Michelangelo & Sebastiano at The National Gallery

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Last week we visited the National Gallery to see The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Michelangelo & Sebastiano. We’ve written a short review of selected works from the exhibition and what we learnt about Mike and Seb’s friendship and careers.

The artists

Mike and Seb first met in Rome around 1511. Mike was 36 years old, Seb some 10 years Mike’s junior. Their professional reputations at this stage in their careers paralleled the differing years of their experience.

Mike, already known and respected, embraced punctilious preparation, method, and accuracy through observation and study (not unlike Leonardo); creating monumental works in the way of the Florentine and Roman schools that mark out his stylistic development.  Mike was clearly a driven individual who wanted to be number one in his field – not second or third. During his career as a painter, Mike was in fierce competition with Raphael. Raphael was eight years younger, clearly talented and innovative within the renaissance movement.  Historical accounts give a sense of difference between Mike and Raphael – that Mike was obstinate, moody, quarrelsome and unforgiving, where Raphael was humble, sincere and very likeable – which opened doors for him with ease when Mike had to force his way through. The threat to Mike from the young upstart Raphael seems to have been very real.

In his art, Seb was a freer spirit than Mike, intent upon creating atmosphere and emotion over the strictures of precision, in accordance with his training and development in the altogether more liberal Venice school – accentuating the use of colour and improvisation.  This was not dissimilar to Raphael’s sytle and when Mike became aware of Seb and his talent, Mike realised that rather than allow another unwanted competitor on to the Roman art scene, a collaboration might be in his better interest.  Something about keeping your enemies close, perhaps.

The Exhibition starts with pieces by each of Mike and Seb to illustrate their differing styles.

Individual work

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Left: The virgin and Child with Saint John and Angels (‘The Manchester Madonna’), 1497 – Michelangelo

This panel painting in the opening exhibition room shows Mike’s mastery of the sculptural form.   The vividness of detail and colour in the infant Jesus and his cousin St John the Baptist contrasts with the heavy and precise outlines to the left where the panel remains unfinished. These later outlines are likely transferred to the panel from preparatory drawings, hence their deliberateness at this stage in their introduction to the scene. There appears to be no doubt as to what the painting is intended to portray, and how it is to be produced.

Right: The judgement of Solomon – Sebastiano Del Piombo, 1505

Here, Seb does what he does best.  Many figures, all animated in a way that makes them seem alive and in motion, supporting the story that the scene tells.  Again the piece is not complete – the baby that Solomon is issuing judgement over does not appear.  When looking between this and the previous work of Mike, Compare the skin tone and detail on the nude courtier (who is without the sword that he will need to cut the baby in two) with the skin on the infants in Mike’s work.  Also note how Seb’s work is developing as his thoughts and designs develop.  Not much planning in evidence here.  There are sections around the porticos at the side that look like a montage of several different images such is the prominence of prior architectural layouts he has explored over the one currently adopted.

It is quite possible that Seb became infatuated with Mike.  They quickly struck a friendship and artistic partnership which involved doing sketches for each other and actually both painting on the same canvas.  There is a letter in the exhibition (one of several that illuminate the relationship between the two) in which Seb assumes Mike’s hatred of Raphael.  Whether this is founded on genuine artistic difference, or again evidence of the indoctrination that Seb went through under Mike’s control is not clear.

Whilst Mike may have wanted to get close to Seb to control the risk of more competition, he was professional enough to see the opportunity for creating collaborative art of a new type that could continue to develop the renaissance.

Collaborative work

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Left: Lamentation over the Dead Christ (Pietà) – Sebastiano Del Piombo, after partial designs by Michelangelo, 1512-16

In this collaborative piece the possibilities of their combined talents are explored.   The grieving Mary is painted by Seb in a flowing style with intense colours to her clothes.  The moonlit background is full of atmosphere and suggestion.  Here anatomic form, however, is something of a contradiction. A muscular neck, broad shoulders and chest are almost certainly the influence of Mike.  The body of Jesus is painted in a starkly contrasting style by Mike – precise body form and arrangement and highly detailed skin tone.  You can almost see how the body of Jesus could be taken out to be a sculpture, whilst the balance of the painting could only ever be a painting.   It is likely that this piece proved to be on the evolutionary path to Mike’s Pieto.

Experiments in oil on plaster for the Sistine Chapel frescos may have been the subject of Mike and Seb’s early collaboration.  Ironical, as this is the very topic that was to be their undoing as friends.

Right: Study of a male upper torso with hands clasped and six studies of hands – Michelangelo

These studies, of which there are many in the exhibition, show the intensity of Mike’s pursuance of accuracy and truth in his art.  He is not leaving anything to chance when it comes to the final production.  How much his studies allowed him to vary his intentions is unsure.  Did he always start with a master plan for each piece, or were his studies and preliminary designs permitted to cause a change in the plan?

Mike spent many years back in Florence working for the Midici house whilst Seb stayed in Rome.  By the time of Mike’s return, Raphael had died a young man removing the threat to Mike’s ascendency to the top of his profession.

Late pieces

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Left: The Visitation, 1518-1519 – Sebastiano Del Piombo

Towards the middle of Seb’s career, during the collaboration period, his style of  painting seemed to take on characteristics of the defined and delicate work that Mike is known for. Here within The Visitation, one of his later works, he has gone beyond the figurative visualisation of Mike towards a subtly grand, abstracted and soulful style. He does, however, still maintain the expressive sky in the background of the work, something that for me allowed an instant recognition that the piece was the work of Seb.

Right: Section of the The last judgement, 1536-1541 – Michelangelo

With the sculptured and detailed bodies within The Last Judgement compared to The Visitation you can further see the differential stylings of the two artists. With Seb searching for less commissions and slowing down his painting career Mike was at the top of his game and with this he produced one of the most significant and renowned fresco paintings in the world. He had been fighting his whole career for the art work that would cause a stir and get his name  firmly secured within the art history bible with the Sistine chapel commission he had finally proven his worth. Although some people did believe that Raphael had painted the chapel, most definitely to Mike’s annoyance.

Mike and Seb’s friendship was put under strain when Seb ordered that the yet to be painted parts of the Sistine Chapel ceiling be prepared with an oil-paint base coat before Mike returned to Rome to complete the task.  Mike did not like working in oils and so ordered those areas painted in oil to be stripped and repaired in order that he could complete the work in his establish fresco style with water and egg-based paints on daily plaster applications.

Whilst Mike was away in Florence, working intensely and relentlessly as usual, Seb had taken up favour with the Pope’s court, where he became a salaried advisor.  Whether this role was so demanding that Seb reduced his painting output, or he became lazy with a fat guaranteed salary is not known.  When Mike returned to Rome he quickly formed the later opinion, which coupled with the Chapel ceiling incident was the undoing of their friendship.

Seb died some 18 years before Mike.  Seb had not produced much of note, and very little that was completed in the final 15 or so years of his life.  Mike went from strength to strength in painting, sculpture, architecture, poetry and letters up to his death in 1564 at the age of 83.  After Seb’s passing and before his own, Mike did not acknowledge any good to have come from his collaboration with Seb.  Indeed, Mike publicly scathed Seb, his work and of what he had become in his later life. Whether this attitude reveals evidence that Mike had only ever used Seb to further Mike’s own career is open for debate.

This exhibition, on at the National Gallery until June 25th, 2017 seeks to explore the coming together of Mike and Seb, their collaborative output, and the breakdown of their friendship.  Overall, the curators have achieved their aim, although Mike’s work out ways Seb’s.  We found one or two of the rooms to have odd exhibit numbering with no clear start point if following the very well put together exhibition guide in strict numeric order.  Also, the lighting was a little off on some pieces creating glare or reflection that was difficult to overcome by vantage point selection.

Thank you for reading!

Bethvictoria.com

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“A noticeable lack of feet…”

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We visited Tate Britain for the extensive exhibition of David Hockney’s 60 years of work from the instantly recognisable to the unseen workings.

There were so many pieces in this exhibition it was hard to choose a direction for this review. So we’ve just chosen a couple of pieces that we liked and looked into how they were made.

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The first piece is called ‘The Road to Thwing’ which Hockney painted in 2006. When displayed this is six smaller canvases hung close together to create one larger piece. When looking at the exhibition we were trying to work out how this would be painted would he do each canvas individually or all as one?

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When looking into it we found this image showing Hockney painting the scene with the six canvases arranged as they are on display. Whether he mapped out the edges of the canvas/basics of the small image and then worked back into each individually or did just do it all at once is not obvious from this image. We think its great that he has actually set this up within the field that he’s painting as with the technique seen within the ‘Australian impressionists’ exhibition we wrote about a few weeks back and not just done it from a photograph.

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David Hockney "The Four Seasons, Woldgate Woods (Spring 2011, Summer 2010, Autumn 2010, Winter 2010)" 2010-2011 36 digital videos synchronized and presented on 36 monitors to comprise a single artwork Duration: 4:21 An Edition of 10 with 2 A.P.s � David Hockney
“The Four Seasons, Woldgate Woods (Spring 2011, Summer 2010, Autumn 2010, Winter 2010)” 2010-2011

This is a collection of 36 digital videos synchronized and presented on 36 monitors to comprise a single artwork. They each last around 4 mins 21 seconds. Each screen consists of nine videos that play at the same time. The videos within the screen are simply the views from different perspectives of a car going down a road. Again we wondered how it was done.

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The above two images show the device and Hockney at work capturing the videos. We were trying to think of what kind of high tech piece of kit he could of used to create this piece. The rig set up on the bonnet of the car is definitely a lot less complicated than we were expecting and just what we were thinking he would have done. It is interesting that he sits in the back of the car watching every moment of the videos being recorded, even though the cameras will be capturing the work he doesn’t let anything turn out not as imagined or expected.

And the title of this blog comes from the observation of Hockney not really drawing/painting feet. They are always covered with shoes, furniture or missed off completely.

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For example the large socks or bucket in the painting above.

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We also really liked this photomontage of Hockney’s mother. There is a lot of skill used to perfectly capture and then realign the images to get her face clear and not distorted.

The exhibition is open until the 29th May – so get down and check it out for yourself.

Bethvictoria.com

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Rauschenberg at the Tate Modern

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One of the current exhibitions at the Tate Modern is a large retrospective of Robert Rauschenberg’s 6o year career as an artist. Through 11 gallery spaces you are shown the journey of his work from his early experimentation to his late work with all the seemingly random and continuously experimental work in-between.

We went to visit it and so wanted to let you know what we thought. This is written with two people opinions. Beth’s (B) who is the designer and artist behind Bethvictoria.com and Paul (P) a lover of art and design but with a business background. We thought it would be interesting to see the two opinions formed from the pieces.

The first two pieces are found in the first, ‘Experimentation’ room of the exhibition. This room shows the work he created within Black Mountain College where he took classes in the fine arts and the initial works he created during his marriage to Susan Weil. ‘Experimentation’ shows various materials he worked with from light sensitive paper to a car, paint and paper.

Automobile Tire Print, 1953
Automobile Tire Print, 1953

About: Created with the help of composer John Cage and his Model A Ford. The piece challenges the idea of art and authorship.

What we thought

B: A simplistic idea and kind of print. For me it shows the trace that we leave. Even the simple day to day things that we do, like driving a car, change the world around us and leave a print. A comment on society.

P: I like this for its simplicity, but technically this probably isn’t as straightforward as one might think. Keeping all the sheets of paper accurately juxtaposed achieving a smooth substrate to minimise counter-imprints from under the paper, and ensuring the tire was loaded with sufficient paint to get the consistency of impression over what looks like to revolutions of the car wheel, would have been challenges to overcome.

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Untitled, 1951

About: Part of a body of work named Black Paintings created to test the boundaries of abstraction in the 50s. Untitled, 1951, created whilst he was studying, uses layers of newspaper and dense black paint to create a textured and glossy painting.

What we thought

B: The texture of the newspaper isn’t obvious until you get closer to this piece. That’s what I find interesting about this piece. From far away it just looks like black canvas but when you get closer you see that there’s texture and movement with how the light plays on the glossy paint. If you don’t look at it properly you don’t see the detail and it doesn’t make sense.

P: This is moody. The exhibition lighting could, to my mind, have created more atmosphere. Rauschenberg probably approached this from an experimental angle and discovered an abstraction of form and colour that worked. The proportions are comfortable to the eye and I like the emphasis that is given to the abutment of the varying width canvases that make up the whole.

In room three of the exhibition you find the ‘Combines’. Combining materials, objects and processes to create works that he said became ‘awkward physically’. Using mostly found objects which he put on canvas and then enhanced with abstract paint marks. The combines were made in his studio, live on stage and also some grew with their time in exhibition via viewer participation.

Bed, 1955
Bed, 1955

About: Not being able to afford canvas Rauschenberg decided to use his quilt, sheet and pillow for this piece. When it was first viewed it was considered a threatening piece, Rauschenberg said that he did not mean for it it be harsh.

What we thought

B: I wouldn’t say it looks cozy. But I do relate to it. To me its the boundary between being awake and dreaming. The cover at the bottom and pillow at the top are practically untouched – the real uniform world we are in when we are awake. And the part where you would slip under the cover is messy and colourful – the explosion of your ideas and imagination that comes when you are asleep and dreaming.

P: Not a lot to say about this other than I think it is great. I particularly like the almost ‘impressionist’ colour spectrum that is created around the fold of the quilt.

Black Market, 1961
Black Market, 1961

About: Originally this was a piece that the audience could participate in. The four clipboards on the canvas were for viewers to put their own pieces of art/notes or doodles into the work. The box contained objects and people were encouraged to take one in exchange for an object of their own. (This was stopped when in one exhibition the objects were taken and not replaced)

What we thought

B: The idea of being able to add to and interact with this piece is really great. I love the idea that Rauschenberg took his recognition and allowed other people to get involved with it. Collaborating with everyone and getting everyone involved in making art.

P: I would love to know if Rauschenberg took an interest in how the contents of the box changed over time. Keeping snapshots of the ever-changing range of items, with the common theme of having been ‘swapped in’ might have been the basis for more follow-on work perhaps.

Silkscreens (Room 5) were a key part in Rauschenberg’s recognition as an artist, being the key to his breakthrough in 1963. Rauschenberg was working on these at the same time as Warhol. He started using his own imagery then he developed to using colour and more recognisable found imagery, touching on the subjects of politics, science and sport. Once his silkscreens had been recognised and shown within galleries he immediately destroyed the tools needed to make any more, removing any possibility of the ease to just repeat himself.

Almanac, 1962
Almanac, 1962

About: Almanac was one of his first screen prints and doesn’t hold any real meaning. It is just an exploration of the combination of imagery, strokes and textures.

What we thought

B: Unlike Warhol, Rauschenberg’s screen prints aren’t concerned with the celebrity. They are, as with his other work, experimental and show working. It doesn’t tell you what it is or how you should think about it – you decide for yourself.

P: At first, this piece creates an internal struggle in the observer as it appears chaotic (Tate calls it ‘poetic’ – I’m not so sure). But as one deciphers the images that have been screen printed and the brush work that is added for emphasis, one is taken on a journey of one’s own making. The piece becomes something different to each observer.

Room 11 shows Rauschenberg’s late works. He had a keen interest in using the latest technology in photography to produce large scale works. He continued to make work until his death in 2008. They continued to be collaborative and experimental. Questioning the idea of art and ownership and the development in technology, media and culture.

Mirthday Man, 1997
Mirthday Man, 1997

About: Mirthday Man was made on Rauschenberg’s 72nd birthday. It includes an x-ray of himself, clippings from art history and imagery from his travels.

What we thought

B: From the exhibition it seemed that Rauschenberg after time creating less colourful box, B&W photographs and installations went back to this type of work that is similar to his screen prints but with modern techniques. I just love that even on his 72nd birthday and for ten more years he was creating such interesting works.

P: It seems a random combination of images, but it isn’t. I imagine the artist anguishing over the arrangement of colour, shape and topic, either to give some order to it all, or to intentionally create disharmony. This is a piece one can look at for hours and see different things and think different things.

So, that’s what we thought about it. The exhibition is open till 2 April 2017 so get down to Tate to see it for yourself!

Bethvictoria.com

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We’re in a gang… The Papergang

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We love stationary.

Papergang is a monthly subscription of stationary with the online stationary store Ohh deer.

This subscription of dreams is having a little bundle of useful notebooks, beautiful designs and funny cards through your letterbox (box doesn’t actually fit through letterbox) and its pretty easy and reasonably priced to get this in your life.

Heres the kind of items we’ve received in past boxes:

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The 2017 palm print diary is our lifeline to keeping track of what we need to do in the day and we’ve framed the prints and some of the cards and put them up in the bedroom. Every month is a lovely little surprise and always full of beautiful stationary you didn’t know you needed!

Follow this link – Papergang – and sign yourself up! Get in quick to get this months box!

Stationary boxes in the post – what a time to be alive.

Bethvictoria.com

All images from Papergang website
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Arthur Streeton – A master impressionist

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Earlier this month, we attended a wonderful exhibition at The National Gallery titled ‘Australia’s Impressionists’ which runs to 26th March 2017. This is a relatively small exhibition, but expertly curated and features work by four Australian artists – Tom Roberts, Charles Conder, John Russell and Arthur Streeton. Between them, these four created a new artistic movement in Australia based on what they had seen in France and produced a huge combined body of work that represents the very best of impressionist painting from the prodigious talents that Roberts, Conder and Russell are, it was the work of Arthur Streeton (1867-1943) that captured our attention.

This from The National Gallery’s web page summarises his life.

“Streeton’s artistic training began aged 15, with night classes in design at Melbourne’s National Gallery School, while he worked as an office clerk and, later, as an apprentice lithographer. He read amateur art manuals imported from Europe and America that encouraged painting en plein air.

 While painting at Mentone Beach, south of Melbourne, Streeton met Tom Roberts (1856–1931), who invited him to join artists’ camps that he had helped found in the bush near Box Hill, to the west of the city. Together with Roberts and Charles Conder (1868–1909), Streeton helped stage the ‘9 by 5 Impression Exhibition‘ in Melbourne in 1889, which served as something of a manifesto for this new generation of Australian painters who were embracing the looser, more open techniques of Impressionism.

Streeton moved to Sydney in 1890, after the Art Gallery of New South Wales purchased a large canvas of his, ‘Still glides the stream, and shall for ever glide’ (1890). He was the first Australian-born artist to have a work exhibited at London’s Royal Academy – ‘Golden Summer, Eaglemont’ (1889) – but when he moved to London in 1897 he struggled to gain recognition. Nonetheless, he stayed in England for around thirty years, sending work back to Australia.

During the First World War, Streeton served as a hospital orderly in London, and then as an official war artist with the Australian army. He was awarded a knighthood in 1937 for services to art.”

Streeton produced a tremendous body of work during his lifetime, everyone of which merits individual study. But for now we have selected five paintings from the exhibition for specific comment and appreciation. As you study them, take in the balance in the composition, the great sense of location and climate, and the wonderful colour palettes he uses, all of which can inform ebullient design solutions today.

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‘Golden Summer, Eaglemont’ 1889. Oil on canvas.

This painting is many things, but we specifically love the colour palette Streeton uses. Vivid blues and golds which he describes as the ‘nature’s scheme of colour in Australia’. The depth of detail, the tranquil setting and the mastery of light and shade all stand out.

Artist : Ena Joyce (Australia, b.1925) Title : Date : (circa 1949) Medium Description: oil on plywood Dimensions : Credit Line : Purchased 1949 Image Credit Line : Accession Number : 832

‘Fire’s on’ Lapstone Tunnel 1891 oil on canvas.

Again that wonderful colour palette stands out. Up close, his use of a 1″ brush in 1-2″ strokes to build up the tonal range of the blue sky is masterful. The vantage point produces a high horizon allowing an exquisite interpretation of sunlight and shade, as seen in Golden Summer. You almost want to reach out and touch the rocks on the left!

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‘Ariadne’ 1895 oil on wood panel.

Blue and pink dominate the colours here. Ariadne appears to almost float on the sand. With her head lowered into her hands, her sorrow easily felt. Again the sense of sunshine and warm climate is projected so well.

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‘Blue Pacific’ 1890 oil on canvas.

This image doesn’t do justice to the tonal range and brush work that Streeton achieved. The light and dark golds used to pull out the centrepiece sandstone cliff face are superbly constructed. Again the colour palette is excellent and exuberant.

Artist : Arthur Streeton (Australia, b.1867, d.1943) Title : Date : 1893 Medium Description: oil on canvas Dimensions : Credit Line : Gift of Lady Denison 1942 Image Credit Line : Accession Number : 7209

‘The railway station, Redfern’ 1893 oil on canvas.

Finally, we bring this one into the selection because of its juxtaposition in climatic terms to the prior four. Here, grey skies, wind and rain predominate instead of warm sunshine. The composition, with all the detail clustered in the top half of the painting, and just the surface treatment and a lone be-coated person and their shadow occupying the lower half, represent such an eye for the scene. It is reported that he painted this in around three hours…

Celebrate the work of Arthur Streeton. He has many lessons to teach modern designers.

Written by Paul Smith for Bethvictoria.com

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The Design Museum, London

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We went to visit the new design museum. It used to be housed in a building by the Thames and Tower Bridge but has now re-opened in the old Commonwealth Institute which has been renovated by John Pawson.

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The space has one permanent exhibition, two spaces for temporary exhibitions as well as a restaurant, cafe and two shops. Going into the space the staff were extremely welcoming and all dressed in aprons like baristas… or elves. Going further into the space you are confronted with a massive void all the way to the roof.

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On the third floor is the free permanent exhibition. You’re greeted by a large changing sign showing the name of the exhibition designed by Studio Myerscough. Designer Maker User shows 1000 plus items of 20th and 21st century design. Which is great if you have the time and patience to read all the little bits of information and look at all the items then this is a great exhibition. To us though it was a crammed experience with one design and text drowning and being drowned by the next. I didn’t know where to look, and between moving out the way for people to walk past and not getting distracted by the next visual, I only really looked at the start object and walked through the rest. (Plus couldn’t get far enough away to fit everything into a photograph!)

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Overall other than the overwhelming squished display the architecture of the building was pretty nice. A great space to look up and admire… but maybe not the most useable. Still worth a visit, we may not have enjoyed it that much, but you may do!

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Bethvictoria.com

All Photographs ©Bethvictoria.com

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Lisbon, Portugal

Here is the second instalment of our recent trip to Portugal. We only spent one day in Lisbon but we packed a lot in! So here are some of our highlights!

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If you want to view the whole of Lisbon, look out over the Tagus River and see a little bit of history visit the São Jorge Castle. The castle offers various views of the whole of Lisbon and even boasts a camera obscura. One of the turrets has been adapted to hold a camera obscura that allows you to experience the views of Lisbon in a magical and interesting way. Another way to view the Lisbon landscape is the Santa Justa Lift, although I wouldn’t bother paying to go up the lift, if you head to the ruins (bellow) you can walk across a bridge and get to the viewing platform for free!

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Carmo convent and ruins. Struck by the 1755 earthquake this building has partly been rebuilt and restored but a beautiful open roof has been left, allowing the blue sky to flood light into the grounds. It is a great place to sketch and view some architecture from the 14th century. It also boasts a little museum and gift shop with some interesting books of Lisbon.

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Expo’98 Portugese National Pavilion by Alvaro Siza. We visited this in the morning before the sun decided to make an appearance, it was pretty soggy… This piece of architecture is sort of mind boggling, it doesn’t seem possible that the thin piece of concrete can drape so easily between the two porticoes. It also has some beautiful coloured tiles on the inside and outside.

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And for some great food head to Timeout’s Mercado da Ribeira a fun and interesting food hall that offers a range of food types and drinks! Also the Bairro Alto district offers a lot small bars and pubs that allow you to grab a drink and walk around or to the next pub. We’d recommend checking out the Park Bar located on the top floor of a car park with great vibes and views of Lisbon.

Bethvictoria.com

 

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5 London Exhibitions this summer

There are as usual a tonne of different exhibitions on this summer in London. We’ve chosen 5 that we are interested in and will let you know some more we find later!

1 -Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century

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“A major retrospective of the work of American photographer and film maker, Paul Strand (1890-1976), and the first in the UK since the artist’s death. Strand was one of the greatest and most influential photographers of the 20th century whose images have defined the way fine art and documentary photography is understood and practiced today.”

 Look out for a review on this one coming up!

19th March – 3rd July at the V&A

2 – Performing for the Camera

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A exhibition exploring the relationship between photography and performance. “What does it mean to perform for the camera?” An interesting exhibition that makes us think what does it mean to be yourself in front a camera, we are so used to cameras being constantly on us do we ever act ourselves or are we always performing?

Now – 12th June at Tate Modern

3- Conceptual Art in Britain 1964–1979

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“In the 1960s artists began to abandon traditional approaches and made ideas the essence of their work. This fascinating exhibition explores this pivotal period in British history, which changed the way we think about art to this day. It gathers together artists who took art beyond its traditional boundaries to suggest new ways of engaging with the realities of the world beyond the studio, which ultimately led to a questioning of the function and social purpose of art.”

12th April – 29th August at Tate Britain

4- Painting with Light

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Art and photography from Pre-Raphaelites to the modern age.

“Spanning 75 years across the Victorian and Edwardian ages, the exhibition opens with the experimental beginnings of photography in dialogue with painters such as J.M.W. Turner and concludes with its flowering as an independent international art form.”

11 May – 25th September at Tate Britain

5 – David Hockney RA: 82 Portraits and 1 Still Life

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This exhibition explores Hockney’s return to portraiture from his work with landscapes. The portraits are of a range of sitters from family to colleagues.

2nd July – 2nd October at the RA

Bethvictoria.com

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Porto, Portugal

We’ve just come back from a whistle-stop visit to Porto and Lisbon. Here are our highlights from the Porto visit. Some top places to visit, some great architecture and the best places to chill out.

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This church was the first thing we saw when we emerged from the metro station in Porto and we were excited to explore more…

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Porto is known for its range of Azulejo tiles. Colourful ceramic tiles that line the streets and cover the facades of many of the buildings. This style of tile was influenced by the Moors and are typically Mediterranean colours.

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São Bento Train station built in 1916 is one of the most beautifully decorated train stations. Covered from floor to ceiling with over 20 thousand tiles that portray the history of Portugal. These magnificent scenes were painted by Jorge Colaço.

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As well as the more traditional artwork of the tiles Porto is full of modern art in the form of graffiti. From large scale portraits to little quotes of inspiration you can find bright new art surrounded by old and crumbling architecture. Showing Porto’s seamless link with keeping the old and embracing the new.

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Left – Alvaro Siza’s faculty of architecture, Porto. Right – Alvaro Siza’s Leça swimming pool, Leça de Palmeira. The architecture of the swimming pool fits perfectly with the landscape of the sea front in Leça de Palmeira. The building leading you to the open pools offer some great lines and perspectives. The pools slot within the rocks and make it seem as though you could swim all the way out to sea and the pools are tidal – so really do embrace the space around them.

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  Casa Da Musica, Rem Koolhaas, 2005. This music hall is an iconic building in Porto. With its main architectural focus on the sound proofing of the main music hall it is acoustically excellent. It also boasts a range of side rooms that allow you to view the main hall, but also hold classes and practices.

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The angles of the exterior of the building are mimicked within the building and its furnishings. It offers colour themed rooms with different uses and even a roof top terrace with a vast view of Porto.

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We managed to have a tour of the building whilst the Portuguese symphony orchestra were practicing and went back the next day to see them play. A definite must see when in Porto!

Of course there were a lot more things we did whilst there. Visiting the old town of Guimaraes was another highlight, the perfect place to sit in the sun in a square with a glass of wine.

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The influence of Andrea Palladio

Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) was a Venetian architect whose design philosophy summarised much of the worthy architecture that had gone on before his time, particularly Greek and Roman, and set the standard for most of the architecture that followed. His influence and his work can still be seen today in our historic buildings, and 21st century design solutions around the world.

Palladio shared his philosophy not only by his practice and prolific design and construction during his lifetime, but also by writing and publishing his seminal work called I Quattro Libri dell’Architettura (The Four Books of Architecture). This body of work, first published in Italian in 1570, comprises guidelines, rules, design solutions, classical proportions, and everything else that design practitioners need to deliver the style that is has been known for 300 years or more as “Palladian”. It was over 100 years before the books were first translated into English.

In summary, Palladian architecture is characterised by symmetry and order. Copious use of mathematical proportions (after Vitruvius) porticos, colonnades, loggia, and of course the Venetian window.

An extract from one of Palladio’s “Four Books”.
An extract from one of Palladio’s “Four Books”.

Whilst it has unfortunately just finished, the RIBA ran an exhibition of Palladio’s work, and his subsequent influence, at its London headquarters called PALLADIAN DESIGN: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UNEXPECTED. This enlightening and very well yet simply curated display of drawings and models spanned from Palladio’s hand to today’s architects who still embrace Palladio’s philosophy. The work of numerous big hitters in architecture was displayed including Inigo Jones and Terry Quinlan. But two architectural giants who embraced Palladian design principals stood out – An 18th century Earl, and a president of the United States.

Boyle’s rendering of his design for Burlington House, Piccadilly.
Boyle’s rendering of his design for Burlington House, Piccadilly.

Richard Boyle (1694-1753) was the the 3rd Earl of Burlington and is recounted as the “the architect Earl”. To develop his craft, he toured Europe studying architecture and when he visited the Veneto region he carried with him a copy of Palladio’s “Four Books”.   As well as practicing as an architect, Boyle became a noted architectural historian and collector, owning several original Palladio drawings, which by Boyle’s time were already some 200 years old.

Burlington House today - home to The RA.
Burlington House today – home to The RA.

Boyle is of interest because he applied Palladian design principals to his own home on Piccadilly – Burlington House – which is today home to the Royal Academy and the Courtyard Societies. Boyle’s design solution for his home strictly aligned with Palladio’s rules and marked a shift in the architecture of London.

  Boyle went on to contribute several outstanding Palladian-style buildings to London including Chiswick House Villa and Westminster School.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) is well known as the third president of the United States, a Founding Father and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was a polymath, and amongst his myriad interests and talents outside of politics was architecture. Before his election as President, Jefferson (like Franklin and Adams) spent several years in Europe negotiating for the US on trade agreements. He was largely based in France and alongside many influences on his future interests, he discovered Palladio and his ‘Four Books”.

Jefferson’s original design for Monticello, VA.
Jefferson’s original design for Monticello, VA.     

Like Boyle, Jefferson first applied the Palladian principals to his own home, the fabulous Monticello in Virginia. The history of Monticello’s design and construction, which spanned most of Jefferson’s adult life is convoluted, but there can be no doubt that the finished article evidences Jefferson’s renaissance-level contribution to the architectural language of American buildings that still persists today.

Monticello today, a magnificent momument to Jefferson’s adopted Palladian principals.
Monticello today, a magnificent momument to Jefferson’s adopted Palladian principals.

  Jefferson went on to design numerous other very important buildings that still survive, most notably the Virginia State Capitol building and the Rotunda at the University of Virginia (having first founded the institution as part of the education reinvention that he led).

It is highly unlikely that when he wrote The Four Books of Architecture, Andrea Palladio realised the influence he and his work would have over centuries to come. Cynics might say that mathematical order, symmetry and form driven by function are inevitable directions of design development for an evolving, intelligent society. But that denies the fact that Palladio saw the need to restate the classical orders and design principals used 1,500 years before his own lifetime. His supporters would say that Palladio shifted the design paradigm and rescued Venice, Europe and subsequently the world from architectural mediocrity. Thank goodness he did.

Written by Paul S Smith, FRICS

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