Showing posts with label Art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Art. Show all posts

Wednesday 16 March 2016

just saying ... the thing about Mrs Arnolfini's lovely woollen dress ...

Jan van Eyck (circa 1390–1441) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Did you watch the Waldemar Januszczak series about the Renaissance on the BBC? It was really interesting. I was lucky enough to watch all 4 episodes as I was finishing off a project. I love catch-up telly when I'm working on something that leaves my brain free to enjoy all the good stuff that I never get to watch live-time.

In the first episode the wonderful Waldemar talked about this painting from the National Gallery painted by Jan Van Eyck in 1434. It's an odd little painting that I know well. In fact, truth be told, I could look at it for hours, like some kind of time-travelling voyeur. I mean, spare a thought for the fact that it's transporting us back half a millennium to this couple's bedroom in Bruges, then the textile capital of Europe. I should add that it was fashionable, back then, to entertain guests in your bedroom so that they could see (and sit on) your opulent textiles.

Sunday 6 September 2015

The Dalí Theatre Museum, Figueres ...

The other day we took young Emi up to the Dalí museum in Figueres. He's only nine, but I thought he might get a kick out of the way the great Surrealist Master liked to depict the world around him.

I'd expected young Emi to find Dalí fun, and he did, but he also found some of his work deeply creepy (his exact words). He loved the funky museum, however, without any qualification. It's a great big boisterous building that poses all sorts of questions with its design elements that are guaranteed to have you wondering what Dalí was on about. In short, the museum in Figueres is as much a work of art as anything that it houses. Its ... well, it's like no other building I've ever visited.

Friday 27 February 2015

The Real Tudors ... Masters of Propaganda and Spin ...

Now I have to 'fess up: I'm in withdrawal.

The BBC's totally splendid Wolf Hall season has finished and I am SO going to miss my weekly fix of Mark Rylance's superb Cromwell. Wasn't he fabulous? So wily and self-restrained with more than a hint of violence tucked away with that stiletto blade he kept hiding up his sleeve. I don't think there was a weak member in the entire cast. They were all brilliant.

Feeling slightly sad about the end of the season I took myself off yesterday morning to the National Portrait Gallery where the exhibition The Real Tudors is winding up. Sorry peeps but it finishes on Sunday so there's not a lot of time left if you want to trolley over for a gander yourselves.

Now, first off, I have to take issue with the NPG's title for the exhibition: the Tudors were the masters of spin and I feel that it ought to have been called the Tudors as they'd like to have been seen. Honestly, this lot could have taught the image-manipulators of today a PR trick or two.

The second big point is that they haven't included anything by the great court painter Hans Holbein, who crafted the great, iconic images of the age. Waldemar Januszczak argued recently that our enduring fascination with the Tudors has grown out of the fabulous images that Hans Holbein created, which have provided us with a vivid window into the life of the time. I think he's got a point, which makes the omission of Holbein from the Real Tudors feel as though something important is missing.

That said it's an interesting exhibition with some great images to savour.

They start off, as you'd expect, with the founder of the dynasty, wily old Henry VII.

His portrait looks strange to me: the head seems too big for the shoulders. The rose he's clutching in his right hand appears to be the red rose of Lancaster, which later morphs into the red and white Tudor rose in the portraits of his successors as they gilded the legend of how they were the great consolidators who united the warring factions of Lancaster and York. 

Apparently this is the oldest portrait in the National Portrait Gallery's entire collection. The inscription tells us that it was painted on 29th October, 1505 on the orders of Herman Rinck, the agent for the Holy Roman Emperor. The story was that, after the death of his Queen, Elizabeth of York, Henry had his heart set on marrying Margaret of Austria, the widowed Duchess of Savoy, and had opened negotiations with her father, the Emperor, Maximilian I. As was the custom with the great and the good in those days a portrait was sent so that Margaret could get an eyeful of what might be coming her way. The marriage negotiations came to nothing, but Margaret got to keep the painting. 

Also on display beside the portrait is the head of Henry's funeral effigy. When he finally popped his clogs they had a life-sized effigy made to go on top of his coffin for the funeral procession. The face of this effigy was moulded from a plaster cast of the dead king's face. He looked surprisingly animated and personable for someone who was recently deceased.

The exhibition moved on to Henry VIII, and we saw him strutting his stuff with that famous pose immortalised by Holbein, but shown in a copy made by Holbein's studio, and on loan from the National Trust. Isn't he the very image of royal power and majesty? Jaw set with determination - or, maybe just a hint of stubbornness, leg's planted confidently apart in a masterful stride and eyes staring straight out at us, demanding that we bow to his kingship. In the course of just one generation the royal image-makers have come quite a way from the awkward portrait of his father, staring meekly out of the frame in the hope of snaring a bride, to this image of kingly virility.

And then we have the Mini-Me image of Edward VI painted in the same masterful stance as his father.

As the mother of a nine year-old boy I was moved by the play-acting of the nine year-old Edward, trying to fill his father's shoes, and so vulnerable to the machinations of his Uncle Seymour, who reigned in his place as Regent.

There must have been huge fears and concerns for the safety of the realm when a child took the throne, but this portrait seems to have been conceived to reassure everyone that the boy was a chip of the old block, and that England would be as safe in the hands of the son as it had been in the hands of the father.

After Edward came the austere Catholicism of his half sister Mary. Her images seem to have been forged to convey the sincerity of her strong Catholic faith, during a time of huge religious upheaval. Edward had been a Protestant Evangelical in a way that made his father, the sponsor of the English Reformation, look moderate, and ,with the connivance of his Seymour relatives, young Edward consolidated Protestantism as the state religion. He worried that this work would be undone if the Catholic Mary, or the apparently disinterested Elizabeth, should take the throne and, in a bid to protect his legacy he wrote them out of the succession in his will, nominating his cousin, the devoutly Protestant, Lady Jane Grey, as his heir. Mary, of course, was having none of this. On her brother's death she raised an army and Lady Jane was ousted after only 9 days as Queen.

They were turbulent times, and Mary's portraits depict her as a pious woman with a serious purpose. To my eye she's a bit dowdy by comparison with her wonderfully flamboyant sister, Elizabeth.

Here she is (below), painted in 1554 by Hans Eworth. Do you see that fabulous pearl she's got round her neck? That's la Peregrina,  one of the most famous pearls in the world. It was found originally by an African slave on the island of Santa Margarita in the Gulf of Panama. He gave it to the administrator of the Spanish colony, and was rewarded with his freedom. The pearl made its way back to Spain and into the hands of the future Philip II, who presented it as a love token to Mary. After Mary's death it was returned to the Spanish Royal family whose women wore it for another couple of centuries before it fell into the hands of Joseph Bonaparte. In 1969 it was bought by Richard Burton for his great love, Elizabeth Taylor. When she died it was auctioned off by Sotheby's in 2011 for a cool US$11 million.

Anyway I'm getting distracted by the bling. Back to the portraits. 

My favourite Tudor is unquestionably the Virgin Queen, or Elizabeth the Great, as I think she should be referred to. And her portraits deliver spin and dynastic propaganda in spadefuls. Elizabeth's personal motto was semper eadem, always the same, which must also have been the instruction given to her portrait painters who never allowed her image to age. 

And here in all its splendour is the Armada portrait, painted to celebrate England's victory over the Spanish Armada. 

This portrait is laden with strutting triumphalism. It oozes out of the brush strokes. Elizabeth's right hand rests delicately on the globe. Here she's not just Queen of England. With the vanquished Armada floundering in stormy seas over her left shoulder, she's the Queen of the Waves and all the World. And it's not just Spain that's in the firing line here: this is painted as a vindication of her Protestant faith. It's proclaiming that God was with her, and her newly Protestant kingdom. Remember that at this time the Holy Roman Emperor was busy telling anyone who would listen that Elizabeth was illegitimate, a usurper with no proper claim to the throne and a heretic to boot, adding that it would not be a sin to bump her off. No English monarch - until the ill-fated Charles I - lived in greater or more constant danger than Elizabeth, but in this painting she stands victorious and undefeated, overcoming the very worst that her many enemies can throw at her. This, my friends, is Girl Power as we've never seen it before, or since. 

If you get a chance do go along and take a look. I understand that they're going to include the paintings in a larger scale exhibition at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris next month. You can find the link to the Parisian exhibition here: Les Tudors. I see they've given the whole thing a racy new French title, Les Tudors, as opposed to Les Vrais Tudors. Maybe it was all just a subtle case of English humour and those clever curators down at the NPG were being ironic when they suggested that these were the Real Tudors.

All the best for now,

Bonny x

As shared on Friday Finds

Thursday 15 January 2015

How to press flowers at home ...

It's a funny old time of the year to think about pressing flowers ... . I'll grant you that.

The thing is I've been very efficiently killing my lovely poinsettias all over the holidays. They've been left at home, all alone, and the deficit of love, care and affection has taken its toll ... .

Or, to put it another way: if that sad little poinsettia had any civil rights I'd have Social Services all over me like a bad rash. 

The truth is that, even if I had been at home, actively taking care of it, it would have still ended up looking more or less the same. When it comes to pot plants indoors I'm a bit of a homicidal klutz. 

But, out of all this Christmas carnage a few bright rays of positivity shine through the cracks of disaster. You see I was able to salvage some rather lovely red petals - or, are they really leaves? I never know with poinsettias. 

So what? Big deal!  I hear you saying to your computer screen.

Well, fair enough. Green-fingered maven I am not, but I do have a cunning plan, a very cunning plan indeed... .

Let me introduce my super-duper, home-made flower press: 

Can you believe I made it myself? (!!!)

I know it's all a bit Heath Robinson. I'm a regular wizard with one of those jigsaw thingimigs. 

OK, so I may not be about to knock Thomas Chippendale off his perch as the making-things-out-of-bits-of-wood supremo, but believe me this baby works. It presses flowers with the best of them. Just look at my lovely flower girl in the opening photo of this post to see what I'm on about.

You could go down to the shops and buy one for yourself, but there's no fun in that when you could spend a death-defying afternoon playing with a jigsaw thingimijig, and then have full boasting rights about how you not only survived the experience, but also made a super-duper home-made flower press.

Assuming that I've persuaded you to take up wood-work all you need to make the press are a couple of squares of strong marine plywood, drilled in each of their four corners to take long bolts. Just to give you an idea of dimensions, my plywood squares are 9"/ 23 cm each side and my bolts are 1/4"/ 1/2cm diameter and 5 1/2"/ 14 cm long.

When you've got all your bits made and drilled you simply put square A on top of square B, insert your bolts and screw them down, one on the other, to exert a wonderfully even pressure on all the lovely flowers you're going to press between the two. It's a good idea to splash out on a few large washers so that your bolts on the top won't cut into and contort the wood that they close directly down on (have a look at the photo of my press above to have a decko at my washers - ow my golly gosh that sounds pervy!). 

Then you just sandwich your flowers - and/or leaves - between sheets of old newspaper, which in turn you sandwich between squares of cardboard to keep the whole thing stable and tidy. It's so easy.

 I have a stash of squares of cardboard and old newspaper that I keep for the job.
And here I am laying my lovely poinsettia remains out to be pressed. I find that the dark coloured flowers press best. Whites, delicate pinks and yellows all tend to emerge a few months later in various shades of brown and drab. Bleuch!

Anyway, once you've got them all nice and flat and dried - about a couple of months after you've put them into the press - you can start to have fun.

Have a look at some more of my lovely flower girls:

Aren't they a bunch of sweeties?

I was short of a few thank you cards so I made some up.  All you need to make your own are a few blank cards, your pressed flowers, some paper glue that dries clear, a fine-line pen and some colouring pencils.

I've got a many thanks stamp that I used to write many thanks on the front. Then I had a go at figuring out how my lovely ladies would look. Petals to drapery is such an easy, fun thing to visualise in your head. 

Here's a work in progress that's been stamped many thanks and has all the lady's bits drawn in minus her pink cheeks, which I'd forgotten about at that stage. Note to self: flower girls need pink cheeks.

All I had to do after that was give her a hat and a nice twirly skirt. Here she is fully dressed, and wearing some pink cheeks.

Here's her friend as a work-in-progress:

And here she is after she's got dressed: 

Would you like to see my line-up? Well, ok, here they are: 

So now you know my cunning plan and how I'm plotting to snatch a small victory from the jaws of defeat that are my poinsettias!

All the best for now,

Bonny x

As shared on Friday Finds

Friday 24 October 2014

Dracula ... the perfect Halloween read ...

With Halloween just around the corner I've got the perfect late night spooky read for you:

It's one of my favourite Gothic horror stories. I recognise that it has many flaws, but the magnetic pull of the Vampire Count and Stoker's masterful handling of suspense are more than enough to make up for its shortcomings.

It's a novel that I think would be heavily edited if it were brought to the market through a commercial publisher today. They'd surely do something with Van Helsing's awful clunky speech. Stoker was (I think) trying to convey something of his Dutch-ness, but the words he put in his mouth often detract, making him sound much less dynamic and compelling than he ought to. These days I'd also like to think that Stoker would be told to draw his women with a bit more edge. Both Lucy and Mina, the principal female characters, are a bit too conventionally Victorian and two-dimensional for my taste.

Having said all of that it's still a great read. It was first published way back in 1897, and is now well out of copyright. If you'd like to read it you can download a free copy by clicking on the link: Kindle edition of Dracula.

Many people have wondered what could have inspired a nice middle-class Anglican from Dublin to write the greatest Vampire story of them all. A number of sources suggest Stoker was influenced by Highgate Cemetery, and, although I understand there is no firm evidence that he actually visited, it seems very probable that he would have done given how most of fashionable London were bending their footsteps in that direction at the time.

It has been suggested that his notion of a Vampire, surviving death, and, in particular, the listless Lucy Westenra, who grew more beautiful in death than she had been in life may have been inspired by the story of Elizabeth Siddal.

Elizabeth had been the muse of the Pre-Raphaelite painters. She'd caught pneumonia, posing in a cold bath for Sir John Everett Millais, when he painted her as the dead Ophelia. Luckily she survived, but her angry father insisted on sending all the doctor's bills to Everett Millais, whom he held responsible.

Elizabeth as Everett Millais' Ophelia

 In time she caught the eye of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who fell hopelessly and completely in love with her. He grew possessive of her, and would not allow her to pose for any of the other painters. They married in 1860 and, for a time, were blissfully happy together, but then Rossetti started to dally with other women, which caused her huge amounts of grief. Her health went downhill, and she started taking Laudanum. Soon she was addicted.

Rossetti's wedding portrait of Elizabeth
She overdosed on the drug in 1862, and was found by her husband in an unconscious stupor. He called the doctor and when the doctor said there was nothing that could be done for her, the desperate Rossetti called another three doctors to see if they could do any better. They pumped her stomach and tried to revive her, but all in vain. The beautiful lady passed away. There was some talk of a suicide note, but they were careful to suppress that lest she be denied a Christian burial in consecrated ground.

At her funeral Rossetti was prostrate with grief. In her coffin he placed a copy of the Bible and a little volume of his unpublished poetry, which was said to contain the only copies of a number of the poems within. Accounts tell of how he laid the little book gently on her pillow so that it was partly hidden by the tresses of her magnificent auburn hair. And so she was laid to rest in the West Cemetery at Highgate.

But her repose was not to be of the eternal variety. Some seven and a half years later in 1869 a struggling Rossetti was in need of funds. His career as an artist had hit the buffers as a result of his failing eyesight, and his addictions to drugs and alcohol. He was convinced that he was going blind. He had written some further poems, but obsessed about the old ones that lay buried and forgotten with his wife. His agent, Charles Augustus Howell, petitioned the Home Secretary for leave to exhume Elizabeths' body and retrieve the volume of poetry.

Remarkably permission was granted, and in the black of a cold winter night, they lit a bonfire by the graveside and dug the coffin up. Rossetti, who felt squeamish about the project, had stayed away, doubtless drowning his sorrows in strong liquor. But Howell was present, and, by the firelight, he caught sight of the dead woman as they prised open the lid of her coffin. Her magnificent copper hair filled the casket, and it appeared as though her body had not decayed. He reported back to Rossetti that her delicate beauty was still intact, and she looked as though she were merely sleeping.

Rossetti's portrait of Elizabeth painted a year after her death

Rumours of what had taken place began to circulate, and the Victorian popular imagination, which was macabre at the best of times, was excited by news of a body that did not decay. No doubt, a man like Stoker, who was at the centre of the city's cultural life would have known about the affair. And who knows, maybe a little bit of Elizabeth Siddal went into his fashioning of Lucy Westenra.

Happy reading and all the best,

Bonny x

Friday 17 October 2014

The Art & Science of Exploration, Queen's House, Greenwich, #WhereonEarth

I am a big fan of the gallery at the Queen's House in Greenwich. My enthusiasm stems as much from my passion for history as from my love of art. Most of the paintings exhibited there are not only pleasing to the eye, but are also of real historical interest. It's a gallery that's tailor-made for folk who take an interest in where we've been.

And, just as an example of what I'm going on about, take a look at the painting above. The large square building to the left of centre is the Queen's House as it was way back in about 1680 when old Johannes Vorsterman climbed all the way up One Tree Hill and knocked out his landscape. Immediately in front of it is the new Royal Observatory and part of the planned new King's House, rising out of the remains of the lost Tudor Palace of Placentia, where both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were born. Further up the river a mass of shipping clusters round the busy dockyard at Deptford with the Stuart Royal Yachts moored further down the river towards Greenwich. It's a fascinating, compelling snapshot in time.

And as a now for Vorsterman's then, the photo below is how the view from the front of the Queen's House looks today. There's nothing left of Henry VIII's great palace, other than a plaque on the ground to remind the tourists that this is where it once stood. Maybe I'm a bit weird, but I get a real thrill out of seeing its bones, courtesy of Vorsterman's paintbrush, before it disappeared forever. It's simple: paintings bring the past alive in a way that mere words on paper just can't match.

The nucleus of what's on display today was once the collection of the old National Gallery of Naval Art that belonged to the Royal Hospital for Seamen. Founded in 1824 (before the National Gallery got going) they used to display the paintings in their amazing Painted Hall.

The art in the Naval Gallery collection was all specifically chosen or commissioned to inspire patriotic pride in the Royal Navy: Rule Britannia, and all that. Way back then they understood exactly how a picture is worth a thousand words.

George IV got in on the act, and donated some 30 naval portraits to kick-start the collection. And people came from far and near to see the Naval Gallery, for which privilege they donated money for the upkeep of the incapacitated seamen. A similar initiative also operated for the benefit of the orphans at the Foundling Hospital. 

And look! I've dug out an old painting (below) from 1845 (by Andrew Morton) showing how the pensioners used to enjoy their Naval Gallery. Let me explain what's going on: the Greenwich Pensioners (dressed soberly in black) are entertaining a group of their army chums, the Chelsea Pensioners, (dressed in flamboyant red). The Greenwich contingent are all campaign veterans who have seen service with Vice Admiral Nelson, and they're busy re-telling tales from their glory days, as old men are wont to do, pointing to the paintings to help explain the action.  I love the curious old Chelsea chap who's gone right up close for a better view, but is cupping his ear and still listening carefully to make sure that he doesn't miss anything. 

Among the many other gems that are on display in the permanent collection is Canaletto's view of the Royal Naval College from the North Bank of the Thames, which is where I tell everyone to go if they want to take really good shots of Maritime Greenwich today. 

This is how, in about 1750, the great Canaletto saw the place from my favourite vantage point <eeek ... I've walked in the footsteps of Canaletto!>: 

And this is how it looked the other day when Maxi-the-wonder-dog and I passed that way: 

It hasn't changed much, has it?  And don't you agree that it's just a little bit thrilling to see the then and the now of it?  

Anyway let's get on to Captain Cook's gallery, where they've got a special exhibition on at the moment called the Art and Science of Exploration. For the most part it comprises paintings made by the artists that he took along with him on his epic voyages to the ends of the earth back in the eighteenth century. 

Here he is, the rather thoughtful but decisive-looking Captain James Cook:

He first set off in 1768 ostensibly with orders (and astronomers) to observe the transit of Venus from the Island of Tahiti, but with further secret orders from the Admiralty to then veer south and have a stab at finding new territory on which to plant the British flag. On this trip he found, named (as New South Wales) and claimed Australia for King George III. He also discovered New Zealand. 

In 1772 he was off again with the objective of mapping the Southern Ocean in a bid to find more new territories, circumnavigating the globe from West to East in his attempt to do so. He cruised along the Antarctic ice shelf on this trip, and went on to discover New Caledonia and the South Sandwich Islands as well as stopping off in New Zealand, Tonga and Easter Island. 

In 1776 he came out of retirement for his final voyage. Charged with the task of finding a North West Passage across continental America that would link the Atlantic and the Pacific, he spent six and a half months, cruising and mapping the coastline, but without finding the elusive passage. He was killed by the islanders of Hawaii on 14th February, 1779. The locals had thought he was a sea god, but when he'd limped back to their shores with a broken mast they started to doubt his divinity. Reports arrived of another local chief having been shot by the British and things turned nasty. Poor old Captain Cook was a member of a landing party trying to turn the situation around when he was knifed and clubbed to death by angry islanders, who believed that he was up to no good.

When Captain Cook headed off on these epic voyages he brought a collection of experts along with him. There were naturalists to look out for new animals that no one had ever seen before, expert cartographers to draw up maps and charts to make sure that people could find their way back to where they'd been, botanists to study the plants and artists to paint anything and everything along the way. 

The artist who painted the portrait of the good captain up above was a chap called William Hodges, who came along for his second expedition. Many of the paintings in this little gallery are the work of his brush, and they give us a really fresh, first-hand view of the New World as it appeared to these early adventurers over two centuries ago. 

This is how Hodges painted Easter Island:

They'd arrived on Easter Island in March 1774, and were in awe of its amazing stone heads. An excited Hodges raced about, doing quick sketches and pencil drawings of what he saw. They only stayed for three days so he didn't have enough time to paint a formal landscape. This painting, the first by a European of Easter Island, was worked up from his sketches and observations on his return to England. At the time Cook's party assumed that the stone heads must have marked the burial places of important people. This influenced Hodges to paint in a scull in the foreground as a sort of European memento mori that the people back home would have understood as a comment on the transience of life, and, also, perhaps, as a comment on how the indigenous culture that had created the monuments had perished too.   

And this (photo above) is how he saw Tahiti. Hodges painted this landscape in 1775 and exhibited it at the Royal Academy the following year. It's a sensual image showing the island ladies bathing in the foreground. The commonly held view at that time was that Tahiti was a paradise, populated by the most incredibly beautiful women. Hodges, however, doesn't just leave his painting as a simple homage to the legendary beauty of the island and its women folk. He places a monumental tii, a statue to the ancestors, so that it towers over the frolicking ladies and behind them in the middle distance he paints in a funeral pyre with a body covered by a draped cloth. He's seriously bringing down the fun-factor with another memento mori. By including this nod to the long dead ancestors and the recently deceased individual it's as though he's making them shout out our frail mortality to us:   

Remember Man as you go by
As you are now so once was I
As I am now so shall you be,
Prepare yourself to follow me

In any event, this is how John Webber, another artist, who served on Cook's third and final expedition, saw the very beautiful Poedua from the island of Ulietea (today known as Raiatea, the second largest of the Society Islands).

Cook and his crew arrived on this heavenly island towards the end of 1777,  just before they were due to head north on a gruelling journey towards the Arctic. Two of his crew were so enthusiastic about the place and its lovely ladies that they deserted. Undermanned and undermined by this breakdown in ship discipline Cook seized the local chief, Orio's, son and daughter, Ta-Eura and Poedua, and Poedua's husband, Moetua and held them hostage for the return of his crewmen. Within a day or two the local people saw to it that the scallywags who'd jumped ship returned and the lovely Poedua along with her brother and husband were freed. 

Webber made some sketches of her, from which he painted this portrait on his return to London, substituting some exotic foliage for the wooden panelling of the cabin in which it was painted. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1785, and must have helped burnish the image of the sensual south sea maiden in the popular imagination.

Cook's first voyage to Australia almost became his last when they crashed into the Great Barrier Reef. Forced to pull into the estuary of what they named the Endeavour River to make the necessary repairs, the expedition's naturalists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander had a whale of a time checking out the local wildlife. They got especially excited about the kangaroos.  They chased after them, caught a few dead ones, skinned them, drew them, measured them and studied them in wonder. Then, when everyone got back to London, Banks went off to see a certain Geroge Stubbs, who was the foremost animal painter of the day. Stubbs had never been south of the equator, but he threw his heart into imagining what it must all have looked like. There are even tales of Banks inflating one of the kangaroo skins to give him a three dimensional representation of how they looked. Anyway, after a respectable amount of head scratching and discussion, this is what he came up with: 

And this was the first glimpse that the people of Britain had of the kangaroo. 

Banks and Solander had also got very excited about the wild dogs of Australia, the dingoes, but they didn't put quite the same amount of energy into drawing them or catching them. As a result Banks came back to Stubbs with an altogether vaguer explanation as to what they looked like. On the back of these descriptions Stubbs had a go at painting a dingo, and this is what he came up with: 

Personally I think it looks a bit more like a home-counties fox than a wild dingo dog from the Aussie Outback, but I'm sure he did his best with the material that he had to hand. 

All thing's told it's a great little exhibition, and gives a real feel for the novelty and excitement of Cook's epic voyages. If you'd like to visit and check it out for yourself you can find the details on the website here: the Queen's House. The Art & Science of Exploration carries on until July 2015, although I think they're going to remove the Stubbs paintings in January 2015.

All the best, 

Bonny x

Monday 6 October 2014

Art of the Brick ... an exhibition in Lego

Art of the Brick, London

Calling all Lego fans:  I’ve found just the exhibition for you.

Art of the Brick, London

It's the Art of the Brick, which is running at the Old Truman Brewery just off Brick Lane until 4th January. 

Art of the Brick, London

Mr B and I headed off to check it out on Sunday afternoon with Emi. Emi (age 8) is a huge Lego fan, and he was really excited by the idea of a Lego art display.

Art of the Brick, London

The first thing that I must say is that the exhibition is really good fun. It doesn't take itself too seriously, and I found myself smiling at the playful ingenuity of what had been built.

You're welcomed into a classical gallery with a collection that includes Rodin's Thinker and Michaelangelo's David, all faithfully rendered in little plastic bricks. In the case of David it took a total of 16,349 bricks to put him together.

Art of the Brick, London

 The detail achieved with the clean straight lines of the bricks is impressive, and they are beautifully displayed with bold backdrops and perfect lighting.

Art of the Brick, London

There are about 80 works on display. The artisit, Nathan Sawaya, has been exhibiting his Lego sculptures all around the world since 2007, and to date over a million people have been to see them.

Art of the Brick, London

Yesterday afternoon lots of children were bustling around with cameras taking photos that would no doubt inspire a raft of work once they got home.

Art of the Brick, London

Everything has been constructed from standard issue, go-buy-it-in-a-toy-shop Lego, so, in theory, there was nothing on display that those busy little people wouldn't have been able to produce at home.

Sawaya, after working for a while as a corporate lawyer, decided that what he really wanted to do was go and explore the creative, artistic possibilities of the Lego brick. I loved the fact that he had used such a familiar, everyday toy to create his installations. It made the whole thing feel a bit cheeky and irreverent, almost as though he were sending up the art-world and its tendency to take itself too seriously.

On the other hand some of the work on display felt quite serious. The yellow man above was captioned: Ever have those days when you've given so much of yourself that it feels like a hole has been left in you? That message and his open torso felt a bit eery and surreal given how the sculpture was incongruously made out of cheerful yellow Lego bricks. It made me pause and think for a moment.

Art of the Brick, London

These huge faces (below) were real show-stoppers. The detail of their features was almost hypnotic. The red one had the most amazing - and impossible to photograph - eyelashes. The blue face is a self portrait.

Art of the Brick, London

One of my favourite installations was the swimmer. Using a clear perspex table and with some artfully positioned mirrors and discarded bricks for surf the illusion of someone moving through the water was complete.

Art of the Brick, London

Emi was very impressed with the huge T-Rex, but I'm not sure that he's got the 80,000 beige bricks that he'll need if he want's to build one in the front room at home.

Art of the Brick, London

Mr. B liked the huge pencil that had written yes on the carpet; he likes to embrace the positive.

Art of the Brick, London

And then there were the  Lego Beatles. There was also a Lego One Direction, but let's not go there ... .

Art of the Brick, London

I enjoyed my whistle-stop tour of the art world.

How do you like the Lego version of Monet's San Giorgio Maggoire at dusk?

Art of the Brick, London

Or how about Van Gogh's starry night at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence?

Art of the Brick, London

Maybe you'd prefer the Mona Lisa ... 'cos he's made her too.

Art of the Brick, London

Personally I liked his rendition of Munch's Scream. I think it's better than the original!

Art of the Brick, London

All three of us really enjoyed the exhibition. It's not specifically aimed at children, but lots of parents brought their little folk. My poor child gets dragged along to everything because I have some crazy idea that it'll help develop him into a rounded person. But I'm guessing that a lot of other normal people felt that, because the exhibition was made using their children's favourite toy, it was cool to bring them along. And for me that was just great. I could hear lots of mums and dads explaining patiently to their little ones that this was the Mona Lisa, who had a certain, lovely smile, and over here was a Van Gogh ... he cut his ear off, you know ... and so it went on.  Lots of children were getting their first introduction to the art world, and it was through a medium that made everyone feel comfortable, and in some ways empowered the parents to go into explanations that they might not have felt able to speak aloud in the hushed and disapproving silence of a normal gallery.

If you'd like to check it out you can find all the necessary details at the website: The Art of the Brick.

All the best,

Bonny x

As shared on Image-in-ing and Our World Tuesday