The Address to the Nation

We sat crouched over the computer waiting for the address from the Prime Minister as we waited for our supper. She was late. Very late. Twenty five minutes late. Then, she appeared on screen in order to appeal to those people who voted in favour of Brexit nearly three years ago, as if she is their sole representative, not the House of Commons as a whole (let us not forget that the whole point of the vote was to reinstate the sovereignty of parliament).

She appears to have forgotten that there has been a General Election, which she called, more recently than the Referendum. She blames the House of Commons for not supporting her Deal, whilst ignoring that they voted against her Deal by an overwhelming majority, the biggest ever, and she has repeatedly refused to allow them to consider and discuss what the alternatives might be – and she seems to have been nearly equally as obtuse and negligent towards the Brexiteers as she has been towards the Remainers, let alone Her Majesty’s Opposition.

So, appealing to the country at this juncture in a broken voiced, pseudo-Churchillian manner, twenty five minutes late, does not seem the obvious best way to gain the support she – and the country – so desperately need.

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Edmund Capon

I sometimes think my blog is at risk of becoming an obituaries column.

Anyway, I have just read of the death of Edmund Capon, the former Director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, who I got to know a bit on visits to Australia in the late 1990s, when I was twice a judge (actually, I think I was the one and only judge) for the Moran portrait awards and once a guest of Gordon and Marilyn Darling, who knew him well.

Edmund struck me as a sort of folk hero: very dry, extremely knowledgeable, funny and very hospitable. We once played as partners in billiards and easily defeated whoever our opponents were. One could buy versions of his socks at the Art Gallery and he went on walking holidays with the Prime Minister. He was a candidate to be Director of the V&A in 1988, but claimed to have disqualified himself by saying that he wanted to direct it, rather than be a poodle of the Trustees.

It’s probably unlikely that someone so outspoken and intellectually unorthodox would nowadays be appointed as a museum director, but museums will be the poorer if they don’t have such powerful and effective (and unorthodox) advocates.

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Kevin Roche

In reading the recent obituaries of Kevin Roche, the Irish American architect who had worked for Maxwell Fry in London before going to study under Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology, I had forgotten that it was Roche who was hired by Thomas Hoving on becoming Director of the Metropolitsn Museum in 1966 as architect. The brief from Hoving was that he wanted, ‘a new attitude…Hospitality above all’. Roche greatly endeared himself to Hoving by describing the Museum as ‘a bleeding mess; it’s more an open storeroom than a series of open galleries’. And it was Roche who proposed creating the steps at the front of the Museum which most people assume have been there forever, but are actually a creation of the democratic 1960s.

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Eileen Hogan

We were sent a copy of the catalogue of Eileen Hogan’s exhibition Personal Geographies at Yale Center for British Art in May. It includes a reproduction of the middle portrait of the triptych Eileen did of Romilly SS between March 10 and April 17, 2010 (the catalogue information is wonderfully precise) in oil, wax and charcoal on medium, rough, white paper mounted on board. I reproduce it, partly in celebration of the book and forthcoming exhibition, which together will be a meticulous record of Eileen’s work as a portrait painter (occasional), but more as a topographical painter recording the secret gardens of London with passionate visual intensity; and, also, because I discovered last night that Yale Center for British Art allows anyone to reproduce any work in their collection, without fear of the copyright police, in the interests of free scholarly knowledge and investigation of their collections:-

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Bauhaus in Britain

In the intervals of going to the Maastricht art fair, I have been reading Alan Powers’s book on the reception of bauhaus ideas in Britain in the 1930s – Bauhaus Goes West: Modern Art and Design in Britain and America. The myth is that Britain provided an inhospitable environment to Gropius & co., but Powers demonstrates very clearly how Gropius was greeted on his arrival at Victoria Station by a welcoming party, consisting of Jack Prichard, who housed him and Ise at little or no cost in the Lawn Road flats, found him work and introduced him to other architects, and P. Morton Shand, who had already written extensively on German architecture in Architectural Review and was to translate Gropius’s New Architecture and the Bauhaus, published by Faber and Faber in 1935. When Gropius left for Harvard in 1937, Prichard organised a dinner for 100 of his artist and scientist friends at the Trocadero with a menu designed by László Moholy-Nagy. So, it’s hard to view Gropius and the many other graduates of the Bauhaus who emigrated to London, including Breuer and Moholy-Nagy as wholly unappreciated.

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John Richardson

I’m sad to read of the death of John Richardson, aged 95, older than I thought, whose grandfather, rather amazingly, was born in 1817, in the reign of George III. One of his many remarkable characteristics was that, although he had written short books in the 1950s, including one on Braque for Penguin Modern Painters and a book on Picasso’s watercolours in 1956, he was already 67 by the time that the first volume of his magisterial four-volume biography of Picasso (one still to appear) was published and was still going strong writing, publishing and organising major exhibitions on Picasso for Larry Gagosian well into his eighties. A lesson to us all.

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