A meeting this morning in the Tower Room of the Linnean Society high above the entrance arch into the Burlington House courtyard gave me an exceptionally good view of the Burlington House façade, as adapted by Sydney Smirke in the late 1860s. By chance, the façade has been temporarily cleared of its banners for a light projection this evening, and so I saw it as it was, when first opened, on Monday 3rd. May 1869 (I know the exact date from reading the relevant chapter of Nick Savage’s excellent forthcoming monograph on Burlington House):-
We often drive up City Road which connects the Old Street roundabout to the Angel, constructed to connect the old New Road, now the Pentonville Road, to the City in 1761. It’s transformed in the last few years from the home of my accountant into a high-rise boom town with the construction of the Canaletto tower by Ben van Berkel of UNStudio with its swagger curvilinear aluminium strips outlining the windows and now the even more massive 250 City Road by Norman Foster, which I photographed from outside McDonalds:-
I spent the later afternoon at the London Art Fair: always a pleasure; pleased to see Art UK prominently represented; and an early work by Simon Lewty, Boices in the Close Country, out from store and looking as fresh as ever from his fertile middle period:-
An extremely beautiful Euan Uglow Still Life with Onions and Wine Glass (1962):-
And Patrick George, Uglow’s contemporary, but vastly much more affordable:-
I was pleased to see examples of Stephen Farthing’s ambitious series Museums of the World, due to be shown in Chichester in March:-
We went last night – as recommended by Rupert Christiansen on his twitter account – to a performance of Benjamin Britten’s Curlew River, an opera (is it an opera ? not really) which I didn’t know about, performed most magically in the darkness of St. Bartholomew the Great, whose Norman interiors provided an atmospheric setting for what was described by Britten as a ‘Parable for Church Performance’, with the very faint smell of incense and plastic sheeting providing the performance space down the nave. The music is said to have been deeply influenced by Britten’s visit on holiday to Japan in early 1956 and the text – by William Plomer – is based on a Japanese noh play Sumidagawa. But the mood seemed more medieval, partly because of the setting, but also the austerity of the tenor voices and use of plainchant. Very intense.
A couple of postscripts to my entry on Lynn Chadwick:-
1. I have realised that he only became an RA in May 2001 when he was already 86, so would have been elected as a Senior Member. I assume that this was when Phillip King was President and got in some of the older generation of sculptors, who had not been keen on the RA, including Anthony Caro, who declined election in 1990, but accepted in 2004. In fact, Chadwick kept himself apart from the London art world by moving from Cheyne Row to a cottage near Stroud in 1946 and then to a remote cottage near Cheltenham before buying Lyppiatt Park in 1958.
2. Because I am currently reading Mark Girouard’s brilliant biography of James Stirling (Big Jim), I am struck by the parallels in their lives (they didn’t know one another) and the incredible sense of ambition and confidence of those who had served in the war and were then demobbed, including Chadwick, who worked as an architectural draughtsman in the 1930s, served in the Fleet Air Arm as a pilot during the war, returned to work for a firm, Arcon, which specialised in designing prefabricated buildings, and started making mobiles out of balsa wood as a sideline. By 1956, he had won the International Sculpture Prize in Venice, beating Giacometti.
I had been to Lypiatt, the estate that Lynn Chadwick bought in September 1958, once before in the late 1990s when he was still alive. I remembered only being driven round a remote Gloucestershire valley in a slightly hair-raising way. This time, although the weather was grey, I was again immeasurably impressed by the sense of a secret landscape, with his sculptures carefully placed at unexpected and arbitrary intervals within it.
The house is Tudor, with a neo-Tudor wing by Wyatville:-
Inside is filled with his sculptures, as well as his spirit, in the free form way in which he treated the empty spaces of the house:-
Beyond is the park, empty and atmospheric, stretching up into the Toardsmoor Valley:-
I would like to be able to identify each of the sculptures and their date, but saw them only as figures in the landscape, without name:-