ART IN LONDON

Joanna HeseltineRuth GeeGroup visits to exhibitions, galleries and salerooms. Discussion groups. Ad hoc pop-up visits — an individual member can advertise a date, time and venue for a visit they intend to make in order to find out if any other members would like to join them.


Group Coordinators: Joanna Heseltine (click to contact) and Ruth Gee (click to contact)
When

One visit per month (plus planning meetings every three months and occasional discussion groups and pop-up visits).
Where

We go anywhere in Greater London (and sometimes more widely in the South East that can be reached relatively easily by public transport.) Suggestions from group members are welcome.

Our range of interest in art is broad. We agree our programme of visits at planning meetings, and visits are organised by the members. We buy our own tickets and meet up by pre-arrangement with the organiser before the visit. We do not go round as a group, but those who wish to meet up afterwards for a snack and a chat about the visit. We normally choose to see special exhibitions at public or private galleries, from old masters to modernism. Some recent visits are mentioned below.

Our Next Events
See the Beacon Membership System (under 'Calendar') for all the next planned Art In London group visits.

Our Next Planning Meeting
The next one will be on 2 July 2018 when we shall also plan the programme for the period up to Christmas.
Anyone interested should feel free to join us.

Recent Visits
Summary
Several group members have championed visits to galleries both inside and outside of London. In March, Maggie Butcher led a very successful event to Kettles Yard in Cambridge and the accompanying picture shows just one example of Jim Eves’ stunning personal collection which is displayed in his former home.  The four historic cottages are an artistic feat in themselves but the newly opened gallery extension is a must for anyone interested in the architectural blend of old and new.  Kettles Yard is a new venue space for those willing to spend less than an hour on the train to Cambridge.
Nearer to home, earlier in the year (2018) we have had successful visits to see Jasper Johns work at the Royal Academy, the Picasso Exhibition at Tate Modern, and to the National Gallery for Monet and Architecture.
But not all members either like or are able to join a group visit so we have now added to our agenda offering, a regular conversation session in which members share their views on the latest shows.  They are a fun exchange of diverse opinions.  The next one will be on 2 July when we shall also plan the programme for the period up to Christmas.
All new members are welcome.

2017
In November we visited BasquiatBasquiat: Boom for Real at the Barbican Art Gallery.

Photo copyright Edo Bertoglio, courtesy of Maripol



In October we visited Scythians: Warriors of BritishMuseumAncient Siberia (900-200 BC) at the British Museum. To sound effects of wind sighing and galloping hooves, across the steppes and forests ranging from China to the Black Sea, we learnt about the Scythians through their artefacts and funerary goods — many preserved in near-perfect condition having been hidden in permafrost until excavated. We saw pieces of cheese, saddles, human skin with tattoos still visible, gold neck rings (similar to Celtic torcs), bags, shoes, felt decorations — a felt swan for hanging on the inside of a wagon or tent looked as if it had been made yesterday. The Scythians were nomadic, had no written language and relied on their horses, which were sacrificed as part of funeral rites and decorated for the afterlife, as well as being used for food and milk. They seemed to weave their beliefs into everything they, and their horses, wore. They were famously fierce and fought each other as well as others; but they also traded and formed alliances through marriage. We compared the Scythians with other animistic cultures — looking at ideas such as realms governed by different creatures, sacrifice and taking drugs (marijuana), perhaps to connect with spirits. A bag containing nail clippings and hair seemed reminiscent of European witchcraft. One can only speculate about what the Scythians actually believed, but their beautiful artefacts give us glimpses of an extraordinary way of life.

Also in September we visited the HeathRobinsonMuseumHeath Robinson Museum in Pinner. William Heath Robinson was an accomplished and original artist whose work, whether in his humorous drawings or his illustrations for Kipling, Shakespeare or children’s stories, is integral to British cultural heritage. His name entered the language as early as 1912 and is still in daily use to describe the kind of ad hoc contraptions that featured in many of his cartoons. For Islingtonians he is a local boy — born in Finsbury Park and educated at Islington School of Art. The Museum is the first purpose-built museum to be opened in London for forty years and it has been open for less than a year. It is small but beautiful and is set in a lovely park. The display of Heath Robinson’s work is imaginative and informative; and the temporary exhibition was also both interesting and attractive. In 1935 William Heath Robinson created a series of drawings that he called “Rejuvenated Junk”, showing new uses for unwanted objects. Ten of these drawings were published in a magazine. The temporary exhibition featured several of these together with a collection of recycled and upcycled artefacts from 33 countries around the world, provided by knowtrash (www.knowtrash.com). Picture copyright Heath Robinson Museum Trust.

In September we visited Waddesdon Manor Waddesdon Manornear Aylesbury, a French-inspired chateau set among extensive parkland, both the single-minded creation of the fabulously wealthy Ferdinand Rothschild in the late 19th century. Ferdinand stopped at nothing: the top of the hill was chopped off to make a flat platform on which to build; existing buildings were demolished; and farmed land was converted to parkland. He ruthlessly cleared away anything that would cause the untidiness of the real world to intrude on his luxurious idyll. And luxury, and ostentation, were certainly everywhere evident, from the circular entrance room with portraits by Gainsborough and Reynolds to the sumptuous dining room, and the sequence of other rooms filled with ormolu and Sevres-inlaid furniture, 17th and early 18th century carpets, ceilings and panelling alike bought by Ferdinand, a connoisseur as well as an avid and wily collector, from French hôtels and chateaux once owned by pre-revolutionary aristocracy, the shapes of the rooms designed and adjusted to incorporate them. We proceeded room by ever more grandiose room until we were bedazzled out! Not all of us ventured up to the bedrooms, once host to Queen Victoria, Queen Mary and George V, or to the exhibition of Tudor portraits. Upstairs, two virtually complete sets of Sevres porcelain were on display as well as material from the Waddesdon Archive. Picture copyright National Trust Waddesdon Manor.

On the wettest day of the year in August four Grignani@Estorickof us were glad to visit the Estorick Collection's fascinating exhibition of works by the influential artist and graphic designer, Franco Grignani, whose most famous creation was the Woolmark logo. Anticipating Op Art by ten, if not twenty, years his designs are ingenious, even if, as we all agreed, they mess with your eyesight! Our visit to the two rooms displaying his work was completed with tea and a shared pasteis de nata in the gallery's new café.






John PiperIn July we had a day out and visited the new Piper Gallery, to see “John Piper — A Very British Artist“, at the River and Rowing Museum at Henley-on-Thames. John Piper spent most of his working life living at Fawley, just outside Henley. Apart from works in its own collection the Museum’s Piper exhibition includes loans from private and public collections and also a video of an interview with the artist. It is a relatively small exhibition, but attractively and informatively displayed. It shows work in a range of media, covering drawing, painting, collage, stained glass, ceramics, tapestry, set design, books, photography and textiles. Piper revelled in collaborating with other artists and craftsmen on joint projects. He developed an early interest in modernism, to which an interest in Romanticism was later added. He refused to be pinned down to any one style or movement. His lifelong interest in English art and architecture informed the wartime pictures of bombed architectural landmarks such as Coventry Cathedral, which made him famous. 
Image:
Copyright Photo Ian MacDonald Photography

HokusaiIn June we visited Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave at the British Museum. Hokusai’s image of his famous print “The Great Wave” has been used for a variety of purposes and is familiar to people almost everywhere, even if they do not know the name of the artist. This exhibition covers many aspects of Hokusai’s life and art: his exploration of the natural and spiritual worlds, his own aspirations and his humanity. Born in 1760 in Edo (present-day Tokyo), he was adopted (a common practice) into a family who were mirror polishers at the Shogun’s court, where at six he showed a talent for drawing. He received a good education and in his teens he trained as a block-cutter. This knowledge of woodblock cutting stood him in good stead when he became a print-designer. He knew poverty as well as fame; and in his last years (he died at 89) he lived with his artist daughter. Hokusai was prolific: by the 1780s ideas poured from him. He widened his subject matter and became more adept at the use of techniques, especially in the gradation of colour to give a sense of distance. When he worked with paint directly on silk his style is often softer but not lacking in power. At this time Japan was opening up to the influences of the West; Hokusai was quick to experiment with the new colour of Prussian Blue and to delight in imported paper. His ambition was to improve as an artist through the whole of his life. This exhibition is the opportunity of a lifetime to see so many masterpieces by this great artist.

In June an enjoyable discussion group took place in a Canonbury garden about the David Hockney exhibition at Tate Modern.

In May a visit took place to the Estorick Collection toEstorick see Giacomo Balla: Designing the Future. Four of us thoroughly enjoyed the visit to this hidden gem in Islington. We were able to enjoy a light lunch and afternoon tea in the delightful partly-shaded courtyard with a large metallic eye-catching sculpture. The exhibition encompasses all aspects of Giacomo Balla's talent drawn from the Biagiotti Cigna Collection: abstract and figurative painting, applied art, fashion-related designs, clothing and futuristic furniture. This was totally unexpected and we were very impressed. We also enjoyed the permanent collection of early 20th century Italian art in the rest of the gallery. We would thoroughly recommend a visit to this gallery. There are free tours on Saturdays at 3.00pm.



BrangwynIn April a visit took place to the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow. Is yet another once very famous British artist about to be resurrected? The small exhibition at the Gallery Sheer Paradise; Frank Brangwyn and the Art of Japan perhaps suggests so. A pillar of the Arts and Crafts movement Brangwyn developed a lifelong passion for Japanese art around the time of the First World War, somewhat after the popular interest of the late nineteenth century. His interest was particularly stimulated by his meeting, and then working closely with, a Japanese woodblock master, Urushibara, who lived in London. The exhibition provides selected examples of this collaboration. It also shows examples of Brangwyn's many other Japanese-related interests such porcelain, screens and architecture. For an artist with a very wide range of artistic endeavours, this exhibition provides a fascinating taster of his Japanese dimension. We all thought the William Morris Gallery itself is a little gem and well worth a visit.

Queens GalleryA second discussion group took place in March at the home of Art in London group member Maggie Butcher. The focus was the Rauschenberg exhibition at Tate Modern and the guest speaker Robert Vas Dias introduced Rauschenberg in his artistic context. There was a group visit to the Queen’s Gallery on March 21st to view the exhibition Portrait of the Artist. The exhibition contained over 200 objects including paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and decorative arts ranging from the 15th to the 21st century. It focused on images of artists within the Royal Collection, showcasing self-portraits by artists including Rembrandt, Rubens, Hockney and Lucian Freud. Also featured were images of the artists by their friends, relations and pupils — including the most reliable surviving likeness of Leonardo da Vinci by his student Francesco Melzi. The relationship between artists and patron, and the role of the monarchs in commissioning, collecting and displaying portraits of the artist, was discussed. After viewing the exhibition the members of the Art Group met up in a local cafe to exchange their views on the exhibition. The illustration shows the self-portrait of Artemisia Gentileschi that is in the Royal Collection. Copyright Royal Collection Trust.

Garrick ClubIn March we teamed up with some members of the Theatre Group for a tour of the Garrick Club, where we saw a fascinating collection of paintings dating from the eighteenth century to the present day, displayed in the fine architectural setting of a nineteenth-century gentleman’s club. The informative tour was led by Frances Hughes, lecturer in Art and Theatre History and Sarah Hughes, drama school lecturer and casting director.



In February a group of us enjoyed a discussion at the Co-ordinator’s house about the exhibition of the work of Paul Nash at Tate Britain.

On January 10th there little-tim-and-the-sea-captainwas an enjoyable group visit to Ardizzone: A Retrospective at the House of Illustration at King’s Cross. Although Ardizzone’s style seems quintessentially English, he was not born English. He spent most of his childhood in Suffolk, but he was born in Vietnam where his French father was then working for an English firm. His father had been brought up in Algiers and married a Scot. We admired the quietly rebellious streak in Ardizzone that saw him leave the dull office work that his parents had chosen for him and in 1929 branch out as a full-time artist, having learned his craft at evening classes. He featured children in his stories who were as independent-minded as himself. Having married in 1926, he succeeded in supporting his wife and three children solely through his art. The 1930s was a good time to be going in for children’s books, which were then becoming more popular and exciting than they had been before. Ardizzone said that he envisaged his illustrations as rather like views of a stage seen from up in a box; and although his scenes contained a lot of action, the action somehow appeared frozen in time as in a tableau. We enjoyed the economy and fluidity of his line, drawing in pen and ink and in lithographic crayon.
Image: copyright estate of Edward Ardizzone

On January 13th there was a group visit to Cambodian dancerRodin and Dance: the Essence of Movement at the Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House. The centrepiece of this exhibition was a series of experimental sculptures known as the Dance Movements made in 1911 which gave the viewer an insight into Rodin’s unique working practices. The pieces were presented alongside a series of drawings in which Rodin explored movement and new forms of dance. They included the acrobatic models who posed for him in the studio as well as performers from the Royal Cambodian dance troupe, the like of which had never been since in Paris before. The highly stylized movements and positions of the limbs of these Cambodian dancers clearly fascinated Rodin. This exhibition was a delight for all but particularly for art students, of which there were many at the time we visited, and those of us who love dance both as observers and practitioners. The stretching, leaping and twisting figures were in turn moving, interesting and perplexing — can the human body really achieve that pose? The drawings and photographs were often more satisfying in that the models and subjects were living and beautiful and showed the artist’s appreciation and understanding of the human form.
Image: Copyright Musée Rodin, Paris.

Reference
If you are interested in reading about our earlier visits then have a look at our archive. Use the following links:

Archive 2016 Jan-Dec
Archive 2015 Jan-Dec

If there are exhibitions that you don’t want to miss (including if you were unable to join one of our group visits recorded above) you can consult our blog for the closing date (scroll down to “About” and click on it to get to the most recent post). There you will find a selection of London exhibitions listed in the order in which they close.










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