I omitted to mention that at lunchtime yesterday we went to visit the arms and armour galleries at the Wallace Collection, which we were pleased to discover are wholly unmodernised, a style of museum display which is now wildly out-of-fashion, presumably as laid out when Hertford House first opened as a public museum in 1900 and presided over by Sir James Mann, who wrote the catalogue:
It’s unusual that we go to morning and afternoon concerts at the Wigmore Hall. In the morning, we went to a concert by Melvyn Tan, the elfin Singaporean pianist, who was playing the fortepiano. He started with a Beethoven piano sonata (opus 2, no. 3), which sounded unexpectedly eighteenth-century on a fortepiano. He then played a sonata by Johann Gottfried Müthel, J.S. Bach’s last recorded pupil. The score had been discovered in the Montagu music collection at Boughton, bought by Elizabeth, Duchess of Buccleuch, a keen amateur pianist, in the late eighteenth century and never played since. He ended with more Beethoven (opus 31, no.3), played fortissimo. In the afternoon, Iain Burnside accompanied two full voiced Russian opera singers, Ekaterina Siurina and Rodion Pogossov, in a programme of grand and gloomy Rachmaninov songs, wholly appropriate to the fin-de-siècle atmosphere of the Wigmore Hall (it was designed by Thomas Colcutt in 1901 for the piano makers Bechstein).
We were just remarking how difficult it is now to buy good quality bacon (the decline of the butcher/the feebleness of supermarket bacon), when, lo and behold, we saw a farmers’ market rise up before us on the wharves of London dock. It’s the first day of a new farmers’ market just next to Wapping pumping station: fresh fish available in boxes (Soleshare), organic vegetables, flat bread, van food and Ruby Violet’s handmade ice cream:
Most weekends I walk through the churchyard of St. Dunstan’s, Stepney, the medieval church which was at the heart of the first village on the cattle road out to Essex. It has exceptionally fine, early Victorian ironwork railings, which somehow escaped being removed in the war. An inscription states that they were the work of Deeley and Clarke in Whitechapel, a local iron foundry based at Buckle Street. They were installed in 1844:
I normally walk across St. James’s Park in the early morning. How different it looks in the evening sun:
When I saw David Remfry’s work in this year’s summer exhibition, I asked him if he ever undertakes commissions. He said ‘not if possible’. So I was slightly surprised to be invited not long afterwards to a thé dansant at Fortnum and Mason to celebrate the completion of watercolour sketches by him for its fourth floor restaurant. There was not much dansant. But the sketches are beautifully observed and gently humorous scenes from the life of the shop:
In walking through Hanover Square recently, my eye was caught by the stately statue of William Pitt looking south towards St. George’s. I should have guessed (or known) without reading the inscription on the side0 that it’s the work of Francis Chantrey, who made a fortune from this form of commemorative work and left his estate to the Royal Academy for the purchase of paintings for the National collection. It was one of the first works to be cast in Chantrey’s own foundry close to his studio in Eccleston Place. It’s a different view of Pitt from the well known bust by Nollekens: more heroic, showing him as a great statesman and belonging to the vocabulary of national celebration in the years after Waterloo. Efforts were made to destroy it the day after it was installed in 1831 by a mob campaigning for the Reform Bill. It’s hard to imagine this statue of Pitt inspiring such wrath:
Following the opening of our Hopper exhibition, we were invited to Sketch to celebrate. It’s a while since I have been there. I hadn’t seen the new back room designed by David Shrigley and gilded by Christian de Falbe. Before the war, it was the headquarters of the RIBA. After the war, it was the workshop for Christian Dior. Now it is a pink palace:
Nor had I seen the room of spaceship lavatories designed ten years ago by Mourad Mazouz, the owner of Sketch:
We opened Dennis Hopper tonight: vintage prints in a display which replicates an exhibition of his photographs shown in Fort Worth in 1970. I find it almost unbearably nostalgic, all those hippies, flower power, the smoking, Jasper Johns, Hells Angels, love ins, Andy Warhol in the factory, Timothy Leary and the short clip from Easy Rider which shows them on their motorbikes riding through the desert. It’s pure sixties, undiluted and beautifully framed.