“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
1864
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
1934
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
1962
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
1941
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
1940
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?

Out
Keith Vaughan
Drawing of two men kissing
1958–73
Tate Archive
© DACS, The Estate of Keith Vaughan

 

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

 

 

tate.org.uk

House of Illustration 2

Linda Kitson: Drawings and Projects, Quentin Blake Gallery at House of Illustration, 2 Granary Square, London N1, until 30th April 2017

Argentinian pucaras at Stanley airstrip in 1982
credit Linda Kitson

It is completely appropriate that Quentin Blake should have curated this small display as he has been a friend of Linda Kitson since she first started as a student at the Royal College of Art some fifty years ago.

Linda was the first officially commissioned female war artist as her drawings of the 1982 Falklands War attest.  Other works recall the BBC’s 50th Anniversary and The Times when it was still in Fleet Street.  Her more recent iPad drawings capture the architecture of the City of London.

The Times in 1982
credit Linda Kitson

 

Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-6pm. Closed Mondays.

 

houseofillustration.org.uk

London – Adam Style

Robert Adam’s London, Sir John Soane’s Museum: 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2, until 11th March 2017

Adam office, drawing made for publication showing the Admiralty Screen, Whitehall, 1759

Adam office, drawing made for publication showing the Admiralty Screen, Whitehall, 1759

It is hard to believe that this is the first time that the work of Robert Adam (proposed and realised) in London has been focused on in a London museum. Whitehall’s Admiralty screen, Portland Place, the Adelphi, Lansdowne House, Buckingham House (now Palace), Kenwood and monuments in Westminster Abbey are among the projects on show.  The Museum has the largest collection of Adam’s surviving drawings.

Adam office, finished drawing showing a funerary monument to Major John André , Westminster Abbey, c.1780-82

Adam office, finished drawing showing a funerary monument to Major John André , Westminster Abbey, c.1780-82

As one contemplates these designs one is reminded how Adam designed complete, detailed schemes for his projects whether exteriors or interiors. I could not but wonder what he would make of these modern-day buildings with their huge expanses of glass which so clearly reveal the detritus of office or domestic living to passers-by and thus lose their aesthetic appeal.

Adam office, finished drawing showing a longitudinal section through the interior of an unexecuted scheme for Lloyds Coffee House, probably on Freeman's Court, Cornhill, c.1772

Adam office, finished drawing showing a longitudinal section through the interior of an unexecuted scheme for Lloyds Coffee House, probably on Freeman’s Court, Cornhill, c.1772

Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5pm. Last entry 4:30pm

Adam office, design for door furniture for 31 Hill Street, c.1777-79

Adam office, design for door furniture for 31 Hill Street, c.1777-79

 

Adam office, design for an unexecuted urban palace for the Earl of Findlater on Portland Place, c.1771-73

Adam office, design for an unexecuted urban palace for the Earl of Findlater on Portland Place, c.1771-73

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.soane.org

A Cautionary Tale

Emma Hamilton: Seduction and Celebrity, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London SE 10, until 17th April 2017

'Emma as La Penserosa', 1791-92 by Sir Thomas Lawrence ® The Abercorn Heirloom Settlement Trustees; Bryan F. Rutledge B.A.

‘Emma as La Penserosa’, 1791-92 by Sir Thomas Lawrence
® The Abercorn Heirloom Settlement Trustees; Bryan F. Rutledge B.A.

This is an exhibition that has exceeded my expectations and one I had been looking forward to since I learnt of it.

It is I think very much a story of a beautiful young woman that has resonance today – a tale of humble beginnings, of becoming a “celebrity” but ending in disillusionment and obscurity.

Berlin service: Teapot depicting Emma Hamilton ® National Maritime Museum, London. From the Clive Richards Collection

Berlin service: Teapot depicting Emma Hamilton
® National Maritime Museum, London. From the Clive Richards Collection

Born in Cheshire in 1765, daughter of a struggling blacksmith Emma came to London in her thirteenth year and became part of the Covent Garden world which mixed high society with the sexual underworld. Aged sixteen she became the mistress of Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh and as readers of my blog ‘Unravelling Uppark’ (06/06/14) will know Emma danced naked on the dining room table there to entertain his friends. However when she fell pregnant Fetherstonhaugh chucked her out and she returned to Cheshire and gave birth to a daughter.

'Emma dancing the tarantella' c.1791 by William Lock ® The Jean Kislak Collection

‘Emma dancing the tarantella’ c.1791 by William Lock
® The Jean Kislak Collection

Fortunately she had made the acquaintance of Charles Greville, a son of the Earl of Warwick, and he took her under his wing, installing her in his house just off the Edgware Road in London, an area more rural then than it is today. It was there that Greville introduced her to the painter George Romney.  She was, as the wonderful paintings shown in the exhibition amply prove, a perfect Muse for the artist.

Emma as Circe, 1782, by George Romney ® The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

Emma as Circe, 1782, by George Romney
® The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

She also met Greville’s uncle Sir William Hamilton and it was on to him that Greville passed Emma when he tired of her by sending her to Naples where Hamilton was British envoy. Naples was a major stopping-off place on the Grand Tour and thanks to Hamilton’s patient teaching and her own talent she created her famous “Attitudes” which brought scenes from paintings and sculpture to life. She achieved even more of a celebrity status which was crowned when Hamilton married her in 1791.

Gold and micro-mosaic necklace belonging to Emma ® National Maritime Museum, London

Gold and micro-mosaic necklace belonging to Emma
® National Maritime Museum, London

Her new position as an envoy’s wife meant that she had to play a political role too and in this Emma was fortunate that the Neapolitan King’s wife Maria Carolina, a sister of Marie Antoinette, liked her and made a confidante of her.

Horatio Nelson, 1758 -1805, Vice Admiral of the White by Johann Heinrich Schmidt ® National Maritime Museum, London

Horatio Nelson, 1758 -1805, Vice Admiral of the White by Johann Heinrich Schmidt
® National Maritime Museum, London

However in 1798 the arrival of Admiral Nelson, following his victory at the Battle of the Nile, was the beginning of what would be one of the great love affairs of history.  It was one fraught with dangers as her infidelity rocked society and it was not helped by Emma’s giving birth to Nelson’s child whom they named Horatia.

Emma, Lady Hamilton, 1761 - 1815 by Johann Heinrich Schmidt ® National Maritime Museum, London

Emma, Lady Hamilton, 1761 – 1815 by Johann Heinrich Schmidt
® National Maritime Museum, London

They acquired a house at Merton in Surrey and set up home their but because of Nelson’s naval duties he was frequently away.  His death at the Battle of Trafalgar 21st October 1805 brought it all crashing down. Life became difficult in every way and her attempts to maintain her lifestyle and position led to her being imprisoned for debt in 1813 in the King’s Bench Prison.  Thanks to funds being provided she was released but had to flee to Calais to escape her creditors and it was there in January 1815 she died after months of illness in the same poverty as she had been born.

Gold 'fede' or betrothal ring, one of a pair exchanged by Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson and Emma ® National Maritime Museum, London

Gold ‘fede’ or betrothal ring, one of a pair exchanged by Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson and Emma
® National Maritime Museum, London

This somewhat salutary tale is beautifully told through pictures, objects, jewellery, furniture, prints, costumes and personal letters.  It really does give a wonderful insight into her life and times and explains why she remains so beguiling a figure. She is one of those people from history you would really want to meet!

'View of Merton House showing Lady Hamilton and Horatia in the grounds' ® National Maritime Museum, London

‘View of Merton House showing Lady Hamilton and Horatia in the grounds’
® National Maritime Museum, London

 

http://www.rmg.co.uk/emmahamilton

BOOK REVIEW: London Uncovered

London Uncovered: Sixty Unusual Places to Explore

Mark Daly (Author), Peter Dazeley (Photographer)
Publisher: Frances Lincoln
£30.00
ISBN9780711238091

 london-uncovered_cover

 This is a book for anyone who loves London as it takes us into sixty buildings and places which we may recognise but are probably ones that we may not have visited so far. Dazeley’s photography reveals the interiors of these intriguing spaces while Daley’s text gives the history and feel of the place.  A great combination and thanks to this book I now have many places to visit in the coming months and years which I feel sure I will want to return to.

 

The book’s sections are Historical Homes, Food and Drink, Palaces of Entertainment, Places of Worship, Remarkable Shops, Science and Education, Inns of Court and Unusual Museums.  What more could you ask for?

 

www.franceslincoln.com

Girls and their Pearls!

Maisie Broadhead – Pearls, Sarah Myerscough Gallery at Gallery S O. 92 Brick Lane, London E1, 10th-30th June 2016

Ball and Chain, 2016. Ed.6 Digital c-type and pearls, 108.5 x 83.5 cm

Ball and Chain, 2016.
Ed.6 Digital c-type and pearls,
108.5 x 83.5 cm

17th century female portraiture is the inspiration for this exhibition of new photographic and sculptural works and a video piece. In the 1600s wealthy families often had formal portraits of their young daughters painted to capture their beauty but also their wealth, expressed through the fabric of their clothes and through their jewels.

Hung, 2016. Ed.6 Digital c-type and pearls, 61 x 47 cm

Hung, 2016.
Ed.6 Digital c-type and pearls,
61 x 47 cm

Pearls were the most highly prized of that era and were also regarded as a symbol of purity and chastity. Their humorous use in these works, reflect the artist’s interest in the social history aspects of jewellery and give them a 21st century context.

Shackled, 2016. Ed.6 Digital c-type and pearls, 108.5 x 83.5 cm

Shackled, 2016.
Ed.6 Digital c-type and pearls,
108.5 x 83.5 cm

 

http://www.sarahmyerscough.com

 

Three London Galleries

Blair Thurman – Mature Blonde, Almine Rech Gallery, 1st Floor, 11 Savile Row, London W1, until 14th May 2016

Blair THURMAN Dynamic Friend (Night Owl), 2016 Acrylic and canvas on wood 243,84 x 114,3 x 16,51 cm 96 x 45 x 6 1/2 inches Photo: Melissa Castro Duarte Courtesy of the artist and Almine Rech Gallery

Blair THURMAN
Dynamic Friend (Night Owl), 2016
Acrylic and canvas on wood
243,84 x 114,3 x 16,51 cm
96 x 45 x 6 1/2 inches
Photo: Melissa Castro Duarte
Courtesy of the artist and Almine Rech Gallery

These exciting works made of canvas on wood are by the American artist Blair Thurman.  His work reflects his interest in cars and racing games and also has a nod to minimalist and pop art.

Blair Thurman View of the exhibition Mature Blonde Almine Rech Gallery, London 31.03 - 14.05.16 Photo: Melissa Castro Duarte Courtesy of the artist and Almine Rech Gallery

Blair Thurman
View of the exhibition Mature Blonde
Almine Rech Gallery, London
31.03 – 14.05.16
Photo: Melissa Castro Duarte
Courtesy of the artist and Almine Rech Gallery

http://www.alminerech.com

 

Mouna Karray – Nobody will talk about us, Tyburn Gallery, 26 Barrett Street, London W1, until 21st May 2016

Mouna Karray, 33°28'34.8"N 9°20’54.3"E, Inkjet print on Hahnemühle paper, 2012-2015, Copyright the artist, Courtesy Tyburn Gallery

Mouna Karray,
33°28’34.8″N 9°20’54.3″E,
Inkjet print on Hahnemühle paper, 2012-2015,
Copyright the artist, Courtesy Tyburn Gallery

These are powerful images of the neglected south-western area of the photographer’s native Tunisia since a body in a white sack is deposited in various locations and symbolises through the body’s struggling against the fabric a hope to change and fight the oppression that the people of this area endure.

Mouna Karray, Installation View Copyright the artist, Courtesy Tyburn Gallery

Mouna Karray,
Installation View
Copyright the artist, Courtesy Tyburn Gallery

tyburngallery.com

 

John Kørner: Apple Bombs, Victoria Miro Gallery, 14 George Street, London W1, until 14th May 2016

John Kørner Running against apples, 2016 Acrylic on canvas 150 x 120 cm, 59 1/8 x 47 1/4 in Courtesy the Artist and Victoria Miro, London© John Kørner

John Kørner
Running against apples, 2016
Acrylic on canvas 150 x 120 cm, 59 1/8 x 47 1/4 in
Courtesy the Artist and Victoria Miro, London© John Kørner

The new paintings by the Danish artist John Kørner certainly engage our thought processes as the mix of pictorial elements on the canvases presents us with images we have to discern and interpret in a mental rather than physical workout.

John Kørner Architecture lines, 2015 Acrylic on canvas 150 x 120 cm, 59 1/8 x 47 1/4 in Courtesy the Artist and Victoria Miro, London© John Kørner

John Kørner
Architecture lines, 2015
Acrylic on canvas 150 x 120 cm, 59 1/8 x 47 1/4 in
Courtesy the Artist and Victoria Miro, London© John Kørner

http://www.victoria-miro.com