Every Object Tells a Story

I finally made it to Oliver Hoare’s beautiful and well chosen exhibition of objects of use and beauty, which he has displayed in a house in Fitzroy Square.   He is a traveller and adventurer who knows and understands the individuality of objects and their histories in the spirit of Bruce Chatwin.   It closes on Friday:-

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Casts

I have been trying to remember the history of the casts in the Royal Academy.   Some of them may survive from when George Michael Moser first established a new Academy in Richard Dalton’s print room on Pall Mall and commandeered some of the casts which had been acquired for William Hogarth’s St. Martin’s Lane Academy.   William Hamilton supplied a group from his collection in Naples.   Some were made specially for the collection in the late eighteenth century when, for example, a smuggler was made into a cast by Agostino Carlini (currently in loan to the Museum Leuven in Belgium) and James Legg, a Chelsea pensioner, was cast by Thomas Banks straight off the scaffold in 1802.   A group of casts was bought by Thomas Banks and John Flaxman from the sale of Romney’s collection on April 1801.   More were donated by the Prince of Wales from the Vatican.   And a collection of architectural casts was bought from the architect John Sandars in 1830 (see Julia Lenaghan, ‘The cast collection of John Sandars, architect, at the Royal Academy’, Journal of the History of Collections 2014, pp.193-205).   Together they make up one of the best and most historic collections of casts.   They will be back on display when the building work is completed.

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The Anatomy Lesson

Tonight I attended a talk by Professor Gerald Libby, the Professor of Anatomy in the Royal Academy Schools (he is only the thirteenth holder of the title since William Hunter was appointed by Sir Joshua Reynolds).   It was to mark the departure of the cast collection from the Schools into storage before building work commences.   He gave a very clear indication of the importance of anatomical teaching by reference to the glorious history of anatomical illustration, beginning with Leonardo and including Vesalius and William Cheselden.

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Snape

We went to two concerts at the Maltings, both by the Monteverdi Choir with John Eliot Gardiner conducting and Isabelle Faust playing the solo violin – a mixture of partitas and choral works, more like a church service than a concert.   In the second concert particularly, Isabelle Faust gave an astonishing virtuoso performance of two Bach sonatas for solo violin (Nos. 2 and 3), helped by playing a Stradivarius and the resonant acoustic of the great barn.

In the interval a rainbow appeared over the marsh:-

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Street Design (1)

I have become interested in the issue of street design because of the forthcoming redesign of, first, Savile Row and then Cork Street and, one day I hope, Burlington Gardens.   In London, the design of the street is the province of the traffic engineer, creating diagrams of effective circulation, based normally on tarmac.   But in Basel, Lampugnani has experimented with a more classical order, low pavements so that they are not too obviously differentiated from the design of the street (and good for wheelchairs too), and good use of materials (Sardinian granite).   I asked what the literature is on street design.   Apparently it’s mostly nineteenth century.

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Novartis

This afternoon I went on a tour of Novartis, the pharmaceutical company, with Jörg Schwarzburg who worked with Vittorio Lampugnani on laying out its masterplan.   Lampugnani was recruited in 2001.   He kept the main street as the central axis, basing it on the original Celtic settlement and adding a flanking Milanese arcade.   First building on the left is by Roger Diener with coloured glass panels on the façade (the chemical industry was founded on Basel’s historical expertise in dyes), on the right a building by SANAA.   In the middle of the site there’s a building by Frank Gehry which disrupts the rigid geometry of the site.   David Chipperfield has done an austerely classical building in which he mixes the offices and the laboratories.   At the end, there’s a building by Tadeo Ando.   It’s an architect’s dream of systematic order, utopian like a design by Aldo Rossi.   No photography.

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