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Exhibition Review – The Great Spectacle: 250 Years of the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy from 12th June to 19th August 2018

The Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition is the world’s longest running annual exhibition of contemporary art and has been held each year without interruption since 1769. To celebrate the 250th anniversary, the Royal Academy presents a special exhibition that will run alongside the 2018 Summer Exhibition, The Great Spectacle tells the story of the annual show by featuring highlights from the past 250 years.

The exhibition features over 80 paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints from the first Summer Exhibition through to the present day by artists such as Sir Joshua Reynolds, Angelica Kauffman, Elizabeth Butler, Thomas Gainsborough, Thomas Lawrence, John Constable, J.M.W. Turner, John Everett Millais, Sir Frederic Leighton, John Singer Sargent, Peter Blake, Tracey Emin, Zaha Hadid, Sir Michael Craig-Martin, David Hockney and Wolfgang Tillmans, amongst others.

The exhibition begins with William Powell Frith’s, A Private View at the Royal Academy, 1881 exhibited in 1883, which depicts the characteristic hang of the Summer Exhibition with the familiar crowded arrangement of pictures.

The Summer Exhibition has since 1769 played an important role within London’s art world by allowing artists and architects to showcase their talents and compete with their rivals for the popular and critical acclaim.

The Great Spectacle exhibition is arranged in chronological sections: A Georgian Parade; The Rise of Genre Painting; The Triumph of Landscape; The Pre-Raphaelites Arrive; Victorian Acclaim; Dealing with the Modern; Exhibiting Architecture; Post-War Visions and New Sensations to allow visitors to take a journey through British art.

As you wander through the small intimate rooms, the story begins to unfold. Works from Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough vie for your attention as they would have done in the 18th century. 

Works from John Constable and Turner provide evidence of another golden age for British painting in the 19th century. 

The Victorians were great supporters of the Summer Exhibition which they attended in their thousands, John Everett Millais was a general favourite with the crowds.

Rodin’s The Age of Bronze provides a glimpse into the future with works by John Singer Sargent and Laura Knight providing some sense of the period at the start of the 20th century. 

Sir Winston Churchill’s Winter Sunshine, Chartwell was submitted in 1947 under the pseudonym David Winter and Pietro Annigoni’s Queen Elizabeth II attracted huge crowds when exhibited in 1955.

Peter Blake bought a sense of the 1960s which led the rise of Brit Art and artists who created works like Tracey Emin’s There’s a Lot of Money in Chairs exhibited in 2001 and Michael Craig-Martin’s Reconstructing Seurat (Orange exhibited in 2007. 

The intriguing Great Spectacle exhibition provides visitors with plenty of evidence that the Summer Exhibition is often an uneasy balance of the traditional and the new. Although we would consider Constable and Turner as traditional painters, in their day they were considered radical.

Over the period of 250 years, it is safe to say that some periods are more exciting than others but that is often seen in hindsight. People have attended the Summer Exhibition because they wanted to be amused and surprised by contemporary art. This is perhaps one constant that has changed little over the last 250 years of the exhibition.   

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information and tickets, visit the Royal Academy website here

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Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
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Exhibition Review – Painting with Light: Art and Photography from the Pre-Raphaelites to the Modern Age at Tate Britain from 11th May to 25th September 2016

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Tate Britain presents an exhibition which explores the relationship between British painters and photographers, the exhibition entitled Painting with Light covers a 70 year period in which painters and photographers began to question notions of beauty and art itself.

The exhibition brings together nearly 200 works to reveal the mutual influence of photography and painting includes works by John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, JAM Whistler and John Singer Sargent. Many pioneers of early photographers are featured including David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, Roger Fenton, William Henry Fox Talbot and Julia Margaret Cameron.

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The first room explores the influence of JMW Turner on early photography, Turner’s Edinburgh from Carlton Hill is shown with a series of photographs by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson on the same subject matter. The work of photographer Robert Adamson with painter David Octavius Hill provides an early example of the two media working together for mutual benefits. David Octavius Hill’s iconic Disruption Portrait 1843-66 – a 12ft long painting featuring 457 portraits is exhibited outside of Scotland for the first time in over a century.

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The exhibition illustrates the way photography and painting began to influence each other in a wide range of subject matter,   John Everett Millais’s The Woodman’s Daughter and John Brett’s Glacier Rosenlaui inspired a number of photographers to explore nature and panoramic views.

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It was not just in Britain that the mutual influence of painting and photography was expressed, both artists and photographers travelled around Europe and the Holy Land to create work that was very popular in Victorian Britain. James Graham’s Nazareth from the North and William Holman Hunt’s Nazareth provide evidence of the close collaboration that often occurred.

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Gradually, photographers began to realise the commercial benefit of reproducing paintings, some of the highlights of the show is examples of three-dimensional photography, which incorporated the use of models and props to create a tableaux from popular works of the time, Henry Wallis’s Chatterton was a popular work to be used in this way and these stereographs became widely available to the general public, often being used as a form of after-dinner entertainment for middle class Victorian families.

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The relationship between photography and painting was sometimes based on the personal relationship of the photographer and the artist. Julia Margaret Cameron’s artistic friendships with George Frederic Watts and Dante Gabriel Rossetti are explored in a room devoted to their enigmatic portraits of each other and shared models, where works include Cameron’s Call, I Follow, I Follow, Let Me Die and Rossetti’s Beata Beatrix.

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Other areas covered include Life and Landscape, Atmosphere and Effect that compares Whistler’s and Langdon Coburn’s smoky Thames nocturnes . The room entitled Into Light and Colour illustrates it was not all doom and gloom, John Singer Sargent’s iconic Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose and Whistler’s Three Figure: Pink and Grey inspired photographers to look for beauty in gardens and flowers.

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In the final room, Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s iconic Proserpine hangs near to Zaida Ben-Yusif’s The Odor of Pomegranates to offer evidence of how in this period the definitions of beauty were being challenged and overthrown.

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This intriguing exhibition explores the little known relationship between painters and photographers and how it developed over a 70 year period. Like any new technology, photography looked to other media for inspiration and began to see the artistic and commercial merits of reproducing works of art and following popular trends. Artists began to see photography as a useful tool and often used photographs for inspiration. Gradually photographers began to be seen as artists in their own field and a number of collaborations with painters allowed for mutual benefit. This exhibition features a number of iconic paintings and photographs which provides plenty of interest for visitors and give valuable insights into one of the most exciting periods of British Art history.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

Art and Photography from the Pre-Raphaelites to the modern age

11 May – 25 September 2016

Adult £18.00 (without donation £16.30)

Concession £16.00 (without donation £14.50)

Under 12s go free (up to four per parent or guardian). Family tickets available

For more information or to book tickets, visit the Tate Britain 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
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Exhibition Review – Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse at the Royal Academy from 30th January to 20th April 2016

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Centred around the work of Claude Monet , this exhibition examines the relationship between gardens and art from the early 1860s through to the 1920s. Monet is considered one of the most important painters of gardens in the history of art, however other artists fascinated with the horticultural world are featured in the exhibition including Renoir, Cezanne, Pissarro, Manet, Sargent, Kandinsky, Van Gogh, Matisse, Klimt and Klee.

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Gardens in art before this period were generally used as a backdrop to figures or related to the huge gardens developed for royalty and the wealthy. The exhibition explores the emergence of the modern garden which begins to become a subject matter for artists during a period of great social change and new movements in the arts.

The first gallery entitled Impressionist Gardens illustrates that in a period of rapid industrialisation, the garden represented a way of connecting with nature even within the largest city. Monet , Pissarro and Renoir all had a different taste in gardens and that transmitted into their work with the gardens becoming outdoor studios.

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This interest was not just confined to France, in the International Gardens gallery, other artists in Europe and the United States were making the connection between art and gardens. Works by John Singer Sargent are shown with a number of Scandinavian artists including Laurits Tuxen. German Impressionist Max Liebermann, Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla and American painter Childe Hassam all illustrate that the ‘garden movement’ was widespread.

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For all the international interest in the ‘garden movement’, it was Monet who was to develop his own particular style especially when he moved to Giverny. In 1890, Monet developed the gardens at Giverny and inspired by a water-lily garden he had seen at the Paris Universal Exhibition and Japanese Woodcuts began to produce a series of paintings of water lilies and a Japanese Bridge.

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Whist Monet was occupied by his gardens, other artists began to explore other aspects of gardens including when they are places of silence or reverie. Works by Santiago Rusinol and Joaquin Trinxet suggest gardens as otherworldly, places full of mystery.

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The tragedy of the First World War affected Monet deeply and in the exhibition is a group of paintings of the weeping willow (Water Lilies with Weeping Willows, 1916–19) which was his response to the carnage. At the end of the First World War, Monet wrote to the French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, proposing to give some of his works to the nation “to honour the victory and peace”. Many of the works were given to the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris, Three of the panels from the original scheme, the so-called Agapanthus triptych, including Water Lilies (1916-26), did not, however, appear in the Orangerie display and were eventually sold separately to three American museums – the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City. These institutions have allowed these great works to be reunited at the Academy as the grand finale of Painting the Modern Garden.

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This intriguing and comprehensive exhibition offers an opportunity to explore how art and gardens became intertwined at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. The remarkable work of Claude Monet is put into its historical and geographical context with many other contributions by other well-known and some less known artists.

This is likely to be one of the most popular exhibitions of the year and it may be well worth booking in advance to avoid disappointment.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like further information, visit the Royal Academy website here

Exhibition runs 30th January to 20th April 2016

Saturday – Thursday 10am – 6pm

Friday 10am – 10pm

Main Galleries, Burlington House

£17.60 (without donation £16). Concessions available.

Friends of the RA, and under 16s when with a fee-paying adult, go free

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.

 

Book Review : The Street of Wonderful Possibilities by Devon Cox ( Frances Lincoln )

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Devon Cox’s book, The Street of Wonderful Possibilities focuses on Tite Street in Chelsea which became one of the most influential artistic quarters in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Famous residents including James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Oscar Wilde and John Singer Sargent helped to forge the street’s reputation for a sanctuary for those who followed a bohemian lifestyle.

Even before Tite Street had been created, Chelsea had developed a reputation as a haven for writers and artists. In the 1830s, Thomas Carlyle became the ‘Sage of Chelsea’ and in the 1840s, the mysterious ‘Mr Booth’ who lived in a small Chelsea cottage was none other than J.M.W Turner. The 1860s saw Dante Gabriel Rossetti after the death of his wife relocate to Cheyne Walk on the Chelsea riverfront with poet Algernon Swinburne. It was also at this time American artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler began his long association with the area. Both Rossetti and Whistler developed their own social gatherings and led to the idea that the area was becoming more bohemian. However, by the 1870s, the bohemian clique was beginning to relocate and even Whistler left Chelsea.

It was not only residents that were changing, Chelsea had been a small village in the first part of the 19th century but by the 1860s and 1870s it had become a part of the expanding metropolis. It was part of this development that led to the creation of Tite Street. The whole Chelsea riverfront was developed with a new embankment and Tite Street was developed to create a link between the Royal Hospital Road and the new embankment.

Whistler was looking for custom-built house with a studio and employed his friend and architect E. W. Godwin to create his dream house in Tite Street. For Godwin it was to be a more difficult task than he considered with Whistler often battling with the Metropolitan  board of works over the finer details of the house. Eventually The White House was completed in 1878 and become the first of an artist colony in Tite street, others followed including the young aristocrat artist Archibald Stuart Wortley, Carlo ‘Ape’ Pellegrini, Frank Miles and a certain Oscar Wilde. Whistler fresh from his success against the Board of Works began an ill-advised case against the respected critic John Ruskin. This case bought Tite Street into the public domain and although Whistler won his case, it was a hollow victory, he was given only a farthing damages. The building of the White House  and the court costs had financially ruined Whistler and he was declared bankrupt in 1879. Although he had lost everything, it proved only a temporary setback for the American who returned to Tite Street after a time in Venice and rented a studio at number 33. To improve his financial position, Whistler resolved to paint ‘ all the fashionables ‘.
This was the beginning of the golden age of Tite Street, the Prince of Wales and Lillie Langtry were amongst the first to visit Whistler’s new studio and soon the street was full of the carriages of the wealthy. It was not just the sitters, Whistler became a hero to a younger generation of painters who flocked to his studio, Mortimer Menpes and Walter Sickert were just two of his ‘pupils’. It was not just Whistler whose star was rising , Oscar Wilde was making his reputation with his plays, books and wit.
The book documents this period in detail, it was a time when the two ‘Titans’ dominated an area that had become the most important artistic enclave in London, but for all the success, there were clouds on the horizon which would envelope Tite Street.
The rise of fall of Oscar Wilde is well documented, however the photograph in the book of Whistler’s coffin being carried through a sparsely populated street is an indication that at the end, the artist’s ability to make enemies had surpassed his ability to make friends.

By 1903, two of the greatest ‘Titans’ of Tite Street had died and a number of the supporting cast had bought the curtain down on their careers. It was left to the more stable and popular Sargent to carry the flag for the bohemian enclave.  Following his illustrious compatriot Whistler, he began to paint the ‘fashionables’ and acquired  considerable wealth. When he died in 1925, the golden age of the street was over, other artists took on the baton but none reached the dizzy heights of Whistler, Wilde and Sargent. Augustus John bought some elements of bohemia but when he left in 1950, the world and the street had changed beyond all recognition from its glory days.

Although on the surface, the story of a street would not set the pulse racing, but this was no ordinary street. The author has bought together many of the interactions between the residents that often get lost in single biographies. Oscar Wilde watching Ellen Terry coming away from a Sargent sitting, costumed as Lady Macbeth and writing Tite Street “must always be full of wonderful possibilities” is a fine example of how the residents interaction provided inspiration for their work.

This is a fascinating, entertaining, well researched book with a number of illustrations which highlight some of the incredible pieces of art and writing produced behind the brick facades of Tite Street. Although the three ‘Titans’ dominate the book, the author acknowledges the parts played by a large supporting cast that included other artists, writers, models, mistresses, lovers, sitters, residents, pupils and critics. He also gives a voice to some of the women of Tite Street who tried to challenge the male dominated society, such as painter Anna Lea Merritt and the Welsh sculptor Edith Elizabeth Downing, who supported the suffragettes cause.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like further information or buy a copy of the book, visit the Frances Lincoln 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.
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Exhibition Review : Sargent , Portraits of Artists and Friends at the National Portrait Gallery – 12th Feb to 25 May 2015

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John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) was considered one of the greatest portrait painters of his generation. Widely acclaimed in his time,  he  had a wide range of acquaintances including some of the leading artists, writers, actors and musicians of the time. He was a prolific painter whose formal portraits, commissioned by wealthy patrons often contrasted with the more intimate and experimental portraits of his friends and contemporaries which included Auguste Rodin, Claude Monet and Robert Louis Stevenson.

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This major exhibition of over seventy portraits spans Sargent’s time in London, Paris, Boston and New York as well as his travels in the Italian and English countryside. Important loans from galleries and private collections in Europe and America make this an opportunity to discover the artist’s most daring, personal and distinctive portraits.

Although Sargent’s parents were American, he was bought up and spent his formative years travelling around Europe, when he decided to study painting, he was accepted by the prestigious École des Beaux Arts in 1874 and developed his skills under the teaching of Carolus-Duran who was a respected French portraitist. There is a portrait of  Carolus-Duran by Sargent in the exhibition.

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Sargent was soon accepted into the Paris art world and became friendly with a number of French artists and fellow expatriates including Monet and Rodin. His early works led people to believe he was at the start of a glittering career, however his portrait of Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau) caused a scandal at the Paris Salon of 1884.

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The scandal was such that Sargeant decided to move to London for a while and spent a great deal of time in the next two years travelling between the London and Paris.
In one of his forays to England he travelled and stayed in  the Anglo-American colony of artists and writers in the Cotswold village of Broadway. It was at this time that he painted the widely acclaimed Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. In the same period he travelled  to Bournemouth  and painted a portrait of writer Robert Louis Stevenson. The exhibition shows  two of Sargent’s striking portraits of Stevenson in which he captures the tall languid writer in a couple of informal poses.

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Although spending most of his life in Europe, Sargent never gave up his American citizenship and from the 1890s, he built up a considerable reputation and was in demand  for portraits . It was in 1890 that Sargent painted the flamboyant Spanish dancer Carmencita, who had entranced New York audiences with her flamenco dancing.

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When Sargent was back  in England he immersed himself  in the cultural life of London, and became a  friend to many artists, writers and musicians.  A talented musician himself, he promoted the careers of many musicians, among them the French composer Gabriel Faure.

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His striking  portrait of Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth in full theatrical pose was an illustration of his interest in the theatrical profession .

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After 1900, Sargent cut back considerable on his portrait commissions and  turned to landscape painting, travelling to the Alps, Venice and southern Europe.  He often travelled with fellow artists and often painted them as  they painted the natural world around them.

This major exhibition charts the career of  John Singer Sargent  and  illustrates the differences between his more formal portraits and the more experimental portraits of artists and friends.

Even his detractors could not deny Sargent’s technical brilliance, but suggested  his more formal portraits lacked insight into the sitters character. By contrast his less formal portraits often sparkled with colour and vitality.  These two sides of Sargent’s career is one of the main themes of the exhibition and provides some reasons why in the first part of the 20th century he seemed to fall out of favour being considered old fashioned.

He also seemed to suffer because he did not seem to belong into any particular school , for the English critics some of his painting were impressionistic, whilst the French critics considered him, not impressionistic enough.

The exhibition shows that these concerns blinded people to the fact that his paintings covered a wide range of styles and subject matter.  Since the 1960s, there has been a resurgence of interest in Sargent and his talent as a portrait painter  fully recognised. The exhibition offers visitors the chance to see some of his major works and understand his important friendships and relationships with some of the major writers, artists and musicians of his time.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like more information or book tickets, visit the National Portrait Gallery website here

Tickets without donation
Full price £14.50
Concessions £13.00

Family Tickets
One adult or concession and up to four children (aged 12–18) £22.50
Two adults or concessions and up to four children (aged 12–18) £31.50

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, we attract 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