Jane Austen’s Portraits

The Mysterious Miss Austen, The Gallery, Winchester Discovery Centre, Jewry Street
Winchester, until 24th July, 2017

Jane Austen by James Andrews, watercolour, 1869
(c) Private collection, courtesy of the 19th Century Rare Book and Photograph Shop, Stevenson, Maryland.

I had of course known about Jane Austen for many years but had not actually read one of her novels until I was in my early twenties and found out what an absolute delight they are. I knew something of her life (I just passed where she stayed in Covent Garden’s Henrietta Street this morning) but it was a real delight to come and see this exhibition which marks the two hundredth anniversary of her death and which not only brings together five portraits of her under the same roof for the first time, but includes letters, items of clothing and a manuscript alternative ending to her final novel Persuasion, which was not used in the end. There are also items from both an English and an American private collection which bring the story up-to-date and the rather fine ceramic vase Jane Austen in E 17 by Grayson Perry has been loaned as well.

Installation view:
Jane Austen Pelisse coat

I found it unexpectedly moving and although as the exhibition’s title suggests she does remain somewhat mysterious I felt I had at least encountered her. It was therefore wholly appropriate to pay my respects as I bowed my head to read the inscription on the tablet set into the floor of the north aisle in nearby Winchester Cathedral, commemorating her life and burial there.

Jane Austen ledgerstone – Winchester Cathedral by John Crook


Installation View:
Jane Austen portraits display

An update: Sir Edward Heath – at home

An update: Sir Edward Heath – at home, until 1st November 2017

The view from Sir Edward’s bedroom window

Further to my post on Sir Edward’s home in Salisbury on 28th July 2016 I thought you may well be interested to know that Sir Edward’s bedroom – now used as a meeting room – is open to the public for the first time but retains its original contents. The artworks include watercolours by Thomas Bush Hardy, Peter Greenham and a gouache attributed to Giacomo Guardi. There are also pieces of Biedermeier furniture and a small occasional table which is thought to have been made by Sir Edward’s father. As I said last year this is great place to visit.

Biedermeier secretaire cabinet


A small mahogany occasional table possibly made by Sir Edward’s father.








Tribal Art and Ceramics in London’s New Bond Street

I take pleasure in sharing these two shows with you. They are at The Fine Art Society 148 New Bond Street, London W1.


Gordon Reece – The Art of Collecting, until 16th June 2017 

30 Zula People, Democratic Republic of Congo
Female caryatid stool
First half of the 20th century
Height 18 1/2 in (47 cm)
Provenance: Private collection, Rwanda

This collaboration with Gordon Reece the esteemed dealer in Asian and African artefacts is a veritable treat.  His love of the objects is reflected in what he buys and they are eminently liveable with as this show which sees them displayed among the Fine Art Society’s furniture and artworks skilfully proves. A great celebration of Tribal Art.

‘Installation view, including two Lega masks and a Suku standing figure’


41 Bembe People, Democratic Republic of Congo
A rare standing reliquary figure (Muzidi)
First half of the 20th century
Cane, fibre, cloth and buttons
Height 41 in (104.1 cm)
Provenance: Private collection, USA; purchased by Gordon Reece Gallery in New York in 2008


















Hylton Nel – For Use and Display, until 16th June 2017

Hylton Nel
Cat with Pope’s shoes

The South African ceramicist Hylton Nel shows his flair for creating both useful and decorative objects. You will discern influences from Chinese, Staffordshire and European ceramics in them and he uses many ideas in their decoration whether sexual, whimsical or written prose.  A delight and one understands why his works are eagerly snapped up.

Hylton Nel
Green Tree and Figures


Hylton Nel
A Game of Notes




A striking exhibition!

Aaron Kasmin: UP IN SMOKE, Sims Reed Gallery, 43A Duke Street, St. James’s, London SW1, until 9th June 2017

Aaron Kasmin,
Bottoms Up, 2016.
Coloured pencil, 30x21cm.
Sims Reed Gallery

For his second exhibition with the gallery Aaron revisits the theme of American feature matchbooks with twenty-eight pencil drawings.  It is great fun especially as one can see part of his collection of original matchbooks too.

Aaron Kasmin,
Pumps, 2016.
Coloured pencil, 30x21cm.
Sims Reed Gallery

Aaron Kasmin,
Sea Shell Restaurant, 2016.
Coloured pencil, 30x21cm.
Sims Reed Gallery











Aaron sums up his enthusiasm saying:  “These new works reflect a joint celebration of the joy of collecting and creating works inspired by the sheer inventiveness and genius of feature matchbooks. The matchbooks are small, ephemeral and almost forgotten; the ingenuity of the imagery in what must be the golden age of graphic design is here in minute form. To me they conjure up the glamour of early to mid-twentieth century American life. The glitz inherent in nightclubs and bars hark back to the post-prohibition era with movie stars and opulent parties evoked and captured in the novels of Scott Fitzgerald and Raymond Chandler, and re-created in the nostalgic films of Woody Allen.”

Aaron Kasmin,
Special Delivery, 2017.
Coloured pencil, 21x15cm.
Sims Reed Gallery


Vintage Matchbooks
Sims Reed Gallery



Lord Weidenfeld

The Collection of The late Lord Weidenfeld GBE: A Life of Ideals and Ideas, Christie’s, 8 King Street, St James’s, London SW1, 18th May 2017

Lot 509
Bernardo Cavallino (Naples 1616–?1656)
Saint Dorothy
oil on canvas
27.7/8 x 22.7/8 in. (72 x 58 cm.)
Estimate: £150,000-200,000
© Christie’s Images Limited 2017

This is a very rare and final chance to see the private world of the publisher and philanthropist George Weidenfeld (1919-2016). He was created Baron Weidenfeld of Chelsea in 1976. He had co-founded the famous publishing firm Weidenfeld and Nicolson in 1948. It was after the War too that he started collecting and this auction reveals his many interests – Old Master paintings, 20th century works on paper, furniture, sculpture and the decorative arts. His collection of books is left to the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem.

The dining room of Lord Weidenfeld’s Bennison decorated Chelsea apartment
© Christie’s Images Limited 2017

The setting for this very personal collection was Lord Weidenfeld’s Chelsea Embankment apartment which had been wonderfully decorated for him by the famous antique dealer and decorator Geoffrey Bennison and which remained virtually unchanged for over forty years!

Lot 569
30 in. high, 24 in. wide, the bust and socle
Estimate: £30,000-50,000
© Christie’s Images Limited 2017


Lot 577
31.1/4 in. (79 cm.) high; 76.1/2 in. (194.5 cm.) wide; 48.1/2 in. (123.5 cm.) deep
Estimate: £40,000-60,000
© Christie’s Images Limited 2017


Lot 582
The porcelain, 17.1/4 in. (44 cm.) high
Estimate: £2,000-4,000
© Christie’s Images Limited 2017






“Chinese Nell” and friends!

Queer British Art 1861-1967, Tate Britain, Millbank, London SW1, until 1st October 2017

Solomon, Simeon 1840-1905
Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene
Watercolour on paper
330 x 381 mm
Tate. Purchased 1980

I have thought long and hard about this exhibition which marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act legislation in 1967 which meant partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales.

Paul Tanqueray (1905-1991)
Douglas Byng
Vintage bromide print
239 x 193 mm
National Portrait Gallery
© Estate of Paul Tanqueray

Well done Tate Britain for its partnership with this year’s London Pride (Pride in London at Tate Britain, 2pm to 10pm 24th June). Given what still goes on in countries such as Chechnya we must be grateful for the passing of the act.

David Hockney
Life Painting for a Diploma
Yageo Foundation
© Yageo Foundation

However, I do wonder, although admittedly progress has been made, how much things have really changed in our own multi-cultural society?  We know how differing faiths do not accept homosexuality as being right or acceptable.  Many families, whatever their ethnic background, struggle to accept a member of their family being gay. Gay people get homophobic abuse or are physically attacked for no reason other than they are “different”, even my partner and I have been hissed at in Westminster’s Edgware Road.

Angus McBean (1904-1990)
Quentin Crisp
Bromide print
National Portrait Gallery (London, UK)
© Estate of Angus McBean / National Portrait Gallery, London

I recently saw a production of La Cage aux Folles at the Wimbledon Theatre.  I think the real time to celebrate acceptance and inclusion will be when LGBT people can say/sing the words from the show –

I am what I am
And what I am needs no excuses

– And know they don’t have to look over their shoulder. Impossible, or could we all work harder towards it?

John Craxton
Head of a Greek Sailor
Oil on board
330 x 305 mm
London Borough of Camden
© Estate of John Craxton. All rights reserved, DACS 2016. Photo credit: London Borough of Camden

Among the exhibits in this somewhat politically correct exhibition is a monogrammed dressing gown that belonged to Noel Coward.  He was friends of Ian Fleming and his wife Ann and they both had houses on Jamaica.  In one of her letters Ann writes that Noel is referred to as “Chinese Nell” on the island *.  Need I say more?

Keith Vaughan
Drawing of two men kissing
Tate Archive
© DACS, The Estate of Keith Vaughan


*The Letters of Ann Fleming by Ann Fleming, Mark Amory (Editor), Collins Harvill, 1985





Here is the Future, Now, 12 Star Gallery, European Commission, Europe House, 32 Smith Square, London SW1, until 21st April 2017

A boy from Glasgow enjoys the exhibition!

This exhibition celebrates the selected best work from students in the third year of their Fine Art Degree programme at the celebrated Glasgow School of Art. They will complete their courses in eighteen months’ time.

The show provides us with an opportunity to see what the future may hold for art not only in Scotland but further afield too as some of the participating students come from beyond Scotland’s borders.  It is an exciting glimpse into the future!






BADA 2017, Duke of York Square, King’s Road, London SW3, 15th — 21st March 2017

Joseph Walsh (b. 1979)
Lilium I – A Unique Sculptural Form
Olive Ash
325 x 215 x 74 cm
Courtesy Peter Petrou © Peter Petrou

From the moment you arrive at the BADA Fair you know that you have come to a place which will inspire and tempt you to buy pieces for your home or collection – things which you can live with and enjoy and understand why you acquired them.

An Irish George III white statuary marble and brocatelle marble chimneypiece of Neo-classical design,
Attributed to George Hill and Arthur Darley.
Courtesy of Mallett

The noted firm of Mallett’s are exhibiting there for the first time and as always provide an interesting selection to choose from.

A lantern in parcel-gilt bronze in the Gothic style.
Courtesy of Mallett

It’s hard to believe that this is the twenty-fifth BADA Fair and one feature that has always drawn interest and appreciation is the Loan Exhibition and this year’s is no exception. Entitled Samuel Prout: A Grand Tour in Watercolour it celebrates the life and work of Samuel Prout (1783-1852) from his simple beginnings to achieving the status of being ‘Painter in Water-Colours in Ordinary’ to both King George IV and Queen Victoria. His highly detailed works revealed the cities and towns of Europe to his wealthy compatriots who were once again able to do a ‘Grand Tour’ following the defeat of Napoleon. One can quite understand why his views of Venice are so popular. The exhibition has some thirty works drawn from both private and public collections and has been organised by John Spink of John Spink Fine Watercolours.

Samuel Prout (1783–1852)
Ducal Palace, Venice
Circa 1828
Watercolour with scratching out
69.8 x 101.2 cm
Courtesy John Spink © John Spink



Retreat and Rebellion

Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion, Two Temple Place, London WC2, until 23rd April 2017

Duncan Grant (1885 -1978) Bathers by the Pond,c1920-21 Oil on canvas, 49x 90cm, Pallant House Gallery (Hussey Bequest, Chichester District Council) © 1978 Estate of Duncan Grant, courtesy Henrietta Garnett / DACS 2016

Duncan Grant (1885 -1978)
Bathers by the Pond,c1920-21
Oil on canvas, 49x 90cm,
Pallant House Gallery (Hussey Bequest, Chichester District Council)
© 1978 Estate of Duncan Grant, courtesy Henrietta Garnett / DACS 2016

While to many of us the coast or countryside of Sussex appear idyllic places to live in the first half of the 20th century avant-garde artists and writers were drawn to live there.  Their communities were experimental whether artistically or domestically.

Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion 28th January –23rd April 2017 Two Temple Place, London WC2R 3BD All images courtesy of Two Temple Place and Rohan van Twest

Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion 28th January –23rd April 2017
Two Temple Place, London WC2R 3BD
All images courtesy of Two Temple Place and Rohan van Twest

At Charleston Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant not only painted but created interiors whose appeal lasts to the present day while at Ditchling Eric Gill and David Jones followed the arts and crafts tradition and at West Dean Edward James with Salvador Dali followed the Surrealist road (see my blog A Surreal Legacy, 07/12/2016).

David Jones (1895-1974) Madonna and Child in a Landscape, 1924 Oil on canvas, 61 x 61 cm, Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft © Trusteesof the David Jones estate. Image courtesy of Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft

David Jones (1895-1974)
Madonna and Child in a Landscape, 1924
Oil on canvas, 61 x 61 cm,
Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft
© Trusteesof the David Jones estate. Image courtesy of Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft

Add to this mix artists such as Edward Burra, Serge Chermayeff, Eric Ravilious, Henry Moore, John Piper, Lee Miller, Eileen Agar and Paul Nash and you will see how they individually reacted to their surroundings – some embracing and others more unsettled by them.

Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion 28th January –23rd April 2017 Two Temple Place, London WC2R 3BD All images courtesy of Two Temple Place and Rohan van Twest

Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion 28th January –23rd April 2017
Two Temple Place, London WC2R 3BD
All images courtesy of Two Temple Place and Rohan van Twest

The exhibition’s curator Dr Hope Wolfe summed it up saying: “The metropolis has long been assumed to be a catalyst for Modernism: a melting pot in which people from different places could meet, exchange ideas, and explore new ways of thinking and making. This exhibition asks what experimental artists, writers and makers of other kinds were doing in Sussex in the early twentieth century. For some, a rural retreat provided an opportunity for escape and alternative living. Enclaves were made of homes and communities, although works created in them are often suggestive of anxieties that accompanied attempts to break with convention. Others critiqued their new contexts, troubling the idea of Sussex as an idyll and sparking controversy with work created for local audiences. Comparing the lives and works of makers associated with different modernist movements, the exhibition illustrates how the regional setting both amplified their contrary energies and facilitated their attempts to live and represent the world differently. In turn, it shows how seemingly picturesque scenes were reimagined and transformed by the unsettled artist.”



Exhibition Opening Times: Monday, Thursday – Saturday: 10am – 4:30pm Wednesday Late: 10am – 9pm, Sunday: 11am – 4:30pm, Closed on Tuesday


Battersea Spring

Affordable Art Fair – Battersea Spring, Battersea Evolution, London SW11, 9th – 12th March 2017


Peep Show II by Kevin Hendley. Oil on panel, 21 x 17cm. from Cameron Contemporary Art at the Affordable Art Fair Battersea.

Peep Show II by Kevin Hendley.
Oil on panel, 21 x 17cm.
from Cameron Contemporary Art at the Affordable Art Fair Battersea.

I am sure there is no need to tell you what a tempting mélange of artistic works in most disciplines awaits you at this Spring edition but I thought a gentle reminder may be welcome.