Saturday, 25 February 2017

Own work; Life Drawing XXXV

Last Thursday's offerings.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

London III: The V&A

Then off to the V&A.  A return visit fro the both of us.  For me it was a return after years away and I was aware of the changes.  The new-look courtyard, with its rather minimalist fountain, was pretty underwhelming. It was very busy but upstairs in the British Galleries things were much calmer.  I particularly wanted to see these galleries (there are two) as the interior designer David Mlinaric, with others such as Christopher Gibbs and the architectural historian John Harris, acted as historical consultant in the representation of the galleries that occurred in the 1990s.  The galleries contain some fantastic objects, and it has to be said some pretty strange things too.  I have to confess to being a little disappointed with the overall, slightly over powering design, but the colours that Milnaric and others helped to choose were fantastic.  No white box Modernism.
Warning: on no account visit the Twentieth Century Gallery afterwards. They were a terrible disappointment both in terms of contents and display after all that colour and beauty.  Plenty of the white box Modernist gallery, and both it and the contents were drab and banal. It confirmed what I heard a critic say about Modernist design some years ago on BBC4 - something on the lines of: 'It promised so much and never failed not to deliver.'  It certainly gave the lie to the idea that 'good design'  - would somehow elevated the mass produced object and make it, like art itself, into a substitute for the spiritual, for the sublime. Echoes there of T E Hulme's 'spilt religion' and Marx's 'commodity fetishism'.
I felt the same sense of decline, if not failure at our next port of call.  We took the tube to St James's Park - looking delightful in the late winter sunshine - to the ICA on the Mall.  It was the brother's first visit.  Neither of us were that impressed.  The place looked and felt tired.  A place too, I suspect, only for the initiate.  We wandered off through the West End to an early dinner in the vibrant Dishoom Carnaby, which I've blogged about before.  Pleased to say that our visit went very well - the Black Dhal in particular was unctuously, satisfyingly savoury, and the whole experience excellent.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Own work: The Rustiche of Sebastiano Serlio

Another completed painting from the Rustiche, no 14, of Sebastiano Serlio's 'Extraordinario Libro di Architettura'.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

London II: The Russian Orthodox Cathedral

We walked through Hyde Park, and then plunged into the maze of residential streets north east of the V&A our goal goal being the Russian orthodox Church in Ennismore Gardens.  A building that has been recently been restored, and I was eager to see what had been done and experience its Orthodoxy.  It however started out as an Anglican parish church, designed in the 1830s by Lewis Vulliamy (although work didn't commence for another decade).  In the 1850s Robert Louis Roumieu designed a sky-rocket of a campanille, which thankfully wasn't built. The present bell tower dates from the 1870s.  The interior, like many post-reformation Anglican churches of the eighteenth century onwards, based on the early christian basilican form - nave, aisles and apse.  We've met the form before on this blog.  The interior is very vertical in feeling.  The great columns are made of cast iron.  In 1892 Owen Jones's decoration was replaced by Arts and Crafts architect Charles Harrison Townsend and the artist Heywood Sumner, who decorated the nave walls with sgrafitto and the triumphal arch over the apse with mosaic.  The apse decoration, by Derwent Wood, dates from 1911. The work is excellent, and it was really pleasing to see that the recent restoration has respected the history of the church.
Researching for this post I was faced with the same issue that afflicted my research on Houghton Hall last year; none of the secondary source materials seem to quite agree with each other.  It could be that the west front is original, and merely modified by Harrison Townsend i.e. the porch, which has very Byzantine detailing.  However the deign, which is based on San Zeno, Verona, is nothing like that in 1850s perspective drawing illustrated in 'Victorian Churches', Country Life Books, 1968.  I suspect that the whole facade is by Townsend in collaboration with Sumner who made the sgraffito decoration in the porch. Either way it's a vast improvement on that illustrated.  When a student in west London a friend and I attended the Divine Liturgy one Sunday when the very holy Anthony Bloom was archbishop, and the place as far as I can remember was a little shabby.  There wasn't much money available the, I suppose.  Money, judging by what has recently been achieved, is now plentiful.  And rather splendid, and light filled, is the result. Not, thankfully, as lavish as I feared.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Own Work: Life Drawing XXXIV

From last Thursday life drawing class; two one hour sessions.

London I: The Royal Artillery Monument

To London on Tuesday and a day out with the brother.  After a wet, dull start in Lincolnshire I was greeted by brilliant winter sun on Piccadilly.  First stop was Shepherd Market, a tight, attractive knot of streets built to serve the more elegant streets around.  It has long had a raffish history - bohemian, a haunt of high class prostitution.  It also has part in literary history; Anthony Powell, author of the multi-volume novel 'A Dance to the Music of Time' had a flat there.  Today it isn't as raffish, being mostly nice places to eat, galleries and boutique shopping.  A good place to explore though.  Over the road on the other side of Curzon St. is one of London's more interesting bookshops Heyward Hill - Nancy Mitford ran the place during the War.
From there we walked along Piccadilly to Hyde Park Corner.  Since the end of the Napoleonic Wars Hyde Park Corner has become encrusted with the memory of wars and conflicts.  In recent this years this process of accumulation has increased in volume and speed with some very questionable aesthetic choices.  What however drew me to make a return visit was an earlier response to conflict: the Royal Artillery Monument, (1921-25) - the work of Charles Sergeant Jagger (1883-1934) with the help of the architect Lionel Pearson (1879-1953). I think it one of most moving War memorials built post WWI.  It is also, I believe, an work of great aesthetic power and strength - a great mound of sculpted white Portland stone culminating in an over life-sized sculpture of a field gun - a Howitzer apparently.  Each of the four sides bears bass-reliefs of deep emotive power, and set before each a single bronze sculpture of a soldier - driver, captain, shell-carrier, and finally, to the north, the body of dead soldier. 'Experience in the trenches', he old the Daily Express at the time, 'persuaded me of the necessity for frankness and truth.'
Jagger was a sculptor of immense talent and psychological insight, but alas fashion being what it is, he is largely forgotten now, and there have been constant criticism of the memorial. We, however, were left speechless and humbled by the virtuosity of the work.  I even felt reluctant to ascend the steps to get a better photo.