's sculptures on the edges of buildings there have been any calls to the police with the fear that someone is drowning.

I would be fascinated to know if the artist is going to try to take any underwater photographs like those he has taken of other works.

If you want to visit then do make sure to plan it around the approximate High Tide times for September.

Tue 1 (11.45am); Wed 2 (12.30pm); Thur 3 (1pm); Fri 4 (1.30pm); Sat 5 (2pm); Sun 6 (2.45pm); Mon 7 (3.45pm); Tue 8 (5pm); Wed 9 (6.45pm); Thur 10 (8pm); Fri 11 (8.15am); Sat 12 (9am); Sun 13 (9.45am); Mon 14 (10.15am); Tue 15 (11am); Wed 16 (11.15am); Thur 17 (11.45am); Fri 18 (12.15pm); Sat 19 (12.45pm); Sun 20 (1.15pm); Mon 21 (1.30pm); Tue 22 (2.15pm); Wed 23 (3.30pm); Thur 24 (5.45pm); Fri 25 (7pm); Sat 26 (7.30am); Sun 27 (8.45am); Mon 28 (9.45am); Tue 29 (10.30am); Wed 30 (11.15am)