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Archive for February 2011

“Modern British Sculpture” at the Royal Academy of Arts, unanswered questions?

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Thursday, 24th February 2011 – David Franchi

Entering at the Royal Academy of Arts rapidly you have the feeling that something peculiar is going on. It’s because passing the arch that from Piccadilly leads into the Royal Academy Annenberg Courtyard, immediately hits you the dominant replica of “Merz Barn”, by German artist Kurt Schwitters built in Cumbria in 1948.

This is how “Modern British Sculpture” begins, at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, until 7th April 2011. This exhibition is definitely unusual; the overlooking idea is to find an answer to the title questions: what is British? What is modern? What is sculpture?

It has been rather difficult to understand exactly, if an answer could be found in such an exhibition. But definitely “Modern British Sculpture” paves the way to a fresh new look about sculpture in the UK.

Firstly, through leaving the traditional disposition of works for a confrontational set of pieces placed in contrast, the exhibition dares the visitors to pull down the wall of the old ideas and making new connections. It is arranged in a chronological series of strongly themed galleries, each making its own visual argument.

Secondly, because it is the first exhibition for 30 years to look at the British sculpture of the twentieth century. It examines British sculpture within a broader international context, highlighting the connections between Britain, continental Europe and the United States. Until 1930s the British Empire was at its peak and London was the centre of the world, collecting materials coming from America, India and Africa. Therefore, the impact that these connections and non-western techniques, iconography and cultural sensibility had on the development of British sculpture at that time was strong.

Thirdly, this exhibition explores the choices constantly faced by the sculptor, between figuration and abstraction and between sculpture commemorative and political functions. Key juxtapositions of pieces should exemplify these choices.

But, the road to Hell is paved of good intentions. It is true that the exhibition raise questions but, it seems, it doesn’t really give answers. Many critics have condemned different aspects of “Modern British Sculpture”, together with the exclusion of famous artists eg. Kapoor and Gormely. However, it worth to pay a visit. Not only for the number of amazing artworks and famous artists present, but also because this exhibition gives somewhat to consider. It’s food for thoughts and despite some controversial choices, it is always positive to have something to elaborate. 

Another good point of this exhibition is that the space in the rooms is comfortable, there is not that crowding of pieces an of people typical of other shows.

The first room opens comparing abstraction and figuration. There is, in fact, the copy of Edwin Lutyens’s ’Cenotaph’ – without flags- the real one being unmovable. On the wall photographs of Jacob Epstein’s ‘Cycle of Life’, probably the nativity of modern British sculpture, that was made for the British Medical Association building (now Zimbabwe House) on the Strand (1907-08) and faced many troubles.

Genghis Khan, 1963 – Philip King

In the second room modern artworks – Epstein, again, and Underwood – are mixed with a series of significant ethnographic loans from the V&A and British Museum, a tribute to influences, tradition and materials coming from abroad. However, why this gallery is titled “Theft by finding” is difficult to understand as nothing is said about the exploitation of these countries.

The third gallery is dedicated to the notorious Jacob Epsteins’s ‘Adam’ (1939). This carved translucent alabaster is a superb hymn to corporal dynamism and virility, well represented by the gloriously “male attributes” of Adam wavered by the legs movement. What about that two wistful ladies watching “there”? Something to consider when carving… and when exposing too. Here there is also a Moore’s ‘Snake’ that alludes to sexuality as well. But Adam dominates the gallery.

Jubilee Memorial to Queen Victoria, 1887 – Alfred Gilbert

Charles Wheeler’s ‘Adam’ (1934-35) in the fourth room is, of course, the counterpart of the one met before, a classical style bronze statue, that goes together with another classical the plaster cast of Frederic Leighton’s famous ‘Athlete Struggling with a Python’ (1887). In the fourth room there are also two other works only: the conical ‘Genghis Khan’ (1963) by Phillip King and the ‘Jubilee Monument to Queen Victoria’ (1887) by Alfred Gilbert, the profligate master who created ‘Eros’ in Piccadilly Circus. The question is: why are all these works packed together? And why this room is titled “The Establishment Figure”? Where is the Establishment? Gilbert was a master of the bronze, his work is full of elaborated details and he represent the end of era when King’s work is made in a vivid plastic with a futuristic design.

Entering the fifth room the first encounter is with a display cabinet of ceramics for which Ikea designers very much thank for the inspiration. However, there is also the remarkably Barbara Hepworth’s ‘Pelagos’ (1946).

Room number six, the title is “Hepworth and Moore”. There are, of course, works of the two masters, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, both working in public sculpture, but in such different style. Moore favoured the horizontal and figurative, Hepworth the vertical and abstract. Unfortunately, there are two works only in this room. Besides, a bit difficult is to understand the juxtaposition made with the Schwitters’s ‘Merz Barn’ placed in the Annenberg Courtyard.

The seventh room contains only the re- creation of ‘an Exhibit’ the masterpiece by Victor Pasmore and Richard Hamilton. Thirty years later “installation art” was fathered by these sort of works. Now lost, it was originally shown at the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle-upon Tyne (1957). Here is the importance of the viewer who is placed inside the work, looking through it, instead of to be positioned outside and looking inside. Again the title “Environmental Construction” is difficult to be interpreted.

The eighth gallery “Early one morning” contains the almost 50 years old homonymous work of Anthony Caro which seem to be juxtaposed to the work of the previous room. Caro’s work with its amazing framed steel and colours, is still a topical. Though the presence of Caro was criticised because it seems he has given the inspiration for this exhibition.

Gallery number nine, “The persistence of British Landscape”, presents amazing masterpieces like William Turnbull’s ‘Parallels’ (1967) and Richard Long’s ‘Chalk line’ (1984). Here it is highlighted the proximity of British and American art production and the differences between the two countries tradition, mostly relating to intimacy.

The upsettingly gallery is the tenth “Towards sculpture as image”. There are two lovely works, Jeff Koons ‘One ball’ (1985) a showcase half full of water with a basketball floating inside, and Urs Fischer ‘Untitled’ (2000), half pear and half apple screwed together hanging from the ceiling. But the shocking work is ‘Let’s eat outdoors today’ (1990-91) by Damien Hirst, a huge hermetic closed glass cube, divided in two sides, containing an abandoned barbeque. According to the guide, it’s made of “glass, steel, cow’s head, flies, maggots, sugar, water, insect-o -cutor, resin, table and chairs, tableware, condiment and food”. Everything is real. And food means real uncooked steaks, a cooked chicken. The cow’s head dripped blood and it coagulated, and thousands of flies flying around those rests. The stench is in the air coming out through the ventilation grids. This work is like a punch in visitor’s stomachs: people stare at it, speechless. Only a evil genius like Hirst could conceive it. It involves people not only with sight but also with other senses and shaking up the audience.

The following room is focused on the attempts to make sculpture look like real life. Here notably the works of Stuart Brisley, Richard Wentworth and Len Lye and ‘Electric fire with yellow fish’ by Bill Woodrow (1981).

The last gallery “Value systems” brings together the private world of artists and the public world of received opinion. Here ‘Page 3’ by Gustav Metzger goes together with a huge “in progress” board full of reviews criticising the pornography of journalism. However, ‘Portable smoking area’ by Sarah Lucas (1996) comparing the smoking rule restrictions to the life of artist sounds slightly unrealistic.

The exhibition does not answer to the questions posed, but maybe was not the intention of curators Penelope Curtis, now Director of the Tate Britain, and sculptor Keith Wilson, together with Adrian Locke. Nevertheless, it is very interesting and gives new ideas to visitor’s brains.

“Modern British Sculpture” is supported by The Henry Moore Foundation and the American Express Foundation is the Preservation Partner. Along with the exhibition are available lectures, courses, workshops and talks.

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Written by davidfranchi

February 25, 2011 at 1:25 am

Chris Leslie, interviewing a Fairport Convention member.

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Wednesday, 23rd February 2011 – David Franchi
Chris LeslieFairport Convention is a leading band of the folk rock movement born in 1960s.
Today they are still recording, live performing and hosting, since 1979, the Cropredy Festival, near Banbury, Oxfordshire, the largest such annual event in UK.
At the concert of the 19th February 2011 at the Union Chapel in Highbury, London,
we have met Fairport member Chris Leslie, composer, and vocal and multi-
instrumentalist and had an interview.
D. After one year back in London in the Union Chapel again.
A. “Yes, it’s great to be here. We’ve had lovely time when we played last time. We’ll hope to repeat same thing again this evening. Yeah it’s great to be here.”
D. This year there is also a new album and Cropredy Festival just won the TPi award.
A. “Yes, the festival won TPi and we’re very pleased about that because we think that, obviously, it’s a flagship for our festival. We run in a so much work and experience over 30 plus years now. And I think, I recall good things about that it  takes many years to get right. You build; you get fantastic experience after decades. It’s something happening. This year it gets the awards that we’re very pleased. Particularly, I’m Chrissie Leslie here I’m part of the band, but I have very little to do with the organising of the festival. Really it has all done by Gareth Williams, Dave Pegg and Sam Nichol the three major players in it. What’s wonderful tour’s crew is from the festival, so all the people have the input. It’s like a lovely thing to be recognised. It’s a hard work coming off. So we’re here with the brand new album, Festival Bell, which I’m very pleased with, literally finished in the back end of the last year. So it’s the first tour we’re taking it out. We’re doing a show in two halves: in the first half we’re bringing back an album which was released 40 years ago. An album called ‘Babbacome Lee’. Most of the material was written by Dave Swarbrick with contributions from Simon Nicol and from Dave Pegg. The line up at the time the album was produced was Dave Swarbrick, Dave Pegg, Sam Nicol and Dave Mattecks. And it’s a concept album. Remember concept albums?”
D. Very old style…
A. “Yeah, yeah and it tells the tale of a man called John Lee, hanged from his small village in Devon, called Babbacombe. To take a long story short he was accused of murder and sentenced to be hanged in the bad old days. They try to hang him three times and the scaffolding wouldn’t work.”
D. Is it a true story?
A. “It’s a true story, yeah. Late eighteenth hundreds it happened. Later on he was sentenced but sentences back to the old of the eighteenth break rocks! But Dave Swarbrick found the story in a series of old newspaper 30 years ago in an antique shop. The album was fathered by that tale and put together in this album. So the first half of the show we’re doing that album completely from the start to the finish as it is on the LP. And in the second half we’re doing the brand new album, most of them, not all the set of the new album, you know, but possibly 90% is from the new album. So it’s a very nice show to be taking out. Because it celebrates Fairport Convention past and celebrating Fairport present and the future.”
D. The future of Fairport Convention?
A. “Well to keep touring and keep making music that we want to make. There’s nothing like getting new material out I think. It’s nice because Fairport has a fantastic back catalogue to deep into bowl. I mean of course ‘Babbacombe’ is an exception. To do a complete new album usually we can do back in all those kinds of areas of the band and pull stuffs into the present line if it’s suit. We’ve always had current materials going alongside. Rick writes great instrumentals and I write some songs and we’ll find songs other great songwriters. So it’s always good to have a new album. Fairport tour has to do with current repertoire; it’s never just look backwards. But it’s wonderful to have a beautiful back catalogue to go back to.” 

Written by davidfranchi

February 23, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Fairport Convention, the birth of folk rock music.

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Wednesday, 23rd February 2011 – David Franchi
FairportFairport Convention is an English folk rock band widely acclaimed as the most important group in the English folk rock movement. Since 1979 they have hosted the Cropredy Festival, near Banbury, Oxfordshire, which is the largest such annual event in England. In 1966 bassist Ashley Hutchings met guitarist Simon Nicol when they both played in the Ethnic Shuffle Orchestra.

They started to rehearse together in Simon Nicol’s father’s medical practice a house called “Fairport” in Fortis Green, north London, from which the name of the group. Fairport Convention officially formed in 1967. They get involved with folk music after the guest appearance by folk fiddler Dave Swarbrick on a recording of “A Sailor’s Life”, a traditional song brought to the band by singer Sandy Denny from her folk club days. This was a turning point for the band and Hutchings started to make research in the English Folk Dance and Song Society Library at Cecil Sharp House, London. In 1969 in a van accident in the motorway member Martin Lamble, aged only nineteen, and Jeannie Franklyn, member Richard Thompson’s girlfriend, were killed. Fairport nearly disbanded. However, they could recover and kept on working on the combination of British folk music into rock resulted in their fourth album the influential ‘Liege and Lief’ (1969) commonly considered to have launched what it is today called folk rock.

Fairport Convention, the birth of folk rock music.At that time it was commonly used the term electric folk or English folk, but today both terms are used indiscriminately. It was a huge leap forward in musicality and it had the feel of a concept album. The distinctive sound of the album came from the use of electric instruments and Dave Mattacks’ efficient drumming with David Swarbrick’s fiddle accompaniment in an unforeseen and powerful combination of rock with the traditional. The entire band had reached new levels of musicality, with the fluid guitar playing of Richard Thompson and the ‘ethereal’ vocal of Sandy Denny particularly characteristic of the sound of the album.

Although early experiments of few British bands (Strawbs and Pentangle), Fairport Convention were the firsts to do this in a purposeful way. Disagreements arose about the direction of the band in the wake of this success and some members left. However, the band kept on and in 1971 was released the concept album ‘Babbacombe Lee’ – this year celebrating the 40th anniversary – the ambitious folk rock opera project developed by Swarbrick, based on the life of John ‘Babbacombe’ Lee, ‘the man they couldn’t hang’. The following years were a baffling chain of band member changes. Fairport Convention seemed to be arrived at an end in 1979. FairportThe folk rock market had largely disappeared, the band had no record deal and Swarbrick had been diagnosed with tinnitus. Besides, in 1978 former determining member Sandy Denny died aged 31, of a cerebral haemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs. Fairport decided to disband. They played a farewell tour and a final outdoor concert on the 4th August in Cropredy, the village where Dave and Christine Pegg lived. The remaining members followed their own lives and career. Dave Pegg was the first of several Fairporters to join Jethro Tull. In 1980 Fairport staged a reunion concert in Cropredy which became the annual Cropredy Festival, and turn into the major mechanism for sustaining the band.

The Peggs continued to release the Cropredy concerts as ‘official bootlegs’. In 1985 the decision to reform the band was taken. The resulting album ‘Gladys’ Leap’ (1985) was generally well received and Ric Sanders joined the band. In 1997, Chris Leslie joined them and in 1998, Gerry Conway did as well. In 2011, the band released their new studio album Festival Bell, the first new album in four years.

The Fairport Convention has received much recognition. They won BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for: Lifetime Achievement Award (2002); Most Influential Folk Album of All Time (2006) as ‘Liege & Lief’ was voted by Radio 2 listeners; Favourite Folk Track of All Time (2007) for ‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes?’. In February 2011 they won the coveted TPi music industry award. The current Fairport Convention line-up is: Simon Nicol (guitar, lead vocal), 1967 – 1971, 1976 – present; Dave Pegg (bass guitar, mandolin, backing vocal), 1970 – present; Ric Sanders (fiddles, occasional keyboards), 1985- present; Chris Leslie (fiddle, mandolin, bouzouki, lead vocal), 1997 – present; Gerry Conway (drums and percussion), 1998- present.

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Written by davidfranchi

February 23, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Fairport Convention at the Union Chapel for the annual concert.

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Wednesday, 23rd February 2011 – David Franchi


How would you feel if you will be in front of an icon of the history of the music? It’s exactly what happens to you at a Fairport Convention concert. It was a much applauded performance at the Union Chapel in Highbury, London, last 19th February 2011, the London date in their Winter Tour 2011. Fairport Convention has been one of the most innovative and influential British bands of the late 1960s and 1970s and are still recording and touring today.

Recently they have been also awarded for the Cropredy Festival. The 2011 is a busy year for the group. A new album just released last January, the usual Winter Tour plenty of dates and sold out, and the just received TPi award for the Cropredy Festival. Folk rock legends Fairport Convention started their 2011 Winter Tour on Friday 28 January. This will be the band’s twenty-seventh consecutive Winter Tour and includes 32 venues throughout England and Wales. The tour started in Tewkesbury and will be finished on the next 5th March in Birmingham. The Union Chapel concert was opened by ‘Katriona Gilmore & Jamie Roberts’ a duo that has been smashing audiences across the UK. At their second album ‘Katriona & Jamie’ have their own peculiar sound prop up by a lap- tapping guitar and fiddle scorching techniques. Fairport Convention called them back on stage to play all together the closing piece of the concert. The Fairport Convention gig included brand new songs from their last album “Festival Bell”. Released to coincide with the 2011 tour, “Festival Bell” is the first new Fairport Convention studio album for four years. The Winter Tour 2011 concerts are split in two parts.

Pic by Ben NicholsonThe first one celebrates the fortieth anniversary of “Babbacombe Lee”, the band’s critically acclaimed 1971 folk rock opera that is played in its whole. This album was telling the captivating true story of John ‘Babbacombe’ Lee, a Victorian criminal who was reprieved after three failed attempts to hang him. The second part, it’s mostly a selection from the new album fourteen tracks (which include compositions by members of the band, two songs by renowned singer-songwriter Ralph McTell and a reworking of the Sandy Denny classic ‘Rising for the Moon’). “We’re really looking forward to getting on the road again”, says Simon Nicol, Fairport founder-member. “This year, our Winter Tour concerts will be rather different – not only have we got a whole album’s worth of new material to choose from but this will be the first time we’ve played the whole of ‘Babbacombe Lee’ since the 1970s.” Other great satisfaction arrives to Fairport Convention for hosting their most acclaimed Cropredy Festival that recently has won the desirable TPi industry award staged in London on the evening of the 7th February 2011. Cropredy Festival director Gareth Williams collected the coveted Editor’s Award on behalf of Fairport Convention. Gareth Williams says: “Fairport’s festival at Cropredy has been staged for over 30 years and for much of that time has remained relatively unnoticed by the music industry. Or so we thought. We are all truly touched by this recognition by our peers in the industry and we want to thank Mark Cunningham for the accolade of the TPi Editor’s Award.”

FairportFairport Convention members could not attend the TPi Awards because currently on tour. However, they were able to thank the 1,000 guests at the awards ceremony by video on the event’s big screen. Dave Pegg said: “Cropredy is the highlight of our year so it’s an honour and a delight for us to get this award. I’d like to thank all the festival staff down the years, Gareth Williams who’s holding the fort for us tonight, Simon Nicol, the rest of the band and all the loyal fans who come every year and make the event such a success.

Thank you all.” The annual Total Production International Awards event has, since 2002, become regarded throughout the world as the premier networking event for the live production industry. It honours not only the Live Production Of The Year, but also some of the most talented sound engineers, lighting and show designers, video creatives and tour/production managers to name but a few. Fairport Convention formed in 1967.

Their influential album ‘Liege and Lief’ (1969) is generally considered to have launched the electric folk or English folk rock movement, helping in awaken much wider interest in traditional music. Since 1979 they have hosted the Cropredy Festival, which is the largest such annual event in England. Located adjacent to Cropredy village, five miles north of Banbury, Fairport’s Cropredy Convention Festival presents three days of rock, pop and acoustic music in Oxfordshire countryside. Individually and collectively the members of Fairport Conventionhave received numerous awards recognizing their contribution to music and culture. The current line -up is: Simon Nicol, Dave Pegg, Ric Sanders, Chris Leslie, and Gerry Conway.

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Written by davidfranchi

February 23, 2011 at 8:23 pm

The students of the schools of the Royal Academy of Arts on exhibition.

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This exhibition displays the work of 16 postgraduate students in their second year at the Royal Academy Schools, giving an excellent opportunity to view new contemporary artworks by emerging artists at the interim point of their 3 year course. Works in the exhibition include painting, sculpture, video and photography. “Premiums 2011” is sponsored by Newton Investment Management.


 [photo:Jolanta Rejs – from the series Beyond the Horizon – the Bare Tre]

The works in the exhibition are for sale and the price list suggests that it could be a good investment. Artworks sold directly support the development of the students and the production of new work.

The exhibited works are interesting. These students are talented and, of course, a bit nubbin. Some made notably pieces, like the colorful series ‘Shapes for a Small World’ by Pio Abad, the enigmatic Toby Christian with his marble ‘Finger (IV)’, the futuristic and surreal series ‘Windy Chindi’ by Andrew Mealor and the sublime but slightly worrying ‘Sophia’ by Adele Morse. Sonja Weissman can confuse your eyes with her vibrant series of egg temperas on canvas, Jolanta Rejs’s solitude with her ‘Past –Present’, John Robertson paints on aluminum, Anna Salamon made an impressive full wall installation ‘Eight hours’ and Lewis Betts plays with sexual instincts in his two artworks. All the students are impressively good workers and we need to wait for them in the next future, to see their evolution and their production.

For “Premiums 2011” the following students are exhibiting: Pio Abad, Carly Bateup, Lewis Betts, Toby Christian, Archie Franks, Lucinda Graves, Christopher McSherry, Andrew Mealor, Christopher Mew, Sophie Michael, Adele Morse, Sikelela Owen, Jolanta Rejs, John Robertson, Anna Salamon and Sonja Weissmann.

“Premiums 2011” will include works produced in the EPSON Digital Media Suite. This space offers students the opportunity to experiment with equipment at the forefront of digital technology. Students can print in a variety of ways, including on canvas, film and textiles. These latest methods open up new areas of creativity and innovation for the students studying at the Royal Academy Schools.The Royal Academy Schools has a very good international reputation and students come from across the world to attend to its courses. The Royal Academy Schools offers good opportunities to students in terms of developing their ideas and working practices, including tutorials and lectures given by leading figures in the art world, together with the Royal Academicians. A distinctive three-year postgraduate course with 60 places is available. The Schools have been an integral part of the Royal Academy of Arts since its foundation in 1768. Past students of the Royal Academy Schools include JMW Turner, William Blake and John Constable. More recent alumni include John Hoyland, Anthony Caro, Paul Huxley, Sandra Blow, Veronica Smirnoff, Angus Sanders-Dunnaehie, Lucy Williams, amongst many others.


sarah_michael_309.jpgThis year the RA Schools Annual Lecture will be held by Wolfgang Tillmans, on the 22nd of February 2011. Tillmans, who lives and works in London, became the first photographer and non-British artist to win the Turner Prize in 2000. His most recent solo exhibitions include ‘Freedom from the Known’ at P.S.1, New York, ‘Lighter’ at the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin and a major recent exhibition at London’s Serpentine Gallery. This event is generously supported by The David Lean Foundation.



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Written by davidfranchi

February 18, 2011 at 11:34 am

Hoppé photos exhibition – National Portrait Gallery

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Photographs: Hoppé renaissance at the National Portrait Gallery

Wednesday, 16th February 2011 – David Franchi

Tilly_Losch_by_EOHoppe_1928___Copia.jpgAre migrants a positive or a negative aspect for the current British society? The “Hoppé Portraits: society, studio and street” gives an affirmative answer to the question. E. O. Hoppé, in fact, is one of the most important photographers of all the times. Coming from a wealthy family, he was a German born who migrated to London in 1900 to work in the financial market. It was the 1907 when he decided to make a job of his pastime, the photography, and became an eminent photographer of the last century.

 This major exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, from tomorrow until the 30th of May 2011, with its nearly 150 photographs, many of them never exhibited before, will bring back interest on this forgotten great artist. The exhibition displays portraits of many important personalities including Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ezra Pound, Mussolini and many Ballet Russes dancers together with Hoppe’s photo-journalist studies, which captured the realities of day-to-day life in Britain between the wars.

This is the first major exhibition in over 30 years dedicated to E. O. Hoppé and it is in collaboration between National Portrait Gallery and Curatorial Assistance of E. O. Hoppé Estate Collection. “It is an exhibition we’ve looked forward to for a long time. We are delightful because it is in collaboration with Graham Hove. Without him it was impossible to do it. It is an extremely exciting moment not only for National Portrait Gallery but for the study of Hoppé.” Phillip Prodger, Curator, says.

Without any doubt, this exhibition marks an important step forward. Hoppé was much celebrated at his time. He was the prototypical celebrity photographer, and his success in the 1910s and 1920s can be compared to that of the currently celebrated Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon or Irving Penn.

However, in 1937 Hoppé created the Dorien Leigh photographic agency, merging his archive of photographs with the ones of other photographers being the agency used as an channel not only for his own work. Besides, the Dorien Leigh archive was organised by subject rather than photographer. Paradoxically, this led to the decline in Hoppé‘s reputation as his images were absorbed into the archive and were difficult to appreciate as a distinct group. When the Mansell Collection purchased the archives, the Hoppé body of photographic work was completely dispersed in between this much bigger collection. It remained there for over thirty years after his death, not fully accessible to the public until the collection closed down and was acquired by new owners in America.

In 1994 Graham Howe of Curatorial Assistance of E. O. Hoppé Estate Collection began the long task of extracting, cataloguing and conserving Hoppé’s work into an official archive and rejoined it with the Hoppé family archive of photographs and biographical documents, reconstituting for the first time since 1954 the complete Hoppé Collection.

A restless intellect Hoppé thought deeply about his sitters and wondered why some achieve success while others do not. Looking for answers, he left the studio periodically to find sitters from the working class, producing a series of publications exploring British social structure. Dipping himself in the raising immigrant communities of London, Hoppé created a collective portrait of the nation at that time.

From those works- in- the- streets, at the National Portrait Gallery exhibition it is possible to appreciate a selection from the “Book of Fair Women” (1922) a compilation of photographs of the women – 32 representative beauties from 24 different countries – Hoppé regarded them to be the most stunning in the world. Fair Women’s success literally made him a judge of beauty. However for its multicultural approach, the book caused controversy by raising philosophical questions about human aesthetics. This book, and, in the same year, his largest ever solo exhibition with 221 prints at the Goupil Gallery, marked a turning point in Hoppé’s career.

In the same room, there is also a collection of “Types”, these pictures explored ideas about class and typology. Hoppé was fascinated by questions of race and social mobility and compiled a collection of studio portraits examining different ‘types’ of people. He said of these portraits: “I had it in my mind to make a record of the various distinctive types which one used to see in London streets but which were rapidly vanishing as the result of changing conditions. I started on this pictorial chronicle by approaching any interesting “character”.” In between the two world wars period, Hoppé gradually started to make photographs of British street life and captured those at the other end of the social spectrum to his celebrity sitters.

Thomas Hardy was difficult to portrait, he was not feeling comfortable in front of the camera, but Hoppé could convince him. In the same room there is also a small display cabinet with two portraits of Thomas Hardy, one linocut the other drawn, made by Hoppé himself. Those two pieces are a real revelation. Their quality is incredibly amazing, especially for the drawn one. It could be a good suggestion to have an exhibition on the non- photographic-art of Hoppé.

“It has been a great pleasure to get to know Hoppé a little better” Prodger says “He was a very interesting man; a progressive thinker with an unexpected and puckish sense of humour.”

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Written by davidfranchi

February 16, 2011 at 11:51 pm

First portrait of a freed slave at the National Portrait Gallery.

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Saturday, 12th February 2011 – David Franchi

arte nera_1.jpg

Can a portrait be so important to be shown in itself out of any contest or an exhibition? The one of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo seems to give a positive answer to the question. The portrait “Ayuba Suleiman Diallo (also known as Job ben Solomon)” by William Hoare of Bath will be on display at the National Portrait Gallery until it embarks on a national tour in Spring 2012.

This portrait has a double importance. It is, in fact, the first known portrait of a black African Muslim and freed slave and the first portrait that honour a named African subject and Muslim as an individual and an equal, painted by the celebrated English portraitist William Hoare of Bath in 1733. The second significant reason is that the display comes from a cooperative agreement with Qatar Museum Authority (QMA) and the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Following the purchase of the work by QMA at Christie’s in November 2009, the painting was the subject of export restriction, having been judged by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art to be of outstanding importance to the history and culture of Britain. It was on this basis that the National Portrait Gallery expressed its strong interest in the painting. Therefore Qatar Museum Authority has now decided to lend the work to the National Portrait Gallery for a five year period.

QMA will support a programme organised by the Gallery to include the conservation of the painting, research and interpretation, a UK tour to include Leicester, Liverpool and the North-East, and an exhibition to visit Doha in 2013. As part of the programme, an intern from Qatar will spend time working at the National Portrait Gallery. The subject depicted, Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, was born (1701 -1773) in Bondu, Senegal, and was also known as Job ben Solomon. He was a famous enslaved Muslim victim of the slave trade. Ayuba was an extremely rare exception in the slave trade. Due to his intelligence and monetary ability, he was able to legally escape the hardships of slavery and return back home to Africa. His memoirs were published, in English and French, as one of the earliest “slave narratives”, a first-person account of the slave trade, in Thomas Bluett’s “Memories” (1734). Ayuba Diallo came from a prominent family of Muslim religious leaders. In 1730, Ayuba and his interpreter Loumein Yoas were near the Gambia River to trade slaves and paper.

They were captured by invading Mandingoes and sold to factors of the Royal African Company. Once in America as a slave Ayuba was placed in charge of the cattle but ran away and was captured at the Kent County Courthouse. There he was discovered by a lawyer, Thomas Bluett, who was impressed by Ayuba’s ability to write in Arabic. So Ayuba was allowed to write a letter in Arabic to James Oglethorpe, Director of the Royal African Company who purchased him for ₤45 and sent him to the London office of the Royal African Company. Bluett and Ayuba travelled to England in 1733. Bluett arranged for Ayuba’s stay in Cheshunt in Hertfordshire. Once more Ayuba was scared to be enslaved and pleaded Bluett again.

The Englishmen in London and surrounding provinces who had met Ayuba collected money to obtain Ayuba’s freedom. He was then able to fraternise with London’s elite, working for Hans Sloane as translator of Arabic into English and was in the company of many prominent people, including the Royal Family. In July 1734, Ayuba returned to Africa. William Hoare of Bath RA (1707 – 1792) was an English painter and printmaker, co-founder of the Royal Academy noted for his pastels. Hoare received a gentleman’s education. He was sent to London to study under Giuseppe Grisoni, who had left Florence for London in 1715. When Grisoni returned to Italy in 1728, Hoare went with him, travelling to Rome and continuing his studies under the direction of Francesco Imperiali. He remained in Rome for nine years, returning to London in 1737/8.

William Hoare was the first fashionable portraitist to settle in Bath. He obtained numerous commissions, the most important being for official portraits of social leaders of the day and political men. He was closely involved with the running of the Royal Mineral Water Hospital in Bath from 1742. The portrait of Diallo by William Hoare was previously believed lost, and not seen in public until 2010. The National Portrait Gallery launched an appeal to raise its cost of £554,937 to prevent its export but it is property of Qatar Museum Authority, purchased at Christie’s in November 2009

Published for: www.italoeuropeo.com

Direct link: http://www.italoeuropeo.com/entertaiment/arts/first-portrait-of-a-freed-slave-at-the-national-portrait-gallery/

Written by davidfranchi

February 13, 2011 at 12:51 am