St. James’s Park

I read this morning that to live long, I should take 150 minutes of exercise a week and preferably play tennis.   Nearly my only exercise is walking across the park which today, unusually, I have done three times, once early when there was still ice on the lake, and a second time later when there was a flash of red in the distance which was the changing of the guard:-

I had also never noticed the keystones on the houses in Queen Anne’s Gate:-


 

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John Golding (2)

I have been thinking more about the film about John Golding’s art.   The problem is that John Golding was fundamentally shy.   He left only two substantial records of his life.   One was an interview undertaken in the 1990s by Elizabeth Cowling, one of his many pupils, for National Life Stories from which, in the film, we inevitably hear only extracts (it is five hours long with one tape currently embargoed).   The other is a film of him looking at his paintings at the end of his life with a glass of brandy in his hand.   So, it is other people who dominate the film, most especially John Richardson, who turns away from the camera while talking and describes, apparently randomly, how Golding became a drunk at the end of his life.   This can’t help but dominate the film.

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John Golding

We had a screening this evening of Bruno Wollheim’s admirable documentary about the work of the late John Golding as a painter:  showing how his success as a writer and teacher deflected him from turning properly to being a painter until he had an exhibition in the early 1970s at the Rowan Gallery;  how he gave up teaching at the Courtauld in the expectation that he could support himself through the sale of his art;  but how the exhibition at the Royal Academy ‘New Spirit in Painting’ in 1981 turned the art market away from abstraction towards figuration.   There was much lively discussion after the showing of the film as to whether or not it showed Golding accurately.   The answer is that it’s not a film about him as a writer or curator, but about his art.

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Spitalfields

I have been reading Dan Cruickshank’s fat new book on Spitalfields, which is stuffed full of recondite information about the area and his fascination for its changing social and architectural character.   It is advertised as ‘TWO THOUSAND YEARS OF ENGLISH HISTORY IN ONE NEIGHBOURHOOD’, but zips through the first millennium and a half at speed until we get to the development of William Wheler’s estate south of the ‘Spittle Field’ by speculative builders in the 1670s, followed not long afterwards by Nicholas Barbon’s development of the nearly adjacent Old Artillery Garden, which produced an area of small houses, already occupied by ‘Weavers and Throsters’.   Alongside the development of cheap housing came the fruit market, which opened in 1684, and Truman’s Brewery, which took over an existing small brewhouse on Brick Lane in 1679 and was already flourishing by the end of the seventeenth century.   He writes particularly well of the huge influx of Huguenots in the late seventeenth century, who came in force as a result of the dragonnades, and brought with them craft skills in the silk industry, a determination to enjoy freedom of worship and to succeed in trade.   It was the prosperity of the small group of master weavers in the next generation which led to the construction of the grand houses in the group of streets immediately behind the church on land owned by two sharp Somerset lawyers, Charles Wood and Simon Michell.   But what is good about Cruickshank’s account is that he is not just interested in the Huguenot grandees in their double-fronted houses in Fournier Street, but also in the artisans and workers who lived in small brick houses in Cock Lane (now Redchurch Street) and Club Row.

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Centre Point

I was walking past Centre Point last week after seeing Margy Kinmonth’s film about the Russian Revolution and was struck by its constructivist appearance, still in the top 30 of tall buildings in London, once despised as a work of Richard Seifert (Pevsner described it as ‘coarse in the extreme’) and because it was left unoccupied for so long by Harry Hyams.   It’s now listed, admired by Historic England for its ‘delicately modelled surfaces’, and in the process of conversion from offices to luxury flats:-

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