In London at Tate Britain to see an exhibition so I took the opportunity to re-visit some of my favourite works of art on display in the ‘Walk Through British Art’ galleries. The room I love most of all, in this chronological arrangement, is Room 1900 where the end of the Victorian and start of the Edwardian age is celebrated.
There are many works here that I admire but, on this occasion, I was keen to see a sculpture by James Havard Thomas, a sculptor active from the 1880s onwards until his death in 1921. The particular work is called ‘Lycidas’. It is a life-sized nude sculpture of a young man. His model was Antonio, his Italian servant from the time when the artist lived in Southern Italy. The work was rejected in 1905 by the Royal Academy as being too life- like and ordinary. What Antonio made of this rejection is not known!
In London, so off to Tate Britain to see the exhibition ‘Queer British Art: 1867- 1967’, held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the passing of legislation to partially decriminalise homosexuality. The gallery was heaving with visitors heading for the major David Hockney show; somewhat telling that a gay artist drew bigger crowds than this attempt to show how being gay influenced the art.
I had a few problems with this exhibition, the largest being that not all the artists featured were known to be gay. The suggestion that he or she might have been is just a posh version of what the awful tabloid newspapers do when they want to ‘suggest’ a person’s sexuality.
Having grown up in the 70s when being thought to be gay by others was enough to bring around the abuse, it was a bit disappointing to see the same (but more refined) approach being used on people who are long dead and cannot speak for themselves. Lord Leighton’s work is here which seems to be enough to decide he must have been gay. I take the point, made by the curator, that many paintings were coded to convey messages that would have been picked up by gay people but that does not mean that all the Victorian artists here were gay themselves.
The two paintings I loved rose above the rest, with only the door of Oscar Wilde’s cell from Reading Prison of equal poignancy. Lord Leighton’s ‘Icarus and Daedalus’ and Henry Scott Tuke’s ‘The Critics’ were stunning.
My recent visit to London to hunt down another David Wynne sculpture reminded me that, last Summer, I did a similar thing in Newcastle Upon Tyne. I wanted to see his 1968 sculpture ‘Swans in Flight’ at the Civic Centre. One very quite Sunday morning, I walked to the area to see it and had the whole area to myself. I imagine, being council offices, that they are very busy in the working week but on this Sunday the area was deserted.
The swans represent Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland as recognition of the links between this north-eastern city and Scandanavia. Wynne’s inspiration came from a poem by Hans Hartvig Seedorff Pederson called ‘The Swans of the North’.
In London, so off to find the David Wynne sculpture from 1971 called ‘The Dancers’. I have walked along Sloane Street many times and I knew the piece could be seen in Cadogan Square Gardens but I was not sure how public or private it would be.
I was pleased to see it easily from the street.
The sculpture of David Wynne is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?
In London, so I walked along the Albert Embankment in search of a statue that was installed in 2015. It is of the Indian social reformer and philosopher, Basaveshwara. My knowledge of Indian history being restricted to the period when British interests intersected (clashed?) with those of India, I knew nothing of this person. I am always on the look out for new sculpture in London so I was keen to see it. Later, I looked up information about him.
Basaveshwara pioneered the idea of democracy in 12th century India, so long before anything like it on these islands. He also campaigned against the caste system and slavery and was in favour of gender equality. It is fitting that he looks out over the Thames nt far from the Houses of Parliament.
In London and off to find a work of art by one of my favourite sculptors, Antony Gormley. This work is called ‘Reflection’ and is found on the Euston Road at the Regents Place development. It is a typical Gormley work in that the body is important and, I imagine but do not know for sure, cast from his own body.
One naked life size figure stands outside staring at a mirror image figure on the inside.
It is always a pleasure to see an Antony Gormley work and it was worth the walk across London to see this piece.
Antony Gormley sculpture is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?
The headquarters of this UN body is in London on the Thames near Lambeth Bridge. As I was in London I walked that way to find the sculpture that juts out of the waterfront side of the building. This is the International Memorial to Seafarers which was unveiled in 2001. It is the work of British sculptor Michael Sandle.
I used to walk along the Albert Embankment a lot back in the 60s and 70s. Going back there today reminds me of how much things change but also how much better we have become at exhibiting works of art in public.