Mother’s Day

It being Mother’s Day, I have been thinking of mine, her great and passionate knowledge of every aspect of nature – every bird and wild flower – which she had learned from her father and, at the same time, of my nearly complete failure to learn this imparted knowledge from her while she was still alive, in spite of accompanying her on her daily walks in the fields and countryside, most especially in the west coast of Ireland, on Three Castle’s Head.

I should maybe add, whilst opportunity arises, that this obituary I wrote is a bit inaccurate, based on my memory of what I thought I knew of her. She wasn’t there to check the facts. I think she went to Girton when she was in her early twenties and the idea that she read Arabic was a fiction. She thought of changing to Chinese. But even now my knowledge of this part of her life is a bit hazy. It was only much later in her life that I discovered that she was one of the generation who wasn’t allowed to take a degree.

I guess that, like all children, I wish I had asked more questions about her life while she was still alive, not least about her time in Germany in the early 1930s.


What to do in a crisis

I have already posted one or two comments by museum directors as they have to shut up shop for the unforeseeable future, something I fortunately never had to do and is completely outside one’s normal experience. Few manage to strike such a clear note of humanity and generosity of spirit, most of all towards her staff, as Kaywin Feldman, the Director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington:-


North Wales (2)

Dear reader of my blog, You have seen versions of these photographs many times before.

The walk down the path to the river:-

The view across the fields towards the distant peak of Snowdon, still covered in snow:-

The cottage submerged by the undergrowth:-

The stone walls marking the old field boundaries:-

But they feel the more precious, as well as more unreal, in present circumstances.


North Wales (1)

I cannot disguise that we are in North Wales. Each day in Tower Hamlets, the risks of infection grew greater. It was hard to self-isolate completely. I know that a Welsh GP has complained about the pressure on services in North Wales, but it is obvious that one of the hospitals which will be under maximum pressure is the Royal London. At the end of the lane on Anglesey is necessarily isolated, out of contact with other human beings, alone with the fields and the lambs and the clean air.

Last night the sky was fiery:-

Today is a new dawn:-


Art UK

Another good news story from the art world: Art UK, which is the most amazing resource for the study of art in this country will provide a facility in early May for home-grown online exhibitions – a very simple, but still potentially very rewarding and creative way of looking at UK art collections:-


Words from the Palazzo Strozzi

Of everything that I have read in the last twenty four hours about the necessity and consequences of museum closure, I find the words of Arturo Galansino, the director of the Palazzo Strozzi, the most moving: partly because he has already had to live with the consequences of closure for a fortnight or so; and partly because he seems to me to strike exactly the right note of meditative Stoicism – that things are bad, but that art will live on beyond this period of closure; and that it should cause us all to think about the meaning of art, and its importance, beyond the ephemerality of the everyday.


The identity of Thames & Hudson

Harry Pearce has pointed out to me that not only is he busy designing the page layout of my book, but that he has been a tiny bit distracted by the launch of the new Thames & Hudson visual identity, which he has done with characteristic precision and discretion, just tightening it up, but retaining a strong sense of its history. It has the same characteristic as the work he did for the RA, being so thoughtful, so obviously correct, that the untutored eye might not notice it, which is surely the ultimate compliment.


The Museum Book

I’ve been asked by Mark Fisher how I’m getting on with the museum book. The truth is, it’s pretty well finished, due to be delivered to Thames & Hudson at the end of the month. It’s title has changed, thanks to Harry Pearce, the wonderful designer at Pentagram, who picked one of my discarded titles, THE ART MUSEUM IN MODERN TIMES, maybe because it looks so well typographically and has a modernist ring to it, which is appropriate since the book starts off with Alfred Barr, the Museum of Modern Art and its legacy. It has – shamefully – taken me at least as long to do the footnotes as it did to write the book, an arduous process because I did not keep references as I went along and it has taken me far longer than anticipated to track down the source of quotations, even with the help of Google Books, which I have now understood how to work. A defect of the book is that some of the sentences are too long, as you might have guessed, but my editor has been cutting them down with a good chainsaw. Actually, it has been the utmost pleasure, the last three months of close work on the text, editing, correcting, fact-checking, re-reading, mostly in the British Library, now no longer possible. Out in a year’s time, if all goes well.