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Book Review : Painters’ Paintings by Anne Robbins (National Gallery)

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This book accompanies the exhibition, Painters’ Paintings: From Freud to Van Dyck at the National Gallery which opens in June and closes in September 2016. The simple premise of the exhibition and the book is why do artists acquire the work of other painters? The author of the book, Anne Robbins in the first section, Possession explores some of the ways that owning paintings may have influenced the artist’s own creative process. Robbins considers that ‘ Painters have always owned paintings ; artists naturally see and are exposed to more art than anyone else , and the pictures frequently reflect the development of their own artistic search.’

The National Gallery has been the recipient of a number of painters collections since its creation and the book and the exhibition investigate eight artists collections which include 80 paintings. In the section before the more detailed look at the collections, the author considers some of the reasons that artists may acquire paintings. Perhaps one of the main reasons is that painters frequently receive pictures as gifts or exchanges with other artists. Another reason is tied into availability and motivations, financial security may lead to surplus money spent on collecting and availability may depend on the general and political climate. Other reasons suggested by the author are Collecting as homage, The desire to possess, Teaching tools, Legacy, Painters’ paintings at home, Emulation or rivalry and finally Stimulation and inspiration. All these valid reasons provide a starting point but it is within the collections themselves that provide some of the evidence to unpick some of the connections.

Looking at Lucien Freud’s collection, his painting Afternoon in Naples by Paul Cezanne 1876-77 acquired in 1999 provided inspiration for Freud to embark on a series of Cezanne type paintings including After Cezanne 1999-2000 and  After Breakfast 2001 that replicates the way Cezanne painted his nudes in the original painting. Cezanne also provides a focus in the next collection, Matisse acquired the artist’s Three Bathers 1879-82 at considerable financial cost and became gradually obsessed with what he considered was a talisman for his own career, he wrote in 1936 ‘ In the thirty-seven years I have owned this canvas… It has sustained me morally in the critical moments of my venture as an artist; I have drawn from it my faith and my perseverance.’

The next collection of Edgar Degas illustrates how the artist was inspired by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Jean Baptiste Camille Corot and Eugene Delacroix and collected a number of their works, however he collected a number of contemporaries paintings including Pissarro, Sisley, Manet, Gauguin and Cezanne.

Whereas the French artists seemed to be content to collect from contemporaries, British artist collectors seemed to more concerned with  the past.  The collection of Frederic, Lord Leighton also features works by Delacroix and Corot together with a number of Old Master paintings. Leighton’s collecting influenced his friend and neighbour, George Frederic Watts  who acquired his Knight of S. Stefano (after 1563)  when Watts was learning his artistic trade in Italy. Sir Thomas Lawrence was another British painter who looked to the past, however his independent wealth did mean he could build up a vast collection that included many drawings that was the envy of many institutions.

Joshua Reynolds reputation as an artist and as the first president of the Royal Academy of Arts led him to consider his collection as a reflection of his standing and a useful resource for his teaching. Works by Bellini, Bassano, Rembrandt, Anthony Van Dyck and Poussin reflect Reynolds status, however it is the painting of  Girls with Pigs 1781-82 by Thomas Gainsborough that suggests Reynolds may have acquired his rivals painting for less than honourable reasons.

One of the oldest collections is that owned by Anthony Van Dyck which features a number of works by Titian, whilst this is clearly an homage to the Venetian master, there were suggestions that Van Dyck displayed his work with the Titians which suggested to future patrons that he considered himself as one of the great painters of his age.

This fascinating and entertaining book with a large number of attractive illustrations explores the many motivations behind artists collecting habits, no artist works in a vacuum and are exposed to a number of influences both from the past and the present. The author explores some of the multi-layered connections between works owned and works painted, these connections often provide real insights into the various artists creative process and how various factors related to the paintings can have a considerable effect on their own artistic development.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information, visit the National Gallery website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide.com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014 , we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

 

Book Review : London by Design by London Transport Museum ( Ebury Press )

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Unlike many major cities, London has a fully integrated transport system which is run by Transport for London (TfL ) and includes the London Underground ( Tube ), buses, rail, tram, river services, taxis, cycling and major roads throughout the capital. This book is part of TfL’s Transported by Design celebrations especially relating to the exhibition named ‘designology’ at the London Transport Museum which takes place throughout 2016.

The Design icons in the book have been voted upon by Londoners to produce a top 10 in a collection that is curated by experts at the London Transport Museum and showcases London’s 100 greatest transport design icons from the past 150 years. Each entry in the book includes a quote from a member of the public who nominated the icon, information from a curator about the design and details where the icon can be seen.

The initial top ten present many of the most famous icons including the black cabs, Harry Beck’s tube map, the Roundel, the Routemaster bus, the RT type bus from the 1930s and the modern S stock trains on the underground. The work of legendary designer Frank Pick is celebrated by many people, however the inclusion of the Baker Street Station Platforms, the Labyrinth artwork and Westminster Station in the top ten may surprise a few readers.

Many of the designs are so familiar to Londoners that they can be often hidden in plain sight, TfL’s exclusive Johnston font illustrates how a simple design introduced in 1916 has been adapted for use for over a century. A number of the entries provide evidence of the remarkable number of innovations that been introduced in the network over the last 150 years. The distinctive Moquette fabric used all over the system was first introduced in the 1920s, Oyster cards arrived in 2003, the Legible London Wayfinding system has been helping lost Londoners and visitors since 2007, the Docklands Light Railway open in 1987, Pedestrian Countdown at Traffic Lights began in 2011, Cycle Hire Bikes were introduced in 2010 and the Emirates Air Line cable car took flight in 2012.

Eye-catching posters have often decorated the walls of tube stations, the book includes the jazzy Brightest London poster of 1924, the surreal Man Ray poster of 1938 and the artistic Tate gallery by Tube poster of 1987. Art both inside and outside underground stations have for decades have been a feature of the system, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi’s mosaics at Tottenham Court Road, the Charing Cross murals by David Gentleman, the Leslie Green tiles from 1906, the East Finchley Archer and the Wrapper artwork at Edgware Road all make it into the top 100 icons.

The rest of the entries are a mix of interesting station buildings, different types of vehicles, signage and equipment. Perhaps some of the bizarre entries are the regulator dials at Broadway, the lift grilles at Mornington Crescent Station, the Routemaster Window winder of 1954 and Wilfred the Rabbit which was perched on the radiator cap of some buses in 1922.

Although many Londoners have a love/hate relationship with the transport system depending if it is working or not, this book illustrates why both Londoners and visitors are fascinated by the system. London by Design takes a closer look at many of the iconic designs from London Transport using stunning images, drawings, artwork and photography from the London Transport Museum’s archive to tell some of the remarkable stories behind their creation.

This attractive and entertaining book will appeal to a wide range of people with an interest in transport, design, art or architecture. Spotting many of the wide range of design icons will also provide plenty of entertainment for both Londoners and visitors as they travel around London’s extensive transport system.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information, visit the Penguin website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide.com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014 , we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

 

Book Review – George Shaw : My Back To Nature by George Shaw ( National Gallery )

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George Shaw – Introduction by Colin Wiggins published by National Gallery Company, May 2016

The National Gallery’s Rootstein Hopkins Associate Artist for the past two years, George Shaw unveiled his new work at an exhibition entitled My Back to Nature at the Gallery in May 2016. This book is published to accompany the exhibition and gives the opportunity for former Turner Prize-nominee to reveal some of his inspirations for his work.

Colin Wiggins in his introduction in the book considers Shaw’s long-term relationship with the National Gallery,  ‘ Despite his childhood and teenage years being spent on a Coventry council estate he would nevertheless make regular day trips to London, armed with a sketchbook, to draw from works by artists he found inspiring even then, especially the mythological landscapes of Titian.’

By 2014, Shaw had made his reputation as a painter of run down council estates often using Humbrol enamel paint as his chosen medium. When the artist began his residency in a studio within the National Gallery it was these variety of influences that began to ferment before he began to produce work for the exhibition.

Shaw in the chapter entitled Rooms Used in Daylight as Though They Were Dark Woods begins to explain his own particular take on the National Gallery and art, ‘The National Gallery is as much part of my bringing up as say Hammer Horror films, Grange Hill, Joy Division or the sound of Grandstand’ . Although Shaw was drawn to paintings, the relationship was often complex, ‘ I have never really associated art with pleasure or happiness. It was and still is, a heavy darkness at the centre of what art is for me. All the death and flesh is serious stuff.’

It was this serious stuff that Shaw was able to indulge in during the residency with private access to the paintings in the National Gallery. On these walks through the gallery, he began to make the connection of his memories of the woods of his childhood and the mythical woods of Titian and Poussin.

The next chapter ‘ Beneath the Trees Where Nobody Sees’ takes on this theme with the way that Bellini’s Assassination of Saint Peter Martyr offers the woodland as a location for violent acts. Another favourite theme for Shaw is pictures that portray the dead Christ, particularly fascinating is Crivelli’s The Dead Christ supported by Two Angels with a mouth like wound, body hair and a crown of thorns that resemble living branches.

We return to the woods for the chapter ‘ Every Brush Stroke is Torn Out of My Body ‘, the mythical representations of Titian in The Death of Actaeon for Shaw illustrate the sacred and the profane. The next chapter, All Goings – in and Comings – out ; All Goings -on ‘ examines how some works by Poussin provide examples of how mythical themes can be used to present sexual scenes that in other spheres would be considered unacceptable. Ritual and orgies are another aspect of perceived woodland experiences.

In the final chapter, ‘The Gallery Will Be Open Again Tomorrow ‘ we find Shaw fascinated by the Gothic undertones to Constable’s Cenotaph to the Memory of Sir Joshua Reynolds. The picture is the cenotaph being framed by dense tall trees with a stag in the foreground. Shaw’s reaction to the picture provides some insight into his own particular approach, ‘ Half of me is made of sentiment and nostalgia and weakness. The other half takes the piss. What I am left with is my own dull paintings that tell half the story about me being here and the anxiety I feel about not being here.’ The rest of the book reproduces his series of paintings on canvas for the exhibition and drawings with a biography and a list of exhibited works.

This is a fascinating, unusual and entertaining book with a series of attractive illustrations that explores the relationship between art galleries, paintings and artist. This often personal relationship is seldom discussed or considered but is often fundamental to the development of an artist, Shaw in a witty and insightful way indicates some of the ways that paintings provide inspiration for artists to pursue their own careers. For someone of Shaw’s background, the National Gallery provided a place to fire his artistic imagination when he returned to his Coventry home. Like many artists, Shaw chooses to both reject and pay homage to the past in his works. This book illustrates how Shaw uses the past to perceive the present, his often amusing titles and subject matter often obscures the serious and intelligent undertones of his work.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information or to buy a copy, visit the National Gallery website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in  2014 , we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

Book Review : London in an Hour by Kate Hodges (Ebury Publishing )

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In 2014, we reviewed Little London which was co-written by Kate Hodges which we believed is a wonderful book , full of insightful information to enable adults and children to get the most out of the numerous attractions of London. This book, London in an Hour by Kate Hodges, in many ways follows the format of Little London by offering 120 bite-size ideas for things to do and places to visit in London in under an hour.

The author states ” Londoners are busy people…. It’s time to reclaim a few minutes for yourself, and use them to remind yourself that London is a city packed with exciting mini-adventures.” In pursuit of these mini-adventures, the book offers ten sections, each section brings numerous suggestions that provide a multitude of options  to allow people to make full use of their time.

The first section is An Hour for Culture which provides plenty of diverting suggestions for things to do within the cultural world of the capital. London museums and galleries caters for busy people with a number of small exhibitions that can easily be seen within a lunch hour. Other suggestions include lunchtime concerts and talks on a wide range of subjects.

The next section, An Hour to Eat and Drink provides ideas for a mini cuisine adventure for a breakfast, lunch or an hour after work. London is at the forefront of the latest drinks and foodie trends and suggestions include Gin at the City of London Distillery, a walk along craft beer mile, tea at Twinings on the Strand and top ten for happy hours and take-away fish and chips.

In a crowded London, finding peace and quiet is at a premium and the section entitled An Hour of Inner Peace helps readers to find those quiet corners around the city. Parks and gardens dominate this section with Postman’s Park, Regents Park, SOAS Japanese Roof Garden and Lincoln’s Inn Fields receiving honourable mentions. A list of bookshops and some religious establishments provide some other refuges of peace.

For those who like a more active approach, An Hour to Buy a Gift offers shopping options, An Hour to see the Sights for the curious wanderer, An Hour to get Creative for the those who want to use their artistic skills and if you want to leave your stuffy office, there is a section entitled An Hour Outdoors.

In a city with many temptations, the book offers An Hour for Yourself, An Hour in the Morning and An Hour for Something Special.

London in an Hour is one of those useful books to put into your bag and use to explore some of the many attractions of London. The author uses her considerable insider knowledge of the capital to provide the reader with useful and insightful information.

London in an Hour is an interesting book, well designed and full of attractive photographs that acknowledges that in an increasingly hectic modern urban life, the ability to use your time effectively enables people to make the most out of their time in London.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended 

If you want further information or to buy a copy, visit the Penguin  website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in  2014 , we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

Book Review – The Russian Canvas : Painting in Imperial Russia 1757-1881 by Rosalind P. Blakesley ( Yale University Press )

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The Russian Canvas explores the rise of Russian painting in the 18th and 19th centuries, the author of the book is Dr Rosalind Blakesley who is also the curator for the current exhibition, Russia and the Arts: The Age of Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky at the National Portrait Gallery.

The author states in the introduction that ” In the first half of the eighteenth century, there was no such thing as a Russian school of painting”. This lack of artistic infrastructure led to wealthy Russians  building up collections of foreign art and Russian artists struggled to make a living by selling their paintings. However, by the late 19th century, according to the author ” cultural commentators in Russia largely agreed that a national school of painting had appeared’, even if they disputed its future direction.”

This transformation was the subject of a number of factors which the book investigates in considerable detail, in many ways the foundation of the Imperial Academy of the Arts in 1757 provided the basis of the professionalization of Russian artists against the backdrop of social, political and cultural change. Whilst, this period 1757 to 1881 has not been totally neglected by art historians, the author makes the important point that little work has been done about “precisely how professional painters emerged in Russia, or unravelled the curious ways in which pan-European engagement operated alongside local and national peculiarities to create a body of painting that Russians could claim as their own.”

The first half of the book explores the often uneasy relationship between educators who attempted to create a Russian Imperial Academy but were dependant on professors from other European countries especially France and Germany. The artists themselves were encouraged to travel to Italy and France to develop their skills with the Academy occasionally providing funds for artists. Some of the first Academy artists who made an impact included Anton Losenko, Dmitry Levitsky and Vladamir Borovikovsky who had developed their skill studying French, English and Italian painting which were reflected in their approach to  society portraits of the Russian elites.

In the early 19th century, tensions between the European and Russian models were exacerbated by conflicts between Napoleonic France and Russia. Tsar Nicholas I began to take an active interest in the Academy which provided support for some artists whilst alienating others. The creation of the Imperial Academy of the Arts had slowly created interest in professional painting in other parts of Russia, most notably with the creation of the Moscow School of Painting and Sculpture which opened in 1843 and  began to produce artists who created paintings of critical realism and naturalistic landscape.

Against a rather unsettled administrative structure, the role of the artists themselves played a major part in the development of the Russian school of painting. The second half of the book considers the careers of some of these artists within domestic and international contexts.

One of the paradoxes of the development of the Russian school of painting was that Russian artists like Bruni, Briullov and Ivanov who went to Paris and Rome to hone their talents began to adapt the methods they had learnt to paint subject matter that paid tribute to the French and Italian landscapes rather than painting their homeland. This was to cause considerable animosity from the Russian state who believed many artists were enjoying a bohemian lifestyle at their expense. On the other hand, artists wished to develop their career and talent without political interference. Adding more fire to this discontent was that many of the Russian elite would commission foreign artists to carry out highly lucrative work.

A number of foreign artists travelled around Russia and began to paint scenes that many Russians believed their own artists should be painting. There were a number of native artists who generally came from the serf class who began to document everyday day life in Russia to considerable acclaim. One artist who turned his back on his St Petersburg lifestyle was Aleksei Venetsianov who ran an art school on his estate and looked to the Russian countryside for inspiration. However, the artists that began to look beyond the usual subject matters could find themselves embroiled in the political uncertainties of the mid to late 19th century. Pavel Fedotov’s satires exposed many of the absurdities of Russian society but the artist suffered ill health and died tragically young aged only thirty seven.

In the 1860s, many of the underlying tensions of the Academy and artists came to conflict on the eve of the Academy’s centenary in 1864. Some of the artists rebelled against the Academy in the Revolt of the Fourteen which became politicised by various groups, although much was made politically of the revolt, the author suggests “the antagonism between the Academy and its secessionists has been greatly overstated.” One of the ringleaders of the Revolt of the Fourteen was Ivan Kramskoi who with Ilia Repin were considered leaders of the Russian realist movement. However for Kramskoi the promotion of a Russian national cultural identity was paramount and Repin’s interest in French Impressionist painting was considered a betrayal. For all of Kramskoi’s angst, Repin’s reputation was enhanced with his ‘impressionist’ paintings and Russian collectors began to collect  French impressionist paintings in considerable numbers. Eventually, these artistic differences paled into insignificance in 1881 when the assassination of Tsar Alexander II began a cycle of tension and conflict that led to the Revolution of 1917.

Because of the massive changes in Russia in the twentieth century, this period of Russian art has been consigned to the shadows of European art history. This well researched, authoritative and intriguing book with a large number of stunning illustrations brings the period back into the spotlight and explores the complex developments of the time and provides some insights into the work of major Russian artists of the period, many who have been neglected in Russia and beyond. The book also provides evidence that many of the seeds of future movements were sown in this period, although the irony was that although a Russian school was developed to further the cultural status of the Imperial dynasty, it was actually after the Revolution of 1917 that Russian art really began to find its own distinctive voice.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information or to buy a copy, visit the Yale University Press website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in  2014 , we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

 

Book Review : Lonely Planet – London (Lonely Planet Publications)

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It does seem somewhat paradoxical that the sales of travel books and guides are in decline despite world travel increasing substantially in the last decade. However, in the last 40 years since Tony and Maureen Wheeler wrote their first Lonely Planet Guide, the travel business has changed beyond all recognition. Part of that change has been technological with information freely available online and having the ability to arrange many of the elements of your trip before you set off. Another important change is the world is far more fast-moving and many written guides cannot keep up with the latest developments. Lonely Planet is not the only travel guide publisher that is moving away from being just a traditional book publisher into a multi-platform brand. Even a Lonely Planet of a decade ago would have been mostly text-based with the odd series of photographs. The latest 2016 edition of Lonely Planet London has a far more snappier style with more photographs and a more colourful format.

The guide is split into four main sections. There is ‘Plan Your Trip, ‘Explore London’, ‘Understand London’ and finally the ‘Survival Guide’.

‘Plan Your Trip’ deals with many of the practicalities of your trip including sections on Getting Around, Need to Know and First Time London. To give the visitor some ideas there are a useful list of things to do in sections which include London’s Top 16, Top Itineraries, With Kids and If You Like. A month by month guide to London main events is also added before a subsection that provides specific advice and suggestions for Museums & Galleries, Eating, Drinking & Nightlife, Entertainment, Shopping, Sports & Activities and Gay and Lesbian.

The comprehensive Plan Your Trip section illustrates one of the best features of Lonely Planet Guide which is to give most of the relevant information that you need without bombarding the reader with too much information. If you are a traveller on a limited stay, there is enough information to get a reasonable snapshot of what is available with some insights into London social and cultural scene.

The next section, ‘Explore London’, divides London into neighbourhoods and gives overall account of each neighbourhoods particular character, places to visit and provides eating and drinking suggestions. The areas are interesting because I suspect if we were looking at a guide even ten years ago  it would have included  the West End , the City, the South Bank, Kensington & Hyde Park, Notting Hill & West London, Richmond, Kew and Hampton Court and Greenwich , but Clerkenwell, Shoreditch & Spitalfields, East London, Camden & North London sections would have been very short or non-existent., The rise of East London especially based around the 2012 Olympics is one of the major stories of London’s most recent past.

For those who like to learn more about London , ‘Understand London’ offers some insights into present day London, History, Architecture, Literature, Theatre & Dance, Art & Fashion, The Music Scene and Film & Media. This section is important to understand the trends and fashions of a fast-moving modern London which is in the middle of a building boom that is changing the city skyline and attracting investors from all over the world. The huge rise of the population in which a third of Londoners are now born overseas has led to many to argue that London is not just the capital of England but is the capital of Europe.

Finally we have the famous ‘Survival Guides’ section which gives you all that local information you need to make your stay as hassle free as possible.

For all the advantages of getting information online, a decent guidebook is still a great way to find your way around a new city. Lonely Planet London follows the well-known Lonely Planet format with  a great selection of maps , photos and nuggets of  information.  It is  a well written , knowledgeable and informative guide-book  that follows a long  tradition of  Lonely Planet guidebooks being written by local writers who want to share their love for their city but have the honesty to mention many of the positives and some of the negative sides of London life.

For more information or to buy a copy of the book, visit the Lonely Planet website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014 , we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

Book Review : Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art by Patrick Noon and Christopher Riopelle (National Gallery)

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Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art by Patrick Noon and Christopher Riopelle, is published by and copyright of National Gallery Company Limited in association with Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2015.

Patrick Noon in the prologue to this book states that ‘Modern Art History has perpetuated the fiction that modern painting commenced sui generis in France with the Salon des Refusés of 1863, the special exhibition of works by Édouard Manet and others who had been refused admission that year to the state sponsored annual exhibition in Paris of living French artists.” Noon argues that the principal characteristics associated with modernism were actually in evidence at the start of the nineteenth century especially amongst artists from the British and French Romanticism schools which included Theodore Gericault, J.M.W.Turner, Richard Parkes Bonington and Eugene Delacroix.

It is the influence of Eugene Delacroix that is the focus of the exhibition and book and the chapter entitled ‘What is Delacroix’ explores the artist’s life and career. Delacroix was born into a wealthy and influential family in 1798 and was bought up in times of great uncertainty within the French state. It was at this time that the stability and ideas of Great Britain were influential and Delacroix was inspired by the works of Shakespeare, Byron and Walter Scott. Orphaned at sixteen, Delacroix abandoned his classical studies at the  Lycée Impérial to pursue a less academic training, he gained significant insights by studying the old masters in the Musee du Louvre.

Remarkably, Delacroix’s first publicly exhibited picture, The Barque of Dante (1822) not only established his reputation but also divided opinion which would become a reoccurring theme throughout his career. A visit to London in 1825 led Delacroix to appreciate the work of British artists and the cultural influence of Shakespeare and Lord Byron. It was the death of Byron that inspired The Death of Sardanapalus which was exhibited in 1827. This work marked out a distinctive rejection by Delacroix of the French art establishment, Noon summarises Delacroix’s position ‘ the conventional formulas of French painting so defended by conservative critics were valueless if the artist’s imagination did not touch that of the viewer’.

However, fate was in Delacroix’s favour, when the 1830 July Revolution in Paris bought forth a more liberal regime and an invitation to travel with a government delegation to Morocco in 1832. This was a trip that made a great impression on the artist who would return to his North African adventures for the next three decades for inspiration for over eighty oil paintings. The artist welcomed the interval between witnessing the scene and painting, it meant that he could only recall the most striking and poetic aspect. Towards the end of the his career, Delacroix used his artistic imagination across a range of subjects including still life, landscapes, religious and literary subjects.

Central to the authors argument that Delacroix was one of the ‘fathers’ of modern art is providing evidence of his influence and inspiration on the artists of the subsequent generations. One of the authors, Christopher Riopelle explores this legacy in the chapter entitled Afterlife, when Delacroix died in 1863, one of his greatest supporters, Charles Baudelaire prophesied that the artist renown would continue long after his death. Riopelle points out that ‘ the reassessment of Delacroix’s legacy began in the immediate aftermath of his funeral’ when Ignace-Henri-Théodore Fantin-Latour  painted ‘Homage to Delacroix’ in which Fantin-Latour places himself alongside artists and writers grouped around Delacroix’s portrait. The painting from 1864 features Edouard Manet, Charles Baudelaire, James Abbott McNeill Whistler,  Alphonse Legros amongst others. Posthumous displays of his work, the sale of his studio contents and the publication of his ‘Journal’ added greatly to the artist’s legacy that permeated into the work of a number of late 19th- and early 20th-century painters that are associated with the rise of modern art.

The remaining chapters in the book explore the way that many of the ‘modern artists’ were quick to acknowledge their debt to Delacroix. Whilst Cézanne declared “We all paint in Delacroix’s language”, the authors of the book point out ‘the sincerest forms of respect that one artist can exhibit for another are extolling aspects of their professional persona; copying and collecting their paintings; or referencing a celebrated work in one of their own creations”. Cézanne’s The Apotheosis of Delacroix, Manet’s copy of The Barque of Dante, Gauguin’s Still Life with a sketch after Delacroix and Van Gogh’s Pieta ( after Delacroix ) are just a few examples in the book and exhibition that provide evidence of Delacroix’s influence. In some cases it was not just the paintings, Renoir followed in the footsteps of the artist by visiting North Africa in 1881 and painting a large-scale copy of the Jewish Wedding in Morocco.

Both the exhibition and the book provide important  insights into aspects of Delacroix’s career and his artistic legacy, the authors offer plenty of evidence that supports their thesis of the importance of Delacroix in the development of modern art. This well written and authoritative book is full of stunning full colour illustrations that show the importance of Delacroix’s use of colour and form to recreate the sensations experienced from nature. It is this colour and form that provided inspiration for a large number of ‘modern’ artists who would change the art world forever.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information or to buy a copy, visit the National Gallery website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in  2014 , we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

Book Review : Good Things to Drink with Mr Lyan and Friends by Ryan Chetiyawardana ( Frances Lincoln Limited )

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Over the last decade, London has undergone a ‘cocktail’ revolution. The cocktail bar scene has shed off its image of being mostly the domain of five-star hotel bars to an incredible diversity of bars and drinks. Although the upmarket hotel bars still exist, modern interpretations of the speakeasy and other types of cocktail bars have proliferated all over the capital. It is not just bars that have changed, the creation and experimentation with the drinks themselves have led to London to be considered one of the best cocktail cities in the world.

One of the people behind this transformation is Ryan Chetiyawardana (aka Mr Lyan, the man behind award-winning London bars White Lyan and Dandelyan) who has written a book entitled Good Things to Drink with Mr Lyan & Friends which seeks to take the ‘cocktail’ beyond the bars and into the home. After winning a series of awards around the world for his inventive cocktail menus, Mr Lyan uses his considerable talents to create a book that will enable us all to find our inner ‘mixologist’.

The author states Good Things to Drink with Mr Lyan & Friends is about the times when we get together friends and family and believes cocktails can make these times even more memorable. It is the social aspect that features throughout the book with sections with recommendations for different moods and occasions including Morning Buzz, Market Fresh, Summer Social Sips, Alfresco Days, Pre – Dinner, Friday Nights, Rambles, Fireside Serves, Winter Feasting and a recipe for The Perfect G & T.

However before we begin to reach for our cocktails shakers, the book offers some valuable advice on Equipment, Ingredients, Techniques and Syrups & Bitters. Mr Lyan suggests that you do not need expensive equipment but you do need practical pieces to make amazing drinks. An all metal two piece shaker is invaluable for mixing drinks but you can use a normal glass jug for a mixing glass. Equivalents for other pieces of equipment can be found around most kitchens, great expense spent on fancy glasses is also considered unnecessary. One area it is not advisable to scrimp is ingredients, the author suggests that you should always use the best ingredients you can afford.

Once you have your equipment and ingredients it is time to learn some techniques such as shaking, stirring, straining, muddling and building. To give your cocktail, a unique homemade taste, mix your own syrups and bitters for a freshness you can’t buy in the shops.

If you have followed the book so far, it is now time to create impressive drinks for any social gathering. Over 60 cocktails recipes are provided ranging from reimagined classics like Buck’s Fizz, Bellini and Mint Julep to modern creations like Deadly Nightshade, British 45 and Bloody Earnest. Each recipe is presented in a easy to understand format with a few options for variations to suit your particular taste.

This entertaining and informative book with a large number of attractive illustrations and photographs seeks to demystify the process of cocktail making indicating we do not have to be modern alchemists to make great cocktails. In many ways the book succeeds in bringing cocktails into the 21st century with ideas to incorporate the drinking of cocktails into modern lifestyles both in and outside the home.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like further information or buy a copy of the book, visit the Publishers website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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Book Review – Egypt: faith after the pharaohs ( British Museum Press )

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This book is the accompanying title to the current British Museum exhibition, Egypt: faith after the pharaohs, 29th September 2014 – 7th  February 2015. Both the book and the exhibition look at the important yet little understood period of Egyptian history between 30 BC and AD 1171.  This was a period of an extraordinary transition in Egypt’s religious beliefs from an ancient pantheon of pagan gods to the one God of the three Abrahamic faiths.

The book is divided into five main parts that include The Three Religions in Egypt, Roman Egypt, Late Antique Egypt, Medieval Egypt and finally Belief and Practice across the Faiths. Each period consists of a series of essays written by a team of international experts, drawing on the last thirty years of research.

The first part explores the often complex relationship of the three main religions with Egypt, at various times Egypt has provided sanctuary for  religious groups but has also been the scene of considerable oppression. The considerable amount of historical texts offers considerable insights into the interaction between the various religions and the Egyptian state itself. In the first essay by Martin Bauschke, he makes the important point that the role of Abraham in all three religions is often ignored and this common ancestry is often underplayed. Remarkably considering the esteem Abraham is held in all three religions, he still remains a shadowy and mysterious figure who still unites and divides various sects. Many of the historical texts found in Egypt provide plenty of evidence that in the development of the various religions, ideas and views that challenged the orthodoxy were often suppressed.

The section on Roman Egypt illustrates that when Egypt becomes part of the Roman Empire, a wide range of Greek, Roman and Egyptian gods were worshipped. Often strange hybrids of gods emerged, the statue of the Egyptian God Horus in Roman military costume being one example. The evidence suggest that this belief in many gods was the dominant feature of Egypt of the period. However in the late antique period between 250 and 600 began a seismic shift in religious belief, it is argued that by the 6th century that Egypt has a Christian majority. The book explore the religious conflict of this period in which christians attacked and destroyed the temples to the pagan gods. The extent of this conflict is difficult to estimate but there is also evidence that all three faiths actively used the Ancient Egyptian sites for churches, synagogues and mosques. After the Arab conquest in 639. Islam began to get more acceptance in Egypt, but once again the picture is quite complex. One of the great documentary treasures of the latter period is the Cairo Genizah which provides evidence that religious differences were ignored when business and trade connections were made.

The final section Belief and Practice across the Faiths reinforces the view that for many centuries, faiths practised their rituals side by side with little conflict and considerable similarities when commemorating the various key elements of people’s life cycles. The epilogue looks at present day Egypt and considers whether there may be lessons in its past that could provide some solutions to political and religious fundamentalism.

Both the exhibition and the book provide an important reminder that religious conflict is not inevitable, for many centuries people of many faiths have peacefully coexisted. The unique nature of Egypt archaeology enables even the most fragile objects to survive and the book has over 300 stunning photographs of many of the most important objects. This is an authoritative, yet highly readable account of a largely neglected period of Egyptian history. The move from many gods to one God represents one of the major transformations in human history. The study of Egypt of this period  enables us to explore how this developed and how these developments had enormous consequences for the creation of the modern world.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like further information or buy a book, visit the British Museum website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and the latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

 

Book Review : Great Gardens of London by Victoria Summerley, Hugo Rittson Thomas, Marianne Majerus ( Frances Lincoln Ltd )

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London’s parks and gardens are much-loved by Londoners and visitors who are often seeking some sanctuary from the frantic pace of modern life. Whilst London’s parks are well-known, this book  ‘Great Gardens of London‘ by Victoria Summerley with photography by Hugo Rittson Thomas and Marianne Majerus illustrates that many of London’s great gardens are relatively unknown. The book’s author, Victoria Summerley is a national newspaper journalist who specialises in writing about gardens and gardening. In 2010, she was the winner of the prestigious Garden Media Guild Journalist of the Year award, and she also writes an award-winning blog. She is ably assisted in the book by two well-known and prestigious photographers, Hugo Rittson Thomas and Marianne Majerus.

The author makes the point that “London is a surprisingly green city – roughly 45 per cent of Greater London is green space. ” Most of the green space is parks, commons and heaths, but there is a large number of gardens of all different styles and sizes. From this large number of gardens, the author has selected 30 gardens which she categorises into five sections. The gardens are divided into chapters covering Pomp and Circumstance, Wild in the City, Gardeners’ Worlds, High-Rise Retreats and Private Paradises.

In a book that features gardens that are private and others that are open to visitors, the first section is opened by one of the most famous addresses in London. The garden at 10 Downing Street has never been considered a great garden in design, which is surprising considering that William Kent, one of the great 18th century designers was responsible for the transformation of No 10 into a residence. In many ways the garden has been ignored compared to the major events that have taken place in the building, however in the last 30 years the garden has been used to make some major announcements. One of the most dramatic events that directly affected the garden was in 1991 when a IRA mortar bomb landed in the garden which created a crater that is now covered by a Woodland Garden. Winfield House, the US ambassador’s residence in London, Eltham Palace, Strawberry Hill, Hampton Court, Clarence House and the Inner Temple all illustrate the way that gardens often not only reflect their times but more importantly the personal tastes of their owners.

Away from the high and mighty, the second chapter explores the Wild in the City which shows that even in the most unlikely places, London gardeners create their little piece of paradise. One of the most original gardens in London is the Downing Roads Floating Gardens in Bermondsey which consists of seven barges planted with trees, shrubs and perennials. Also included in this section is the new planting schemes at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Horticulture for medicinal purposes and therapy has a long history and the chapter entitled Gardeners’ Worlds lists some of London’s most important health related gardens. The Chelsea Physic Garden in Chelsea and the Royal College of Physicians in Marylebone are perhaps the most famous gardens in this section, however the more recent Thrive project in Battersea Park which provides horticultural training and therapy to gardeners with physical disabilities or mental health issues provides evidence of the importance of gardens for a healthy mind and body.

One of the most dramatic recent changes in London has been the high-rise buildings that now dominate the skyline, the chapter entitled High-Rise Retreats provide evidence that roof gardens are becoming more and more popular. Although most of these gardens are contemporary, one of the most remarkable is over 70 years old. The Kensington Roof Gardens in Kensington were created in the 1930s due to the fashion of the time for roof gardens on top of department stores. The department stores may have closed but the Kensington Roof Gardens has survived offering three different styles of garden.

The final chapter explores Private Paradises which are often within the more select areas of the city and designed for some of London’s most wealthy citizens. One of the main examples of this type of garden is the Cadogan Place Gardens in Knightsbridge, the gardens have been owned by the Cadogan family for over 300 years. In many ways this has protected the gardens from development but they remain only accessible to the wealthy residents who live around the garden. The final part of the book has a map and details of which of the featured gardens can be visited and when, there is also some suggestions for more gardens to visit.

Great Gardens of London is wonderfully attractive and well written book, full of stunning photographs of some of the greatest gardens of the capital. The author suggests the book is aimed at residents and visitors alike, at lovers of both gardens and design, and those curious about London’s history. It will definitely appeal to anyone with a fascination for gardens and illustrates the importance that  London’s gardens and parks have playing in providing havens of peace and quiet in an increasingly frenetic modern world.

Visiting London  Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like further information or buy a book, visit the publisher’s website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and the latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here