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A Short Guide to Hampstead Heath

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Hampstead Heath is one of London’s largest and most popular open spaces, over time the area of the park has grown to cover 790 acres. The Heath is located in North London on a high ridge between Hampstead and Highgate, it is an area of great diversity with hills, large ponds, modern and ancient woodlands and features the stately home of Kenwood House and its grounds. One of the most popular parts of the Heath is Parliament Hill , from where you can enjoy panoramic views over London.

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The Heath was first recorded in 13th century and was generally known as Hampstead Heath from the 16th century. A number of hollows were excavated to extract sand and gravel that gradually became ponds throughout the park. From the 18th century, the Heath became a popular place for Londoners to frequent including poets such as Shelley and painters, Constable made a series of paintings of the area. The quiet rural idyll was changed by the arrival of the railways in the late 19th century when thousands of Londoners made their way to the area to enjoy the country air.

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Hampstead Heath John Constable 1820 (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge)

The Heath gradually became a recognized beauty spot away from the grime and dirt of industrial London. However its popularity amongst the young workers from the city led to accusations of rowdiness and violence especially on Bank Holidays and Bonfire nights. These concerns began to reduce at the start of the 20th century when the large crowds of visitors began to behave in a more respectable manner.

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The Heath was bought under public ownership in the late 19th century and various additions of land made throughout the 20th century, most notably Kenwood House and its grounds to the north of the heath. Other developments have included turning some of the ponds into swimming areas and the creation of a number of havens for wildlife.

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In the 21st century, Hampstead Heath probably does not attract the thousands of visitors from all over London, but as the north suburbs have grown considerably, the heath has become an important open space in an increasingly developed North London. The Heath is very popular with walkers, joggers, cyclists, swimmers and those who enjoy the wide open spaces.

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Public transport near the Heath includes the London Overground railway stations of Hampstead Heath and Gospel Oak, Underground stations Hampstead, Belsize Park, Golders Green, Highgate and Archway. A number of bus routes serve the various parts of the Heath.

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If you would like further information, visit the City of London website here

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Exhibition Review : Frank Auerbach at Tate Britain – 9th October 2015 to 13th March 2016

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Frank Auerbach is one of Britain’s major living artists and  in the artist’s 85th year, Tate Britain presents a major exhibition of around 70 paintings and drawings from the 1950s to the present day. The vast majority of works in the exhibition are from private collections and seldom on public display, therefore the exhibition is  a rare opportunity to see Auerbach important works.

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The exhibition in the first six galleries is chronological and provides the possibility of seeing how the artists work has developed over time. His work in the 1950’s was dominated by portraits and building site, the post war building boom in London saw a city rebuilding after the destruction by bombing. It was a process that fascinated Auerbach who painted a whole series of urban landscapes such as Building Site, Earl’s Court, Winter 1953.

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Even from the earliest paintings, Auerbach’s trademark style of paint very thickly applied is evident, the depth and texture offers an almost 3D quality that gives the works an unusual quality that engages the viewer in unique way. Depending on where you stand determines a particular viewpoint, a very close inspection usually leads to a loss of definition.

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From the dark and often sombre tones of the paintings of the 1950s, those in the 1960s seem an explosion of colour in which North London landmarks and regular sitters are painted again and again. However if the subject matter is repetitive, the paintings always offer something new and different. Large works from the 1960s include E.O.W, S.A.W. and J.J.W in the Garden II 1964 and The Origin of the Great Bear 1967-68, a landscape set on London’s Hampstead Heath.

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Many of the paintings of the 1970s and 1980s follow the same themes but  gained attention and led to Auerbach representing Britain in the 1986 Venice Biennale (1986) and sharing the Golden Lion with Sigmar Polke. If this success was an official recognition of his talents, for the wider public he was not widely known except for his association with Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Leon Kossoff. Sporadic exhibitions and shows over the last 25 years have enhanced Auerbach’s reputation whose lifelong commitment to his own particular style has gained the respect of many contemporary painters.

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Walking through the later paintings, it is clear that Auerbach is one of those painters whose work needs to seen in the flesh, photographs flatten the depth and texture which lessens their dramatic effect. Auerbach is also very difficult to categorise, his work is sometimes considered impressionistic but it seems too loose a title for his particular style. Auerbach’s long term relationship with his location and his sitters brings an intensity to his work developed through constant attempts to get the picture ‘right’.

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Auerbach had considerable input into the first six galleries working in conjunction with the curator of the exhibition and selector of the last two rooms, Catherine Lampert, who has had a long working relationship with Auerbach, and has sat for him in his studio every week for 37 years.

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This exhibition, a retrospective of one of Britain’s most inventive and original artists will introduce Auerbach to a new audience and gives considerable insights into his particular style that has often been very labour intensive, the final picture can sometimes require 30, 50 or perhaps 200 separate versions before the final image suddenly emerges.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like further information or book tickets, visit the Tate Britain website here

Frank Auerbach
Tate Britain
9 October 2015 – 13 March 2016
Adult £16.00 (without donation £14.50)
Concession £14.00 (without donation £12.70)
Under 12s go free (up to four per parent or guardian)
Family tickets available (two adults and two children 12–18 years) by telephone or in the gallery

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