04/01/2018

A New Approach for the New Year

Posted in Art at 1:53 pm by arttraveller

Happy 2018.
I will soon be writing my first post for a long time and with it will come a change. For the time being instead of solely visiting different venues which receive Art Fund support I will now be writing about individual works of art whose purchase was supported by the Art Fund.
The first work of art will Jean-Baptiste Corot’s ‘Four Times of Day’ at the National Gallery.

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14/06/2015

I’m back !! My degree is done …

Posted in Art tagged , , at 1:59 pm by arttraveller

All four years now done … all over in a rustle of essay papers and dunking biscuits, late nights and highlighter pens …  just waiting for results back.

To mark the occasion Arttraveller blog has a whole new look, it’s a bit of a work in progress so expect a few tweaks in the next few weeks. I’m also working on a new blog Arttraveller Reviews which will run along side this one, where I’ll be posting reviews of films, shows,  exhibitions and relevant news items that I see in London from a post-modernist perspective.

I’m looking forward to my next Arttraveller venue visit – watch this space.

30/03/2015

Arttraveller will return in just a couple of months

Posted in Art at 9:40 pm by arttraveller

Hello, just letting any surfers and drifters on my site know I will be back in just a few months time. My four year evening class degree in Arts and Humanities is nearly complete …. see you soon.

24/07/2011

Art Traveller Journey 30; Around Apsley House, the home of the Dukes of Wellington.

Posted in Art tagged , , , at 8:09 pm by arttraveller

It was a chilly wet and road crowded Sunday on the day I made my to visit Apsley House, the London home of the Dukes of Wellington.

List of museums in London

Image via Wikipedia

The House was commissioned by the 1st Earl after his victory at The Battle of Waterloo, it was built by Adam Smith in 1771 and has remained the family home of the Wellsley family ever since.  It is still their home today because in the 1947 when the 7th Earl gave the house and it’s contents to the Nation, the agreement reached with the government was that the family would retain part of it as their home. Apsley House is now looked after by English Heritage.

Portrait of Sir Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Well...

Image via Wikipedia

The large house is located next to the Queen Elizabeth Gate of  Hyde Park on the wide bend around Hyde Park Corner and overlooks it’s central green area on which stands (among other monuments) the Wellington Arch (also known as Constitution Arch)  and the Wellington monument.

Designed by esteemed architect Robert Adams in 1771 when it was known simply as ‘No.1 London’ and was the height of fashionable London. In 1947 the seventh Duke gave the house to the nation although the family have retained a suite of rooms (behind locked doors) and it remains their family home to this day. There is an imposing central square hall is tiled in a tiny ceramic tiles of a repeating black and white design,  there are marble busts of the important men of the day depicted as ancient Romans as well as a genuine first century bust of Cicero. In the grand stairway is a twenty-foot statue Napoleon himself commissioned from Canova, of himself naked, a toga draped over one arm and he carries a staff in the other hand. Apparently he didn’t like the finished sculpture, he was embarrassed by its athleticism and had it hidden away in the basement of the Louvre from where the British Govt bought it and presented it to Wellington as a gesture of gratitude.

Antonio Canova (Italian, 1757-1822): Napoléon ...

Image via Wikipedia

From 1815 to 1852 (when the first Duke died) a grand banquet was held on the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo on the 18th June, and it always attracted large crowds lining the streets eager to see the famous invited guests. At first the banquets were restricted to thirty five guests as the dinning room could not seat more, but when Wellington had a special gallery built this increased the number to eighty five.  In the dining room is an enormous painting by William Salter of one of the banquets it shows soldiers in ceremonial dress all around the table, their feathery hats and glistening sheathed swords lying on the floor behind their chairs. It was a mark of your social standing or lack of it whether you were invited to the banquet in the dining room itself or had to make do with the gallery above.

Musical Party in a Courtyard (1677). Oil on ca...

Image via Wikipedia

Nothing quite prepares you for the Plate & China Room, for the eight magnificently grand floor to ceiling polished mahogany display cases; they have the cleanest glass I have ever seen. In just the top half of the first cabinet are thirty-six fine china plates, twelve of which come from Prussia (the Prussian service was a gift given after the battle of Waterloo). The plates are all hand painted with scenes connected to Wellington’s life and they are gifts of grateful nations.

There are also display cases full of soldiers batons, swords and sabres(including those Wellington used at the Battle of Waterloo, intriguingly the silver mounts of his sabre’s scabbard which were made by a Martin Guillame Biennais of Paris who also made the mounts for Napoleon’s scabbard) and shields, vases, silver and gold lacquer boxes. In the middle of the room is a large rectangular finely detailed model of ancient Egypt complete with pyramids and sphinx.

nx’s, it was actually part of Empress Josephine’s divorce settlement from Napoleon, apparently she didn’t like it. There is the 104 piece Saxon Service of hand painted Meissen china, the Austrian Service from the Empress of Austria, the 66 piece Egyptian piece, and the Portuguese Service. Just how much china does one man need !

It was fashionable at this time to present national heroes with monumental pieces of silver and the four gallon Wellington Vase designed by Tom Stoddert R.A. is truly monumental, it was paid for by subscription. One of the shields is 3 foot in diameter, its border engraved with scenes from Wellington’s battle

Going for a walk, Pieter de Hooch, oil on canv...

Image via Wikipedia

s and the centre is a proud relief of charging cavalry crushing the defeated foe at Waterloo with the Duke in the centre and a winged angel hovering above crowing him with a laurel wreath

Upstairs in the Piccadilly Drawing Room with its beautiful tall yellow silk walls and deep central glass chandelier there are paintings by Dutch masters.

  • Lovers with Woman Listening by Nicholas Maes.
  • Landscape with Travellers by Johannes Linglebach
  • Landscape with Shepherds and Catto by David Teniers
  • The Holy Family and St John, by Jan Brueghel
  • The Gamblers by a follower of Caravaggio
  • The Musical Party by Pieter de Hooch

In the Waterloo Gallery:

  • Charles 1st on Horseback by Anthony Van Dyke
  • St Joseph by Guido Reni
  • St Fancis of Assissi by Pablo Estaban Murillo.

01/05/2011

Art Traveller Journey 29 part 2, Around John Soane’s House

Posted in Art tagged , , , , , at 6:23 pm by arttraveller

The Front Room
This large, imposing yet at the same time relaxing room overlooks Lincoln’s Inns Fields which Soane used for entertaining visitors is illuminated at either end by large windows, and as I’m soon to discover finding ways to let light is a striking feature of Soanes architecture. The walls are deep red (‘Pompeiian’ red, the colour he chose form a piece of ancient Greek pottery in his collection) works very well with the doors, glass fronted bookcase and other furniture which are all dark polished wood.

Astronomical clock in Lund Cathedral

Image via Wikipedia

There is a fascinating Astronomical Clock (the Wikki image shows the clock that’s in the Lund Cathedral and the hyperlink is to the clock in the British Museum). The fabulous ceiling is compartmentalized by plaster coving, the central scene is a high coloured sentimental scene of women flying along side horses. The almost ceiling high dark wood glass pained book cupboards contain nearly two thousand leather-bound text books. Hidden above them concealed mirrors double the space by reflecting light, and in front of the bookcase on one side of the room is a row of ten elegant Chinese ‘rosewood’ gilt inlaid chairs.

The windows to the rear of this room that look on to an inner tiny courtyard contain some beautiful stained glass panels, in front of the windows are two very large inscribed Chinese vases and between them a Greek vase whose intricate base is a tablet of multi coloured ceramic pieces in tight geometric design.

A large painting catches my eye; Snake in the Grass, Joshua Reynolds PAR (President Royal Academy) 1723 – 1792 this is a portrait of a bare breasted woman.  (Another example of male gaze being made acceptable by setting her in a classical pose).

The Study

I love this little room,  its an accumulation and celebration of Soane’s skill, expertise in collecting classical marble artifacts, plaster casts and moulds. Part of his passion and pleasure was spending time rearranging them to their (and his student’s) best advantage.  In this small space is his writing desk with a skylight above looking like a mini St Paul’s dome raised above a square glass column.   In the corner is a small sink with hand pump, a clever inclusion when writing and drawing with ink and nib would have often dirty the hands, disastrous on his amazing architectural drawings.

The Picture Room

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Image by joellybaby via Flickr

Soane and his wife were one of the first people to collect British art,  he was a great supporter of the Dulwich Picture Gallery (pictured on the right, showing the ‘Pompeii Red’ that Soane loved) whose co-founder Francis Bourgeois commissioned him to build.  In Soanes tiny but painting crowded room are many paintings by Hogarth, they are wonderfully alive, full of goings-on making lively social satire and commentary.

Image via Wikipedia

The Election:  this is series of four paintings commentating on the bribery and corruption that overflowed between the Whigs and the Tories during the 1754 General Election campaign for the seat of Oxfordshire. (See the image to the right, ‘Polling’ from the series).

The Rakes Progress: images available in part one of the Art Traveller journey around Sir John Soane’s House. The celebrated series of eight paintings is Hogarth’s stark critique of the greed of the age; it tells the story of Tom Rackwell who promised marriage to his sweet but poor love Fanny but when  he inherited his father’s fortune he ditched Fanny a true friend and gathered instead a pack of simpering hangers-on and lived as a libertine till his money ran out and debtors chased him,  then Fanny returned and paid his debts but he ran off and married an old rich hag,  he lost a second fortune and landed in The Clink the debtors prison where Fanny visited him and weeped,  finally Tom ended his days chained, naked,  syphilitic and mad in Bedlam hospital.

The Italian Count: by Henry Fuseli.  Also known by its alternative name of ‘Ezzelier, Count of Ravenna musing over the body of Meduna slain by him for infidelity during his absence in the holy land’.   It looks dark and moody and absurd, I don’t like it very much.

Downstairs

Down the short stone spiral stairway to the crypt is like stepping into a cultured Goth’s fantasy playground; the walls are bedecked in plaster casts of masks, statues stand in alcoves, there are various odd changes in floor level with single steps up and down, nooks, crannies, flickering candles (there’s a few carefully positioned down here today), sudden skylights casting lightness into the gloom.

The Victorians were fascinated with death and the paranormal, Tarot and Mesmerism parties were all the rage and Soane liked entertaining his friends down here. There would be musicians and party games, while wandering around admiring the marble busts, the two magnificent Japanese dog dragons, the prison chains, a roundel of George Frederick Handel and a large plaster eagle.  Dominating this space is an enormous stone sarcophagus, this is the original three thousand year old resting place of the Egyptian Pharaoh Seti the first,  it’s also open though empty and glass cased, it’s inner and outer walls are covered in amazing hieroglyph.

This is an amazing house of an amazing man, worth more visits … especially after it’s extensive renovations are completed.

SOME RESOURCES

Hogarth;  www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk

The Election, The Rakes Progress; www.soane.org.uk

Dulwich Picture Gallery; www.arttraveller.wordpress.com

The Italian Count: www.bridgmanartondemand.com

Seti’s Sarcophagus: www.londonist.com

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