Wallace Collection

I had lunch yesterday at the Wallace Collection. Whenever possible, I check that the display of armour in the Wallace Collection has not yet been modernised, as it is one of the last places where one can enjoy a wholly traditional museum display, nearly exactly as it was when first laid out in 1908, dense with objects and minimal labelling.

Of course, one day it may have to change, but I hope that some of its atmosphere can be preserved.

The backside of the horse armour of Otto Heinrich, Count Palatine made by Hans Ringler of Nuremberg:-

The armour made by Anton Peffenhauser in 1580:-


Viola Michelangelo

The exhibition at the Royal Academy which pairs the work of Bill Viola, the best known contemporary video artist, with the drawings of Michelangelo has had a pretty good drubbing in the national press, as if it is illegitimate to think that there might be some connection in the approach of two artists across time and from completely different visual cultures and that it is necessarily hubristic to compare them. It is true that in the second of the galleries the Michelangelo tondo together with some of his great presentation drawings are confronted on the wall opposite by big screen images of birth, childhood and death in Viola’s Nantes Triptych (1992). This is a (deliberately) radical and unexpected way of looking at – and thinking about – the work of Michelangelo. But the great majority of the exhibition consists of large-scale and immersive work by Bill Viola.

I still greatly admire the first work in the exhibition The Messenger, which I first encountered in the nave of Durham Cathedral at dusk in late August 1996. I had never seen Five Angels for the Millennium (2001), an incredibly impressive work, particularly as seen in Gallery III. And the final work in the exhibition is Fire Woman (2005), a film of resurrection, fire and brimstone. Yes, maybe it has a touch of Hollywood in it. But I don’t object to technical magnificence. And nor did Michelangelo.


Ethel Paine Moors

Out of the blue, I got an email from the curator of Stonehurst, a historic property designed by H.H. Richardson in Waltham outside Boston. She was enquiring whether I had any family papers relating to my step-grandmother, Ethel Paine Moors, who was brought up in Stonehurst and died ten days after marrying my grandfather in the year that I was born (she was dead by the time my parents went to meet her off the boat from Southampton). I could supply no information, but have discovered in return that she was a fiery liberal who devoted her life to teaching in African American schools, including Penn School in St. Helena, South Carolina. It was her family trust, not Rockefeller or the Ford Foundation, which funded one of the early civil rights conferences in 1957 at which Martin Luther King gave an historic speech later published ‘At the Threshold of Integration’.


Soho to the Strand

I walked from my new place of work in Hanover Square down to a meeting in the Strand, cutting through Soho and observing details in the architecture which I have not spotted before.

The eccentric capitals in one of the shop fronts on Regent Street:-

The lettering on the entrance to the old primary school in Ingestre Place:-

And the surviving old warehouses beyond:-

The clock on the Bar Italia:-

And the Scales of Justice on the old Bow Street police station:-

St. Mary-le-Strand:-

The brutalism of the fa├žade of King’s:-

And the lettering on the old Strand underground station, later called Aldwych, a branch on the Piccadilly line:-


Anne Olivier Bell

I sadly missed the memorial event at the British Library last week devoted to the life of Anne Olivier Bell, the last of the so-called Monuments Men, editor of Virginia Woolf’s diary, and co-founder of Charleston Farmhouse. I thought I knew her well, but learned a lot that I had not known by listening to the recording: about the trickiness of her childhood split between her mother in Dorset and her father, who was Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum; that she was a motorbike despatch rider in the war, before she worked for the Monuments Commission, which she always downplayed (this I knew) and only did for a year and a half; about her sitting at her desk at the Arts Council with her pencil poised to pounce on any error in the catalogues; about her dressmaking in the late 1960s at Cobbe Place; and how little she wrote herself and how much she hated public speaking. What comes across is how loved she was, and admired, by the people who were asked to speak about the different aspects of her life up until her death last year aged 102.


Old Flo (1)

I had not seen Old Flo since she moved to Canary Wharf.

The signage might suggest that she isn’t necessarily that much appreciated:-

But, otherwise, she looks good in the winter sun:-

Very appropriately, she sits opposite a Lynn Chadwick on the other side of the waterworks:-