A Hidden Gem near London: The Dorich House Museum

Dorich House, Kingston

We went here a few days ago. An amazing gallery which I didn’t know existed, which had fallen into disrepair, was rescued by Kingston University, and stands a few feet from the wall around Richmond Park. A distance known as a “deer’s leap”

The house was designed by Dora Gordine, a Latvian sculptor, and completed in 1936. She lived there with her husband the Hon.Richard Hare, a scholar of Russian literature and art.

The house is a splendid example of a studio house of the period. The ground and first floor levels were designed for the production and display of her work. A more modest top floor apartment with a roof terrace overlooking Richmond Park, served the couple’s domestic needs

Richard Hare died in 1966. Dora lived until 1991, after which time the house was acquired and renovated by Kingston University. The house now holds the world’s largest collection of Gordine’s work as well as an important collection of Russian art acquired by Hare and Gordine.

There are some wonderful architectural features in the house. My favourite is the Moon Door

Moon Door, Dorich House

The house is on Kingston Vale next to Richmond Park, and is worth a visit if you are able

Tate Britain : William Blake Exhibition, on until 2 February 2020

The Ancient of Days 1827

Just by way of a change from house portraits, which can become monotonous, not for the painter, as each painting is a trip into the unknown, but for the reader of this blog

There is a wonderful exhibition of William Blake’s work at Tate Britain at the moment which runs until 2nd February next year. The painting above, possibly one of his most well known, was on display, and I took this photograph from the hip, whilst dodging other people who were trying to do the same. You were allowed to photograph, provided you didn’t use flash, but I still felt guilty nonetheless

I knew something about Blake, most of us do, but I still learned a lot. I think I will have to go back again, and do the last two rooms again. There was so much detailed stuff, prints, letters etc that the eyes become very tired. Not just his drawings but also his writings were on display. I managed to miss his manuscript of “Tiger, tiger burning bright” which I was cross with myself about.

He was a London lad, growing up in Soho. he enrolled at the Royal Academy, but like others before him, reacted against its rigid teaching. He was a visionary who shared the ideals of medieval Gothic artists

I had never realised that as a print maker he was way ahead of his time. His innovations allowed him to print in colour, and combine texts and images, a technique which enabled him to create a succession of visionary books. In them, he engaged with the most pressing questions of the day, the slave trade, sexual freedom and revolution.

His radical sentiments could have got him arrested, if only the authorities could have understood his obscure message

Through changing fortunes, he realised a burst of creativity near the end of his life, with such great works as illustrating Dante’s Divine Comedy. I found his vision of Purgatory, somewhat uplifting and comforting. Whether one believes in the concept or not,( and even some catholics, myself included, tend to kick this belief into the long grass), then Blake’s illustrations are helpful. I shall probably attract criticism for that remark

See the exhibition if you can

Rex Whistler at Plas Newydd in Anglesey

Rex Whistler includes himself in his painting

Last week we were in North Wales, staying in Caernarfon, never sure about the spelling, and spending the week looking at some very good National Trust properties

The house I had wanted to see for a long time was Plas Newydd on Anglesey, the ancestral home of the Marquess of Anglesey. This houses the magnificent mural painted by Rex Whistler, unfinished due to his untimely death in 1944 in France.

The mural, painted on canvas and at 56 feet reputed to be the longest in the country, is such a wonderful work that it needs to be seen to be appreciated. I took some pictures, but because of the understandable light level in the viewing chamber, these are poor, and I am still debating whether to include them or not.

Whistler had fallen madly in love with Lady Caroline, daughter of the then Marquess, and there are references in the painting. His self portrait I have included above. There is also a painting of Lady Caroline in the picture too

At the far right of the painting are two trees intertwined, one of which is dying. That one represents Whistler who is dying of unrequited love.

The whole thing is of a fantastical scene of a classical harbour with magnificent buildings and ships with an atmospheric backdrop of mountains based on Snowdonia with dramatic cloud formations

At the time he was in great demand for stage sets and murals in great houses. Many times I have admired his work at Mottisfont in Hampshire, and of course in the restaurant at the Tate

The Plas Newydd mural is staggering and just holds you for hours if necessary. My pictures disappoint so I will not include them. There are websites or go and see the real thing

The Italian Chapel on Orkney

I have been away travelling and sadly haven’t touched any painting or drawing. I would like to mention this wonderful place we visited on our trip round the Northern Isles, which is very much connected to real art.

Interior of Italian Chapel

I had to use a postcard for this shot, as when we were there the building was crowded, so a clear shot of the altar was impossible

The chapel was created by Italian POWS in 1943, who were employed building concrete causeways between the islands, which also acted as sea defences against U-boat infiltration. The Royal navy had already lost HMS Royal Oak with 800 lives to an enemy torpedo whilst apparently safe in Scapa Flow, so this work was of great importance.

The Italians requested a chapel, and two Nissen huts were made available, fixed end to end. A man called Domenico Chiocchetti had already been recognised as an artist, and he led the team of interior decorators. He was assisted by Giuseppi Palumbi , a blacksmith and Domenico Buttapasta, a worker in cement

With no materials other than what they could find, they transformed the interior into this beautiful work of art. They were given access to the wrecks in Scapa Flow, some of which were exposed at low tide, and from these anything useful like brass or other exotic materials were obtained.

In 1944, their work done, the POWS were moved south, not before receoiving an assurance from the authorities in Orkney, that the chapel would be preserved. Domenico Chiocchetti’s home town was Moena, and there are strong links between Orkney and Moena. with visits both ways. In 2014, three stations of the cross were stolen and three replacements were carved in Moena and brought over.

Domenico Chiocchetti came back in 1994, and was involved in some restoration work himself

The chapel is one of Orkney’s most important tourist spots and welcomes 100,000 visitors each year

This is my photograph on a very grey day

Dragon on the Roof : The Painting

Dragon on the Roof, as the restored Pagoda at Kew Gardens

This is my painted submission from the photograph in the last post

Colour matching was a problem. I don’t think that I had ever tried to render gold paint in watercolour before, so I have had to experiment a bit. I haven’t hit the colour square on, but putting the photograph aside, and just looking at the painting, I do feel that my gold does look like gold paint that has been lacquered. Or so I tell myself.

I used a base coat of raw sienna and Naples Yellow. When that was hard, I started to put in shadows with raw sienna. For darker shadows I started to use some more raw sienna but mixing in quinacradone deep gold. For very deep shadows I was using the deep gold straight out of the tube.

The green was more straightforward, a sap green base coat and let that go hard. I mixed some sap green with french Ultramarine to produce that glossy deep green, and started to work in the shadows. For the deep shadows I used more blue. Some artists I know are horrified about putting on several coats of watercolour paint. I don’t agree. I find the finish goes more and more velvety when you do that, and in this case started to look like gloss paint.

Vermilion for the tongue and tail

I have framed this for the exhibition. I cannot imagine this subject being commercial, but with all these dragons we are meeting the requirements of the organisers, and that is good.

The date is the 15th, so we shall see

Dragon on the Roof

Restored Dragons on the Pagoda in Kew Gardens

Our local art club has a presence at the annual fair in Pirbright, which has decided on dragons as its theme for the day. I don’t know why but……Artists have been asked to submit paintings of dragons, so I have had to put Barcelona on hold, whilst I think of something. Totally without inspiration, I remembered going to Kew Gardens about a fortnight ago, and saw the wonderful restoration of the Pagoda

The Pagoda was designed by Sir William Chambers in 1762. The dragons made of wood were part of the original but taken down after twenty years for renovation, but never put back. For years the pagoda was a dreadful shade of red, but now, thanks to a wonderful restoration, the pagoda has been returned to its original colour, and dragons have been superbly made and are back where the original designer had wanted them

The pagoda had been designed as a gift for Princess Augusta, who founded the Royal Botanical Gardens. I’ve not been to the top. I gather that views over London are spectacular. Perhaps one day.

Anyway, i am going to paint, as my submission, one of these rooftop dragons, and see where it gets me. I don’t have long. Paintings must be installed framed early morning on the 15th. We shall see

Van Gogh Exhibition at Tate Britain

Van Gogh Self Portrait

Superb exhibition of Van Gogh works as well as some of his influences currently at Tate Britain. We went there on Saturday. It was very crowded, and part of me wished that we had got up earlier and gone to the member’s preview at 8am. It was bound to be popular with so many famous paintings brought in from all over the world. The first Van Gogh exhibition since 1947!

He spent three years in London before he started painting. Firstly in the London office of Goupil, the art dealer, and some of the paintings he would have handled were on show. At Goupil he dealt in black and white prints, and himself became a collector, accumulating some 2000 prints. Whilst in England, he developed a fondness for literature, and especially for the works of Dickens. It is believed that he developed his social conscience through reading Dickens, and many of his works depict the misery of poverty.

He was a teacher and later a preacher in Isleworth before returning to the Netherlands and then moving to France to join his brother Theo, also a dealer.

In France he was painting, and from Paris moved to Arles, hopefully to found a colony of artists. Much of his work from this period is too well known to mention, and then sadly he was overtaken by mental illness, the need to self-harm and eventually to commit suicide

Also shown were some of the works of artists, who had been inspired by Van Gogh. Harold Gilman, Spencer Gore, and Matthew Smith led by Walter Sickert of the Camden Group were particular devotees, and it was said that Gilman would raise his brush to a picture of Van Gogh before he started to paint.

Famous paintings here, too many to mention. Sunflowers which was bought for the Tate in 1928 and then moved to the National, is now back. Also Shoes which was possibly the first painting of shoes to be used as a portrait of their owner. Others followed, and here I always think of our local painter and gardener, Gertrude Jekyll

I’ll finish with a bad photograph of Shoes

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It’s on until 11 August

Fountain of Love: the finished painting

The Fountain of Love 

Well, this painting is finally finished. Towards the end, although commissioned, it was starting to become a labour of love, no pun intended.

I found myself wondering whether I would finish or fall at the last hurdle. I feel pleased with it, which is dangerous to say, as the image for approval has only just gone to the client, and if it doesn’t match what he had in mind, then I shall be in difficulties. Worst case scenario, it will be rejected, but even then I would find this one useful for the web-site

In terms of technique, there isn’t much to add to the last post. The jets of water were achieved by flicking white gouache onto a blanked off section of the painting. Always a bit hit and miss, but mostly they have worked, and in some cases provided a realistic white mist

Unless I have to make any last-minute adjustments, I should be free to think of something else, for which I have built up a long list. I am at least at the end of my commissioned work ( for which I am truly grateful), and can now think of my next exhibition which is March/ April as I remember. I have paintings ready but will need more, and so we go on.

Burne-Jones Exhibition at the Tate Art Gallery

Golden Stairs by Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898)

One of many well-known paintings by Sir Edward Burne-Jones featured in a special exhibition currently at Tate Britain until February 2019 which is the first major retrospective to be held for forty years. Inspired by the church and the medieval period, his work represented the antidote to the ugliness and the materialism of the Victorian period.

We went there recently. As always a superlative exhibition. To be seen if you can

There were seven rooms of drawings and paintings. Burne Jones was a superlative draughtsman . The second room deals with his time in Fulham, when he finally had space enough to embark on major projects for which he needed countless preparatory drawings, each one of which could be considered a work of art in its own right.

Renaissance art and four visits to Italy encouraged his approach to the body. His male figures appeared troubled while women were portrayed beautiful yet sinister. About this time he was experimental with media, using gouache with chalk and later metallic pigments.

His attitude to the male figure caused him to resign from the Old Watercolour Society which had been shocked by his work. . He was becoming known as one of the most daring artists of his time. After a blissful period of working to his own pace, his exhibition pictures started to take London by storm, and later Paris, so that he became known throughout Europe.

Most impressive were the rooms containing his Series Paintings, massive works commissioned by serious clients with rooms that can show these works as they should be shown. This was of course the era of the seriously wealthy patron who could command works like these., such as the Perseus series, commissioned by the young future prime Minister Arthur Balfour for his London residence.  Curiously Balfour was later to be president of Woking Golf Club, close to where I live. The only prime minister to be president of a golf club. I wondered what these wonderful paintings would look like in the golf club lounge, but that was me being facetious.

I cannot describe the paintings of the Perseus Story, as they were too magnificent. Like wise the Briar Rose which is really the story of Sleeping Beauty. Wonderful illustrations of knights and princesses. Burne Jones I think today would have been in his element illustrating Game of Thrones or the Harry Potter stories.

He worked closely with William Morris, from whom he derived the bulk of his income. He became especially well-known for designing stained glass windows for churches and cathedrals the breadth of the land and indeed the old Empire.

One of the last great figures of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. This is a wonderful collection gathered together for a short time

Art Exhibition at Leatherhead Theatre

Leatherhead Theatre Exhibition May 2018

A new venue for me in a new town, which is always exciting. Leatherhead is about twenty miles from the Woking/Guildford area where I usually exhibit, so this should be a good opportunity to address an audience which as yet is unfamiliar with my work

Leatherhead is a smaller town than Guildford, but prosperous nonetheless, a commuter town with a busy shopping centre. The theatre is in the middle of town, and open all day, so not just with performances but also with conferences, classes and clubs, so we are told quite a heavy footfall

I have entered six framed paintings and five folios. One thing about a new venue is that nobody has seen any of my work so I can give some previous paintings an airing. Galloping Horses is the only painting that hasn’t been shown at all. Certainly the organisers were very enthusiastic about my work, and expected great things, but then organisers always do. My own theory is to expect the unexpected, which seems to work every time. They actually contacted me, which is unusual and pleasing, having seen my website under Surrey Artists.  Maybe that was the unexpected bit!

The exhibition opened this Tuesday and runs until the 15th. I had an interim report on Thursday telling me which pictures were receiving most interest, namely the Flamingo painting which is one of the framed ones, as well as two of the folios, Sicilian fishing village and Cockerel with Hens. Exciting stuff. It could go either way

As I always say, one would be nice.

By the way, I have had to interrupt progress on the Bosham painting, as I have received a commission which is needed for a wedding anniversary towards the end of this month. I am on with this, but still some way to go, as some parts are tricky. I may well write about it later.

Itching to get back to the Bosham painting, though !!