David Hockney’s Spring

The London Royal Academy’s ‘David Hockney: A Bigger Picture’ (Jan. 21st 2012 – April 9th 2012) has undoubtedly been one of my favourite art exhibitions so far.


Exhibited at the 2012 RA exhibition. David Hockney, Winter Timber, 2009 Photo: Private collection © David Hockney

It focused on Hockney’s beautiful depictions of landscapes, concentrating especially on the Yorkshire Wolds, and featured works in oil paint, watercolour, charcoal and ones drawn on his iPad. So I am extremely excited to not only have the opportunity to see some of these works again at Annely Juda Fine Art (‘David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring’, London, until July 12th 2014), but to also view his most recent charcoal drawings of five separate views of Woldgate, which have additionally been included in this upcoming show.

David Hockney's Woldgate, 6 to 7 February 2013. © David Hockney.

Detail from David Hockney’s Woldgate, 6 to 7 February 2013. Click for full image. © David Hockney, courtesy Annely Juda Fine Art, London

Hockney started these drawings early in 2013, following a minor stroke suffered by the artist the year before. As he explains in his recent Guardian article, he chose to illustrate these landscapes in black, white, and greys, consciously leaving behind the bright and loud colours previously seen in his iPad landscape drawings. Whether this decision had much to do with his stroke, he does not overtly say – however, he explains:

The stroke only manifested itself in my speech. I found I couldn’t finish sentences, and although it came back after about a month I find now I talk a lot less.”

David Hockney's Vandalized Totem in Snow, 5 December 2012.

David Hockney’s Vandalized Totem in Snow, 5 December 2012. Photograph: © David Hockney, courtesy Annely Juda Fine Art, London

Detail from David Hockney's Woldgate, 30 April, 1 & 5 May 2013.

Detail from David Hockney’s Woldgate, 30 April, 1 & 5 May 2013. Photograph: © David Hockney, courtesy Annely Juda Fine Art, London

The replacement of Hockney’s hitherto colourful and varied palette with an increasingly sombre one may, on the one hand, be perceived as reflecting the more quiet lifestyle the artist has had to adopt following his stroke. On the other, the choice of medium and palette can also demonstrate Hockney’s interpretation of a Chinese understanding of colour and the variety of hues offered within the broad gamut of grey:

The Chinese say black and white contains colour, and so it can.”

Detail from David Hockney's Woldgate, 9 & 12 May 2013.

Detail from David Hockney’s Woldgate, 9 & 12 May 2013. Photograph: © David Hockney, courtesy Annely Juda Fine Art, London

David Hockney's Woldgate, 8 May 2013.

Detail from David Hockney’s Woldgate, 8 May 2013. Photograph: © David Hockney, courtesy Annely Juda Fine Art, London

 These subdued and monochromatic drawings recall the qualities of an engraving or etching, and will certainly present an interesting visual contrast to the iPad prints exhibited alongside them. This forthcoming exhibition at London’s Annely Juda Fine Art opens on the 8th of May and will run until the 12th of July 2014.

Detail from David Hockney's Woldgate, 26 May 2013.

Detail from David Hockney’s Woldgate, 26 May 2013. Photograph: © David Hockney, courtesy Annely Juda Fine Art, London

#MyLondon: In June of last year, Beefeater London Gin launched a film competition in line with their ‘My London’ series. It called for passionate gin, film, and London enthusiasts to produce a short film expressing what London meant to them, while simultaneously tying in the Beefeater brand – a clever marketing strategy. The below Youtube clip is one of two films that won the competition. It’s called ‘Pure London’ by Pure London, and (for me) it creatively describes why this eclectic and colourful city will always be one of my world favourites. This might be cringe, but I loved watching it and just had to share:


Photo Gallery: The Eiffel Tower through the years

Yesterday marked the 125th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Originally completed in 1889, the Tower was to be the central feature of the Exposition Universelle (The World Fair) – held that same year to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution. At the time it was the tallest man-made structure in the world (324 metres tall) and it held on to the title for forty years until the completion of the Chrysler Building in New York in 1930. Initially the tower was to remain standing for only twenty years before being dismantled. However its function as a wireless telegraph transmitter (proving especially useful during WWI when it jammed German radio communication, hindering their advance in the First Battle of the Marne) meant that it was to stay as a permanent fixture. Between 1925 and 1934 the tower also became the world’s largest advertisement, as the French car company Citroen transformed it into a giant, illuminated billboard – they used a quarter of a million light bulbs! Since its opening, the Eiffel tower has welcomed 250 million visitors, and with almost 7 million people coming a year, it is now the most visited paid-for monument in the world.

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1888: The Eiffel Tower during its construction. It was designed and engineered by the French architect, Gustave Eiffel, and took two years to build.

During the 1900 Universal Exposition held in Paris

During the 1900 Universal Exposition held in Paris.

Many have successfully flown an aircraft under the arches of the Tower. However, Leon Collet was not in 1926, when his plane crashed and burned when colliding with cables.

Many have successfully flown an aircraft under the arches of the Tower. However Leon Collet was one of the unlucky ones, when, in 1926, his plane crashed and burned after colliding into some cables.

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During the 1937 World Fair, the Tower stood between the German Pavilion (left) and the Soviet Pavilion (right).

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Hitler and his Nazi soldiers in front of the Tower during the German occupation of Paris.

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1953: A man named Zazou repaints the Tower, something that is done every seven years.


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1961: Children buying refreshments from a cart under the Tower.

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1989: A French high wire artist walks along a tight rope connecting the Trocadero to the Eiffel Tower.

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1998: People swimming on a hot Summer day in the Trocadero fountains, opposite the Tower.

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2005: Peeking out through the Parisian morning fog.


These photographs have been sourced from The Telegraph, CNN, and the Baltimore Sun.


For the Roman Church Itinerary

When it comes to churches, the city of Rome has plenty to offer – more than 900 in fact. They make an important stop for any Art appreciator as these churches often hold key works by famous Old Masters (such as Raphael, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio), usually displayed in the setting they were originally intended for. What’s more, visitors typically don’t have to pay an entrance fee – although some do charge a euro or two to turn on a timed light to better illuminate their main attractions. While their sheer number can be a dream for any church enthusiast, it can also prove to be a nightmare when planning your ecclesiastical itinerary through Rome. No one wants to risk a round of ‘church roulette’ only to be left with the memory of an uninspiring and disappointing experience. To help you plan your upcoming trip to the “Eternal City”, I have some suggestions here of Roman churches that are well worth a visit.

Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio, Campo Marzio, http://www.chiesasantignazio.it


The ceiling painting by Andrea del Pozzo in the Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio

This is one of my favourite churches in Rome. It is dedicated to Saint Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order, and is decorated in an extremely Baroque style. What keeps me coming back to this particular church is the incredible and grandiose fresco painting running down the ceiling of the nave. It was painted by Andrea del Pozzo in the 1680’s and is a brilliant example of the seventeenth century interest in optical illusion (‘trompe l’œil’). Make sure you stand on the circular brass plate, implanted in the floor of the nave, to get the best view of Pozzo’s fresco. There’s also another plate on the floor, just before the church crossing. This marks the ideal position from which to see the ‘trompe l’œil’ domed ceiling – if you look closely you will notice that it is actually a flat surface and not a dome at all!

Chiesa del’Gesù, http://www.chiesadelgesu.org


The facade of the Chiesa del’Gesu

This is the central, “Mother Church” of the Jesuit Order, and is conveniently just around the corner from the Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio. It was consecrated in 1584 and boasts some dramatic ceiling fresco paintings and more ‘trompe l’œil’. Although Michelangelo had originally offered to design the church for free, the patron (Cardinal Alessandro Farnese) ultimately chose to commission the services of Barozzi da Vignola, the Farnese family architect. When visiting this church, don’t miss the St. Ignatius Chapel on the left side of the transept, designed in the last years of the seventeenth century by Andrea del Pozzo. In the presbytery, beyond the choir, you will also find a portrait bust of Cardinal Robert Bellarmine by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who was said to have worshiped in this church on a daily basis.

 Il Tempietto, Piazza di San Pietro in Montorio, http://www.sanpietroinmontorio.it


Il Tempietto

The Tempietto is actually a small chapel found in the courtyard of San Pietro in Montorio. Designed by the architect Donato Bramante in 1502 to commemorate the alleged place that Saint Peter was crucified, it is regarded as the prime example of High Renaissance architecture. This breathtaking chapel is located on the other side of the Tiber river, so a relaxing, scenic walk through the Trastevere district of the city can definitely be tied in as well.

Santa Maria del Popolo, Piazza del Popolo


Santa Maria del Popolo. Image source: en.wikipedia.org

This small church just outside the Borghese gardens in the Lazio district of Rome, houses works by a number of big names – Raphael, Bernini, and Caravaggio, just to name a few. The main attraction here is the Cersai Chapel, found to the left of the altar. It holds two of Caravaggio’s most well known paintings, as well as an altarpiece by Annibale Caracci, the poster boy painter of the Baroque period. Then to the left of the nave there’s the Chigi Chapel, designed and decorated by Raphael and later by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. It is a melting pot of Renaissance and Baroque artworks and should also not be missed.

San Luigi dei Francesi, Piazza di San Luigi dei Francesi, http://saintlouis-rome.net


The Caravaggio paintings in The Contarelli Chapel. From Left to Right: ‘The Calling of Saint Matthew’, ‘Saint Matthew and the Angel’, and ‘The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew’, c. 1600, oil on canvas.

If you’re still riding on that Caravaggio high from Santa Maria del Popolo, then I suggest heading over to San Luigi dei Francesi to see the Contarelli chapel. Not only does this church hold a series of Caravaggio paintings depicting the life of Saint Matthew, but it also has works by Domenichino and Cavalier d’Arpino. When looking in on the Contarelli chapel, make note of Caravaggio’s use of light in the three paintings – he has lit the compositions according to the natural sun light streaming in from the tiny window above!

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Piazza della Minerva, http://www.basilicaminerva.it


The interior of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Image source: en.wikipedia.org

This church is located around the side of the Pantheon and is modeled on the Church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence. Outside, in the Piazza della Minerva, stands Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s famous little elephant, which holds up one of Rome’s eleven Egyptian obelisks. The interior boasts a beautifully decorated blue ceiling running above the nave, as well as Michelangelo’s statue of Christ the Redeemer, who stands near the main altar, and a fresco cycle by the Renaissance artist Filippino Lippi. Many popes were entombed here, such as the two Medici popes, Leo X and Clement VII, and you will also the tombs of Saint Catherine of Siena and the Renaissance artist Fra Angelico, who died in Rome.

And finally, there’s always Saint Peter’s Basilica, rammed full of incredible works of art and an absolute must for any visit to Rome. Be sure to beat the queues and crowds by going early morning, it really makes the experience a lot less stressful.


Saint Peter’s and its piazza (designed by Bernini)

This post was originally written for Visit Rentals

The “Deadhouse”: What lies beneath Somerset House.

I recently had the opportunity to do something pretty incredible…venture below the central courtyard of Somerset House, through a series of dingy passageways and vaults, and into the “Deadhouse”.


Image source: The Londonist

During the reign of King Charles I, which began from 1625, the devoutly Roman Catholic Queen Henrietta Maria took up residence in Somerset House (then known as Denmark House). The palace was redecorated and redesigned in honour of her move, and a lavish Catholic chapel was built in the part of the building that is today the Courtauld Gallery. The chapel now no longer exists, but at the time it was thought to have been “more beautiful, larger, and grander than one could ever have hoped for” – a fine example of the English Baroque.

In a period when Europe was in the throws of the tumultuous Counter Reformation, Queen Henrietta Maria bravely worshiped and practiced the Catholic faith in a Protestant country. In addition to the construction of the small chapel, the Queen also used her close ties to the King to gain permission for proper burials for her staff and courtiers that secretly shared her faith. Thus the “Deadhouse”, found beneath the grand courtyard of Somerset House, quietly contains these gravestones and tombs.






You can read more about the history of Somerset House here.

A very brief history of Mothering Sunday


My mother, her questionable mushroom(?!) haircut, and a baby me (no doubt I’ll get a message from her after she sees this photo, raising concerns about having her face and “identity” on the internet).

This Sunday will be the fourth Sunday of Lent, more commonly known in Britain as Mothering Sunday. Originally a Christian holiday, it in fact has no connection to the secular American festival, Mother’s Day, which falls every year in America on the second Sunday of May. Mothering Sunday can be traced back to pre-Reformation Christendom, and its practice was revived once more in 1913 by Constance Smith, an Anglican who believed that the Church of England liturgy expressed a “day in praise of all mothers”.

During the pre-Reformation, the fourth Sunday of Lent in the Christian liturgical calendar was better known as Laetere Sunday. The connection between Laetere Sunday and mothers was actually made through the custom of visiting the ‘mother’ church or the cathedral on this particular day – as opposed to going to the nearest parish or ‘daughter church’, common practice for any other Sunday. As it was then common for children as young as ten to work away from home (as domestic servants or apprentices etc.), heading back to the ‘mother’ church for Laetere Sunday naturally became an occasion for family reunions. Some historians believe that the tradition of Mothering Sunday developed from these children returning home, often with small gifts and flowers for their mothers. However it has also been suggested that the connection with mothers could have come from the Bible Lesson read during Mass, when all were reunited in the ‘mother’ church: “But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:26)

When reviving the tradition in 1913, Constance Smith emphasised the pre-Reformation custom of making simnel cake for mothers through the publication of her booklet The Revival of Mothering Sunday (1920), written under the pseudonym C. Penswick Smith – it is still practiced today. Smith additionally helped spread the popularity of Mothering Sunday beyond the Christian church through the use of open organisations like the Boy Scouts and Girls Guides. Today, Mothering Sunday is celebrated by people of all faiths in the UK who want to honour their mothers, and is still a day that draws family together.

(On a rather sad – and I think quite interesting – note, even though Constance Smith was such a key figure in the modern re-establishment of Mothering Sunday, she herself never became a mother)

Happy National Cleavage Day!

So here we are again! National Cleavage Day (or NCD for you seasoned experts) has come rearing round the bend and is once more upon us. That oh-so-famous holiday celebrated mainly by the Daily Mail, The Sun, other like newspapers, Wonderbra, and now…ME. I’m going to play the “Arts Student” card and celebrate NCD by presenting you readers with my top pick of busty beauties that have graced the History of Art. Let’s pay homage to the female form with these foxy ladies:


‘The Victory of Samothrace’, Unknown, c.200-190 BCE, marble, Musee du Louvre, Paris. Image source: en.wikipedia.org


‘Woman with a Mirror’, Titian, c.1515, oil on canvas, 96cm x 76cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Image source: en.wikipedia.org


‘Judith and Holofernes’, Artemesia Gentileschi, c.1620, oil on canvas, 199cm x 162.5cm, Uffizi Gallery, Florence. Image source: en.wikipedia.org


‘Portrait Bust of Costanza Bonarelli’, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1636-38, marble, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence. Image source: The Getty Museum


‘Self-portrait with two pupils’, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, 1785, oil on canvas, 210.8cm x 151.1cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image source: en.wikipedia.org


‘Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau)’, John Singer Sargent, 1883-84, oil on canvas, 208.6cm x 109.9cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image source: http://www.metmuseum.org


‘The Musician’, Tamara de Lempicka, 1929, oil on canvas, 161cm x 96cm. Image source: en.wikipedia.org

and finally, the bustiest of them all…


‘Benefits Supervisor Sleeping’, Lucian Freud, 1995, oil on canvas, privately owned (by Roman Abramovich). Image source: en.wikipedia.org