Fitzwilliam Museum

I went to the celebration of the re-hang of Gallery 3 at the Fitzwilliam, the so-called Founder’s Gallery at the top of the staircase at the heart of Basevi’s original scheme, but completed by C.R. Cockerell after Basevi fell through the floor of the bell chamber in the West Tower of Ely Cathedral:-

In 1848, when the Museum was first opened, the gallery was hung floor to ceiling. Sydney Cockerell added a balcony for the display of drawing. When Michael Jaffé became Director in 1974, he hung it with tomato coloured silk. Now it has been hung with a more sober and darker coloured purple fabric (they call it maroon). Anyway, it looks very fine and the ceiling has been converted from a colour which Luke Syson described in his speech as somewhere between toenails and a pub saloon to a more pristine white. It’s a suitable setting for the Gallery’s amazing collection of seventeenth-century portraits, including Carlo Dolci’s portraits of Finch and Baines:-

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The Rush to Brexit

I have been struggling to keep up with the twists and turns of official policy – and politics – as we move increasingly inexorably towards No Deal on October 31st., with the civil service apparently instructed to make no effort to find a deal, to do so having always been a necessary sham, the Tories doing better and better in the polls as they absorb the Brexit party vote, and the opposition hopelessly divided between the Corbynistas, whose views on Brexit we still don’t know, and the Liberal Democrats who have become totally hardline in the other direction. It seems that, as we approach the edge of the precipice, 38% of the country is cheering the government on regardless, or actually somehow mysteriously excited by, the enormity and unfathomabilty and potential catastrophe of Brexit’s consequences, a kind of mass suicide.

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Dialectical Materialism

We went to see Karsten Schubert’s last, posthumous exhibition of the work of sculptors whose work he admired – cool, thoughtful, cerebral – held very beautifully and appropriately in an old Victorian stables at the north of Park Village East next to the railway track:-

We particularly wanted to see the work of Alison Wilding, who Karsten supported and represented over a long time.

In a Dark Wood (2012):-

Endgame (2007):-

Solenoid (2015):-

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Restoration Houses

One can tell that it’s the Christmas season in that we have just been given another book about London interiors, called Restoration Stories: Patina and Paint in Old London Houses by Philippa Stockley who was long ago at the Courtauld Institute, lives in Whitechapel and writes a lot about houses for the Evening Standard. The book is, in many ways, a tale of the success of the Spitalfields Trust, established in 1977 by Dan Cruikshank, Mark Girouard and Colin Amery, to preserve the silkweavers houses which were then semi-derelict or in multiple occupancy and have now been beautifully restored. She writes in a sprightly and well-informed way about the history of the houses, how they have been restored, and the conservation thoughts and beliefs of their current owners. Lots of bric-à-brac and architectural salvage.

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All Soul’s

All Soul’s was looking very magnificent for the memorial event held for Philip Lewis, an old and close friend, who was a elected a Junior Research Fellow in 1965, a Senior Research Fellow from 1972 to 1988, and an Emeritus Fellow till his recent death.

We admired Hawksmoor’s elliptical, coffered buttery, with Hawksmoor’s black bust in a niche overlooking the fellows having lunch:-

And then, by magic, we were invited to cross the North Quadrangle, Hawksmoor’s experiment in gothic:-

And through a side door to the great sweep of the Codrington Library, now condemned for its association with Christopher Codrington, a plantation owner in Barbados, who left £10,000 in his will to All Souls, where he had been a Fellow in the 1690s, whilst simultaneously fighting for the crown as a captain in the foot guards, but hard not to admire architecturally:-

Henry Cheere’s statue of Codrington:-

And John Bacon’s seated statue of William Blackstone, who as bursar of the college had arranged for the completion of the library:-

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Vanbrugh House, Oxford

I had no idea that there is a house in St. Michael’s Street, Oxford en route from the railway station which is named after, and attributed to, Vanbrugh for good reason – not just the proximity of Blenheim, but its exaggerated double columns on the façade and its playful combination of capitals and triglyphs. But I note that Historic England more cautiously attributes it to William Townesend, who worked as a mason at Blenheim and was involved with a number of projects in Oxford as surveyor:-

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The Search for a Carer

I am using the unorthodox means of a blog post to ask if any of my readers might by any chance know of someone, preferably in East London, who would be willing to act as Romilly’s carer on Friday all day (it’s a 15-hour day) and either Saturday mornings (another six hours) or all day Saturday. We are finding it nearly impossible to find someone suitable, because I have realised that the work of getting her up and dressing her is arduous, both physically and, in some ways, psychologically. I have done it myself often enough and am not good at it. But the rest of the day is not so onerous and I would like to think that there might be some postgraduate or medical student who needs a bit of extra income and has the necessary kindness, patience and generosity of spirit as her other wonderful and saintly carers. If so, could they please contact me at charles@blainsouthern.com ?

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