I sadly didn’t have time to explore Old Lille, only to walk back to the station by way of the Grand Place, where I was impressed not so much by the decorative strapwork of the Vieille Bourse, designed and decorated by Julien Destrée in 1653, as the decorative language of a house in a street immediately to the north:-

I also liked the detail on the original shop front of A la Cloche d’Or, including the ancient advertising for Omega watches:-


Mat Collishaw

I visited Roubaix, or more properly, Tourcoing, to see Mat Collishaw’s Thresholds, which I missed when it was first shown in Somerset House in 2017. It reconstructs in VR Fox Talbot’s first exhibition, put on by the British Association for the Advancement of Science at King Edward’s School in Birmingham. I haven’t always been persuaded of the virtues of VR, but on this occasion it has the surreal and convincing ability to make one able to see the original display cases as they were in 1839, a remarkable effect of simulation.


La Piscine

I have been to the Musée d’Art at d’Industrie de la Ville de Roubaix at least once before, housed in the old municipal swimming pool, opened by Jean-Baptiste LeBas, the socialist mayor:-

The pool closed in 1985 and re-opened in 2000 as a museum, redesigned by Jean-Paul Philippon, who was one of the architects who worked on the Gare d’Orsay. It has a very nicely casual feel to it, born of the fact that the collection was originally planned as a source of inspiration to the local textile workers, housed in the local National High School, and that the building was not purpose-built, but is the conversion of a local civic amenity, full of good nineteenth-century sculpture, textile sample books and daylight:-

This is the reconstruction of the Atelier of Henri Bouchard, a beaux arts sculptor who was discredited by accepting an invitation from Goebbels to visit Germany:-


Musée des Beaux Arts, Lille

The Musée des Beaux Arts in Lille has, not surprisingly, a very strong French collection.

A wonderful Chardin:-

A set of very beautiful portraits by Louis-Léopold Boilly, including a study for his portrait of his close friend Jean-Antoine Houdon:-

Others are unnamed:-

Here he is doing a more finished portrait of M d’Aucourt de Saint-Just:-


The Unwritten Constitution

I have found it helpful to discuss the nature of the current constitutional crisis with my friend, Ivan Gaskell, in the Comments section of the blog.

The big problem is obviously that the Prime Minister has chosen to treat the result of the 2016 referendum as constitutionally binding whatever its consequences and without the need either to seek a further mandate for her more detailed proposals, nor to have discussed them in any great depth or secured support for them from either her party or parliament, assuming that what she now proposes is what the people wanted in 2016. So, there is a constitutional impasse. Of course, she may now secure a vote in parliament with the threat – actually, it’s blackmail – that the alternative is No Deal.

But does her deal have a democratic mandate in representing the natural and inevitable outcome of the referendum? I doubt it. People were not asked what sort of out they wanted, irrespective of the consequences. So, to secure a proper and effective mandate for what is now proposed should require a second referendum, on May 2, alongside the local elections, as happened (we may have forgotten) in 2011.


The Painted Hall

Although I have already seen the success of the conservation of Thornhill’s great Painted Hall at the Royal Naval College (vide my previous blog on the subject), I was still pleased to have been invited to celebrate its completion in advance of the public opening and admire the sophistication with which James Thornhill, who had been trained in the artisan tradition of late seventeenth-century painting, apprenticed to the Painters-Stainers’ Company in 1689, undertook such a gigantic and monumental task.

Here he is admiring his handiwork in the corner of the west wall, complete with the tools of his trade, maybe painted by Dietrich Andre, one of his assistants:-

George I, surrounded by his children and grandchildren – ‘a new race of men from Heaven’ (ie Hanover):-

And scenes from the great painted ceiling which show ‘The Triumph of Peace and Liberty over Tyranny’ (in these uncertain times, it is worth remembering that parliament has at least twice, if not three times, been responsible for kicking out a brutal autocrat in the interests of liberty, prosperity and democracy and against mob rule, which is alien to our constitution):-


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.