CANALETTO & THE ART OF VENICE THE QUEEN’S GALLERY, BUCKINGHAM PALACE
By Richard Fitzwilliams
The work of the 18th Century Italian painter Giovanni Antonio Canal, better known as Canaletto, is forever associated with Venice as he painted glorious images of this incomparably beautiful city. The main attraction here is the scale of some of his canvasses in addition to his undoubted skill as a topographical artist in the era of The Grand Tour. There are several huge paintings where the glory of Venice and the majesty of Rome co-exist on a scale which does justice to both of these immortal cities.
On display are five huge canvasses which portray some of Rome’s most famous sights such as the Pantheon and two of the remaining arches in the Forum, that of Titus and of Septimus Severus. There are also several large works which depict some of Venice’s most alluring views featuring the Piazza San Marco and others depicting the breathtaking vistas of the Grand Canal. In scale these can also be compared to the two marvellous paintings of Venice by Francesco Guardi at Waddesdon Manor, which are his largest known works.
Canaletto was a master storyteller when it came to beautifying cities. He used artistic licence, eliminating buildings and manipulating views to suit his requirements. The effect is as spectacular as he intended. George III purchased over 200 of his works for the Royal Collection in 1762.
Alongside the paintings, drawings and prints by Canaletto are works by his contemporaries including Francesco Zuccarelli and Pietro Longhi. The curators even discovered a good-luck token inside a pastel by the female artist Rosalba Carriera.
The fantastic scale of several of the works in this show make it essential viewing for the artist’s many admirers. It is yet another example of the superlative exhibitions which the Royal Collection regularly mounts.
By Richard Fitzwilliams
“Wars are not won by evacuations” cautioned the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, when rejoicing over what had been achieved at Dunkirk. Yet its spirit has become part of the British way of life. The rescue of 338,000 Allied soldiers from its beaches in 1940 during the Second World War has become famous and this is a brilliant portrayal of a seismic event in world history.
Its director, Christopher Nolan, has created an immersive experience for the viewer, we know the outcome, yet the fictional characters are new to us and the tension is often almost tangible. Visually it is truly extraodinary, the camera is often uncomfortably close to the action whether capturing the twists and turns of an aerial dogfight, the struggles of men in a sea set alight by burning oil or watching the fate of those waiting for evacuation on the mole on the beach. What we are shown is what the participants would see, and it is an extroadinary feat to have a narrative interweaving stories on land, sea and air as successfully as this.
The cast are extremely well chosen. The most outstanding is Mark Rylance who owns one of the “little ships”. Kenneth Branagh as a naval commander, Cillian Murphy as a traumatised soldier and Tom Hardy as a Spitfire pilot are excellent. Lesser-known actors play privates as does Harry Styles from the boy band One Direction which hopefully will encourage younger viewers to see this amazing film.
Nolan is urging viewers to see it on a large screen and is showing 70mm or 35mm prints wherever possible. I saw it on the huge BFI IMAX screen where the action scenes have the maximum impact. Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography captures unforgettable images of the carnage of war as well as many moments of heroism.
The desperate situation on the beach is first shown when a soldier, Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), escapes from the town and discovers the lines of troops waiting for embarkation whilst subject to attack from the air. The story that unfolds is a legend brought to life and this is undoubtedly one of the greatest war films ever made.
This prestigious Art and Antiques Fair is now in its 25th year and its Charity Partner is the leading charity for disabled children, KIDS, which benefited from the proceeds from its Gala Dinner.
This Fair had a new look this year which included contemporary sculpture and some gorgeous floodlit floral decorations. These were strategically placed so as to create a series of aesthetically pleasing vistas as though they were part of a miniature garden designed in the grand manner. There were also spacious walkways between the stands. All this made the pleasure of browsing even more irresistible.
The vast variety of the artefacts on display was evident from the moment of entrance when you could admire oriental figures, tapestries, silverware and even an Elizabethan oak bed. I always marvel at the beauty of the objects and the lavishness of it all. You could say time stood still as you wandered round but there were several stands containing antique clocks as a reminder of ‘tempus fugit’.
Farnham Antique Carpets Ltd exhibited examples of wall-to-wall luxury which felt wonderfully sybaritic when you entered their stand. As usual there were a huge variety of paintings and jewellery; Anthea AG Antiques made the jewels it displayed more alluring by adding floral arrangements. One of the most unusual exhibits was the artist Sasha Sykes’s preservation of birds’ nests, which she placed in solid acrylic cubes. These were displayed by Peter Petrou. The Parker Gallery showed a painting by our most famous equestrian artist George Stubbs which experts had previously wrongly believed to be a copy.
There was also a fascinating section organised by John Spink, of John Spink Fine Watercolours, which was dedicated to Samuel Prout. He was a celebrated 19th Century watercolour artist who brought cities in Europe, such as Venice, so vividly to life and he was favoured by two monarchs.
Those who needed refreshment could find it at the Taittinger Champagne Bar which sold magnums under a giant hoarding designed to tempt passers by. The restaurant, The Pantry, was well lit and airy and the caterers were By Word of Mouth.
Each item in this Fair was beautifully preserved and all were polished to perfection. I noticed quite a large number of family portraits hanging in various stands and it would be safe to say that few, if any Fairs of this type, have the lineage or the expertise to compete with this one.
David Hockney – Tate Britain
After the death of Lucian Freud, David Hockney is probably the most significant living British painter. This exhibition illustrates the way he has produced work in all mediums though it also highlights the varying merit of some of it. It will undoubtedly be a crowd-pleaser due to the strength of his reputation and the inclusion of many of his best known paintings.
His large canvasses, set in California in the 1960’s, are stylish and sybaritic. Its gloriously sun-drenched swimming pools are captured in breathtaking colours. A Bigger Splash, Sunbather and Peter Getting Out of Nick’s Pool are among his finest and best-known creations.
His double portraits are fascinating character studies where the relationship between the sitters is often intriguing. Amongst his most famous paintings are My Parents and Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy and these are complemented by works such as Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy, Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott, and others which give fascinating insights into their relationships.
Much of this exhibition is devoted to his landscapes though the quality of these varies. I much admired some stunning views of the Grand Canyon and a set of evocative drawings which depict the arrival of spring in his native Yorkshire. Recent works showing his garden in Hollywood are less well executed. This is an extroadinary mix which is characterised by his love of the brightest of colours.
His abstract works in oils from the early 1960’s including his ‘love paintings’ are early autobiographical works with an overtly gay theme though homosexuality was then illegal. He then turned to figurative work but was forever experimenting as we see with his photographic collages and the works where he uses his ipad. Some of the latter are extremely poor and make an unsatisfactory conclusion to the exhibition. However I much admired his digital videos entitled The Four Seasons, which uses multiple screens to draw us into its alluring settings. It is remarkable that Hockney is still so versatile and this show is an impressive tribute to a unique artist.