Saturday, 8 December 2018

Burne-Jones at Tate

a somewhat delayed but warm welcome for the exhibition currently at Tate Britain,  which includes two of the finest of EBJ's works, Circe with her big cats and Perseus stealing the eye from the Graiae.   Hung at eye level  so one can really look.  

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Surreal Artist Couples

and some trios too, in the MODERN COUPLES exhibition at Barbican Art Gallery.
At the entrance one is told  that labels and text panels may be photographed, but not artworks.  this is very common, so not surprising.  But inside the paucity of artworks is surprising - and disappointing too, as the display is large and on two floors.  
There are in fact more labels and panels than artworks, together with much ephemera, snapshots, pamphlets and archive material -  all fascinating in its own right, but visually dull.  One feels it will be better to read the book than plod round the 23 'rooms'  showcasing 46 'couples',  all from first half of 20th century  and many very surrealist.

So  a great cheer for Toboggan Couple by Lavinia Schutz and Walter Holdt [1920-24]  kitted out in quasi ski-suits
photo borrowed from another website 

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Black Skin, Whitehall

BLACK SKIN, WHITEHALL:  Race and the Foreign Office 1945-2018
 Written by James Southern and published by FCO Historians  as History Notes issue 21

An interesting survey/analysis of the ‘history of race at the Foreign Office’  which is not a history of empire or British policy but an account of the absence of BAME staff at the FCO in post-war period.  It's a history of race discrimination in recruitment for the diplomatic service, with many eloquent quotations from FCO archives.  
In 1965, for example, Dennis Fowler of Diplomatic Service admin branch was in favour in principle of  admitting three male civil servants who applied for transfer to FCO.  One born in Barbados, then a clerical officer in Ministry of Housing; one born in India then working with Atomic Energy Authority; and one born in Guyana working for the Colonial Service.   All were denied transfer on the ground that they might ‘still be susceptible to Indian and West Indian influence. Mr Chin [born in Guyana] has a Chinese name and the inherent nationalism of the Chinese is such that he may even be susceptible to Chinese influence’.  In 1988 there were 88 ‘ethnic minority’ staff in the Diplomatic Service,, with just one in the senior rank alongside 1118 whites and at the lowest levels 66 among 2326 total.  The careers of high-flying Noel Jones and Robin Chatterjie are examined; sadly, both died prematurely so their own accounts are not available, but both appear to have felt the need to ignore or deny their exceptionality.
The latest material cited in the text are interviews conducted by the author in summer 2018.  In a contribution to the survey, Fouzia Younis and Muna Shamsuddin from the FCO’s BAME Network  write ‘this year we celebrated the first black female career diplomat being appointed to an ambassadorial post; over 23% of graduate entry intake is from a BAME background; and we hope to see the first BAME member appointed to the FCO Board in 2018.’  At the same time, when they accompany overseas visitors in the UK, their hosts often mistake them for being in the foreign delegation, not the home team, and ‘we still do not have enough black applicants  being successful when applying for Fast Stream posts.’
Black Skin, Whitehall has many statistics, citations and observations of interest.  It doesn’t have publication details or reference number, but gives just ‘’ as its origin, so let’s hope it is easily available via that route.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Did Stanley Spencer visit Urbino?

A detail from the Crucifixion fresco by the Salimbene brothers in the Oratory of San Giovanni Battista in Urbino. 

The poses and gestures of the two gesticulating mourners, Magdalene with corkscrew hair and Baptist with fur-lined robe, are SO similar to figures by Stanley Spencer that his seemed copied.  They make me wonder if Spencer ever visited Urbino?  He is not known as an artist who travelled in Europe, and his major voyage during WWI was from Britain to Thessalonika where he was stationed with the Army Medical Corps.  The ship appears to have paused in Corsica, but if Spencer somehow got to Italy it would surely have registered in his biography.

Of course, he could have seen reproductions of the paintings in books on early Italian art.  But the other curious coincidence is that the fresco-covered Oratory in Urbino is similar in size and shape to the Sandham Memorial Chapel in Hampshire which Spencer decorated with mural paintings of the war,  with comparably flattened and crowded picture spaces and a dual register of scenes on the side walls.   Accounts of Sandham cite the Giotto friezes in the Scrovegni chapel in Padua as inspiration, and this was very well known in art books.  The Salimbene oratory seems to have more affinity with Sandham, however.   One would love to know more.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Pre-Raphaelite Sisters




17 Oct 2019 to 26 Jan 2020

Featuring twelve women whose lives and works reveal the as-yet unacknowledged female contribution to the art of the Pre-Raphaelite movement  1850-1900.

Effie Gray Millais  :  Elizabeth Siddal  :  Annie Miller  :  Christina Rossetti ;  Joanna Boyce Wells  ;  Fanny Eaton  ;  Georgiana Burne-Jones ;  Fanny Cornforth  ;  Marie Spartali Stillman  ; Maria Zambaco  :  Jane Morris  :  Evelyn de Morgan.



Sunday, 28 October 2018

Njideka Akunyili Crosby

Artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby has her latest work on display at Brixton tube station.

 © Njideka Akunyili Crosby Courtesy the Artist and Victoria Miro, London

"Remain, Thriving", 2018 was commissioned by Art on the Underground and is on view till March 2019.


Then next month, from 17 November, works from Njideka's series The Beautyful Ones are at the National Portrait Gallery London


  • Monday, 22 October 2018

    May Morris and the Mouse

    Mary Anne Sloane, May Morris correcting proofs. WMG

     Not quite on cue but seasonally close, in October 1910 May Morris described her typical day at autumnal Kelmscott Manor, when editing her edition of William Morris’s Collected Works

    I do most of the house keeping –coming down in the morning with a key-basket, seeing the cook and the gardener and so forth, sometimes making a special dish for Mother (Nature intended me for  a cook and housekeeper and I resent the perversity of things  that have so thwarted that intention). Then I settle to work in the Tapestry-room,  These are my Father’s rooms – in the E wing of the house … very quiet and isolated from the rest of the house.  Mother doesn’t get up till late , and I work through the morning, with a little girl who comes to copy things.   Such a light, gay room, with great mullioned windows – in spite of the Samson tapestry, whose grimness has faded to a  pleasant harmony of blue and golden browns – a very lovely Persian carpet on the floor – I remember our getting it in Venice: the puzzlement of the Italian dealer at my Father’s vehement ways!  He was told by an Italian-speaking friend that he was a “grande poeta” and that soothed the gentleman, tho’ I don’t think it led him to take anything off the account –otherwise!
    Mother and I lunch together, and she goes to rest, and I work on, not going out much beyond the garden – a wander by the river or in the churchyard at sunset sometimes.  We sit in the parlour at tea and for the evening – a delightful room white panelled, airy and roomy; somehow, tho’ not very large.  There are jewels of Persian rugs  about the floor, a painted settle of Red House days on one side; opposite, my Father’s portrait, and his own Iseult picture, D.G.R.’s drawings of “Jenny and May”.  And we are lighted not by globes of electric light, but by modest candles in branches of old Sheffield plate.  I occasionally play Bach and Handel on a little old piano, but generally settle by proof-reading.  After dinner we play a dreadful game called Patience.
    Kelmscott Manor White parlour today
     Then, as she finished her letter
    Do you know what happened then!  I felt something wriggle nearly at my waist, and Good Heavens, there was a huge mouse inside my clothes!  Now a truly sensitive woman would have screamed, but I didn't want to waken the house!