My last post from London for a few weeks is of details from the façade of Thomas Goode & Co., which I passed en route to lunch at Le Gavroche. I stopped to admire the ornament of its façade which, like so much of Victorian ornament, is not much described by Pevsner. The architect of the building was Ernest George who was commissioned by the Duke of Westminster to design a building in the Queen Anne style ‘of red brick and terra cotta’, based on a building in Kensington (most likely 1, Palace Gate) which George was instructed to inspect. The brickwork decoration was by Harry Hems who ran a large sculpture workshop in Exeter called ‘The Ecclesiastical Art Works’. Who did the beautiful ironwork ? I rely on one of my readers to tell me:-
As I prepare to set off on holiday, I am posting a few more photographs of my tours round Burlington Gardens last week, one of which concentrated on the stonework of Pennethorne’s north façade, since we are hoping for help with the funding of its restoration. Former students of the Royal Academy Schools were employed in the carving of the monumental statuary.
Francis Bacon, a great hero to the Chinese, was carved by William Theed, who entered the Schools in 1820, studied in Rome under Thorvaldsen, was commissioned by Prince Albert to produce work for Osborne House, and carved Africa on the Albert Memorial:-
I went to visit what I could of the new Design Museum, which is due to open in November in Kensington High Street. Actually, there is not much to see apart from the three posh apartment blocks by Rem Koolhaas, which made the restoration of the old Commonwealth Institute possible; and the shop, which has been designed by John Pawson, who has also designed the museum inside. I’m unusual in that I was never taken to see the Commonwealth Institute as a child, so I have no nostalgia for its displays, just admiration for the great arc of the roof, designed by Robert Matthew of RMJM:-
In writing about Berry Bros. & Rudd, I should have posted a picture of the entrance to Pickering Place, one of the more unexpected alleyways in London, leading to a small square where duels were fought. It was called Pickering Place after William Pickering who took over the running of Berry Bros. from widow Bourne and is thought to have been her son-in-law. He ran a business supplying paints alongside selling tea, coffee, cocoa and wine:-
I have been round our building project in Burlington Gardens twice today. I found the second time oddly moving because I went for the first time through the hole in the wall into the RA Schools into the studios which were occupied less than a month ago with their end-of-year show and now have been stripped of their panelling to reveal the bare brickwork behind.
This is one of the Norman Shaw studios added at the back of the building in the 1880s (I think):-
Since I was passing Tate Britain, I called in to have a look at the portrait bust of Charles I, by Hubert Le Sueur, the French Huguenot sculptor, who is said to have been trained by Giambologna, was described in 1610 as sculpteur du Roy and moved to London some time before 1625 when he designed the catafalque for the funeral of James I. He was in Rome in 1631, making casts of classical antiquities for the Privy Garden. He returned to Paris on the outbreak of the Civil War:-
I finally made it to the Newport Street Gallery, Damien Hirst’s grand and generous set of public spaces just over the bridge from Tate Britain. It was designed by Caruso St. John, who have converted a set of old theatre workshops into a reverse sequence of big, high ceilinged, daylit spaces, half old, half new build, an intelligent and beautiful way of displaying art:-
I started the day with a viewing of the David Bowie collection which is being shown in Sotheby’s for a few days before going to Los Angeles, New York and Hong Kong. What was immediately obvious was how serious he was as a collector – thoughtful and well informed, with a good eye for modern British work, including an early sketch of Lytton Strachey by Henry Lamb (why, one wonders, was Strachey being drawn so early in his career ?), a beautiful small Family Group by Henry Moore, good work by Kenneth Armitage and Peter Lanyon, and a fine Auerbach of his cousin, Gerda Boehm. The sale is not till November.
We went round the BP Portrait Award last night which I haven’t done for a while and was pleased to see the broad range of work and the fact that it is slightly more lightly hung than it used to be, more international and with more established artists. I particularly admired the gentle, reflective winning portrait by Clara Drummond which holds it own in the space; was interested to see the work of some hardy perennials of the Award, including Frances Borden, Lewis Chamberlain and Mark Shields; and liked the austere portrait of Martin Chaffer standing in front of a map of London by Sopio Chkhikvadze.
I have only been to Le Gavroche once before, invited by Michael von Clemm, who borrowed $900 to establish it in Lower Sloane Street in 1967 and helped to develop its international reputation as chairman of the board (I have just noticed that the Economist wrote an exceptionally nasty obituary of him in spite of – or perhaps because of – the fact that he was the most intelligent, well educated and far sighted businessman that I have ever met, responsible not only for supporting the Roux Brothers, but converting the banana warehouses of the East India Docks into Canary Wharf). Today I had lunch there (not, I hasten to say, at the RA’s expense). It was as good as could be.