As London shifts into Christmas gear, it’s nice to know you can escape tinseltown’s seasonal madness from time to time, and what better way than with some art? How could you possibly fail to be impressed by the Impressionists in London at the Tate Britain or by Modigliani’s collection of nudes at Tate Modern? You could gaze at Cezanne’s earthy portraits at the National Gallery for hours on end, or if design is your thing, it’s on the menu at both the Jewish Museum and the Design Museum in two visually-stimulating exhibitions.
Impressionists in London at Tate Britain
How do you capture London fog? Not easily as it turns out. Oscar Wilde proclaimed that Whistler did it best and Whistler agreed: “My own lovely London fogs…I am their painter!” But I think Claude Monet did it best in his Houses of Parliament series, six of which are reunited for the first time since 1973 and are on show at the Tate Britain in its latest blockbuster exhibition, Impressionists in London.
The breathtaking exhibition includes 100 works by Monet, Tissot, Pissarro and others, and captures London’s quintessential Englishness through the eyes of foreigners who fled there during and after the Franco-Prussian War. Two watercolours by James Tissot are on show to the public for the first time, one of which is a depiction of the mass execution which Tissot witnessed first-hand in Paris in May 1871. Also included are two Pissarros which have never been on show in the UK before.
Pissarro rented a flat near Kew Gardens and painted 11 paintings in a Kew series. “I’ve found a series of magnificent themes, which I try to render as well as possible. The weather is very favourable, but how difficult.” Good old English weather!
I love this quintessentially British tableau don’t you? Spotted dick and cold cuts are on the Afternoon Tea menu. Tissot painted this in his own garden in St. John’s Wood.
Impressionists in London at Tate Britain, London . Tickets £15.90 to £17.70. To 7 May 2018
Cézanne Portraits at National Portrait Gallery
Paris had him first, but luckily for us, Cézanne is in London now and he’s in the National Portrait Gallery before heading off to Washington D.C. Cézanne’s Portraits brings together 50 of the painter’s portraits from around the world including works never seen in the UK.
Picasso referred to him as “the father of us all,” calling him “my one and only master.” He is often referred to as one of the greatest, most influential artists of the nineteenth century. A post-Impressionist, Cézanne influenced Cubists, Fauvists and the avant-garde artists that followed.
During his lifetime, Cézanne painted a whopping 200 portraits, 26 of which were of himself and 29 of his wife, Hortense Fiquet. In the second half of the 1880s, he painted 34 portraits, half of which were of Hortense. He also painted labourers, domestic servants and children. He was a painter of the people, painting daily up until the eve of his death at the age of 67.
Above is one of many portraits of the Mrs. You would be forgiven for thinking this was a happy marriage, but they spent most of their married life living separately. Cézanne even disinherited her, but it didn’t stop him from continuing to paint her portraits.
Cézanne’s Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, London. Tickets £8.25 to £20. On until 11 February 2018.
Designs on Britain at the Jewish Museum
Located in an old piano factory in Camden Town, the Jewish Museum in London promotes Jewish history, culture and heritage through a program of events, activities and exhibitions, and it’s well worth a visit. In its latest exhibition, the museum examines the impact of Jewish design in the UK.
Many Jewish emigrés who fled Nazi Germany ended up in the UK, bringing their modernistic approach to design with them. Jewish design was cropping up in everyday objects such as sugar packaging, poster advertising for the Post Office and London Underground, as well as toys, exhibitions and vehicles.
ABOVE: Surrealist London Transport designs by Hans Unger. BELOW: As head of London’s Design Research Unit, Misha Black was commissioned by Westminster City Council to redesign its street signs. The result was the simple black, red and white design we now see all over Westminster.
LEFT: Radio telegrams were the most affordable method of communication in the 1950s. Hans Unger’s designs were an attempt to humanise technology. RIGHT: Dorrit Dekk’s designs for the P&O ferries menu. Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953 was used by design companies to add glamour and prestige.
LEFT: Launched in 1969, Karen’s Chopper is one of the design classics of the 1970s. RIGHT: F K H Henrion’s design for Tate & Lyle is one of his most iconic, but he is also widely recognised as a pioneer of corporate identity in Britain.
Beazley Designs of the Year at the Design Museum
Moving into the 21st century and beyond, the Design Museum is hosting its annual Beazley Designs of the Year, now in its tenth year. The exhibition brings together a shortlist of 60 projects across fashion, architecture, digital, product and transport design. Judges for the awards include Amanda Levete (the architect responsible for the new V&A extension) Apple’s Michael Tchao and fashion designer Ozwald Boateng. You can view the categories online and cast your own vote.
See the Pussyhat Project up close at the Design Museum (Getty Images). Other nominees include a Refugee Nation Flag, created to represent stateless athletes at the 2016 Rio Olympics, IKEA furniture that does not require screws or allen keys and the world’s first 3D printed self-driving bus.
Beazley Designs of the Year at the Design Museum, London. Tickets £4.50 to £9.00. On until 18 January 2018.
Modigliani is coming to Tate Britain this November, and it promises to pack a punch. The exhibition includes 100 paintings and sculptures, illustrating how he became one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. Modigliani’s famous nudes will be the highlight of the show, together with portraits of friends and lovers. Most exciting of all and thanks to some clever virtual reality, I’m going to be tripping over to early 20th century Paris during the exhibition! Keep an eye out for my review later on this month.
Modigliani at the Tate Modern. Tickets £15.90 to £17.70. 23 November to 2 April 2018
And in cinemas…
One of the country’s greatest living painters, David Hockney, is coming to a cinema near you this November. Featuring two of his blockbuster exhibitions from the Royal Academy of Arts, the film is an 80-minute documentary showing on November 21 and 26 in cinemas across London.