… whip smart, immensely enjoyable …
Eleanor Rhode‘s vibrant interpretation re-energises what could be seen as a bitty, minor tragedy into a fast moving procession of Continue reading “King John : The Swan, RSC”
… pleasurable and thought provoking …
This excellent one room exhibition brings together 25 portraits of the Coventry family from the ermine robed dignitaries of the 17th century (attributed to Cornelius Johnson van Ceulen) right through to this year’s Continue reading “The Coventrys and Art : Croome Court”
… an earthenware fattening jar …
Obviously the star exhibit at the Last Supper in Pompeii show currently at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford is the glirarium or dormouse jar. (Glires is Latin for dormouse.) This large, lidded terracotta jar mimics the hibernation nest, perfect for Continue reading “A Dormouse Jar at the Ashmolean”
… is this Birmingham’s best kept secret? …
Aston Hall is an astonishing Jacobean mansion that practically nobody’s heard of. A c17th contemporary described it as: “A noble fabric which for its beauty and state much exceedeth anything in these parts.”* It has some of the finest
… beautiful birds from an outstanding porcelain collection …
The Ashmolean holds the extraordinary Marshall Collection. This huge bequest of early Worcester porcelain was presented Continue reading “3 Bird details from the Marshall Collection : Ashmolean Museum”
… exquisite animals and one astonishing angel …
The Court Barn Museum’s current exhibition displays an array of Arts and Crafts delights from William Simmonds including a number of extraordinary wood carvings which contemporary critics likened to Japanese Netsuke: smooth, polished, small images of nature including a wren encased in a box of furled leaves, a crouching group of leverets and this dormouse (above). This very personal exhibition includes Continue reading “William Simmonds: Court Barn Museum”
A fascinating show of Whistler’s more intimate art …
Westgate. Signed with the butterfly monogram. Copyright : V&A.
Say the name: James Abbott McNeill Whistler and to most it will conjure up a series of almost abstract experiments he called “Nocturnes” or his famous portrait of his mother or perhaps, at a push, his society portraits. This exhibition changes all that for me. He really was such an extraordinaire painter and his watercolour sketches have completely Continue reading “Whistler and Nature : Compton Verney”
Which three works would I take home with me?
It is so hard to choose only three from this extraordinary assembly of paintings but then this game is ruthless: which ones would I want to live with? It hones discrimination down to a very personal choice based on emotion rather than the calibre of each painting.
If it were quality I was after, it would be nigh on impossible to choose given the excellence of this collection. And, after all, it’s the personal connection which makes the interaction with a painting so special.
Portrait of a Man in a Red Cap c.1510 Titian (c.1488–1576)
Ah! The soulful painterly lyricism of the Venetian painters which historians have put down to the light upon the water gets very close … whisper it low .. to a sort of Renaissance ProgRock pin up. The almost moustache echoed (mocked?) by the luxurious fur. The brilliant white shirt reflecting the light across his muscular neck. Ahhh. This unknown star of the Living Hall in the Frick was once thought to be by Giorgione but is now judged to be one of Titian’s earlier works painted when he was in his early Twenties.
The Lake 1861 Corot (1796–1875)
In my Twenties, I would have passed this painting without a second glance but now, perhaps I am getting more soulful? Corot exhibited the large, nearly monochromatic picture at the Salon of 1861. Critical reactions to it varied. Castagnary said: “The Lake is a ravishing landscape, simple in composition and full of grandeur. . . ” But another reviewer, Thoré, was less sympathetic: “Mist covers the earth. One is not sure where one is and one has no idea where one is going.” This would be my terse appraisal in my youth … but now I would love to live with this dreamy tour-de-force.
Self Portrait 1658 Rembrandt (1606–1669)
Tired, weary eyes peering out, watching us – and watching himself; his ageing face and small frame set in a weird fantasy costume, Rembrandt was only fifty-two in 1658 when created this portrait. Is he mocking his status as a painter with an artist’s beret for a crown, a painter’s stick for a sceptre and his gigantic craftsman’s hands looming towards us? Or just using what was to hand?
Rembrandt created almost a hundred self portraits including over 40 paintings over his career; an enormously high number for any artist up to that point. While the popular interpretation is that these represent a personal and introspective journey for Rembrandt, they were probably painted to satisfy a strong market for self portraits by leading artists. This makes this image all the more poignant. Is he a tired old horse trotting out for display? Or is he a defiant master at the height of his expressive powers? Or both? I could spend a lifetime debating this painting.
So, do you ever play this game of Take Home Three and which are your favourites from the Frick?
If you’ve never been to the Frick, I urge you to go next time you are in New York. So many people have never even heard of this gorgeous place. It is the sparkling gem of Museum Row overshadowed by the behemoth of the Met. The collection is set in Frick’s private mansion just by Central Park. Built to house his art- and his family – the museum is more like a National Trust property with rooms laid out exactly as they would have been. It’s a delightfully relaxed and intimate experience to wander around the billionaire’s front rooms to find – good gracious! – those Holbiens. Click here to be directed to their website where they have a Virtual Walk Through for those not planning a physical visit. (Unfortunately due to the nature of the lay out, children under ten are not allowed nor can bulky luggage be accommodated in their cloakroom.)
… a fascinating book to curl up with …
The Ghost is a thoroughly fascinating book which traces the development of ghosts from warnings from the afterlife, through escapees from purgatory and then the devil’s playthings and finally to delicious, terrifying entertainment purely from the imagination. Continue reading “The Ghost A Cultural History : Susan Owens”