Another year and another visit to the Mall Galleries for the 2019 Royal Society of Portrait Painters exhibition. There are a lot of really stunning paintings on display and the show is well worth a visit.
Below is some detail from a painting Floating Life No 2 by Jie Cai. The realism and level of detail is truly astonishing: the painting of the bubbles is beautifully done. I think bravura is the word.
All the pictures can be seen here. As I say, some amazing works as usual. More this year I think.
As well as visiting a famous museum to look at Rembrandt prints, I caught the first program (of two) the BBC have produced called Looking for Rembrandt. This is one of those productions that make the BBC so good, and the license fee worthwhile. It tells the life of the artist in his own words, with a backdrop of Leiden and Amsterdam, talking to curators, collectors and archivists. Wonderful and moving. I've yet to see the second program but look forward to it.
Angst and anxiety really came of age in the Nineteenth Century: the age of Nietzsche, Freud and Marx, as well as nihilism, anarchism and nationalism. A lot of "isms" and various pathologies we still live with today. The Norwegian apostles were Ibsen and Munch, two artists who stripped away a middle-class veneer of respectability and exposed something darker or lonelier underneath.
The British Museum has a very good exploration of the art of Edvard Munch just now, with a large number of his famous and less familiar prints, most from the Munch Museum in Oslo. Striking, spartan and often troubling, they seem to portend the cataclysms building up inside Europe, ready to explode in 1914.
More Print Mastery
In Room 90, the Museum's print and drawing gallery, an exhibition of prints (and a few drawings) from Rembrandt, a master print maker as well. The prints are beautiful, but there is also a story in their creation and the techniques used. Drypoint and etching are two methods, with the print having various stages of production. A technical as well as artistic process, I would like to know more. I think watching the process would help.
Not only Rembrandt: also in Room 90 is a small exhibition of Symbolist prints, some a good complement to the Munch show downstairs.
Room 90 is a gem, slightly hidden away at the top of the rear of the museum. It has had some wonderful displays over the past few years and its slight remoteness means it is a bit quieter and therefore a more pleasant place to be. Crowds are getting larger.
The Hemlock Cup
By Bettany Hughes
Bettany Hughes has written an excellent book about the tumultous, calamitous and glorious Athenian 5th Century BC "Golden Age". The age of Socrates, Euripides, the Parthenon, the Persian invasion and defeat by the Athenian and Spartan alliance, the flowering of new intellectual fields and the new experiment in "people power": demokratia.
What gives Hughes' book its power though is the way she doesn't shy away from describing the dark side of the Athenian century; and the dark side was terrible indeed.
I learned a lot reading this book and that has really enhanced my understanding of this period and place in our history.
A Cathedral Visit
A visit to Rochester in Kent on Saturday led to an unexpected artistic discovery.
I knew the Cathedral was very old but didn't know it was the second oldest in the country after Canterbury. Founded in 604, by the Saxon King Ethelbert and Bishop Justus, it has had a number of rebuildings and contains Romanesque, Norman and Gothic architecture. The Lady Chapel is Tudor. A very impressive building. We were lucky to have a guide to show us around the place, starting off with some of the medieval graffiti.
Right at the end of the tour, we were shown a new addition to the building: a wonderful fresco by the Russian artist Sergey Fyodorov. Large and beautiful, finished in 2004, it shows the baptisms of Christ, King Ethelbert and the Saxons in the River Medway This was completely unexpected. It is the first fresco in an English cathedral in 800 years. As you would expect from an artist called Fyodorov, it has a very Russian orthodox look (he is an icon painter). One of the things I noticed (and was even mentioned by the guide) was the lack of any smiles in the work! Beautiful nontheless.
More pictures and description of the fresco on the Kent Yesterday and Today blog.
I should also mention a great little cafe in the Cathedral Crypt. A lovely tranquil place compared to the Saturday crowds queing for a coffee on the high street.
As the guide explained, a fresco is different to a mural. A fresco becomes part of the wall it is painted on because it is painted on wet plaster, and seeps into the plaster itself and dries. A mural decorates a dry wall with paint.
Well, it's 2019, so a Happy New Year to everyone. Except the bastards that stole my bike yesterday!
This is the second Brompton I've had stolen now. After the first, I bought a much better lock (Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit) but obviously not good enough :
This was locked at the bike rails at the North West side of Cavendish Square, opposite the back entrance to the Oxford Street John Lewis. About 11 am and left for about 40 minutes, returned to find the lock cleanly sliced and no bike. Basically, I don't think it's safe, period, to lock a Brompton up outside. A busy area as well, with lots of cars, a taxi rank opposite and people around.
2018 was not a great year for me for various reasons. Apart from the bad start to 2019, I'm hoping 2019 will be better. So, staying positive!