House of Lords Debate

While the 1922 Committee was overseeing the vote for the planned, but failed, putsch against the Prime Minister, the House of Lords was engaged in a much more civilised activity, celebrating the 250th. birthday of the Royal Academy:-

https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2018-12-12/debates/3CD3342F-22E6-4985-82C4-229D33805EF5/RoyalAcademyOfArts250ThAnniversary

I always find it interesting reading their debates – the curious mixture of nineteenth-century civility with often well informed and not necessarily anticipated comments.   

Reading the debate on the Royal Academy, I am pleased to see that two of the current issues facing the Academy on my departure were both raised:  one is the ability of the Royal Academy Schools to continue to accept European students post-Brexit;  the second is whether or not the Heritage Lottery Fund might consider reintroducing its Catalyst fund to help it to raise funds for its endowment, since it was the availability of matching funds which made it possible for the Ashmolean, for example, to embark on its successful endowment campaign.

I was also glad that three great supporters of the Academy – Lords Cormack, Crathorne and Luce, all three of whom have been frequent visitors – all acknowledged the importance of the government’s support of what is essentially an independent institution by providing government indemnity, without which its exhibition programme would be unsustainable, and the advantage of a long-term lease of Burlington House, which gives it security of tenure and the ability to plan for its long-term future.

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Plaster Monuments

I had the pleasure of showing Mari Lending, the author of Plaster Monuments:  Architecture and the Power of Reproduction, round not just Burlington Gardens, but Burlington House as well.   It made me realise how powerfully David Chipperfield has made use of the echoes and original form of Pennethorne’s building and through Pennethorne to Palladio’s Teatro Olympico, whose design may have informed his Lecture Theatre;  but also the way that even quite modernist architects, like Jim Cadbury-Brown RA who designed the library and Norman Foster RA who designed the Sackler Galleries, made reference to, and were deferential to, the sense of history in the palimpsest of buildings which is the modern RA. 

We went first through the Schools where the casts were apparently nearly eradicated in 2000:-

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Then up to the Sackler Galleries:-

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10th. December 2018

We celebrated the actual day of the Royal Academy’s 250th. anniversary in a relatively low key way, considering the different types of celebration which have taken place over the year as a whole:-  a tea party in which the cake was cut by the President and Keeper;  a meeting of the so-called General Assembly, which is traditionally held on the day of the anniversary and used to be accompanied by one of Reynolds’s Discourses, which were addressed at least as much to the students of the RA Schools as to his fellow Academicians;  and a dinner attended by large numbers of RAs, including Olafur Eliasson Hon. RA.   No fireworks.

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10th. December 1768

It was on this day, two hundred and fifty years ago, that twenty eight of the original thirty six Royal Academicians met George III at St. James’s Palace to present him with the so-called Instrument of Foundation, which contained the rules by which it has operated more or less ever since.   Joshua Reynolds had only been asked to become the President the night before and had upset everyone, including, most especially, the King, by saying that he wanted to consult his two best friends, Samuel Johnson and Edmund Burke, before he agreed.   Some of them may have been hung over after the celebratory dinner at Joseph Wilton’s.

It was a Saturday.   The Thames was flooded after a long period of heavy rain.   It was also the day that the Encyclopedia Britannica was first published.   Both were examples of Enlightenment thinking at a time when Britain was so keen to participate alongside the best of European culture, institutions and ideas.

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Brexit Debate

We watched the Brexit Debate on Channel 4 to get a better sense of the alternatives in advance of the vote on Tuesday.   My own view is that James Cleverley did a perfectly decent job of defending the government’s position, but it represents a compromise which no-one supports, neither fish nor fry;  Barry Gardiner was defending a position which is intellectually unreal, that the Labour party might be able to negotiate a better deal, without any evidence as to how or why;  Jacob Rees-Mogg has the benefit of a clear position, which is Brexit whatever the intellectual and economic cost;  and so the argument was won by Caroline Lucas in favour of a second referendum which would allow the voters to decide whether or not they like what is on offer.

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Chatsworth Road

I have neglected my East London peregrinations, so thought I would walk up to the Chatsworth Road Sunday market to do my Christmas shopping.

Up the canal:-

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Through Victoria Park:-

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Past St. Barnabas, Homerton, a ragstone church of the 1840s by Arthur Ashpitel:-

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The old Homerton Public Library, opened on the eve of the first world war, designed in impeccable classical style by Sir Edwin Cooper:-

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To Chatsworth Road itself, with market stalls and old shops and plenty of places for manicure, if that had been what I wanted, together with, as hoped, small, independent, gift shops, so that I was able to do all my Christmas shopping in one fell swoop (I can’t say which one or everyone will know what I am giving them):-

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Fen Ditton Gallery

I should have said a bit more about the Fen Ditton Gallery, but the sun went in as soon as we arrived and I was too busy buying Christmas presents to take any photographs. The gallery occupies the ground floor of the old School House half way down the village which is a long way out from the centre of Cambridge through the straggling suburbs, but can apparently be reached by ferry from Jesus Lock in the summer. It’s a vastly much more sophisticated display than might be expected from a local craft shop because the selection has been made by Amanda Game, who for many years used to select the crafts at the Scottish Gallery before striking out as an independent curator. The current display includes glass by Toord Boontje, small silver spoons by Simone von Tempel, normally only seen in Collect and Gallery So in Brick Lane, ceramics by Clive Bowen, and books about the Fens by Paul Hart (and more, but their website doesn’t list the makers, only showing photographs).

This is a conceptual spoon by Simone von Tempel bought by Romilly:-

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