I went to see the Daumier exhibition on Sunday, as I was in the West End of London.  I am very glad I made it just before the exhibition closed.  It was called


An interesting piece of information from the exhibition was that  ‘Daumier did not draw from life or employ models in his studio.  Instead he worked from memory, reworking many images ‘twenty times over’ and then completing them in just a few hours”

I noticed that there were quite a few oil paintings, and small sketch-like works, which surprised me as I have always thought of Daumier as a print maker.  Yes, his main income was from satirical lithography, provided for the press in Paris, but he also worked on painting in oils, and ink or watercolour, and sculpture.

From the leaflet I learned that ‘only a handful of his paintings and drawings can be dated with certainty as they were rarely exhibited, published or sold’.

The small works were so interesting, as they seemed very modern in their subject matter and the atmosphere seemed sometimes sad and wistful, a wistfulness which he conveyed brilliantly.  I am thinking of the series of paintings of clowns,  Les saltimbanques

The Sideshow,

Parade de saltimbanques, by Honore Daumier, 43cm x 33cm


Daumier, the Burden

The Burden, oil, Honore Daumier c.1850

The images of working women, with children in tow, were what caught my eye. Above is The Burden, painted in oil on paper, 47cm x 27cm.  These images are small. Apparently Daumier used to live on Isle Saint Louis, and watched the laundresses with their burdens coming up from the Laundry Boats on the River Seine.  This painting is usually in Dijon.

Some of the works were made  with an interesting mix of media, for instance, charcoal, gouache, black ink, pencil, conte, wash, watercolour.  The results were beautiful, i thought, and very rich.  They inspired me to use gouache and conte crayon on my drawings of London, as well as what I usually employ which is black pen, pencil or soft black crayon.  I am now a member of Urban Sketchers London!

Van Gogh wrote at length of Daumier in his letters, he was friends with Corot and Victor Hugo, and apparently some of the modern artists in particular  who admire him include Paula Rego, Quentin Blake and Gerald Scarfe.

I was reminded of the work of Edward Ardizzone, the author and illustrator, too. Here is a link to some Ardizzone pictures on The Tate website. Do have a look in particular at The Bedroom

I think my favourite image was the small Hunters by the Fire, of which I could not find a postcard.  It  three men and their dog, looking into the smoky fireplace, and it is in atmospheric greys and blacks.  The list of media is:  charcoal, pen and ink, watercolour heightened with gouache.  Very lovely.  Here is a link to the image which I found in the Art Print Collection

I shall look out for more Daumier works now, not only are the works he produced interesting but the story of his life is also the story of a modern man, who stuck to his beliefs and did not follow the temptation to produce large fashionable works  just to make lots of money.

The works were on show in the Sackler Wing of the RA, right on the top so we have to get there in the lift.  The first of the rooms is always crowded – I usually walk through to the following rooms where there is more space, then maybe reverse my walk when the crowds have lessened.






Got lucky, I was successful in winning admission for two, to the private view of ART UNDER ATTACK at the Tate Britain, London.  It was organised by the Guardian Events Team, of the Guardian newspaper.

We were asked not to arrive before 6.45 so that gave us the chance for a quick one at The Morpeth Arms nearby.  It was heaving, being near Christmas.

Nice though, and we met a couple of other artists who told us they had just spent the whole day at the Tate Britain, saying it was now absolutely marvellous, and they had not even had time to see all the work on display.

I must definitely go there before Christmas, as at that time it is usually less crowded at galleries – I find Christmas Eve is best!.

Our new friends were very interesting to talk to, as we had a lot in common. Gil has a website, here is a link


The Tate Britain staff and the Guardian staff made us very welcome, with wine and beer and soft drinks available. and we had an excellent comprehensive introduction to the exhibition given by the curator Ruth Kenny.

I had not known much about Art Under Attack and now I have visited, I can recommend it to all artists, and those of us who are interested in history and politics.  In particular I found the section on Religion – Dissolution, and Religion – Reformation, very relevant to my reading of Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies,  novels by Hilary Mantel about the reign of Henry VIII.

The section in Art Under Attack dealing with Politics – Suffragettes, was fascinating too.  There is an image of the Rokeby Venus, after it had been slashed by Mary ‘Slasher’ Richardson, the militant suffragette, showing the cut marks. Amazing to look at it now in the National Gallery, there is no sign of restoration.

The room Aesthetics – Attacks on Art included a sculpture by Allen Jones, a fascinating work,  ‘CHAIR’   ALLEN JONES

Apparently acid was thrown by a woman on the face of the female figure – one of those which is bent over on all fours with a table on its back.  Interesting also because I had admired the work of Allen Jones in the Pop Goes London exhibition at Christies Gallery, Bond Street, London.  See my earlier post about this exhibition the Pop Goes London exhibition.

THE GUARDIAN – A REVIEW OF ART UNDER ATTACK – lots more to read on their web site


I found a well-argued criticism of the exhibition and the policy of the Tate in an article from The Independent newspaper by Jack Orlik, a writer who I have not come across before.




I rate Colin Wiggins one of the best lecturers I have heard for the last few years.

He is excellent and makes his subjects absolutely fascinating.  His passion, he says, if for the art of Prints and Printmaking.

Colin is Curator of Special Projects at London’s National Gallery, and was previously Head of Education.  In his lecture earlier this year, he dealt with the prints produced during the early years of the technique, Medieval and the early Renaissance, in particularly in Germany and Italy.


We were shown slides of wonderful Rembrandt etchings,  demonstrating how he created tone  with minute crosshatching. One of his prints is a self-portrait wearing a floppy beret, the archetypal artist’s beret.  A later slide showed us a print of Sir Joshua Reynolds wearing just the same kind of floppy artist’s beret.  


This was known as La manier anglais.  The prints were very popular with all the English Milords, who had done the Grand Tour of the continent, and had a portfolio of prints of famous oil paintings to show off to guests.  The Mezzotints apparently sold in their hundreds.  There are some beautiful examples still available to buy, if you are lucky in your search.

We saw some examples of the finished Mezzotint, which is a ‘black to white’ process, i.e. the plate prints black except where the white areas have been burnished.  It is the opposite method from an etching.

The various methods were explained, in particular it appears that the Mezzotint requires a very painstaking procedure, using a rocker to cover the plate all over with tiny marks. These hold the ink and print the image on the paper as black. The laborious process was the task of the apprentices.  To get the white bits the plate was burnished with steel, thus holding less ink and printing pale grey or white.  More about Mezzotint from this information provided by the National Portrait Gallery, London


He was also a very competent printmaker, using a soft-ground etching –  luckily I have done quite a bit of etching so know what the soft-ground and the hard-ground etching is, as well as an aquatint. A good place to find out more is the British Museum Print Room, which you can visit and ask to see the boxes of prints done by various artists, including Goya, as there is a marvellous collection


Colin talked at length about the work of Rowlandson, and showed us a lot of various images. They were full of humour. Some of the prints were hand-coloured.  The colour was usually applied by women, apparently, in a kind of conveyor belt system, i.e. one person doing all the yellows, one doing all the reds.

There is a an exhibition of the work of Thomas Rowlandson at present in the Royal Collection, The Queen’s Gallery Palace of Holyroodhouse, in Scotland.  Here is a link about it.

We laughed at ‘Exhibition Stare Case‘ with its voluptuous nudes falling down the stairs, to the delight of the men.  Colin pointed out the Rowlandson is never vicious.  By comparison we looked at:


His work is often very vicious and the work had little or no humour,  we looked at one called French Liberty – British Slavery, showing an emaciated Frenchman, with long toenails because he never cut them, and in the back a pot of snails, and opposite a grossly fat Brit eating roast beef.  We also saw images of the Prince Regent, as a ‘Voluptuary under the horrors of Digestion’, and ‘The three Mr Wigginses’, which Colin said might be distant ancestors!  The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge has a fine collection of Gillray prints.


We saw a print of an etching from Goya’s painting of the Duke of Wellington. Wellington apparently hated the painting and would not display it.  Goya’s early etchings show the superstition rife in Spain, for instance the gruesome one ‘There is plenty to suck’. This is apparently in the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York.  Later, Goya made prints of images of the famous people he had painted such as Manuel Godoy, the evil and wicked minister, and the Duchess of Alba; the original portrait of her is in New York now.  The famous prints of the series, Disasters of War were produced post-Napoleonic war.

These are, we were asked to agree, a much more powerful statement than photographs, of war.

COLIN WIGGINS repeated that he is a huge champion of the art of printmaking.  He recommended we visit the exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, of Whistler, which includes some lovely etchings, particularly of the Thames.  NOTE TO SELF: This I must do!

We look forward to another lecture, as soon as possible, bring the history of printmaking up to our present time.  Meanwhile, there is always the BRITISH MUSEUM PRINT ROOM  to visit!


At the Frameless Gallery, Clerkenwell Green

The group, Cosmima, had a four day show at Frameless Gallery, Clerkenwell in London last week, and I was very impressed.
The jewellers were top of the tree, super-innovative and excellent, and the silversmiths likewise had some absolutely wonderful stuff on show. I shall keep in touch with the Group and hope to see their next show.
It would be great if I could buy some of the lovely stuff, have to hope I win the Premiums Bonds!


Detail, painting London Marathon

Painting London Marathon detail, Coram

Coram Bear at London Marathon 2011

The South London Women Artists Group will be holding an exhibition at the Bankside Gallery, Thames Path, near the Tate Modern.

The exhibition is from 30 April to 8 May, and my London Marathon painting will be on show there.

The gallery is open from 11 am to 6 pm each day.  This is a group show with the title  “SNAP’.

Here is a link to the Bankside Gallery website.

Detail, painting London Marathon

Coram Bear at the 2011 London Marathon




This was my first visit to this gallery, at the top end of Bond Street so not far from Oxford Circus or Bond Street tube stations.

It has two floors and plenty of white space, but no seats to sit!  Why do galleries never put seats so you can either sit and look at the work, or make notes, which I like to do?

I was intrigued to read a description of the exhibition, The Mystery of Appearance, which ended today, 18 February, see here:


The painters are well-known to me, so I thought to see something familiar from previous gallery visits.

There were some things which are new to me, but the two big Hockneys I have seen before certainly.  Apparently only three of these ten artists are alive today.

The two painters who prefer to use very dense, textured oils have similar works on display, Leon Kossof and Frank Auerbach.   I don’t like them.  There is an Auerbach with a title including the name ‘Gerda Boehm’  of 1971-73 which is aesthetically unpleasant.  One painting by Kossoff titled Seated Woman No 2 of 1959 reminded me of a very large cow turd which had been played about with – brown and nasty.

The Hockney painting of a young man reclining on a bed, The Room Tarzana, showed his ability to paint tufted rugs and venetian-blind slatted doors, but the figure has a strangely floating arm, rather oddly positioned buttocks and very tiny feet.

A small female nude by Lucien Freud of 1956 seems to be focussed on a view of her bottom, with very large feet which reminded me of feet painted by Francis Bacon.

There is a large Bacon painting  (Pope 1) which is very familiar, in purples, violets and blacks.

The Euan Uglow paintings did not seem so exciting in actuality, they seem to present themselves better in reproductions.  Maybe it is the very very pink paint in the large female nude study?

There is a small sketchy head by Michael Andrews which appeals, maybe because it is so very sketchy.  As a contrast there is a very large painting of Norwich Castle Keep, which is  ‘Lord Mayor’s Reception, Norwich’.  This is apparently oil on canvas but seems to be oil on photograph, the black and white photo shows in large parts of the image.  I presume the photograph was transferred to the canvas and then he painted over it in parts.  Since I have just returned from looking at an exhibition in Norwich Castle Art Gallery, and walked through the keep, this was of interest and I felt that he had tackled a very difficult and boring subject with a certain amount of panache. Follow this link to see it: The Lord Mayor’s Reception

However, to sum up, all these painters seemed to working without any lightness or humour, a lot of works are dour and gloomy, the paint looked as it it needed dusting,  I made a note in my little book that the artists were, from these representational painting, all very serious and po-faced.

There were three working drawings, squared up, by Patrick Caulfield, and I wonder at the decision to hang these, since they did not seem to stand up to hanging alongside finished work by him, of the usual bottles.  Two are of very accurate-looking architectural drawings.

I was interested to see the black and white portrait photographs in the basement, in the ‘bookshop’, which somehow seemed refreshingly honest and direct, unlike some of the paintings upstairs. They are by Bruce Bernard in the 1980s, of Bacon, Freud, Andrews and Auerbach.

Portrait of Francis Bacon 1984 by

Bruce Bernard

It was a relief to come out into the afternoon Bond Street glitz which in a way seemed so much more interesting and vibrant than these rather dejected works.



 It was good news, I found I had won two tickets for the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, plus a copy of the exhibition catalogue.  If something costs nothing, it is even nicer, I find!


National Portrait Gallery poster for Late Shift

I love this gallery, and often go in.  To see most of the displays does not require an entrance fee, but donations are welcomed, of course.

 This particular exhibition is small, well of course it is limited by virtue of its title.  There are some brilliant portraits.

 Most of the paintings, prints, ceramics and engravings are of women.  There are themes in each room, for example:

 DIVAS AND DANCERS, which includes a lucious portrait by Gainsborough, entitled Elizabeth Linley (Elizabeth Ann Sheridan)

 I noted in my little book that it is a full-length portrait in a landscape, with loose flicky brush strokes.

 The Gainsborough portraits are the highlights for me, since they display the consumate technique that Gainsborough developed – the actresses’ faces, white and pink, shining, luminous, brilliant against the muted background.  The hands and neck are next in importance, then look at the fluid, sketchy dress and feet, then the greeny brown background.

Gainsborough portrait of Elizabeth Sheridan

 Also in this room are two pastel portraits by John Russell – pastel is not an easy medium – but this artist has demonstrated his mastery.


 Also here is a Hogarth oil painting of The Beggar’s Opera, from Birmingham Museum, one of several versions Hogarth produced, in a dramatic and narrative style.

William Hogarth, The Beggar’s Opera,

Throughout the exhibition there is mention that the women actresses were fighting prejudice and were careful to represent themselves as respectable, not being prostitutes (which was originally a profession that went hand in hand with acting).  Several of these well-known actresses married well, into the artistocracy or monied upper class.


 Quite a few were successful literary figures, writing plays and novels – not something that I have hear of, in respect of modern actresses.

Some actresses did their memoirs and benefitted from the interest in salacious gossip of their times; there was then, as there is now, the desire to read shocking tales of sex and success which we still find in our media.

 These women were the first in England in particular (not sure about Scotland, Ireland and Wales) who established themselves earning an income from their talents, setting out in a very competitive field, some of course with the support of men but later standing alone and managing to show independence.

 The first acresses emerged with the establishment of the court of Charles II, and at that time women could take female roles which had previously been played by boys and men.

 Later the actresses turned the tables by appearing in male dress, much like our own modern-day principal boys in panto.

 The main artists, Reynolds, Romney, Gainsborough are well represented and there are also excellent works by Zoffany, Hoppner and Lawrence, John Russell (pastels), Lely and Gilray.


 However, in another two galleries there is a display of images of modern actresses, from film, TV and theatre.  Only three of them are paintings.  There are two pencil drawings.  All the other images are photographs.  This is bad news for us painters!

Nell Gwyn by Simon Vereist

Come on,  actresses, support the arts and commission an artist to paint your portrait!  Like your predecessors did.



 Palant House Gallery at Chichester, Sussex is where you can see a fantastic exhibition of the watercolour works of Edward Burra.

First, though, remember it is a very sloooooow train journey to Chichester from London, Victoria.  Maybe go by car?  But then you probably cannot park.

Anyway, we got there by lunchtime and had a job to find Pallant House Gallery, it is in North Pallant, down a little street called West Pallant, off South Street.  Apparently there is a very good restaurant there, called Field and Fork, but we did not try it out. No time.


Instead we went to Cafe Rouge and I did this pencil sketch, where the figure in the foreground reminded me of drawings of Mr Pickwick.

Chichester, Cafe Rouge diners


The Gallery is in a new building, and next to an 18th century house where the gallery was based originally. The Edward Burra show is upstairs and in galleries with low light because the paintings are watercolour.

You are probably aware of the kinds of paintings you will see.  There are some very large works, on papers stuck together.

 The first gallery has smaller work, and includes some of my favourites, of the bars and streets of Harlem and London.  Burra visited cities from his family home near Rye, Sussex and it seems he loved to travel.  The earlier works dated from the 1920s so presumably he went by train and sea.  Probably he liked to draw the dockhands and sailors en route.



 I was pleased to overhear the start of a talk, when arriving in the first gallery, from Simon Martin, Head of Curatorial Services.  Mr Martin addressed a small group of ladies, who kept giving us daggers looks because we dared to overhear the remarks.  Maybe they expected us to put our hands over our ears so we could not hear what he said!


 There were some good information labels in the galleries. I did not realize that Burra liked films so much, apparently he tried to go to the cinema two or three times a week.  One painting was of Mae West.  He also liked Hammer Horror films.  The later paintings are very strange and rather frightening, and sometimes show skeletons, skulls and figures with birds heads.


I saw one flower painting, which was itself very eerie and disturbing, with garish yellows.  Not your usual pretty, pretty flower stuff at all.


The later works often included views of rolling hills and motorways crossing moorlands and downs.  The lorries and cars were painted in almost a naive way.  Once again, these dark, brooding images were something you might find rather disturbing.  They were a far cry from the earlier works showing people enjoying life, in theatres, cafes, dance halls and streets.


Apparently Burra kept very close, lifelong friendships with the people he knew when a student at Chelsea Polytechnic and the Royal College.  He also knew Paul Nash, mainly because he lived quite near, and discussed art with him but I think I read that he did not liked Nash’s work.  Other painters who he admired include Gustave Moreau, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Max Beckman, Goya, Leger and Hogarth.

He was briefly associated with Surrealism.  But moved away from this.


According to the information in the gallery, Burra sometimes used postcards when painting, he also probably used his own photographs, some of which were on show in the gallery.  Hastings Harbour in the exhibition an example of his use of postcards.

He had an amazing visual memory, though and towards the end of his working life, liked to go out with his sister in her car, after which he could start a landscape painting from memory. That was his preferred method of working.


You might notice that the eyes of a lot of the figures, have a sideways look;  the pupils are right at the corner of the eye, as if his people cannot look anybody straight in the face.


There is a small selection of Burra’s main works here on display.  Obviously there is a lot more to be seen dotted around the world, and it is unfortunate that watercolour is such a transient medium, easily faded by light; maybe that is why major galleries cannot put more on display.

One thing I did miss seeing was more sketches.  There were a few pencil and pen sketches on show.

BOOK:  EDWARD BURRA,  Simon Martin

I bought this book, even though at £25 it is more than I like to pay!  But have started reading it and find it excellent, and very funny in places, where it quotes his letters which are really bitchy and witty.


I came upon this exhibition on Sunday.

The artworks are all the creation of schoolchildren, young people, working with local artists.

Some of the work was really delightful and exciting.  This is a link to the website.

The work is in the Oxo Tower Gallery, on the South Bank of the Thames, between Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge.

The various groups of students are based in London, Washington DC, Bangkok, Istanbul, Seoul, Buenos Aires and Derry.

The media is varied, including print, collage, photography, drawing, assemblage, mosaic.  I particularly liked the work of Buenos Aires students.

It is well worth going along to see these pieces, especially if you are going to the Thames Festival during 10 and 11 September.

Unfortunately I cannot go to the Festival as it is the same weekend as I have my open studio as part of Merton Arts Trail.

Don’t forget to come along and see my work at the open studio.



Lucky enough to win free tickets to see this exhibition, which runs until 21 August 2011. I was not lucky enough to get a free book which goes with the exhibition, and like all art books, costs real money, so I had to do without it.

The exhibition is arranged in rooms which are not numbered but which have titles, for instance we start off in The Natural World, where there is a magnificent study of sea shells and coral by a woman artist, Sarah Stone, painted in 18th century. Quite startling in its modern look and strong vibrant colour.

Some familiar and favourite artists have a good example of their watercolours, for instance John Piper and Edward Burra and of course Cotman. Edward Burra’s strange ‘Mexican Church’ in gouache and ink wash was sombre, loose and very dark and I noticed the colours pink, ochre, green and black. I find some of Burra’s works quite macabre, except for the landscapes and the early cafe and street paintings (which were not shown).

There was a creepy Burne Jones in the Exhibition Watercolour room.

Exploring the Medium was interesting because it showed some artists’ paint boxes, brushes and paints, including those of Turner. I noticed his two brushes had long handles, like those that I use for oil painting. Also shown was Whistler’s box.

By the time I got to the room Watercolour and War, I decided that it was really a very good show. There was strong, interesting and new painting which made me feel like going home and getting out my watercolours and gouache, and even looking through some old work. So – success, you might think! This is what art exhibitions should do, inspire.

The painting of Belsen extermination camp was too painful to look at, by Eric Taylor. Burra, again, had created a work of voluptuous soldiers, called Soldiers at Rye, dated 1941. His soldiers all have very rotund buttocks. Maybe he liked soldiers.

By the end of this exhibition, which as is usual in Tate Britain, is large and demanding, I was expecting to find some modern and Brit Art kinds of works, and I was right. The write-ups about these last works, which I read in one of the catalogue copies helpfully left out on the seats, were long and convoluted. Is there a particular qualification that these authors have to attain so as to make obscure and profound sounding sentences about works that cannot be otherwise justified, I wonder?

In the room Abstraction and Improvisation, there is a HUGE work by Sandra Blow dated 1988, in acrylic and collage. It has a dominating presence, from sheer size and the huge red splodge. A painting by Roger Hilton of 1973 of two dogs had the advantage of being funny,

However, I found Karla Black’s large work ‘Opportunities for Girls, funny. It reminded me of a huge pink squishy bra. It is made of mixed media and dominates the end of the last room, hanging from the ceiling on cords, suspended in air. I made a very quick sketch of it.

Tate Britain, sketch

Sketch from Tate Britain watercolour show

With the modern works was displayed some of Turner’s small sketches, of an abstract nature. According to the notes at the Turner exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery exhibition in 2009, Turner would never have allowed these sketches to be exhibited. They are working notes and memory-joggers, but we have them in this room, as much as to say: “Look, Turner did blobby stuff which has nothing representational apparent, just like the artists showing here today have produced.”