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Rigg's Cabinet of Curiosities

curated by Thornton Rigg

The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich : The Swan, RSC

… effervescent Restoration comedy … 

RSC The Swan Restoration Shakespeare

Sophie Stanton absolutely shines as the exuberant Mrs Rich. It’s obvious she is having the time of her life as this widow in search of QUALITY to match her enormous wealth. Continue reading “The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich : The Swan, RSC”

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Ravilious & Co : Compton Verney

Rigg's Cabinet of Curiosities

… a fascinating exhibition …

horse design westbury england

This marvellous show traces the story of a dynamic group of British artist/designers from the first half of the 20th century. Taking a collective approach, the two major gallery spaces of Compton Verney are absolutely crammed full of paintings and woodcuts, fabric prints, book covers, ceramics and wallpapers,

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The Ghost A Cultural History : Susan Owens

Yesterday I listened enthralled as Susan gave a talk at the Chipping Campden Literature Festival about the book.

Rigg's Cabinet of Curiosities

… a fascinating book to curl up with … 

ghost supernatural spooks halloweenThe Ghost is a thoroughly fascinating book which traces the development of ghosts from warnings from the afterlife, through escapees from purgatory and then the devil’s playthings and finally to delicious, terrifying entertainment purely from the imagination.

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Portraits: Diana Low & William Nicholson

Rigg's Cabinet of Curiosities

… two portraits of an affair …

diana British artistDiana Low, a student painter, was heavily influenced by William Nicholson. They had a short affair as recalled later by her brother in law. 

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Station Zero : Philip Reeve

… singing trains, strange worlds …

robot love trains

Once again we follow Zen Starling as he travels across the galaxy with Nova, the almost human Motorik, trying to work out their relationship – (How does that even work, a human and a Moto? Zen is asked.) – whilst fighting the Guardians for control of the Great Network. Continue reading “Station Zero : Philip Reeve”

Portraits: Diana Low & William Nicholson

… two portraits of an affair …

diana British artist

Diana Low, a student painter, was heavily influenced by William Nicholson. They had a short affair as recalled later by her brother in law.  Continue reading “Portraits: Diana Low & William Nicholson”

Three Favourites from the Frick

Which three works would I take home with me?

new york art frick holbein

It is so hard to choose only three from this extraordinary assembly of paintings but then this game is ruthless: which ones would I want to live with? It hones discrimination down to a very personal choice based on emotion rather than the calibre of each painting.

If it were quality I was after, it would be nigh on impossible to choose given the excellence of this collection. And, after all, it’s the personal connection which makes the interaction with a painting so special.

Portrait of a Man in a Red Cap c.1510 Titian (c.1488–1576)

Prog Rock Giorgione Pitti Palace

 

Ah! The soulful painterly lyricism of the Venetian painters which historians have put down to the light upon the water gets very close … whisper it low .. to a sort of Renaissance ProgRock pin up. The almost moustache echoed (mocked?) by the luxurious fur. The brilliant white shirt reflecting the light across his muscular neck. Ahhh.  This unknown star of the Living Hall in the Frick was once thought to be by Giorgione but is now judged to be one of Titian’s earlier works painted when he was in his early Twenties.

The Lake 1861 Corot (1796–1875)

landscape exhibition French cow tree

 

In my Twenties, I would have passed this painting without a second glance but now, perhaps I am getting more soulful? Corot exhibited the large, nearly monochromatic picture at the Salon of 1861. Critical reactions to it varied. Castagnary said: “The Lake is a ravishing landscape, simple in composition and full of grandeur. . . ” But another reviewer, Thoré, was less sympathetic: “Mist covers the earth. One is not sure where one is and one has no idea where one is going.” This would be my terse appraisal in my youth … but now I would love to live with this dreamy tour-de-force.

Self Portrait 1658 Rembrandt (1606–1669)

 

1658 dutch portrait rembrandt

Tired, weary eyes peering out, watching us – and watching himself; his ageing face and small frame set in a weird fantasy costume, Rembrandt was only fifty-two in 1658 when created this portrait. Is he mocking his status as a painter with an artist’s beret for a crown, a painter’s stick for a sceptre and his gigantic craftsman’s hands looming towards us? Or just using what was to hand?

Rembrandt created almost a hundred self portraits including over 40 paintings over his career; an enormously high number for any artist up to that point. While the popular interpretation is that these represent a personal and introspective journey for Rembrandt, they were probably painted to satisfy a strong market for self portraits by leading artists. This makes this image all the more poignant. Is he a tired old horse trotting out for display? Or is he a defiant master at the height of his expressive powers? Or both? I could spend a lifetime debating this painting.

So, do you ever play this game of Take Home Three and which are your favourites from the Frick?

If you’ve never been to the Frick, I urge you to go next time you are in New York. So many people have never even heard of this gorgeous place. It is the sparkling gem of Museum Row overshadowed by the behemoth of the Met. The collection is set in Frick’s private mansion just by Central Park. Built to house his art- and his family – the museum is more like a National Trust property with rooms laid out exactly as they would have been.  It’s a delightfully relaxed and intimate experience to wander around the billionaire’s front rooms to find – good gracious! – those Holbiens. Click here to be directed to their website  where they have a Virtual Walk Through for those not planning a physical visit. (Unfortunately due to the nature of the lay out, children under ten are not allowed nor can bulky luggage be accommodated in their cloakroom.)

 

 

Baking with Kafka : Tom Gauld

… a delight … 

zombie apocalypse skeleton

Baking with Kafka is a delight – full of whimsical musings on reading, writing and how to get a publishing deal after a skeleton apocalypse.

I can’t really do justice to the range over topics Tom covers with his clean, flat drawings and economical writing style so here’s some titles of his cartoons to give you a flavour :

  • War and Peace Clickbait
  • Keyboard Shortcuts for Novelists
  • JG Ballard’s Books for Children were not a Success
  • Dystopian Road signs.

Highly recommended.

Tom Gauld grew up in Scotland and now lives with his family in London. His work is regularly published in the The Guardian, The New York Times and New Scientist. To learn more about him, click here for his website. You can also go to the Guardian website’s profile of him for his latest cartoons for the newspaper.

But really, Tom‘s latest hardback needs to be bought.

Baking with Kafka, Comics by Tom Gauld was published by Canongate Books in September 2017.

Breezy Day, Ridley, Kent : Thomas Hennell

… a moment of vision …

watercolour British countryside war artist

“We look, in landscape painting, not primarily for a rationalised statement, nor for a description of fact but for the moment of vision,” wrote Thomas Hennell.
Sometimes referred as an English Van Gogh, Thomas Hennell was deeply religious and suffered a breakdown which put him in a mental institution for a couple of years. Writing and watercolours helped him recover. His work records rural scenes, often populated with craftsmen and Thomas eventually became an Official War Artist in World War II. Whilst in Indonesia in 1945, he was captured by nationalist fighters in and presumably killed.
He was lionised by contemporaries: “We [Bawden and Ravilious] regarded him as a man
of genius.”

This scene is probably at Ridley in Kent, close to Orchard Cottage, where Hennell lived between 1935-43. Knowing his story, it is impossible to un-know it and this wonderfully delicate sketch of the British Countryside takes on a fragile and elegiac intensity.

Most of the information in this post has been gleaned from the lovely little tribute website created by art dealer, Michael Sims, thomashennell.com

Breezy Day, Ridley, Kent, c.1941, by Thomas Hennell, (1903-45) (Whereabouts unknown; image from Michael Sims simfineart.com)

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