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British Watercolours: From the Collection of BNY Mellon at the Royal Academy – 25th September to 16th December 2018

In September 2018, the Royal Academy will present British Watercolours: From the Collection of BNY Mellon in the Tennant Gallery. The free exhibition will present twenty-five British watercolours and drawings from BNY Mellon’s corporate art collections which were created in the first hundred years of the Royal Academy’s existence between 1770-1870. The exhibition marks the Royal Academy’s 250th anniversary this year.

David Cox, Drovers Crossing a River Valley in Wales, 1840. Collection of BNY Mellon; photography by Adam Milliron.

British Watercolours will focus on prominent Royal Academicians such as Thomas Gainsborough, JMW Turner, John Constable and Sir David Wilkie, whose works will return to London from the United States for the duration of the exhibition. Highlights will include an 1833 view of Hampstead Heath by John Constable RA; Italian landscape scenes painted in the 1770s by Thomas Jones and John Robert Cozens; an unfinished Study of a Bedouin Arab, 1840s, by John Frederick Lewis RA; and an expressive depiction of Venice by the critic and artist John Ruskin from 1876.

Cornelius Varley,Nottingham Castle from the Trent, 1828. Collection of BNY Mellon; photography by Adam Milliron.

The British drawings and watercolours in the BNY Mellon collection were largely acquired in the 1980s, by the Mellon Financial Corporation, prior to its merger with The Bank of New York in 2007. Mellon’s corporate art collection was established to artistically enhance the workplace and to be enjoyed by its employees and customers whilst bringing an important cultural and educational asset to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where Mellon Financial Corporation had its corporate headquarters. The collection initially consisted of a small group of British paintings but was carefully augmented in the early 1980s with British watercolours and American landscape paintings, with the intention of developing a group of works that would reveal the mutual transatlantic exchange of ideas that took place during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

For more information, visit the Royal Academy website here

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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

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.
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A Short Guide to The Royal Academy of Arts

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The Royal Academy of Arts (RA) is one of the major art institutions in London and is based at Burlington House in Piccadilly. Unlike many other art institutions, The RA is an independent, privately funded institution led by artists. Whose mission is to promote not just the appreciation and understanding of art, but also its practice.

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The RA has an illustrious history being formed with the support of King George III, the idea was to form a society for promoting the Arts of Design. Although there were other artist societies, they generally just put on exhibitions. The RA wanted to become Britain’s first art school and provide a space to put on exhibitions that would advertise the talents of its members.

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Among the founder members were acclaimed painters Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough and Benjamin West. The R A was based first in a small gallery in Pall Mall before moving into the old then new Somerset House in 1780. The Academy then moved to the New National Gallery in 1837 before in 1868 locating in its present home in Burlington House in Piccadilly. Artists that have studied at the RA school have included J. M. W. Turner, William Blake, Thomas Rowlandson, John Constable and Edwin Landseer.

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The RA Schools is still an important part of the Academy and offers free tuition to all who study here. To help to fund the schools and other activities, the RA put on a series of world-class exhibitions throughout the year. Recent exhibitions have featured well known artists Ai Weiwei and Anselm Kiefer, but also feature lesser known artists like American abstract artist Richard Diebenkorn and the Renaissance artst Giovanni Battista Moroni.

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One of the most prestigious events of the Academy is the annual Royal Academy summer exhibition of new art, which is a well-known event on the London social calendar. Anyone can submit pictures for inclusion in the exhibition and those selected join the works of the Academicians. There are a number of social events associated with the exhibition and many of the works are available for purchase.

The Royal Academy of Arts is based in Burlington House, Piccadilly W1J 0BD.

Opening times

Monday 10am – 6pm
Tuesday 10am – 6pm
Wednesday 10am – 6pm
Thursday 10am – 6pm
Friday 10am – 10pm
Saturday 10am – 6pm
Sunday 10am – 6pm

For more information, visit the RA 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 Last Foundling by Thomas H McKenzie

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In the  18th century a Foundling Hospital was founded by a former sea captain Thomas Coram who was appalled by the many abandoned and homeless children living in the streets of London.

The hospital was essentially a children’s home  located first in Hatton Garden in 1741, then in a purpose  built hospital in Bloomsbury.The admission of children was usually restricted to those under twelve months and no questions were asked about the background of the child but a distinguishing token was often left by the parent with the child.

The hospital had the support of several well known painters such as William Hogarth,  Sir Joshua Reynolds and  Thomas Gainsborough,  it also had the support of George Frederic Handel who performed his Messiah in the Hospital’s chapel.

There is plenty of interest in the history of the Foundling Hospital, however the book The Last Foundling  considers the later stages of the hospital in  the  20th century.

That the hospital still functioned into the 20th century will be a surprise to many people and the book is a personal record of the authors time spent there in the 1940s and 50s.

In the 1920s, the Hospital decided to move its children to a  location in the countryside, eventually they ended up  in 1935 going to a new purpose-built Foundling Hospital in Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire.

The book’s chapters are the memories of the mother (Jean) and the child (Tom), both give their impressions of their lives lived apart yet connected by the bond of mother and child.

For the modern reader , the idea that a mother would give up her child because of social convention would seem ridiculous. However Britain in the 1930s and 1940s was a very different place and having an illegitimate child was considered shaming to the family and the mother was in a terrible position of not being in a position to earn enough to survive and not eligible for the few state benefits.

The Foundling Hospital represented a way out of Jean’s situation but at considerable personal cost, her child was found foster parents who would bring the children up to the age of five then he would be returned to  the hospital.

This is the main aspect of the hospital procedures that seems unnecessary cruel, the child who no doubt thinks the foster parents are their real parents is taken from a family environment into a large institution.

In the chapter aptly named Paradise Lost, Tom describes this traumatic event which is heartbreaking  and seems almost Dickensian as the young boy faces the reality of life in a large institution.

The next few years sees periods in the hospital and periods with foster parents where young Tom experiences the kindness and unkindness of strangers.

Jean on the other hand, through marriages and children never forgets Tom but the chance of a reconciliation seem further and further away.

In 1954 Tom now aged 15 finally leaves the hospital to begin his working life eventually living in a hostel in Brixton, after working for a Fleet Street photography press agency , he undertook his National Service.

Eventually in 1959 Tom decides to track down Jean and they meet for the first time in 20 years.

This is a book that is interesting on many levels, from  Jean and Tom’s  personal point of view how two people’s lives are disrupted by societies intolerance to illegitimacy.  It also shows how an institution founded in the 18th century provided a security net for children up to 1950s when the idea of children being bought up such institutions was being questioned which eventually led to the Foundling hospital being closed.

But perhaps ultimately the book is a reminder of the resilience of people to overcome adversity and that for all our modern ills , there are significant areas where we have as a society really moved forward .

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

 If you would like to buy the book visit the Pan Macmillan 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, 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