Tue, 14 Nov 2017
Going Down

The nicely monoschromatic stairway leading down to the National Gallery's Monochrome exhibition.

I wasn't expecting too much but was pleasantly surprised, with a lot to see and like; including a Chardin, Van Eyck and Dürer. Once I'd seen the exhibition, I had a look at the Degas.


Sun, 12 Nov 2017
Burrell in London

When I'm up in Scotland, I often mean to visit the Burrell Collection in Glasgow, but have never managed to get around to it yet, mainly due to the slight difficulty in getting there. Now it's closed for refurbishment until 2020.


Above: Le Foyer de l'Opera, c.1877-82 (pastel on board)

While closed however, the National Gallery in London has managed to borrow the Degas pictures and put on a free show. Degas was a very talented artist and, although usually considered alongside the Impressionists, he went his own way. Famous for his ballet dancers, he can really capture the human form and movement with a few strokes of the pen or brush, and his deep colourful style is also unmatched. Great at oil painting, perhaps even better at pastel painting.

A lovely small exhibition with a chance to see some great work.

Below: The Rehearsal, c. 1874. Oil on canvas

Mon, 06 Nov 2017
Midday Sun

This painting is used to illustrate the ROI Paint Live 2017 Challenge on the Mall Galleries web site just now.

Below: Midday Sun, David Curtis

I love the way he's painted the sunlight here. Great Painting.


Sun, 05 Nov 2017
Cézanne at the NPG

Paul Cézanne has always been an artist I've admired but most of his work I've seen has been his still-life and landscapes, the major part of his work. Apart from a mini-exhibition a few years ago at the Courtauld on his card-players, his paintings of people are not seen so often. The National Portrait Gallery in London has a new exhibition devoted to Cézanne Portraits that rectifies this.

Right: Hortense Fiquet in a Striped Skirt, 1877-78, Oil, 72.5 x 56 cm

The exhibition covers portraits he made throughout his life. The very early ones (pre-1870) are quite different however, and I have to admit that I really didn't like them at all. Dark and heavily painted with a palette knife, the paint was thick and spread around in large areas, almost as if by a trowel. I could see why they might be rejected from the Salon. Luckily, the earlier, uglier paintings are soon replaced by better ones.

Left: Man in a Blue Smock, 1896–97, Oil, 81.5 x 64.8 cm

Once we get into the 1870's, Cézanne finds his style, and thankfully also his brushwork. This brushwork often consists of the short, parallel and diagonal stroke we recognise from his landscapes; a style that distinguishes his art and what makes him so recognisable.

Not all are good and he struggled with figures sometimes, especially faces and expressions (sometimes very doll-like). The show is well worth a visit though. Cézanne is one of the great artists.

A blog post about the show at the NPG site.


Sun, 01 Oct 2017
Colour, Scotland and France

I've been up to Edinburgh for a few days recently, popping over to Glasgow as well, and a lot of time spent looking at art. Some of my favourite artists are the so-called Scottish Colourists. They were never a formal art "group" but shared a similar outlook on art in the first third of the 20th Century. Artists like Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell, Samuel John Peploe, John Duncan Fergusson and George Lesie Hunter are still well represented in Edinburgh and Glasgow galleries. There was also a recent showing of some Peploe at the Richard Green gallery in Mayfair recently.

A YouTube video of Michael Palin talking to National Gallery curator Caroline Campbell about his favourite paintings at the gallery mentioned some TV work he did on the colourists. It turns out this episode, split into four parts, is also available on YouTube. What a great resource it is :

Bygone Edinburgh, as well as bygone France.

The programme includes an appalling story about Hunter's final end, and the danger of not following safe studio practice with regards to dangerous substances like turpentine. A very sad tale.


Sun, 10 Sep 2017
In The Studio and Out

The August Bank Holiday in the UK is traditionally wet and horrible - except the weather this time was really nice. The Saturday held out well: hot and sunny. This made the revellers at both the Notting Hill Carnival and the South West Four weekender (round my way) very happy. Most years I feel some sympathy for them: wellies required, even if the girls aren't wearing much else. Not this year though.

On Saturday mornings, I normally pop out and have a coffee, and often a croissant, somewhere in the West End before a museum or gallery visit (or even shopping on occasion). One of my favourite places for this is the Waterstones bookshop on Tottenham Court Road. It's a fairly recent arrival and I got into the habit of going for a lunchtime coffee there before my work moved to Wapping. Good bookshop and a lovely, relaxed cafe/bar downstairs (yes, even beer and wine), with great coffee (a favourite coffee is Union Bobolink).

To top it off, the people who work there are helpful, friendly and know their books and make it a pleasure to pop in and have a chat sometimes. It works to encourage the odd book purchase as well and keep the book queue a good size.

After this, I went to the RA for their Matisse show, Matisse in the Studio. I have to admit that Matisse was never a favourite of mine; I like some of his graphic work, drawings and design patterns but I was often lukewarm about him. Certainly colourful and often playful. This show did not change my mind, although a lot was more the bric-a-brac and pieces he had around him from his studio, things that might inspire. I still enjoyed a stroll around the exhibition, especially his bronze sculptures and some of his drawings. A comment in The Guardian suggests that the Matisse on show at the Bernard Jacobson Gallery (Duke Street) might be better.

On the way home, I came across an odd sight: a queue of women outside the Institute of Directors buildings on Pall Mall. Some a lot older than "girls", but all dressed in some sort of cosplay outfit, a cross between a schoolgirl and Goth. I suspect this is a Japanese Manga style or offshoot but also part of the 21st Century eternal childhood. A bit bemusing to everyone passing by!


Sat, 02 Sep 2017
English Pastoral

A slightly different pastoral theme compared to the American writer Philip Roth. This is Pastoral by Frederick Cayley Robinson, painted in 1923 and hanging in the Tate. It caught my eye: a very striking painting. I took a crop of it for the banner of this blog.


Mon, 28 Aug 2017
Daughters

At the National Portrait Gallery to see The Encounter exhibition (drawings from Leonardo to Rembrandt), I saw the Sargent exhibition book from 2015 on sale. Looking through it, I paused on the page with his amazing portrait The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit from 1882. A beautiful painting and quite unusual in its composition for the time. The Museum of Fine Arts page is a good description of it and its reception.


The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, John Singer Sargent, 1882, Oil on Canvas

It reminded me a little of another painting I had seen recently.

Compare with Rupert Alexander's portrait of The Levinsons on display in the BP Portrait Award show this year. A classic style and a very Sargent feel to it. This is a picture with only four of their five daughters.


The Levinsons, Rupert Alexander, 2016, Oil on Canvas

The Encounter was really good; drawing is the absolutely fundamental base to much good painting and there are some excellent examples here. I really hate the way the NPG add a "booking fee" though. It is over 25% of the cost of my ticket!


Wed, 02 Aug 2017
To Clapham We Go

LARA, with whom I did a weekend painting course a while ago in their Vauxhall studios, are moving: to Clapham. This is where I live so I'll have an easy visit if I do anything like that again. A good move I'd say! A bit more to see and do around Clapham as well.

We found Clapham North to be a gem of a place: it boasts many coffee shops, bars and restaurants and is only a short walk away from both Clapham Picturehouse cinema and the vast green space of Clapham Common.


Mon, 24 Jul 2017
Waiting for Number Three

A comment online was stop interrupting her and let her get on with the third book!

This interview with Hilary Mantel is actually from 2015, so she's had some time since to get on with the third and final book in her great Wolf Hall trilogy. The interview is very good on the process of writing and research she has. Her favourite novel is Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped, surprisingly enough; a book I read when I was at school but should revisit I think. A cracking adventure. I've been very lucky with my choice of books this year; long may that continue.


Fri, 14 Jul 2017
Not only Oils

Some John Singer Sargent watercolours are on display at the Dulwich Picture Gallery and well worth a look. Sargent was such a great artist, and these paintings show his mastery of more than just oil painting.

Like many, he loved Venice and painted it regularly; it would have been a lot less crowded back then. As well as Venice, there are lovely paintings of friends, family and landscapes, as well as some work done as part of his stint as a war artist.

There are also a selection of photographs to accompany parts of the exhibition, some showing the great man at work or background detail to his travels. He made a good living from his portrait painting and did a lot of travelling around Europe and the Middle East, always busy recording in paint. As a result, he was very prolific, so we have a lot of work to enjoy.



Below: An unusual panorama painting of Constantinople Sargent did in 1891.



Tue, 04 Jul 2017
BP 2017

It's that time of year: a multitude of great art shows around London making for a very busy set of weekends. Some have to be visited more than once. The BP is free luckily.

The BP Portrait Award 2017 is a good as it always was, and perhaps as good as it gets. It's probably the best and most consistent annual art exhibition around, although it is highly selective so we see the best of the best ("2,580 entries by artists from 87 countries").


Right: A Russian Artist in China by Bao Han, Oil on canvas (link)


Right: Portait of Beyza by Mustafa Ozel, Oil on canvas 9link)

The above two are just two of many I might have decided to display here, but they are ones I particularly liked. For the full list, including the prize winners, see : here.


Sun, 02 Jul 2017
RA Summer Exhibition 2017

The RA Summer Exhibition rolls around in June every year and it is always a huge mix, as much "art and craft" as art sometimes. Who is to say where the dividing line is however? It includes art "installation", video pieces, architectural work and even performance art this year. And a few paintings, drawings and prints of course, the things I prefer. There's plenty I don't like but also some beautiful work as usual.

The Bill Jacklin paintings are great: a detail from one is above. Many of his pictures have a great movement and swirl of people, sometimes battling the elements and sometimes dancing or skating. The swirl of crowds in the big city. If you look closely, the individual is barely delineated, fading into the surrounding air. Fred Cuming also had a few works hanging, some of which were a bit different to the ones I've seen before. I love his atmospheric landscapes and he has a small solo show in the Keepers House, as I've reported before (I had another look yesterday).

There's always a lot to look at, although I sometimes find myself moving through the rooms more quickly than usual. It's a lottery who gets picked and perhaps I found less to like than before. I must check out Not the Royal Academy again. Unlike many "Royal" exhibitions, that one's free.


Tue, 20 Jun 2017
The New English 2017

At a recent visit to the RA, I saw the book The New English, a history of the New English Art Club, on sale at half price and bought it. I read it before visiting the NEAC annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries at the weekend and it was a good background. The art world is often full of strange characters and competition, and also some biting criticism. The NEAC often had to contend with the same question asked every few years: is it "new", and what makes it "English"? A worthwhile read but with some great pictures of course.

And so to the 2017 exhibition. Very good as usual and a stand out painting is one others also picked out. This was a large Peter Brown painting, really capturing a very rainy street in Bath :


Above: Absolutely Chucking it Down, George Street, Bath, Peter Brown, Oil, 152x191cm

This was awarded the "The NEAC Critics'" prize for 2017. Very deservedly I think.


Sun, 18 Jun 2017
Grabbing the Goose

The LLEWELLYN ALEXANDER gallery at Waterloo is having its annual show of RA Summer Show rejects, Not the Royal Academy. Always worth a visit anytime, the show this year is full of some wonderful stuff. What gets in to the RA show is very subjective obviously: they don't always get it right.

This painting is not on their web site but I liked it so much they sent me a copy.

Tiptoe Through the Tulips, Oliver Canti, Oil pastel on board.

A really lovely painting and a snip at £1250.


Fri, 02 Jun 2017
Goodbye Mr Tea

I've seen a few funerals at St Patrick's Church in Wapping since my work moved here in January. One funeral had a bit of an entourage, including a horse and carriage for the coffin, but nothing was like the recent funeral for Willie Malone.

The Malone funeral was on a very hot day, so I felt some sympathy for everyone in a suit and tie and there were a lot of people around dressed up. In the café, I was told a bit of background about the deceased, being well known and referred to as "Mr Tea". A real "East End" mix of people, and there were also a couple of (what I guessed were) press photographers. In fact, a report was in the East London Advertiser, with lots of pictures. Apparently, there was a bit of "colour" in his life.

I came by it because the church is across the road from The Turk's Head, a good café/bar I often go to for a coffee at lunchtime. I took my main camera that day, planning on a walk around the sights and taking some pictures.

From the Turk's Head web site :
the original building was once famous for being the local inn where the last quart of ale was served to condemned pirates on their way from Newgate to the Execution Dock


Sun, 28 May 2017
Peploe in Mayfair

On my way to the RA last week, I did some art gallery window shopping in New Bond Street and saw a notice in the window of the Richard Green Gallery about an S.J. Peploe exhibition coming up. Peploe's a well known Scottish Colourist painter of the early 20th Century; an artist and a group of artists I like. The Glasgow and Edinburgh Galleries have a few but you do not get many opportunities to see more unless you do much more travelling.

A good small exhibition of some lovely paintings, particularly the still lives. If you're in the area pop in. You can also see the catalogue online.

Right:
Still Life of Pink and Red Roses in a Chinese Vase
Oil on canvas, 25x25", 1918-1922




Some were from a private collection, some for sale. The price for a larger canvas like this was getting close to a million (pounds sterling).

Right:
Apples and Pears
Oil on canvas, 18x21.5", 1918


Sun, 21 May 2017
Fred Cuming RA

The RA has another "Academician in Focus", Fred Cuming. I'd never heard of him, but this means nothing: there are so many great but unknown and to-be-discovered artists in the world, dead and alive. I really like his work and made sure I had a good look before my visit to the gallery today. He's over 80 now and still going strong.

Below: Etna, 2011, screenprint 30.5x30.5cm

Below:Winter Garden, oil on board, 30x30cm

Below: Rye Harbour Sunset, 2016, oil on board, 26.5x46.5cm

Below:Tuscan Landscape, 2004, oil on board, 68x78cm

To see larger versions, and more, visit the RA site.


Tue, 16 May 2017
Repeat After Me

A few years ago, I wrote about a system of learning called Spaced Repetition and with particular reference to an application called Anki.

A useful blog post went over similar territory recently and it's worth a read. It explains the reason why this learning method is so good, including mention of the actual research behind it. We all know that to hold a piece of knowledge in your head requires you to "imprint" it; then occasionally reinforce the memory. But how often and when should this be reinforced, for the best results? This is where the research comes in handy, distilled into an app :

How to Remember More.


Sun, 07 May 2017
Detail

At the Mall Galleries for the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2017, I saw the usual amazingly wide selection of portraits of all types and sizes. It is always very humbling seeing such a selection of beautiful art. A couple of pieces struck me in passing.

The first, Becky by Raoof Haghighi, is so detailed it is astonishing. It is not a large painting, but he even paints the small fine hairs on her face. The second is The Four of Us by Leslie Watts, an amazing pencil drawing, again highly realistic and beautifully finished.

Below: Becky, Raoof Haghighi, Acrylic, 40 x 30 cm

Below: The Four of Us, Leslie Watts, Graphite & wax, 50 x 40 cm