Monday, 23 December 2013

Advent Calender 2013: Day 24

Choosing an image for the final day of this, my second advent calender, was just as challenging as it was the first time around.

In 2011 I went traditional, with a selection of Italian Renaissance images of the family who started it all ...(Click Here)

This year after much toing and froing I settled on a range of paintings that show how different families through the ages have chosen to celebrate this special day.




Christmas Time or The Blodgett Family 1864 Johnson Eastman

The Christmas Hamper Robert Braithwaite Martineau

Christmas Homecoming (Cover of the post) Norman Rockwell 1948

Christmas Family Gathering Lois Mailou Jones c.1950-55

Steer on home, 109 Cheyne Walk (on Christmas eve) Henry Tonks c.1929–1930 UCL Art Museum


Every family has it's own traditions and there is no right or wrong way to 'do Christmas', you just have to do what makes you and those around you happy. So whether you are feeding the 5000 tomorrow, having a small family gathering, partying it up with friends or just pretending the whole thing isn't happening I wish you a truly Merry Christmas (or just a regular old day).

Advent Calender 2013: Day 23



Visitation of the Magi Beryl Dean Tapestry St George's Chapel Windsor 1969-1974

I can't quite believe that today is the penultimate day of advent but this time of year always flys by. Take a look back through some of the advent images so far, I would love to know your favourites.

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Thursday, 19 December 2013

Advent Caldender 2013: Day 20




Lady and Gentleman skating on ice c.1525 Adriaen van de Venne Courtauld Institute

Today's charming image reminds me that the more things change the more they stay the same.

One of my favourite things to do is to head down with friends to one of the cities Christmas skating rinks and although they might be wearing a slightly different outfit choice this couple seem to be enjoying it just as much.


Only 5 days to go!!!!

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Day 17

Advent Calender 2013: Day 19



The Nativity Esmond Knight Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

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Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Advent Calender 2013: Day 18


Christmas at Corfe Castle Dorset Elsie Barling 1957

Day 17

Advent Calender 2013: Day 17



Admiral Nelson's Glorious Victory over the French Fleet off the Mouth of the Nile on the 1st Augt 1798. Manuscript Christmas Verse by Henry Vinicombe National Maritime Museum Greenwich

This print was made in November 1798 and just in case it is too tricky to make out on the image it reads:



Tis come the day of health, the saving morn,
The Son of God, the babe of love is born.
Behold all Heaven descends upon the wing,
And choiring angels, Glory glory sing
Glory to god, from whom such bounties flow
And peace on earth good will to men below
An honest man is the noblest work of god
Should some slight faults escape my pen
With candor yet approve
The boys can’t reach the feats of men
Im sure at least I strove

This Christmas verse is surrounded by images of Nelson's victory over the French outside the mouth of the Nile. We are shown images of Nelson and the Captain's involved in the conflict including Captain Westcott who was killed in the battle. A dramatic image of the french l'orient being blown up is also included. 

My favourite part of the print is the final image in the bottom right hand corner which shows 'Success to the jolly tofs of old England'  

Monday, 16 December 2013

Advent Caldender 2013: Day 16


A Christmas Fire Side Intended as a present to the Rising Generation by John Doyle, printed by Alfred Ducôte, published by Thomas McLean 1833 The National Portrait Gallery

I really like this image it just looks like such a wonderfully smart yet cosy afternoon over tea.

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Thursday, 12 December 2013

Advent Calender 2013: Day 13

Every evening on my late journey home from work I am accompanied on the train by a a multitute of Christmas Party revelers. Just the other day two men were chatting 'oh so how long have you worked at Deloitte' and only right at the end of the train journey did they think to get each others names.

So roll over the number below to open today's advent window and see how they did it 19th Century style..........



Christmas Party John Leech 19th Century Watercolour Courtauld Gallery

.................. It seems like they knew how to party with the best of us!

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Advent Calender 2013: Day 12



Old Father Christmas William Ewart Lockhart Hunterian Art Gallery Glasgow University
 
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Sunday, 8 December 2013

Advent Caldender 2013: Day 9

I did most of my Christmas shopping yesterday and I have presents on the brain which explains today's advent post.

Roll over the 9 to find out why.



Christmas Presents Hugo Oehmichen 1882 V&A Museum of Childhood

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Friday, 6 December 2013

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Advent Caldender 2013: Day 6



Attributed to Girolamo Macchietti The Charity of St Nicholas of Bari c.1555-60 National Gallery London

The story of our much loved Father Christmas originates with St Nicholas of Bari and this particular episode in his life. In this painting he is shown relieving the financial woes of the family inside the room to the right hand of the image. The father, painted seated in a wooden chair, is surrounded by his three daughters. He is faced with the prospect of having to sell these very daughters into prostitution. St Nicholas is shown at the window holding two gold balls, the third he has already thrown in and can be seen on the bed at the back of the scene.

These golden balls represent a gift of gold one for each daughter. These would be the dowries for the nobleman's three daughters saving them from a life of ill repute.

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RIP Nelson Mandela

The charismatic, and inspiring Nelson Mandela, an inspiration to us all, passed away today after an extraordinary life.

 Nelson Mandela Ian Homer Walters 2008 National Portrait Gallery

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." - In which case never was a man so free

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - He has educated us all

"I hate race discrimination most intensely and in all its manifestations. I have fought it all during my life; I fight it now, and will do so until the end of my days." - And his legacy will continue to do so ever after

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Advent Calender 2013: Day 5




Foundling Girl at Christmas Dinner Emma Brownlow 1877

The foundling hospital in London was the first children's shelter in the country. Set up in the eighteenth century by Thomas Coram it provided a safe refuge for the developing city's increasing number of abandoned babies and children. The building is now a museum where the charity's early history can be explored through various art and artifacts such as today's advent painting.

http://www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk/

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Discovering William Nicholson

Some of you may have heard of the abstract artist Ben Nicholson he was even recently celebrated in an exhibition alongside his contemporary Mondrian at the Courtauld Gallery. Today I have discovered that when it comes to artistic brilliance the apple never falls far from the tree.

Ben Nicholson Painting 1937 The Courtauld Gallery

Flicking through the Tate Modern's collection online I came across a lovely still life The Lowestoft Bowl by William Nicholson which enticed me in and I simply had to find out more. I was not dissapointed.

Lowestoft Bowl William Nicholson 1911

William Nicholson (Ben Nicholson's father) had a charmingly diverse career working on still lives, landscapes, portraits, engravings, set design and illustrations. Even illustrating that children's book made famous in Friends, The Velveteen Rabbit. You know the one that Chandler buys for Joey's girlfriend who he is madly in love with and in the end Joey gives it to the girlfriend but she knows it's really from Chandler.... Oh Friends. Click here to see the fully digitized version of the original book with illustrations.

The Tate owns an impressive twenty eight works by this artist. Thanks to the incredible resource that is the BBC YourPaintings website I was also able to explore this artists paintings scattered all around the country and I have to say there are some gems. Lots of his works have a deeply British quality to them, the still lives include British china and crockery often brimming with beautiful native wildflowers.

 Flower Piece with Books William Nicholson

His landscapes capture the simplicity and freshness of the English countryside.

A Glade near Midhurst William Nicholson

 While his paintings of the Oxford colleges, which are amongst my favourite of his paintings, manage to capture the grandeur and yet the humanity of the places. For example, 'The gates of Honour under Snow' evokes the students dreaming of passing through those very gates at graduation. In his St John's College Oxford an irreverent group of students, one of whom leans upon the arcade, gives a sense of the fun and frivolity of college life.

The Gate of Honour under snow William Nicholson

All in all I am a bit of a fan.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Advent Calender 2013: Day 4




Five Variegated ivy leaves by Eliot Hodgkin 1975


The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood
The holly bears the crown
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a blossom
As white as lily flower
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To be our sweet Saviour
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a berry
As red as any blood
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To do poor sinners good
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a prickle
As sharp as any thorn;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
On Christmas Day in the morn.
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a bark
As bitter as any gall;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to redeem us all.
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir

The holly and the ivy
Now both are full well grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir


Facing the modern: The portrait in Vienna 1900

Facing the modern, the National Gallery's current exhibition includes some beautiful paintings brought together from the walls of galleries across Europe and the US and from various private collections. However I have to say I found the curating a little strange and these stunning works were not set up to their best advantage. The text panels were grey and challenging to read in the low lighting. It also felt as if the exhibition jumped around too much, particularly the room which brought together the self portraits which included paintings of the artists included in the first room intermixed with the newer wave of artists. The paintings by Gustav Klimt whose style changed dramatically across his body of work are not chronological which is slightly confusing and disorientating.

That said the exhibition did give me a whole new perspective on Klimt's work. Previously my view of him had been coloured by the fact that I am not a huge fan of his painting The Kiss having only every seen poor reproductions online, in books, on tea towels or on postcards.

This exhibition included some of his early work alongside stunning examples of his famous later style. One particularly outstanding painting from a private collection is Portrait of a Lady in Black. This stunning painting of a fashionably dressed Viennese woman is meticulously painted the bracelet on her right wrist seems to jump off the canvas at you.

Be warned, this is not the most cheerful of exhibitions. Vienna during the early 1900's was famously a discontented and anxiety ridden place. As you walk through the exhibition reading the information on the paintings you will be struck by how many of the sitters committed suicide. This slightly morbid facet of Viennese life during this period is addressed in the creepy room which includes death masks of Klimt, Mahler and Schiele as well as the haunting portrait of Ria Munk on her deathbed.


 The room focuses upon how portraiture during this period often had a commemorative function.

We also see the paintings by Oskar Kokoschka of patients suffering from Tuberculosis. His twisted and tortured style seems to fit perfectly with representing the people in the late stage of this disease. Such as this painting of Count Verona painted in 1910. The deep furrow in the sitters brow and his emaciated face and knotted hands give a sense of the sitters pain and suffering both physically and mentally. 


The exhibition ends with the tragic and controversial portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl, the image used on the shows promotional material.



It shows Amalie a Jewish resident of Vienna who died in a Nazi concentration camp during the second world war. The coincidental fact that this painting remained unfinished by Klimt gives the painting a haunting significance that melts the life of the work with that of the sitter and the turbulent historical moment. The painting is also intertwined with an issue hot in the press at the moment, Nazi-looted art. After the discovery of Gurlitt's huge hoard of 'degenerate' art brought together during the war the eyes of the world are focused upon art works confiscated and stolen during the war years. This particular painting is embroiled in a legal battle over whether the painting rightly belongs to the Austrian state or if it should be returned to the heirs of it's original owner the Jewish sugar baron Ferdinand Bloch-Bower.

If you can set aside the confusing order of the paintings there is a lot to be learnt from this extraordinary collection of art works. The exhibition runs until the 12th January so book now!

Monday, 2 December 2013

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Advent Caldender 2013: Day 2




Carol Singers by Gunning King Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries

Day 1

Advent Calender 2013: Day 1

I really enjoyed doing an advent calender the year before last so I thought I would treat you and myself to another one this year.

Just roll over the number to open your first advent window.




The Gates of Honour under snow The Fitzwilliam Museum William Nicholson

Poetic Pairings: December

Homesickness 1940 René Magritte Galerie Isy Bracot, Brussels

Home Thoughts, from Abroad

O to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough 
In England - now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossom'd pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops - at the bent spray's edge -
That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower
- Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

Robert Browning

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Nika Neelova

This Monday I spent the day invigilating for the winning entry of the historic portion of the British Society of Sculptors Sculpture Shock award.

The competition comprises three elements, subterranean, ambulatory and historic and encourages the artists to devise sculptures for spaces we would not usually encounter contemporary sculpture.

Nika Neelova was the winner of the historic award and her work was installed temporarily on Thursday 14th in the church of the Holy Trinity just off Sloane Square. Monday was the last day of the exhibition.



The sculpture is entitled North Taurids Following the Meteor Shower. It was located on the north side of the church in front of the Lady Chapel. The main part of the sculpture is on wooden boards in the centre of the space and then there are several other pieces scattered around. The polyhedra shapes are created by pouring different materials into wooden moulds, (these moulds are also included in the work complete with the graffiti from the desks the wood originated from). These materials include concrete and wax either alone or mixed with other materials such as marble dust to evoke the impression of stone and crystals one of the things that inspired the artist.




The work interacts with the church space without imposing upon it. Nika was struck by the variety of geometrical forms used throughout the beautiful arts and crafts church which prompted her to look at sacred geometry and gave her the inspiration for the form of her work. As well as connecting the work symbolically with the site there is an aesthetic link. The concrete ties in with the vast columns supporting the roof while the wax looks like marble and granite, materials used throughout the rest of the churches ornamentation and furnishing.



The sculpture really came into it's own in the evening when the dramatic lighting cast strong and interesting shadows across the work. It also highlighted the translucency of the wax polyhedra which looked really effective and beautiful.


As well as drawing links with the art and architecture of the surrounding church the sculpture reminds viewers of all manner of things, crystals, meteors, an architectural dig, the pyramids of Egypt. There is lots to be seen in this at first sight simple work and encouraged me to look at the rest of this intriguing artist's body of work. If you are inspired to take a look too click here.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Xu Bing: Travelling to the Wonderland

On one of the many grey and rainy afternoons so far this month I took a little trip to the V&A to visit the new installation in the Italianate courtyard. It is a piece by the Chinese artist Xu Bing entitled Travelling to the Wonderland.

Initially I was underwhelmed, the grey sky and light drizzle didn't set it off to the best effect and from a distance the work didn't have much impact. However, as soon as you get nearer to the work, walking round it, taking in the details and exploring all of the different aspects it pulls you in and is reluctant to let go.

The work is inspired by a Chinese fable by Tao Qian about an idealistic world where the inhabitants live unaware of the outside world. This explains why the installation feels so much more effective when you get closer to it. The work is arranged in a circle and from the outside of the circle you have to come in close to the work and peer inside of the ring of stones. Evoking the message of an enclosed and exclusive world that we can only seek to see and understand.


When you do get close enough to peer into this world there is plenty to discover. Interspersed among the rocks collected from around China are a whole range of ceramic houses, figures and animals.


The work evokes the incredible diversity of the incredible country of China including rocks from around the country, branches from a number of different plants and ceramic models of traditional buildings from across history. 
 


The installation also includes a fusion of modern and traditional materials such as the smoke machines and the Liquid Crystal screens build into some of the houses. Such as the one in the video below where we see cartoon characters having what looks like a skype date. This fusion of old and new is a fitting metaphor for modern China.


video

 If you are visiting with children then you could even set them a bit of a treasure hunt.

1. Find a fish
2. Find a drowned house
3. Find a bridge
4. Find a zebra

I will definitely be returning one evening to see the installation by night as it looks stunning with the reflections off the water, the smoke and the dramatic lighting.

Enjoy your trip to Wonderland.